Brown Sugar vs Cane Sugar: What’s the Difference?

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Sugar is a kitchen staple and the most common sweetener used around the world. There are many different types of sugar, but brown sugar and cane sugar are two commonly used varieties. 

But, what’s the difference between brown sugar and cane sugar? Brown sugar is refined white sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets and coated in molasses, giving it a brown color. Cane sugar is made from sugar cane and is golden-yellow in color. Cane sugar tastes like vanilla, light brown sugar tastes like toffee, and dark brown sugar tastes like caramel. 

This article explores the similarities and differences between brown sugar and cane sugar. Keep reading to learn more about these types of sugar and whether they can be used interchangeably. 

What Is Brown Sugar?

Brown sugar is a sucrose sugar that comes in various shades of brown color. Brown sugar is a soft and moist sugar made by adding molasses to refined white sugar. The darker the color of brown sugar, the higher the molasses content. 

The white sugar used to make brown sugar can be from either sugar beet or sugar cane. This is because the chemical composition, color, taste, and nutritional value of white sugar are the same regardless of which plant it’s made from. 

Light brown sugar contains 3.5% molasses, while dark brown sugar contains 6.5% molasses. Brown sugar is naturally moist from molasses and is often labeled as soft. 

According to the Codex Alimentarius, brown sugar must contain at least 88% of sucrose plus inverted sugar. 

What Is Cane Sugar?

Cane sugar is a type of sugar made solely from sugar cane, a tall plant similar to bamboo that grows in tropical regions. 

Cane sugar is made by extracting the juice from the sugar cane plant and boiling it to create a dark syrup, which is then crystallized. This syrup is then spun in a centrifuge to separate the sugar crystals from the molasses. 

There are several types of cane sugar, including raw, unrefined, and refined. The main difference between these sugars is in the way they are processed, as this action removes some, most, or all of the molasses or other impurities from the sugar.  

Brown Sugar vs Cane Sugar: Difference

Both brown sugar and cane sugar have sweetening properties. However, they differ in flavor, use, and appearance. 

Let’s see what’s the difference between brown sugar and cane sugar in more detail:


Brown sugar and cane sugar differ in flavor.

Cane sugar has more depth of flavor and tastes like vanilla with a hint of fruity aroma. This is because of molasses and other minerals left in sugar crystals. 

Brown sugar varies in flavor depending on the depth of color. Light brown sugar has a milder and less complex flavor and tastes like toffee. Dark brown sugar tastes like caramel with a strong molasses flavor. 


Cane sugar is golden-yellow in color because of naturally-retained molasses. Sugar cane crystals are slightly larger than table sugar crystals but still small in size.

Brown sugar is darker in color than cane sugar because of the high molasses content. The color of brown sugar varies, depending on the amount of molasses used during manufacturing. The darker the sugar, the higher the molasses content.


Cane sugar is used as a sweetener in commercial candy products. Substitute white sugar for cane sugar in desserts and drinks like sugar cookies or cocktails. 

Use cane sugar for:

  • Savory dishes: To make a glaze for meat or to intensify the barbecue’s smoky flavor. If you like to marinade meat and vegetables before roasting or grilling them, add cane sugar to the marinade. 
  • Liquids: Use cane sugar as a sweetener in your coffee or tea, or add it to a salad dressing for a sweet fruity flavor.
  • Baked goods: Cane sugar is an excellent sweetener for cakes, candies, and cookies.

On the other hand, brown sugar is commonly used in baked goods because it makes the dough softer and gives a rich brown color. Brown sugar has a higher moisture content because of molasses and is unsuitable for cookies, as it makes them moist and chewy.

Use brown sugar for:

  • Bacon: Brown sugar gives the bacon a mild flavor, without overpowering its naturally smoky taste. Brown sugar is also suitable for sauces and marinades for meat.
  • Bread: Brown sugar is lighter than cane sugar, which makes it perfect for making airy sweet bread. Use it for milk toast, bread rolls, and bread pudding.
  • Desserts: Because it retains moisture well, brown sugar is often used for brownies, caramel fudge, and crumb cakes.
  • Liquids: Use brown sugar instead of white sugar to sweeten your coffee. Brown sugar is also a suitable sweetener for fruit juices. 

Is Cane Sugar Better than Brown Sugar?

Many people believe that brown sugar is healthier and more nutritious than cane sugar, but that’s not true. Both of these sugars contain carbohydrates and calories and can be harmful if consumed in large amounts. 

Cane sugar and brown sugar have the same sweetening properties. Choose cane sugar if you want to add a vanilla flavor to your recipes, or choose brown sugar for a toffee or caramel flavor.

Can I Replace Cane Sugar with Brown Sugar?

Yes, you can substitute cane sugar with brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio. The only difference between these two kinds of sugar is in color and flavor.


Brown sugar and cane sugar are two different types of sugar. Although they have the same sweetening properties, these sugars differ in appearance, flavor, and the way they are made and used. 

Cane sugar is golden-yellow in color and has a pleasant vanilla-like flavor. It’s made exclusively from sugar cane and is used for glazes and marinades or as a sweetener for drinks, cakes, and cookies.

Depending on molasses content, brown sugar can be light or dark in color and tastes like toffee or caramel. Brown sugar is made from refined white sugar-coated molasses. 

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