Similarities Between Light and Dark Brown sugar

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What is sugar?

Sugar is a type of sweetener commonly used in different cooking processes. It can be obtained for commercial purposes mainly from sugar beet or sugar cane. 

For sugar to be produced from sugar cane, mature sugar cane stalks are crushed and the juice is extracted, and purified by subjecting the juice to a clarification process using heat and lime (to remove proteins and colloidal matter). An important point to note in this process is that the quantity of lime added determines the type of sugar that will be produced. For instance, when the desired end product is white cane sugar, more lime is added whereas, for brown sugar, a smaller quantity is used.

The clarification process yields a clear juice and precipitate also known as mud, and the clear juice is evaporated or boiled down to remove excess water before it is crystallized into raw sugar. This process is followed by centrifugation which separates the raw sugar crystals from the surrounding juice also known as mill molasses and drying of the brown sugar crystals or further refining. 


There are different types of sugar available worldwide and they include; granulated sugar, castor sugar, powdered sugar, and also brown sugar. Brown sugar however is of two types namely;

Light brown sugar

Light brown sugar contains about 3.5% of molasses in raw sugar crystals with a rich caramel flavor when compared to white sugar. When made at home, most people identify with it as jaggery or gur mostly used in Indian homes. 

Dark brown sugar

Dark brown sugar contains about 6.5% of molasses in the raw sugar crystals. A deeper flavor profile and darker color, when compared with light brown sugar, is a distinctive characteristic associated with dark brown sugar. These characteristics of flavor and color are a result of the higher concentration of molasses. 

When used for baking purposes, the end products are texturally moister than products baked with light brown or white sugar as a result of the higher percentage of molasses. 

Due to the higher volume of molasses added, dark brown sugar possess a moist texture than the light brown sugar.

Similarities between light and dark brown sugar

Nutritional value

Both light and dark brown sugar contain soluble carbohydrates in the form of sucrose and are also sources of some essential vitamins like A.B1, B5, B12, D6, and E and minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. This may be the logic behind its recommendation for the diets of anemic people and also for people whose dietary lifestyle is based on foods devoid of chemicals. However, it is advisable that diabetic patients seek a medical and nutritional opinion before use. 

Body functions

Both light and brown sugar when used in moderation decrease children’s dental caries and damage to calcification significantly. Furthermore, consuming either type of brown sugar has been connected to the good performance of the digestive system as well as good liver and kidney functions.

Unlike some food additives, both light brown sugar and dark brown sugar composition do not compromise the absorption of nutrients by the body.

Shelf life 

Moisture which is present in both light and dark brown sugar due to the addition of molasses hardens the sugar on exposure to air. 

Usage in the food industry

When used for baking, the reaction of either light or dark brown sugar as an acid with sodium bicarbonate known as baking soda helps in leavening the baked product. 

Also, baked products like cookies baked with light or dark brown sugar, turn softer in texture than cookies baked with white sugar. 

Both light and dark brown sugar can be used for the preservation of fruits and also as a substrate for fermentation purposes. 

Processing method

Light and dark brown sugar are obtained by evaporating clarified sugar cane juice with the aid of an evaporator (when it is done for commercial purposes) or with kitchen utensils like a pot or pan in the home setting until a solid mass is remaining. After this process, additional molasses is added if a darker color is preferred.

Frequently asked questions

Is light and dark brown sugar the same?

No, they are not the same because dark brown sugar contains nearly double the amount of molasses as light brown sugar. As a result of this, they have different colors (as indicated by their names) and taste with dark brown sugar owning a deeper caramel taste.

What is more common, light or dark brown sugar?

Both light brown sugar and dark brown sugar are common but their availability may be dependent on the location of the consumer. 

Is brown sugar and dark brown sugar the same?

Yes, dark brown sugar is one of the types of brown sugar. Often time, recipes call for a specific type (either light or dark brown) while some will generalize (in which case, the choice depends on individual preference). 

What is similar to light brown sugar?

White sugar can be used in place of light brown sugar as well as coconut sugar because it is a rich source of essential micronutrients like potassium, magnesium, calcium

Can I substitute light brown sugar for dark brown sugar?

Yes, you can substitute light brown sugar for dark sugar as they both contain molasses with less sucrose than white sugar.

What is the difference between sugar and light brown sugar?

Sugar can be of any type with different flavors, colors, and textures like granulated, powdered, liquid, coconut sugar, and palm sugar while light brown sugar is emphatic on the color.

Does light brown sugar work the same as brown sugar?

Yes, light brown sugar work the same as brown sugar because it is also a type of brown sugar.

Is light brown sugar the same as soft brown sugar?

No, they are not the same. Soft brown sugar is produced by adding processed cane sugar syrup to refined granulated sugar while light brown sugar contains molasses. 

How much dark brown sugar equals light brown sugar?

Halve of brown sugar quantity in weight equals a cup of light brown sugar. This is because the molasses contained in dark brown sugar is almost double the amount of the same molasses in light brown sugar. For instance, if a recipe calls for a cup of light brown sugar, and what is available is only dark brown sugar and as a baker, you would not want the flavor and texture of the final product to be affected, then, the ratio above is the solution.

Author: Jessica Damian

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References :

+ Singh, R. (2014). Membrane technology and engineering for water purification: application, systems design, and operation. Butterworth-Heinemann.

+ Hannah, S. (2021). The differences of using white sugar, light brown sugar, or dark brown sugar when baking a chocolate chip cookie recipe. The Expedition, 11.

+ Natalino, R., Reis, E. L., Reis, C., Fidêncio, P. H., & Mayrink, M. I. C. B. (2021) Brown sugar characterization based on sucrose, Cu, Ca, Na, Fe, and Mg.

+ Sugar Facts. Sugar milling research institute, South Africa. Retrieved from;

+ Maryani, Y., Rochmat, A., Khastini, R. O., Kurniawan, T., & Saraswati, I. (2021). Identification of macro elements (sucrose, glucose, and fructose) and microelements (metal minerals) in the products of palm sugar, coconut sugar, and sugar cane. In 2nd and 3rd International Conference on Food Security Innovation (ICFSI 2018-2019) (pp. 271-274). Atlantis Press.

+ Gayathry, G., & Shanmuganathan, M. (2021). Processed sugar: is a necessary evil.

+ Mohan, N., & Singh, P. (Eds.). (2020). Sugar and Sugar Derivatives: Changing Consumer Preferences. Springer Nature.


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