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sugar- beet vs pure cane

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Is there a difference when you bake with pure cane sugar vs beet sugar?

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  1. Not that I am aware of. Beet sugar is more common in Europe than the US, if I recall correctly.

    1. Oh yes there is and all you have to do is prepare exact same recipes side by side to find the difference. After embarassing myself bringing a dessert I made with beet sugar to a dinner I will never buy the junk again. With beet sugar caramel sauces become gummy and gluey. Baked goods have a much coarser texture. Regulars on CH know this is a soap box issue with me. Spring the few cents more for 100% pure cane sugar. The sugar beet people would like you to think sugar is sugar but no way. You can do your own test but when it comes to baking and cooking I've done the test and will reserve any beet sugar I accidentally purchase forr hummimg bird food.

      If the sugar package does not say 100% cane or pure cane then you are getting beet. And boy does that stuff smell bad too!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Candy
        Hungry Celeste

        Hear, hear, Candy! Pure cane is the way to go. Even accounting for my local bias (I live in a sugarcane growing area in LA), my encounters with beet sugar have been consistently bad.

      2. I wouldn't go as far as Candy, but yes, there are slight differences between beet and cane sugar. The SF chronicle food editors did a bunch of side-by-side tests with different sugars and agreed that cane sugar was the best, especially for baking.

        What makes a somewhat bigger difference than beet vs. sugar is refined white sugar vs. organic sugar, which is usually a little less refined (has a brown tinge) and has more moisture, which can make a difference in some recipes.

        1. It pains me to disagree with one of the most brilliant posters to this board--Karl S--but I fear I must. All sugars are chemically different, beet sugar, milk sugar, cane sugar, alcohol. They all breakdown eventually to the same chemical substance (C6 H12 O6, those are subscript numbers for those who care). The sensation of sweetness comes from the oxygen-hydrogen bonds. Not much of a baker myself but logic would dictate that Candy is correct as high tempertures would certainly effect the structure of the different sugars chemical bonds.

          7 Replies
          1. re: dk

            Not quite - most of what you list are wholly different chemicals. That's not the case with refined sugar which is more or less pure sucrose, whatever its source.

            I don't think anyone's studied it closely enough to understand exactly why they behave differently, but the SF Chron article mentions an (almost infinitesmal) difference in mineral content, which is presumed to be the "culprit."

            1. re: dk

              The goal of both beet and cane sugar manufacturers is to produce
              five pund bags of pure sucrose, C12 H22 O11. The problem is, they
              don't quite get there. Enough by-products and impurities are left in
              the final product to create a unique character for each.

              For a long time I was pretty sure people who complained about beet
              sugar were nuts. But after many years of only using only cane sugar, I
              got some beet a while ago and found it to be a distinctly different,
              less pleasant, experience. Even my morning cofee tasted wrong.

              1. re: dk

                and some people might say that all salt is sodium chloride so its all the same regardless of source. Others might disagree.

                1. re: Marie Hoch

                  can't stop when I'm on a roll..and all vodka is ethyl alcohol so it all tastes the same..any differences are trace and can't be detected. Some would disagree.

                  1. re: Marie

                    Thank you for your reply Marie. I get fascinated by CH postings of fact vs. feelings. All salt IS sodium cloride. All vodka is just mostly ETOH. These are indisputable facts. You might FEEL sea salt, kosher salt and plain table salt taste and you'd be right because of the added impurities. Same with the vodka. Beet sugar, milk sugar and pure cane are all nonrelated compounds (unlike salt or vodka) that eventually break down to give more or less the sensation of sweetness. Logic simply makes me side with the experienced bakers that heat has different effects on these different compounds.

                    1. re: dk

                      I hate to be pedantic (:-)), but this is the second time you've given the
                      same incorrect information:
                      Beet sugar and cane sugar are, ideally, EXACTLY THE SAME CHEMICAL.
                      The chemical is sucrose. They are not "unrelated compounds"

                      Any perceptible difference in the two is a result of impurities left
                      during the refining process or introduced in storage, not as a result
                      of them being "different compounds".

                      The advice given about salt is also completely wrong, but in the opposite
                      sense: All salt is NOT NaCl. Sea salt in particular, while predominantly
                      sodium and chloride, contains a large proportion of other components.
                      Most common are magnesium, calcium, sulphur, and potassium.
                      When cooking with sea salt vs. cooking with table salt it's EXPECTED
                      that there will be significant differences in flavor since you're throwing
                      much different chmicals into the mix.

