The USA is one of the world’s largest consumers and producers of sugar. While cane sugar is beloved by many, beet sugar accounts for nearly 60% of the production.
Raw or specialty cane sugar is usually where people turn when they’re looking for something other than pure white sugar, but there are premium beet sugar options as well, such as Belgian-style rock sugar, pearl sugar, or organic, non-GMO beet sugar.
But what makes the best beet sugar? The best beet sugar should be a high-quality beet sugar that is versatile enough to be used in a variety of ways. Different varieties of beet sugar – white or brown sugar, rock sugar, or pearl sugar made from beets – can all be of good quality.
In this article, we’ll share with you our favorite 3 best beet sugar brands and explain to you what you’ll want to look out for when shopping for beet sugar.
What is Beet Sugar?
Sugar beets are a heavily genetically modified crop designed to be extremely high in sucrose, making it perfect for boiling down into a sweet, pure-tasting sugar.
They are a hearty crop, being a root vegetable, which is typically harvested in the fall and processed during the winter. The sugar itself is ready by spring when new crops are being prepared and planted.
Sugar beets are used to create conventional white sugar, but they also produce a molasses similar to cane sugar and therefore can also be made into brown sugar.
Beet Sugar Vs Cane Sugar
The process for making beet sugar is nearly identical to that of making cane sugar, though there is no “raw sugar” option and not the wide variety of types of sugar you find with cane sugar.
In the USA, approximately 40% of sugar consumed is cane sugar and around 60% is made from sugar beets. These numbers vary slightly depending on how the weather influences farms each year, but they remain fairly constant.
In terms of taste, most consumers wouldn’t notice a difference in their day to day usage, but if a side-by-side taste comparison was made, there are slight variations. Beet sugar has a very slight earthy finish whereas cane sugar is fruitier.
Cane sugar will also caramelize more quickly than beet sugar, and beet sugar tends to lend a crunchier texture to recipes.
Professional chefs will usually have a preference for the type of sugar they work with in their recipes but most home bakers wouldn’t notice the difference unless they were using specialty sugars with coarse or large crystals.
Is Your Sugar from Sugar Beets?
Sugar is rarely, if ever, labeled as made from beets. The biggest exception is from producers of non-GMO sugar beets. Approximately 95% of sugar beet crops are modified so this is a major differentiating factor for the few producers of non-GMO products.
The easiest way to know if your sugar is made from sugar beets is to check whether or not it specifies that it’s made from sugar cane. Producers of sugar cane sugar are much more likely to label their products accordingly.
Sugar produced from any other source, such as coconut, for example, will also be expressly identified.
If there is no obvious statement of the source of your sugar, it’s likely made from sugar beets.
What is Rock Sugar?
If you’ve been searching for a great sugar beet sugar, you may have come across something called rock sugar, beet rock sugar, Belgian rock sugar, or sugar candy.
This became popular thanks to Teavana, who popularized it for use as the perfect sugar for tea and then, unfortunately, went out of business. There are a few companies who have taken up Teavana’s mantle and started selling beet rock sugar.
Rock sugar is made by cooling sugar syrup of any kind into large crystals, or rocks. By volume, it is less sweet than conventional white table sugar which is why it is popular for sweetening tea.
Rock sugar will usually be labeled either beet or cane, so it’s easier to identify the source than standard white sugar.
The Best Beet Sugar Brands
Beet sugar can be either very basic or quite premium. What’s best for your kitchen depends on how much sugar you and your household eat and your personal standards.
We’ve done our best to give you 3 very different beet sugar options to choose from, guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth.
|1.||The Sugar Lab Belgian Rock Sugar||Hot beverages|
|2.||NOW Foods Organic Beet Sugar||Health/environment-conscious consumers|
|3.||Anthony's Belgian Pearl Sugar||General baking and usage|
So let’s take a closer look at each of these great sugars!
