Milk, bread, butter, sugar… when thinking pantry essentials, the sweet stuff is a shopping list staple. But with supermarket ranges growing all the time, your sugar questions are no longer as simple as “one lump or two?” Whether baking a cake, making raspberry jam or serving up caramelised pork, knowing your coconut sugar from your demerara is key, so we’ve simplified the aisle to make your sweet endeavours come to life.
The original. Made from the squeezed juice of sugar canes, these white crystals are what you’d expect when borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbour. A good all-rounder, it can often be used as a substitute for other sugars in recipes, though textures and flavours may vary in the end result.
If you think of yourself as a bit of a Francophile in the kitchen (meringues, macarons and eclairs all welcome) you’d be familiar with caster sugar. With its superfine crystals, it dissolves rapidly and smoothly into all butters and batters.
Not to be confused with raw sugar, brown sugar is prized for its deep, rich flavour and super-soft texture. It also comes in a dark brown variety which offers a more intense caramel taste. This sugar is great in marinades, sauces and, of course, brown sugar pavlovas.
With a similar taste to honey, raw sugar is perfect sprinkled on muffin tops and apple pie crusts, as the coarser granules take much longer to dissolve than more refined sugar types (cue golden crunchy edge with melting ice-cream on the side).
Pure icing sugar and icing sugar mixture
No cake is complete without it! Milled down into a fine powder from regular granulated sugar, pure icing sugar is your go-to for fondants, fillings and frostings. Icing sugar mixture has a very small amount (around 3-4%) of cornflour or starch – it’s easier to work with than pure icing sugar as it is less lumpy, but it isn’t always suitable for gluten intolerants, so check the label if that’s you.
Cinnamon sugar is the sweet and spicy hit all chai lovers will own. You can buy it, or make your own – just mix 1 part ground cinnamon with 3 parts white or caster sugar, and cafe-style cinnamon toast is only moments away.
Who said vanilla is boring? This infused sugar imparts a subtle sweet scent to your baked goodies. It’s easy to DIY it: pop a vanilla bean in a jar of white or caster sugar, seal it up, and wait two weeks, then it’s ready use as you would other granulated sugars – but with an extra special something.
Available in both crystallised and syrup form, palm sugar is made from boiling palm sap and comes jam-packed (pun intended) with mineral and vitamin goodness. It’s less sweet than white sugar but has a richer molasses flavour. Use it in curries or dahls, or get experimental with it in jams, teas or even fried chicken wings.
Similar to palm sugar, coconut sugar comes from the sap of cut flower buds from the coconut palm. You might not yet have used it in the kitchen, but chances are you’ve eaten it in some of your favourite Thai curries!
Hailing from the warm deserts of Mexico, agave sugar is here for fun. Produced after drying out the extracted juice of the agave plant, the sugar is distinctively sweet, yet complements rather than competes with other flavours. When a recipe asks for caster or icing sugar, give agave a go!
You’ll often spot this coarse-grained sugar on top of your porridge or in your coffee at the fancy cafes. If you take your caffeine hit seriously, have some demerara in the cupboard for your daily cuppa. All the coffee connoisseurs do it.
Rapadura is a handy sugar to keep on hand as it can replace both white and brown sugar when supplies are running low. Try using the grainy sugar in one of your traditional baked favourites – its caramel flavour will leave your guests pleasantly surprised.
Sticky, fudgy and rich, muscovado is having a moment right now. Much darker than regular brown sugar, it has a strong molasses flavour with floral notes. Try swapping it with brown sugar in your favourite dessert to kick it up a notch.