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Vegan sugar?

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We just returned from the new Whole Foods in Pasadena, which is a pretty amazing place, but that's material for the Los Angeles board. But I had to ask about one product I saw - Vegan Sugar. What is it, and what in the world could be non-vegan about sugar?

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  1. Same cane sugar is processed using charcoal that may be of animal origin.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Humbucker

      charcoal of animal origin?

      1. re: linguafood

        Bone char:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_char

      2. re: Humbucker

        Who knew? Wonder why this isn't an issue for kosher foods.

        1. re: MommaJ

          Kosher rules have loop holes, just like US tax laws. I love when Kosher for Passover stuff hits the stores, as I'm allergic to corn, so most of it is safe. Some is not, however, as they deem certain corn derivatives far enough removed from corn to no longer be corn...to bad I can't convince my body to do the same thing.

      3. the vegan sweetener i always see is Agave nectar...maybe some crystallized derivative?

        1. There are a lot of different sugars out there that are vegan, not necessarily of Agave origins. Turbinado is one, and people also use maple syrup and other natural sweeteners, just not honey.

          If you do try using vegan sugars, don't expect them to bake up like regular white and brown sugars. Their chemical compositions are different and you'll get a different result with each one.

          6 Replies
          1. re: adventuresinbaking

            I'm not familiar with the particular brand of vegan sugar that the OP saw but it is possible to produce refined granulated cane sugar that would be identical in composition to plain old Domino's and which would produce the same results in baking.
            The difference would be that in the final stage of refining, the charcoal used would have to be from non-animal sources. The charcoal currently used sometimes includes bone-char, a byproduct of meat processing.
            This vegan sugar is likely produced in small batches as a specialty product. Not a complicated process and preferable to the alternatives for baking.
            Turbinado is one of the names for unrefined cane sugar - at one of the many stages before it reaches the final refining process which is the only one where animal products might possibly be used. It does not react the same way as refined cane sugar in baking because of its molasses content.

            1. re: MakingSense

              I baked a birthday cake for a vegan friend a year ago using a typical vegan sugar, and it came out just fine. In fact, all of our non-vegan co-workers couldn't believe it was a vegan cake.

            2. re: adventuresinbaking

              honey is not vegan...
              We use "vegan" sugars just like regular.

              1. re: lgss

                There is no reason why "vegan" sugar would not be identical to "regular" sugar if the final refining process is done with charcoal that does not include bone char which is an animal by-product.

                I have heard that some sugar refiners are changing the composition of the charcoal to eliminate the use of bone char but I can't verify that. I imagine that when they do make the switch, they will note on their packaging that the products are vegan.

                You are exactly correct about substituting "sugars" however.
                Using non-cane sugar sweeteners may produce something sweet, but the finished products will be different because they perform differently.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  But if they didn't call the sugar vegan then they couldn't charge a premium for it.

                  WON
                  http://whatsonmyplate.wordpress.com

                  1. re: wontonfm

                    Except that beet sugar isn't refined using bone char so it is vegan and it is the plain old granulated white sugar sold as the inexpensive store brands.
                    Unless you have to have that label saying "vegan," you can get a bargain by buying store brand granulated sugar.
                    Just avoid refined cane sugar.
                    Turbinado or Sugar in the Raw (a trademarked brand) are also unrefined so they would also be vegan, but they're usually more expensive.

            3. if it does bake and function the same it may be the smart thing to buy, at our whole foods in Aventura FL, the vegan sugar is 1/2 the price of regular cane sugar for double the amount!

              1. Well, I'm not sure this would be eradicated by whatever they're doing to get vegan sugar, but for one thing when they burn the fields (which they do in conventional sugar cane processing), there is critter/bug collateral damage happening there. (There is in most mass agricultural processing to some degree, but the field-burning is kind of notable. Although the areas where sugar cane is grown can be subject to pretty frequent natural burnovers periodically anyway.)

                That's in addition to the bone-char issue.

                Here's one page I found on the topic generally:
                http://veganresource.com/vegan-sugar/