Naturally Sweet

What is Sucanat?

How it's made, how to use it, and everything else you need to know about this minimally refined cane sugar.

By America's Test Kitchen | October 05, 2016

Sugar has taken a justifiable hit in the press lately, but that doesn't mean you have to completely eschew your favorite sweets from your diet—there are many ways to sweeten baked goods without turning to granulated white sugar.

One of those ways is to substitute an ingredient you might have started hearing about: Sucanat. While we used many different natural sweeteners (including coconut sugar, date sugar, and maple syrup) while developing our most recent cookbook, Naturally Sweet, we found that Sucanat gave us a deep, rich flavor in some of our favorite staple sweets, so we turned to it for our chocolate chip cookies recipe and chocolate layer cake recipe. But what exactly is Sucanat? Read on—we demystify that below. 

What Is Sucanat?

Short for sucre de canne naturel, Sucanat is a natural cane sugar that is made by extracting the juice from sugar cane and then beating it with paddles to form granules.

How Sucanat Is Made

Sucanat is less processed and more natural than white sugar. To make granulated sugar, the first half of the process takes place in a factory. The cane is harvested, then run through a machine to extract the juice. The juice is filtered, then chemically clarified. The juice is heated to concentrate it, separating the liquid and sugar crystals. The crystals are removed from the liquor by centrifugal machines, then the process is essentially repeated in the refinery, which includes an additional step that decolors the crystals. 

While white sugar involves heavy-duty mechanical and chemical processing to get from cane to granules, Sucanat requires far less processing and no chemicals to get from plant to package. The graphic below illustrates this simple process. 

What Does Sucanat Taste Like?

Sucanat is far more flavorful than regular white sugar, which means that a small amount goes a long way in providing sweetness and flavor to a wide variety of recipes. And since they retain much of their natural molasses, Sucanat granules are a tan-brown color, with a deep, molasses-y flavor that our tasters loved. (When heated, it turns caramel-like between 250 and 270 degrees.)

Sucanat vs. Granulated Sugar

Although the sugar molecules of glucose, fructose, and sucrose all react the same way when combined with water, there are significant differences between them. In terms of being attracted to water (hygroscopicity), fructose is the most hygroscopic, glucose is the least hygroscopic, and sucrose falls somewhere in between. In terms of flavor, fructose is 1.5 times sweeter than sucrose, while glucose is only 75 percent as sweet as sucrose. Also, the length of time that the sweetness is perceived in the mouth is slightly different between molecules. The flavor of fructose dissipates the most quickly, followed by glucose, while sucrose offers the most sustained sweet flavor.

The chart below compares the makeup of granulated sugar to the makeup of Sucanat. You can see that unlike granulated sugar, which is made up entirely of sucrose, Sucanat is made up of sucrose, glucose, fructose, and other molecules. Given the different molecular designs of these sugars, it is no wonder that they react differently when added to a recipe.

How To Use Sucanat

Unground Sucanat has a tough, granular texture that doesn’t always dissolve quickly into batters and doughs, which is why we found it necessary to grind Sucanat in a spice grinder before using it, which helps ensure that it’s well incorporated into doughs and batters and also eliminates unsightly speckling on finished baked goods.

Left: unground Sucanat. Right: ground Sucanat.

How To Substitute for Sucanat

You can substitute granulated sugar and coconut sugar for Sucanat, but they cannot be substituted for one another based on a one-to-one volume measure. If you choose to use an alternative sugar, use this chart to determine how much sweetener you should use.

Sucanat Granulated Sugar or Brown Sugar Coconut Sugar Weight

3 tablespoons

2 tablespoons

3 tablespoons

1 ounce

¼ cup

3 tablespoons

1/3 cup

1½ ounces

1/3 cup

¼ cup

6 tablespoons

1¾ ounces

6 tablespoons

1/3 cup

7 tablespoons

2 ounces

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons

½ cup

¾ cup

3½ ounces

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons

2/3 cup

1 cup

4 2/3 ounces

1 cup

¾ cup

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons

5 1/3 ounces

1¼ cups

1 cup

1½ cups

7 ounces

1 1/3 cups plus ¼ cup

1¼ cups

1½ cups plus 1/3 cup

8¾ ounces

1 2/3 cups

1 1/3 cups

1 2/3 cups plus ¼ cup

9 1/3 cups

1 2/3 cups plus ¼ cup

1½ cups

1 2/3 cups plus ½ cup

10½ ounces

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons

1 2/3 cups

1¾ cups plus 2/3 cup

11 2/3 ounces

2¼ cups

1¾ cups

2 1/3 cups plus ¼ cup

12¼ ounces

2 1/3 cups plus ¼ cup

2 cups

2 2/3 cups plus ¼ cup

14 ounces

Where To Find Sucanat

Because it’s a registered trademark, Sucanat is a fairly reliable, consistent product across brands; you can find it in many well-stocked supermarkets or online.

Natural Sweetener

More Flavorful than White Sugar Sucanat

Short for sucre de canne naturel, Sucanat is a natural cane sugar that is made by extracting the juice from sugar cane and then beating it with paddles to form granules.


Why People Love Sucanat

Some of our test cooks spent almost an entire year working with Sucanat. Here’s what they had to say about it:

Julia Collin Davison, executive editor and America’s Test Kitchen TV co-host: “Sucanat adds a wonderful, light molasses flavor to the baked goods and I love that it is less processed than white sugar. The mild flavor takes some getting use to, especially in a well-loved recipe like chocolate chip cookies, so Sucanat doesn't replace white sugar completely in my house, but I use it more and more when I bake.”

Steph Pixley, books team senior editor: “The Sucanat brings a totally different depth of flavor that is more similar to toffee or caramel than boring white sugar cookies.”

Lawman Johnson, books team associate editor: "Everyone wants to eat healthier—using natural sweeteners makes you feel better about the end product. Because of its great depth of flavor and sweeter overall taste, one can create a tasty treat without adding so much sugar that it ultimately takes over."


Bake with 30% to 50% Less Sugar Naturally Sweet

You know all about Sucanat; now it's time to bake with it. Naturally Sweet is a collection of 100+ truly groundbreaking recipes that rely only on natural, less-processed sweeteners like Sucanat, coconut sugar, date sugar, honey, maple syrup, or no sweeteners at all, just dried fruit and chocolate.