Difference between Brown Sugar and White Sugar

Updated on February 24, 2018

Sugar – we know it’s bad for us, yet we can never seem to get enough of it. Whether used sparingly or in great amounts, most of our diet contains this sweet additive. But have you ever wondered why some cafés would offer different colored sugars? Or why some people prefer one type over the other? Do the colors really signify anything? This article will help you find out.


Brown Sugar
Brown Sugar

Not to be mistaken for raw sugar, brown sugar is a type of refined sugar composed of white sugar crystals with molasses syrup mixed in.

Sugar or table sugar, which is used in our food, comes from a natural carbohydrate found in plants called sucrose. Sucrose is usually extracted from sugar beets and canes. After undergoing refining, it forms sugar crystals which are sold commercially. In the past, brown sugar used to refer to unrefined or “raw” sugar – meaning, sugar that has not undergone through the entire refining process. However, most brown sugars sold today are refined white sugar, and the darkness of its coloring would depend on the percentage of molasses mixed in. Molasses is the by-product of the refining process wherein the juices of canes or beets thicken after being boiled for a long time. Producers mostly use cane molasses, but there are still some countries that use sugar beets. In the culinary context, brown sugar is used for baking or confectioneries such as toffees.

White Sugar
White Sugar

White sugar, more simply known as sugar, is the refined crystallized sucrose taken from sugar canes or beets. It is the best known sweetener used in culinary practices. The juice of the plants is extracted and boiled to remove the liquid and filter the crystals.

The main purpose of sugar is to sweeten or add flavor to dishes or drinks. Since sugar is hydroscopic – meaning it attracts and holds water – people use it to help keep baked goods moist and soft. There are many types of white sugar that are used for different purposes. For example, you might be familiar with the confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) used in desserts or lump sugar (sugar cubes) which is useful for beverages.

Brown Sugar vs White Sugar

Let’s start identifying what is the difference between brown sugar and white sugar.

The color alone is enough to distinguish the two. Brown sugar can have varying shades of brown (depending on the amount of molasses), but it is easy to tell it apart from white sugar. Also, once you have a taste of both, you will discover that brown sugar has a richer flavor because of the added molasses. Molasses has a distinct robust taste and aroma that brown sugars also have. So if a recipe calls for white sugar, chances are that using brown sugar will yield different results in the taste.

For health fanatics out there, if you ever do consume sugar, it would most probably be brown. It has always been thought that brown sugar is a bit healthier than white. Indeed, while ingesting excessive amounts of either are bad for the body, brown sugar contains more water and has fewer calories. Brown sugar also has a bit more minerals because of the molasses.

Comparison Chart

Brown SugarWhite Sugar
White sugar crystals with molassesWhite sugar crystals
Flavor is affected by amount of molassesDoes not contain any molasses
Contains more mineralsHas less minerals
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