Cane Sugar vs Granulated Sugar – What Is The Difference?

I love baking and cooking with sugar. As such, I’ve learned a thing or two about the different types.

One common question I often get personally asked is the differences between cane sugar and granulated sugar?

Can you use them interchangeably? Does it even matter?

Well, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding them, so I am documenting all I have learned about them here today.

We’ll be covering the main differences and most importantly, when to use each one.

Let’s clear it up for good!

What Is Cane Sugar?

Cane sugar is a natural sweetener derived from the sugarcane plant. It’s the result of extracting the juice from the plant, evaporating the water content, and crystallizing the remaining sugar. 

The process of making cane sugar is relatively simple and involves minimal processing.

In my experience, there’s nothing quite like the taste of fresh cane sugar. 

I’ve been using it at home for years, and I can tell you firsthand that it brings a unique, earthy sweetness to my baked goods and beverages.

What Is Granulated Sugar?

Granulated sugar is made from either sugarcane or sugar beets, and it goes through a more extensive refining process than cane sugar. This extra processing removes impurities and results in the familiar, uniform white crystals that we know as granulated sugar.

What Are The Differences Between Cane Sugar and Granulated Sugar?

The main differences between cane sugar and granulated sugar include their color, taste and vitamin/mineral content.

While cane sugar and granulated sugar may seem similar at first glance, they have some important differences that set them apart.

Taste and Color

One of the most noticeable differences between cane sugar and granulated sugar is their taste and color.

Cane sugar has a distinct, rich flavor that can be attributed to its molasses content.

This also gives it a slightly darker color compared to granulated sugar.

Granulated sugar, on the other hand, has a neutral sweetness and a pure white color due to the refining process it undergoes.


As mentioned earlier, the processing methods for cane sugar and granulated sugar differ significantly.

Cane sugar undergoes minimal processing, which helps retain its natural taste and color.

Granulated sugar, however, goes through a series of refining steps, including filtration, crystallization, and centrifugation, which remove impurities and create a more uniform product.

Nutritional Content

Although both cane sugar and granulated sugar are sources of calories and carbohydrates, cane sugar contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals due to its molasses content.

However, it’s important to note that these nutrients are present in such small amounts that they don’t significantly impact your daily intake.

Overall, both types of sugar should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Are There Any Similarities Between Cane Sugar and Granulated Sugar?

Despite their differences, cane sugar and granulated sugar do share some similarities:

  • Both are derived from the sugarcane plant, although granulated sugar can also come from sugar beets.
  • They’re both used as sweeteners in a wide range of recipes, from baked goods to beverages.
  • Both types of sugar provide calories and carbohydrates, making them a source of energy.

When To Use Cane Sugar

Cane sugar works well in recipes that call for a more robust flavor or a darker color. Its earthy sweetness complements baked goods like gingerbread cookies, spice cakes, and brownies, adding a touch of depth to their taste profiles.

Cane sugar is also a popular choice in traditional Caribbean and Latin American recipes, where its unique flavor enhances the overall dish.

If you’re a fan of homemade beverages, cane sugar can be a great addition to your arsenal.

Its rich taste pairs well with coffee and tea, and it’s often used in cocktails, such as the classic mojito, for an extra layer of flavor.

When To Use Granulated Sugar

Granulated sugar is the go-to sweetener for most recipes, thanks to its neutral flavor and consistent results. It’s ideal for recipes that require a more subtle sweetness, such as sponge cakes, sugar cookies, and delicate pastries.

Since granulated sugar has a finer texture than cane sugar, it dissolves more quickly in liquids, making it perfect for sweetening cold drinks like lemonade or iced tea.

Additionally, its fine texture allows for even distribution in recipes that call for creaming butter and sugar together, resulting in a smooth and fluffy texture.

When it comes to baking, granulated sugar is often used in recipes that need a crisp texture, such as meringues or sugar-dusted pie crusts.

It also works well as a finishing touch, sprinkled over fresh fruit or used as a decorative element in desserts.

Can You Substitute Cane Sugar for Granulated Sugar?

You can substitute cane sugar for granulated sugar, but keep in mind that the taste and color will vary depending on the type of sugar you use. Thus, some recipes also tend to do better with one or the other.

For recipes that rely on a subtle sweetness or a light color, such as angel food cake or sugar cookies, the substitution may not be ideal.

However, in recipes where the flavor and color won’t be significantly impacted, such as chocolate chip cookies or banana bread, you can substitute cane sugar for granulated sugar in a one-to-one ratio. 

Be aware that cane sugar has a coarser texture than granulated sugar, so it may not dissolve as quickly or evenly in certain recipes.

In cases where the unique taste of cane sugar is integral to the recipe, you can try adding a small amount of molasses to granulated sugar to mimic the flavor. 

For every cup of granulated sugar, add one to two tablespoons of molasses, depending on your taste preferences.

It’s always a good idea to experiment with the substitution in a small batch before committing to a larger recipe.


Both cane sugar and granulated sugar have their own unique characteristics and uses in the kitchen. 

Cane sugar, with its rich flavor and darker color, is well-suited for recipes that call for a more robust taste, while granulated sugar’s neutral sweetness and fine texture make it the go-to choice for everyday baking and sweetening.

The next time you’re in the grocery store, take a moment to consider the differences between cane sugar and granulated sugar, and think about which one will work best for your next culinary creation.