Turbinado Sugar: Benefits and Uses

Turbinado Sugar: Benefits and Uses
Turbinado sugar or minimally refined brown sugar (MRBS) is a less refined version of white sugar. It retains some of its molasses that impart a light brown colour and a caramel flavour. It is a brown sugar sometimes mistakenly known as the  ‘raw sugar’ or the ‘natural sugar’. It is, however, free from impurities present in the raw sugar and is hardly a natural type due to the high degree of refinement during manufacturing.  

As it is less refined than natural sugar, it preserves some of the natural ingredients of the sugarcane, e.g., antioxidants. Its crunchy and sparkling nature gives a sparkly and crunchy topping to baked products. 

Turbinado Sugar: Benefits and Uses

Manufacturing of turbinado sugar  

The sugarcane is harvested at 12-18 months and crushed to produce the juice. The juice is filtered to remove solid particles and impurities and boiled to remove water and achieve a concentrated syrup. This syrup is cooled. During the process of cooling, the sugar crystals begin to form.

The mixture of syrup and crystals is centrifuged in turbines (hence the name 'turbinado') to remove syrup from the crystals. The crystals are then dried and packed for distribution. The only difference in the case of white sugar is the refinement process in which impurities and colours are removed through recrystallization, filtering and chemical bleaching.

Nutritional Overview 

The nutritional profile of both white and turbinado sugar is very similar. One teaspoon (4g) of both provides 4g of carbohydrates and 16 calories and no fat, protein, or dietary fibre. The complete nutritional information is summarised in the table below.

Turbinado Sugar Nutritional Data (per 100g): Source: USDA)




399 Kcal



Total fats


Total sugars (sucrose)














Zinc, copper and manganese


Small and nutritionally insignificant amounts of some minerals, particularly iron and calcium, are present. A small amount of molasses-sourced antioxidants is also present. However, antioxidants are present in minimal quantities and large amounts of sugar are needed for a substantial amount of antioxidants.

Benefits of turbinado sugar

Turbinado offers few benefits over white sugar, although a higher price tag offsets these benefits (the cost of turbinado sugar is many times that of white sugar). Nevertheless, some benefits are;

Better nutritional profile: Turbinado sugar is less refined than white sugar and, thus, preserves some antioxidants and other natural ingredients in the sugarcane. These include calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. The presence of these nutrients matters, although they are present in negligibly small quantities.

Lower glycaemic index: Information about the glycemic index (GI) of turbinado sugar is lacking. However, due to natural ingredients and molasses, it is likely lower than white sugar. A low GI means a lower risk of blood glucose spikes after a meal. 

A less processed and more natural sugar: White sugar is highly processed using chemical bleaching agents to remove the colours and other impurities. The turbinado sugar is less processed, which means it retains some of its natural ingredients. It is like dehydrated sugarcane juice. 

A better choice for baking: Turbinado sugar retains more molasses, which gives it a better texture, flavour and caramel colour. It improves the depth of flavour and adds richness to the baked items.  

Turbinado Sugar: Benefits and Uses

Uses of turbinado sugar

According to health professionals at Harvard School of Public Health, the added sugars must not contribute more than 10% of total calories, which gives an upper cap of 12.5 tablespoons or 50g. Due to the enormous health risks associated with excessive consumption, it is advised to use turbinado sugar as just a flavouring, and not as a source of nutrition. The most common uses are;

An excellent finishing sugar: The most common use of turbinado sugar is to make a crunchy topping. Besides topping, it adds a layer of flavour and sweetness. 

Savoury Uses: It is a great addition to the spice rub for pork or poultry. Using a few crystals of turbinado crystals to top the sweet potatoes towards the end of roasting creates a textural contrast. 

Drinks: Using a few crystals to rim a glass of cocktail or a cup of coffee elevates the drinking experience. 

Use in baking: Turbinado sugar is an excellent replacer of brown or white sugar in many baking recipes. Some delicious baking ideas using turbinado sugar are, tapping the hot cereals with a sprinkle of crystals to create a sweet crunch, using it to top the quick bread, scones and muffins and adding it to the baked dishes for an additional layer of texture and taste. 

To boost the culinary experience: Turbinado sugar can be used in several personalised ways to increase the relish. Some worth trying delicacies are; 

  • Making candied nuts, e.g., almonds and pecans
  • To dress up the baked fruits, e.g., peach halves, pear and apple
  • To decorate the tops of crème brûlée, apple crisp and pies, 
  • Sprinkling on the whole-wheat cookies for a better look, 
  • Mixing with cinnamon and use on a whole-grain toast, 
  • To sweeten the hot beverages, e.g., tea and coffee
  • Prepare a natural face exfoliant or body scrub. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of turbinado sugar for skin health? 

Turbinado sugar is frequently used in skincare products. It locks moisture, hydrates the skin and has a humectant function, meaning it draws water from the air into the outermost skin layers to make it smooth, soft and supple. 

Can a diabetic use turbinado sugar? 

Although less processed than white sugar, it is still a sugar and must be used in moderation and cautiously in diabetes. It has a similar nutritional profile and glycaemic index, and more use results in spikes in blood glucose levels with associated health problems. 

What are the side effects of using turbinado sugar? 

The excessive and unsafe use of turbinado sugar is a risk factor for hypertension, weight gain, obesity, metabolic diseases, dental decay, blood glucose spikes, nutritional imbalances, carb addiction and increased risk of chronic illnesses e.g., type 2 diabetes, diabetes and certain cancers.  

Which sugars are the healthiest? 

The less processed types, e.g., cane sugar, coconut sugar and turbinado sugar are the healthiest. The raw sugar has impurities and is not recommended for routine use.

What are the substitutes for turbinado sugar? 

The other brown sugar substitutes for turbinado sugar are muscovado sugar, demerara sugar and light brown sugar. The darker colour reflects higher molasses contents.

Turbinado Sugar: Benefits and Uses


Turbinado sugar is less processed than white sugar and has a light brown colour due to the retention of some molasses. It is, however, expensive, and the extra money spent returns nothing as the nutritional profile is very similar to the white sugar. It is a good sweetener, but like all other sugars, it must be used in moderation.

Regardless of the type of sugar a person uses, regular glucose testing is recommended for people exposed to diabetes risk factors. The Diabetes Blood Test Kit by Welzo is convenient and quick. Visit the page to order your kit. To know how a blood sugar testing kit works, visit our information page.

The blood glucose test provides a momentary picture of blood glucose levels. HbA1c test shows a bigger picture and reveals the variations in blood glucose levels over a long time. Welzo offers HBA1C (Diabetes) Blood Test. Visit the page to buy it and unveil the dynamics of blood glucose levels.

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