Maybe you’ve seen muscovado sugar in the baking aisle and assumed that, because of its dark, clumpy appearance, it’s just a fancier name for brown sugar. While it looks similar, muscovado sugar is less refined and more natural than other types of sugar. Because it’s more natural, is it healthier? We turned to the nutrition pros for the real scoop, plus ideas on when it’s best to use. Keep reading for what you need to know about muscovado sugar.
The scoop on muscovado sugar
It’s more than just the sugar with the coolest-sounding name. Of the commercially available sugars, muscovado is the least processed. To make it, sugarcane juice is boiled down to create a thick syrup, which is allowed to cool and crystallize. The resulting crystals are muscovado sugar. They still contain a significant amount of molasses, which gives its distinct color and flavor.
According to Chef Gina Haase of The Rum Reader, sugar became popular in parts of South America as a cheaper alternative to the then-expensive refined sugar of the early 17th century. Also called Barbados sugar, khand or khansari, the word “muscovado” comes from the Portuguese phrase “açucar mascavado,” or “sugar of the lowest quality,” due to its lack of processing. Today, it’s used in baking and in rum making, and India is the top producer of muscovado sugar.
Muscovado vs other sugars
Due to its lack of refining and processing, muscovado differs from other sugars in taste, color and texture.
While refined sugar is neutral in flavor, muscovado sugar has a rich, deep flavor with pronounced flavors of molasses for a strong, caramel-like taste. While brown sugar and turbinado both have slight molasses flavor, it’s less intense than muscovado.
Muscovado is usually dark brown due to its naturally high molasses content. It looks like brown sugar, but they’re fundamentally different, explains nutritionist Liz Keller, MS, CNS, of Well-Choices.com. “Brown sugar is refined white sugar with molasses added back in.” Muscovado is darker than the light brown turbinado sugar (click through to learn more about turbinado sugar) since it’s less processed and has more molasses.
Brown sugar is stickier and more moist than refined white sugar, and muscovado sugar is even stickier and more moist. This texture lends itself well to baking since the stickiness can act as a binding agent. “Refined sugar is dry and has fine crystals, and turbinado sugar tends to be coarser than refined sugar,” says Keller. “Muscovado sugar can be sticky and coarser than other sugars due to its molasses content.”
The health benefits of muscovado sugar
Muscovado sugar is minimally processed, which means it hangs on to some of the naturally occurring nutrients in sugarcane. That said, it is still sugar, which means it’s important not to eat in excess. “It contains some minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium and manganese, making it healthier than other forms of sugar,” says dietitian Edibel Quintero, RD, medical advisor for Health Insider.
“However,” she adds, “muscovado sugar should be used in moderation because it is still a sugar high in calories and low in fiber, which causes spikes in blood sugar levels. Excessive use of it can increase the risk of obesity and diabetes and lead to increased inflammation in the body.”
How to use it
Because of muscovado sugar’s strong molasses flavor, it isn’t as widely used as refined sugar. “It’s best used in baking cakes, cookies and brownies,” says Quintero. “You can also use it in savory dishes like barbecue sauce.” Whether it’s used in sweet or savory dishes, muscovado sugar imparts a caramel-like, rich flavor. Keep reading for our favorite recipes using muscovado sugar.
Muscovado sugar recipes
Barbecue Pork Ribs
Our make-ahead BBQ sauce preps up quick — for a kick of fruity deliciousness, stir a dash of your favorite jam into the vinegar mixture.
- 1 cup ketchup
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup muscovado sugar
- 2 Tbs. less-sodium soy sauce
- 1 slab pork spareribs, 4 lbs.
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. salt
- In small pot, combine ketchup, vinegar, muscovado sugar and soy sauce. Over medium heat, bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-love. Cook, stirring often, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool. Cover; chill until ready to use.
- Prepare grill for medium indirect-heat cooking. Remove tough membrane on underside of ribs.
- In small bowl, combine garlic powder, smoked paprika and salt. Rub all over ribs; grill over indirect heat; covered, until starting to brown, 15 minutes; flip. Cover; cook until tender, about 2 hours, brushing with half of sauce several times during lat 20 minutes of cooking time. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve with remaining sauce.
Better-For-You Chocolate Chip Cookies
Whip up these scrumptious cookies enhanced with whole wheat and wheat germ! (Click through to see how wheat germ can help you lose weight).
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 tsp. Baking soda
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- 3 Tbs. wheat germ
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup packed muscovado sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 pkg. (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips, 2 cups
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper of coat with cooking spray. Combine flours, soda, salt and wheat germ; reserve.
- At medium speed, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. At low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined. Beat inchocolate chips.
- Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough, at least 2” apart, onto baking sheets. Bake 13-15 minutes for paper-lined sheet or 10-12 minutes for cooking-spray-coated sheet, or until golden. Transfer to racks; cool.
How to store muscovado sugar
Muscovado sugar has a higher moisture content compared to regular granulated sugar. That means it’s more prone to clumping and hardening if not stored properly. To ensure that your muscovado sugar remains fresh, it’s best to transfer it to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place.
You can also freeze it to prevent clumping and moisture absorption. Simply place the sugar in an airtight container or resealable bag, remove as much air as possible, then store it in the freezer. Before using, allow the sugar to come to room temperature before opening the container. This will prevent condensation that can lead to moisture-induced clumping.
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