8 Turbinado Sugar Substitutes to Sweeten Your Recipes

Turbinado Sugar Substitute

Turbinado sugar has a stronger taste than white or brown sugar, with a hint of molasses and a distinct caramelized flavor. Because of turbinado sugar’s deeper molasses and subtle caramel flavor, it works very well when used in recipes where you want a little more depth of flavor and texture than what you would get from using refined sugar. 

However, turbinado sugar may not always be available and accessible in many places. So what do you do when your recipe calls for turbinado sugar? Here are some turbinado sugar substitutes that will save your day.

Best Turbinado Sugar Substitutes to Try

1. Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is a convenient, accessible, and common turbinado sugar alternative. It looks very similar to turbinado sugar which is why many people can’t tell them apart. So how are they different from each other?

Brown sugar is a refined sugar where molasses are added back into it whereas turbinado sugar is created with the first pressing of sugar cane so it retains its natural molasses and is less processed than brown sugar.

Although the molasses in brown sugar are added back to the refined sugar crystals, it has stronger molasses flavor notes and is more distinct than the natural molasses in turbinado sugar.

Brown sugar is also much darker in color with its deep brown hue than turbinado sugar’s golden brown hue. Lastly, turbinado sugar is much coarser and has larger crystals whereas brown sugar is softer and smaller and dissolves easily.

With all these differences between the two, brown sugar is still one of the best turbinado sugar substitutes because they are relatively close in color and in taste. They can be used interchangeably as well.

2. Palm Sugar

Palm sugar is an efficient alternative to turbinado sugar. It’s a natural sugar popular in Southeast Asian and African countries. Due to its sweet taste and great health benefits, it is also gaining more attention so health conscious people from different parts of the world are turning to this option. No wonder since palm sugar is a better source of minerals and vitamins compared to other synthetic sweeteners.

This variety of sugar is made from the sap in coconut palm trees. It involves minimal processing with no added chemicals as many sellers claim. It is important that you should trust the brand you’re buying it from to get the best quality. If so, you can enjoy the sweet, mild caramel flavor of this sugar that you can use interchangeably with turbinado.

Learn more: Best Palm Sugar Substitutes To Try

3. Demerara Sugar

Like turbinado sugar, Demerara sugar is minimally processed, retaining trace amounts of minerals and vitamins. Due to the minimal processing method, demerara sugar also retains some of its natural molasses flavors almost exactly the same as turbinado sugar. Although both sugars are often labeled as “raw” sugar, they are not actually raw but just partially refined. 

Demerara sugar has a darker color and has a more intense molasses flavor than turbinado sugar since turbinado sugar undergoes a steaming process where some of its molasses content is removed. So when you use demerara sugar in place of turbinado sugar, start with smaller amounts and then work your way up depending on your preference for the final taste, texture, and color.

4. Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado sugar is another partially refined sugar that is also known as natural sugar. It has a strong molasses content, is dark brown in color, is slightly coarse in texture, and feels sticky to touch thanks to its high moisture content. This makes a healthy alternative to turbinado sugar.

Like turbinado sugar, muscovado sugar also gives a subtle caramel taste. It is important to note though that muscovado sugar’s sticky and high moisture texture may affect the final texture of the recipe. For better results, consider mixing muscovado sugar with brown sugar to lift a bit of its moisture.

5. Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar has received growing attention from those who are looking to replace regular sugar or cane sugar for health reasons. It is relatively lower in glycemic index and is touted to be more nutritious. Coconut sugar is made from coconut palm sap but it should not be confused with palm sugar which is made from a different type of palm tree.

Coconut sugar is similar to brown sugar’s sweetness and flavor. It also has a subtle hint of caramel which is why it’s a good substitute for turbinado sugar. It is mostly golden brown in color but the color along with the sweetness can vary depending on the species of coconut, the harvest lot, and the harvest season.

6. Maple Sugar

We all love a good maple syrup and there’s no doubt that maple sugar would make the cut on the list of favorite table sugar alternatives – be it turbinado, brown, or white sugar. Maple sugar is made from evaporated or crystalized maple syrup.

While it has more maple flavor than the molasses flavor you can get from turbinado sugar, the maple flavor can actually work well in many recipes. Although the light brown hue is a bit far from that of turbinado sugar, expect a lighter final color of your baked goods or cooked food.

Like turbinado sugar, you can sprinkle maple sugar on top of cookies, on baked pies, or use it as a sweetener to coffee and tea.

7. Honey

Although honey is viscous and liquid, it is actually sweeter than sugar yet more natural and unrefined. In fact, honey has gained a steady fan base from those on a stricter diet as a sugar substitute because it is relatively lower in glycemic index. There are a few suggestions to keep in mind when using honey in place of turbinado sugar though.

Since honey is liquid, you’ll need to reduce the liquid in the recipe a little – water for example. Like turbinado sugar, honey gives the baked or cooked food a brown final color. There is honey with darker hues which gives a darker brown color. All in all, honey makes a great and healthier substitute to turbinado sugar.

8. Brown Sugar + White Sugar Mixture

Since brown sugar has more molasses content and has a darker brown hue than turbinado sugar, you can tone it down a bit and make it closer to that of turbinado sugar by adding white sugar. You can start with ½ cup brown sugar plus ½ cup white sugar for every cup of turbinado sugar. From there, you can adjust the ratio according to your preferred outcome.

Read more: 7 Best Vanilla Sugar Substitutes

Can I use white sugar in place of turbinado sugar?

Yes, but the final flavor and color will be different. Although both come from sugar cane, turbinado sugar is not as refined as white sugar. White sugar doesn’t have the natural molasses flavor you can find in turbinado sugar as a result of this process. All you can get is the sweetness.

Is turbinado sugar a raw sugar?

Although turbinado sugar is oftentimes labeled as raw sugar, it is actually partially refined. To produce turbinado sugar, sugar canes are cleaned to get rid of soil and other impurities and then pressed to extract the juice. The juice is then boiled to form crystals which are then spun to rid off excess moisture. 


There are many and easily accessible turbinado sugar substitutes that may already lie around in your cupboard. The key is to keep in mind the different qualities of each of these substitutes so you can still achieve the best possible outcome. Don’t forget to keep notes of your recipe substitutions so you can easily replicate or adjust for your next cooking or baking batch.

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