Ibrahim Belo Written by Ibrahim Belo

Muscovado sugar: everything you need to know

Muscovado sugar is a brown crystalline sugar with a soft and sticky texture. Here, we explain everything you need to know about this naturally molasses-rich sugar product.   

What is muscovado sugar? 

Muscovado sugar is a partially refined brown sugar that can only be made from sugar cane.

Its name, ‘muscovado’, derives from a mixture of the Portuguese ‘açúcar mascavado’ and the Spanish ‘azúcar mascabado’, which translate as ‘unrefined sugar’. However, this European-influenced etymology is somewhat misleading because muscovado sugar does experience some of the sugar refining processes and should, therefore, be described as a partially refined sugar.

Indeed, it is this partial refining process that enables muscovado sugar to naturally retain a high level of molasses on the sugar crystals, and is what differentiates it from most other pure sugar products.

How is muscovado sugar made?

Close-up image of chopping sugar cane, which is the raw material muscovado sugar is made from

Chopped sugar cane. 

Remember, muscovado sugar can only be made from sugar cane, so the first step in its partial refining process occurs when sugar cane is harvested and transported to mills for processing.

At the mill, the cane stalks are washed, sliced, shredded and crushed to extract raw ‘juice’. The raw juice is then heated, purified and boiled under vacuum to evaporate natural water, which results in a thick and sweet amber juice. This juice must then be seeded with sugar crystals to encourage crystal growth into a super-saturated massecuite syrup, and it is at this point that the colour, smell and flavour of molasses form.

The next stage of the partial refining process, centrifugation, sees the massecuite syrup spun in a centrifugal machine to partially separate the crystals from the liquid. Each spin lasts two minutes, with the third and fourth spins producing the two forms of muscovado sugar.

As a result, molasses is naturally retained in the raw sugar, which is then dried, cooled and bagged. Once it has undergone quality control tests, it is ready for shipping to Ragus’ production facility where we conduct further quality assessment processes before it can be distributed to customers.

What types of muscovado sugar are there?

As there is no legal definition or international coding standards for muscovado sugar, various sugar products use the name ‘muscovado’, regardless of the refinery process. However, it should be stressed that authentic muscovado sugar is cane sugar that has been partially refined, as per the above process, but it can be produced at varying strengths.

At Ragus, we bulk produce, sell and deliver two types of muscovado sugar: light cane muscovado sugar and dark cane muscovado sugar.

Side-by-side photograph of light cane muscovado sugar and dark cane muscovado sugar

As the name suggests, light cane muscovado sugar is a lighter variation, with a lower molasses content. As such, it has a lighter and subtler toffee-like taste, whereas dark cane muscovado sugar has a richer molasses-like taste.

It is important to note that both our muscovado sugar products retain the same moist texture. If kept in the right conditions, this texture remains stable and does not go off for more than 18 months. However, if exposed to extreme changes in light or temperature, muscovado sugar can go hard or dry.

What applications does muscovado sugar have?

Muscovado sugar is primarily used in baking applications due to its unique flavour profile and fine-grain texture, with its most popular uses being cakes, puddings, cookies and desserts. In these applications, muscovado sugar is used to build a deeper and more complex flavour profile while increasing volume.

Of course, due to their varying strengths, light and dark cane muscovado sugar are used in different types of baked goods. For example, the rich flavour of dark cane muscovado sugar makes it much better suited to the production of chocolate and fruit-based baked goods, with its most popular uses being chocolate brownies and Christmas puddings. Light cane muscovado sugar, on the other hand, is more suited to the production of golden baked goods such as cookies or carrot cakes.

Picture of key muscovado sugar uses such as Christmas pudding, carrot cake and chutneys

Pictured above: familiar muscovado sugar applications. 

Other key muscovado sugar uses:
• Developing flavour in sauces, glazes and marinades
• Serving as the core ingredient in toffee and caramel sauces
• Adding depth and developing flavour in chutneys and pickles

In terms of commercial manufacture, dark cane muscovado sugar is a more widely used ingredient because it enables a one product application and can be used instead of white sugar and molasses, which brings with it several significant cost savings and production efficiencies.

Can muscovado sugar be substituted?

In domestic baking, soft brown sugar may serve as an adequate replacement for muscovado sugar. However, the key difference is that muscovado sugar is cane sugar that naturally retains molasses due to being partially refined, whereas soft brown sugar is refined white sugar that is then blended with either refiner’s syrup, treacle or molasses. This difference has a subtle but important bearing on taste, and commercial manufacturers are therefore advised not to use the two products interchangeably.

Image of the Ragus customer services team who can support with muscovado sugar requests.

Ragus’ commitment to quality results in muscovado sugar of the highest calibre. To find out if our muscovado sugar is the most suitable pure sugar product for your application, contact a member of our customer services team on +44 (0)1753 575353 or enquiries@ragus.co.uk. For more sugar news and Ragus updates, follow Ragus on LinkedIn.