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Jan 9, 2004 04:15 PM

Turbinado sugar

  • j

I was at a demo by Mischel Nischan (the author of Taste, Pure and Simple), and he was talking alot about changes you can make to your diet to make it healthier and more environmentally responsible.

One thing that stuck with me was that he said turbinado sugar is better for you than refined white sugar--turbinado still has trace elements of minerals and nutrients.

I bought some turbinado, but I'm wondering if there is anything I need to know about substituting it in recipes? Can I just substitute it cup for cup in baked goods? And is there any difference in taste or texture?

If anyone uses Turbinado, I'd love some feedback.

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  1. Turbinado is fine, but it's still refined to some degree, I believe.

    Go one step further and try Rapadura, or evaporated cane juice. It's only a little coarser and darker than Turbinado. It has almost all of the trace minerals still intact. Sally Fallon advocates this and has great recipes for using it in her book "Nourishing Traditions". I like the taste in lemonade, and on fruit. I try not to use a lot of it anyway because it still is sugar, but when I do reach for sugar I try to use this instead of white as much as possible.

    Rapadura should be available in the same store that you buy turbinado, and it's probably cheaper.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Mrs. Smith

      Thanks for the suggestion-- I'll look for it!

      1. re: JessicaSophia

        Turbinado sugar undergoes 95% of the refining that white sugar does-I really can't believe that there are significant health benefits inherant in turbinado.
        The larger granules do make a pie crust look nice, however, when sprinkled on top before baking.

    2. Although I'm not health-conscious enough to want to actively seek out 'trace minerals', I do like to use turbinado sugar to sprinkle on cookies, rugelach, etc. Sort of like the sweet counterpart to fleur de sel.

      I also think it's very forgiving when making creme brulee.


      1. Three things:

        1. In my opinion, turbinado sugar is nutritionally indistinguishable from refined white sugar.

        2. One of the items in this month's Saveur Magazine top 100 is a company that makes high-end brown and other organic sugars. Can't remember the name of the company, but it looked like they would have very good products. I suspect they're priced accordingly.

        3. Most latin markets sell "piloncillo" sugar, which is unrefined sugar in the form of small sugar loaves. It has a really nice caramelly flavor that goes great with coffee. (Susan Fenniger and Mary Sue Milliken used to serve a little dish of crushed piloncillo or piloncillo syrup with some of the coffee and tea drinks in their restaurants). While I really like the flavor of this form of raw sugar, it is so unrefined that it occasionally has pieces of plant fiber in it, which might require you to do some additional "refining" of your own before using it in certain recipes. (E.g., make a syrup and run it through a strainer.)

        2 Replies
        1. re: David Kahn
          Stanley Stephan

          It was Billington's Sugar mentioned in Saveur. It can be bought at Trader Joes, health food stores or through the link below.



          1. re: Stanley Stephan

            I really like the Billington sugars --the dark brown muscovado is best tasting sugar I have ever tried.

        2. a
          AlanH™ (formerly AlanH)

          I'm sure the nutritional difference is so minimal as to be of no value. That said, turbinado does have a slightly different taste, and it burns at a higher temperature, which is useful in some applications, such as BBQ.
          Sugar In The Raw is turbinado.

          1. A while ago I was trying to figure out what exactly is molasses. The best I could figure is that it is a "byproduct" of making sugar from sugar cane. Does this mean that this is where the nutrients refined out of sugar end up? It's high in iron and contains other nutrients.

            How does molasses fit into the sugar/turbinado/Rapadura/piloncillo/Billington hierarchy?

            It's certainly great on waffles and pancakes and don't let me get started on drizzling it over peanut butter toast!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Lisa Stump

              I like molasses too, especially on hot cereal.

              Molasses is added to ordinary white sugar to make ordinary (cheap) brown sugar. The fancy brown sugars taste (to me) like they simply have more molasses added. Seems to me that if the sugar is in a crystalline form then it can't have too much of anything else in it; crystallization is inhibited by anything that is not the pure substance (a chemist's generalization).

              Molasses is high in iron, relatively: one tablespoon contains 1.2 milligrams, about one-tenth of the recommended daily allowance. However, iron availability (to the human body) depends on whether it is digested properly, and there are factors in some plant-based foods that inhibit iron uptake. Don't know about molasses.

              A slice of cooked beef liver contains about 5 milligrams of iron.

              Surprise to me -- a very rich source of iron is: Clams!
              One pint of clam meat contains 28 milligrams of iron.

              Too much iron is apparently a problem for older people -- the "old people" vitamins I buy proudly announce they have no iron.

              Most of the US population gets most of its iron from enriched grain products (required by law to be iron-enriched). Different forms of iron may be absorbed differently. If you cook in cast iron, you will be getting some iron in your food, but I don't know if it is in a form that can be easily absorbed.


              1. re: Joel Teller

                I don't buy that turbinado sugar's slightly higher iron counts as a nutrient "bonus"--it still metabolizes as a simple carbohydrate, and as such, isn't exactly a nutrative-rich food.

                It tastes nicer than white sugar, and has a lot of different properties that make it good for baking, but to think of it as a health food is silly.

                Molasses is the same to me--it does have iron in it, but so do other foods, such as spinach and other greens, liver and beets, all of which also contain much higher amounts of nutrients than either molasses or sugar.

                In other words, use turbinado, in moderation for taste or whatever, but don't claim it as a "health food" because, well, it really isn't.

                Another source of iron, besides cooking in a cast iron pan, depending on where you live, can be your water. I have well-water, and while we do remove a significant amount of the minerals from it (primarily sulphur and iron) with a special filtering system for drinking, when I cook, I use the softened tapwater, to add a bit of iron to the food.