What to Know About Muscovado Sugar

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on July 14, 2023
3 min read

Sugar comes in many forms. Store shelves are stocked with white (granulated) sugar, brown sugar, turbinado, demerara, muscovado, and more. 

All sugar is made from sugar cane or sugar beets. The different types are made by adjusting processes such as cleaning, crystallizing, or drying the juice from sugar cane or sugar beet plants. 

To make granulated sugar, all the natural molasses is removed during the refining process. For brown sugar, some of that molasses is added back for color and flavor.

Muscovado sugar is also known as Barbados sugar, khandsari, or khand. It’s made mostly in India, Colombia, and the West Indies, with India being the top producer.

Unlike granulated and brown sugars, muscovado sugar is an unrefined or “raw” sugar, meaning the molasses has not been removed. It’s made only from sugar cane. Cane extract is heated, and then the liquid is allowed to evaporate until the sugar residue remains.

Muscovado sugar is darker brown than brown sugar and has a strong molasses flavor. The crystals are coarser than brown sugar, giving it the texture of wet sand.

Muscovado sugar is sometimes described as having a more complex and earthy flavor than granulated sugar, with hints of toffee and a smoky aftertaste.

Two types of muscovado sugar can be found in stores: light and dark. Light muscovado has some of its molasses removed. Dark is a very dark brown sugar, almost black in color.

Minerals. Unlike granulated sugar, muscovado sugar doesn’t go through a centrifugal process. While minimal, the nutrients and trace minerals like calcium, manganese, potassium, and magnesium aren't lost during manufacturing.

Antioxidants. Because muscovado has more molasses than many other types of sugars, it holds on to some of the antioxidant properties of molasses. Antioxidants help fight the cell damage caused by free radicals. That damage can otherwise contribute to aging and illnesses such as heart disease.

Added sugar. Muscovado sugar may be slightly better for you than white sugar because of its minerals and antioxidant properties, but it’s still an added sugar. Your body digests these more quickly than the natural sugar in fruits that also has fiber and minerals.

Regularly consuming added sugars makes your body’s blood sugar level spike again and again. This leads to insulin resistance, which raises your risk of various health problems.

The American Heart Association recommends that women get no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons) of added sugar and men no more than 150 calories (9 teaspoons) of added sugar a day. 

For example, a 12-ounce cola has 10¼ teaspoons of sugar, and orange soda has 13 teaspoons of sugar.

The bottom line is that although muscovado sugar may be slightly more nutritious than granulated sugar, it’s still sugar. Eating too much sugar raises your risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Muscovado sugar can be used in a variety of ways, both sweet and savory:

  • Replace regular sugar in your coffee or chai. Because it has a stronger flavor, you might not need to use as much.
  • Use in place of brown sugar when making barbeque sauce.
  • Make a muscovado glaze for ham by simmering muscovado, water, ginger, a cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, and fennel seeds.
  • Make use of its molasses flavor in gingerbread and ginger cookies. 
  • Pair it with chocolate in recipes like chocolate cake and brownies.
  • Use it to sweeten your oatmeal for a richer flavor.
  • Make toffee or caramel with it.

Be careful when using muscovado in place of regular sugar in baked goods. Baking requires a careful balance and exact amounts. Muscovado has more moisture than regular sugar and can make some recipes too wet.

Store muscovado sugar in an airtight container or bag to keep it from drying out. 

If you can’t find muscovado, other unrefined sugars may be good substitutes. These include jaggery, panela, and coconut sugar. Dark brown sugar can also be used, but it has a finer texture, less flavor, and lower molasses content.