1. The Sugar Lab Belgian Brown Rock Sugar
Rock sugar is a relatively new and somewhat undercover trend in the USA that needs to be exposed.
Rock sugar may be perfect for tea, but it’s also a fabulous secret ingredient for coffee and home-brewed beer. The Sugar Lab is apparently sourcing the exact same product as the former brand Teavana used to sell.
If you want to use it for baking or cooking, just dissolve the crystals in some liquid before adding it to your recipe.
- No added colors or flavors
- Variety of rock sizes, shapes, and colors
Biggest Drawback: This is not the type of sugar you can use for everything, especially in a household that does a lot of baking. It is a premium product made for savoring, but the price may reflect its premium quality.
2. NOW Foods Organic Beet Sugar
As previously mentioned, it’s rare for a company to explicitly state their sugar is made from sugar beets. The exception is when those sugar beets are not genetically modified. Organic beet sugar is hard to come by and NOW Foods is one of the only suppliers who offer it. This makes their sugar premium, simply because of how rare it is.
Many people are trying to reduce their impact on the environment and organic farming of sugar beets is thought to have a lesser impact on the environment. Sugar beets don’t encroach on tropical rainforests and have cleaner irrigation with less pollution.
- Vegan-friendly, made without bone char
- Certified organic and Non-GMO product verified
- Free from artificial flavors, colors, and filler agents
Biggest Drawback: Because this sugar is so clearly set apart from all other types of sugar, many shoppers buy it thinking it will noticeably different from conventional white sugar. It isn’t.
It has fewer toxic chemicals in it and is made without genetic modification, but otherwise, it’s just plain sugar. If you expect something that has an extra-special texture or flavor in exchange for the price, you may be disappointed. However, if you want a high-quality solution that substitutes exactly for other white sugars, this is a fantastic option.
3. Anthony’s Belgian Pearl Sugar
Similar to rock sugar, pearl sugar is made by compressing individual grains of sugar into larger crystals, or pearls, that take longer to dissolve.
While that may sound inconvenient, it creates a sweet crunchiness as it caramelizes while baking. It’s the featured ingredient in Belgian-style waffles, helping to provide the rich, crisp flavor we all love.
- Tested and verified to be gluten-free
- Made from 100% beet sugar
- Medium-sized, snow-white sugar pearls
Biggest Drawback: Some avid bakers are familiar with Swedish pearl sugar, which are smaller in size than Belgian pearls. If this is the case for you, be aware that the size of these pearls is quite a bit larger, averaging ¼” in size and sometimes even bigger.
Is Beet Sugar Vegan?
Yes, sugar that is made from sugar beets is considered to be vegan.
Some cane sugar, though not all, is filtered using bone char, which is an animal product and therefore not vegan friendly. However this practice is not used for making beet sugar, so vegans can enjoy their sweet treat without worry.
Can Diabetics Eat Beet Sugar?
Beet sugar is sugar, like any other sugar, and it will affect blood glucose levels the same way cane sugar will.
Diabetics can have some sugar, depending on their individual physiology and insulin practices, but it should always be consumed carefully, regardless of whether it is made from sugar beets.
It is important to note that sugar beets are considerably different from the red or golden beets many people consume as root vegetables. While all beets have a high sugar content, the way your body will process the sugar when eaten as a vegetable is much different from how it is processed as refined sugar.
There is even some evidence suggesting eating whole beets can be beneficial for diabetics but you should always discuss adding new foods to your diet with your primary care professional if you’re diabetic.
Can You Use Beet Sugar For Hummingbirds?
Yes, beet sugar is perfectly safe for hummingbirds. Some avid hummingbird aficionados claim that the tiny birds prefer cane sugar, but there’s no real evidence to support this.
The bigger concern is regarding the safety of the animals, and beet sugar is fine as long as it is white sugar. Hummingbirds have an incredibly low tolerance for iron, which is present in molasses so raw and brown sugar should always be avoided.
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