                      1. re: dk

                        "I get fascinated by CH postings of fact vs. feelings. All salt IS sodium cloride. All vodka is just mostly ETOH. These are indisputable facts."

                        Allow me to dispute your "facts":
                        "All salt" is not sodium chloride. A "salt" is the common name for *any* ionic compound. Sodium chloride is the one most commonly used for seasoning, sure, but even good old Morton's has another salt in it- Potassium Iodide. Sea Salt is comprised of many different salts.

                        Vodka is not mostly Ethyl Alcohol. Vodka is mostly (60% by volume) water.

                        Milk sugar is lactose. Grain sugar is maltose. Fruit and honey sugar is fructose. Corn sugar is dextrose or D-glucose. Beet sugar is sucrose, a molecule composed of a glucose and a fructose molecule bonded together. Cane sugar is sucrose. The biochemistry of sensations is complex and not well understood, but suffice it to say that sugars do not " break down to give more or less the sensation of sweetness".

                        Argue all you like about Beet vs Cane, but stop saying that they are chemically distinguishable as separate compounds. They are not.

                2. The big difference is in cooking, it seems.

                  Link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                  1. Ok - so where you you get beet sugar? I assume that the regular bags of normal sugar I usually buy are cane sugar. Any readily available brand of sugar made from beet so I can try it? Very curious now.

                    When we were in Turkey we drove for about 2 hours through endless beet sugar producing areas. They were harvesting at the time and it was incredible to see the dumptrucks FULL of these lumpy beets that looked mostly like rocks.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Nyleve

                      In your grocery store. It will probably be the house brand and it will not say "Pure Cane" or "100% Cane" it will just be marked sugar. Domino and C&H are pure cane sugars.

                      1. re: Candy

                        Wrong assumption. What Candy said.

                        The regular bags of sugar that you buy are probably beet sugar unless they are the brands Candy mentioned.

                        FWIW, I'm in the cane sugar camp. It is much better.

                        Thinking about this, I'll bet that's why some sodas that use sugar don't taste as good because they use beet sugar instead of cane.

                        1. re: rworange

                          My neighbor, here in NY, shops at Costco. I couldn't resist asking to see her sack of sugar. The brand is Holly, and it's pure cane sugar. I asked her to buy a bag for me too, next time she's there. I'm sure my cheapo sugar must be beet!

                      2. re: Nyleve

                        I usually buy C&H sugar but it was really expensive this year and so I went to Walmart and bought their store brand. It was pretty cheap but when I baked with it, there was a noticeable difference in the cookies.

                      3. Well, I'm going to go against the majority here and say, in my experience, for most baking and cooking applications, it doesn't make a difference. I have read for things like candy-making and caramel making, it can affect the outcome, but those are applications that really depend on the behaviour of sugar at specific temperatures. I've made homey brownies, cookies, cakes, and such with both cane (sugar (Domino's, C&H, Holly) and beet sugar (most store brands - read the ingredient list) and I can't tell a difference.

                        It's easy enough to test. Sugar is cheap; go buy yourself two bags and bake some test brownies.

                        1. Just gotta say that 95% of the beet sugar grown in the U.S. comes from GMO plants now. Plants/beets have been sprayed with Roundup. The biggest difference for me is whether or not I want to have Roundup with my sugar. With emptying our house of GMO food, and replacing all our beet sugar with cane sugar, we compared the taste difference too. Cane sugar tastes sweeter and doesn't go a funky color when it gets wet going down the drain. There's also Creme Brulee, which won't caramelize if you use beet sugar; it will just burn. Cane sugar gives superior results in cooking and baking, and since it has not been sprayed with Roundup, it is the best choice IMHO.

                          1. i don't know about baking, but i have made sure lately to buy pure cane sugar for my sugar bowl. i find it has greater granular uniformity, and no "dust."

                            1. Probably the oldest thread I've ever responded to, but I just gotta say...Cane Sugar rules in my house!!

                              1. I've been living in Europe for several years now, and despite baking nearly every week all year round, have noticed no difference whatsoever in sugar.

                                From cookies to cakes to bread to pancakes to candy -- candy! Molten sugar! -- No difference.

                                (flour is another matter, but I learned that workaround quickly)