Which Sugar Is Vegan? Read Before Buying


After you post on your social media accounts the finished product of your vegan-inspired flourless chocolate cake or chewy chocolate brownies, a lot of vegan enthusiasts might be sliding your DMs asking if your sugar is vegan.

Some sugar brands and types of sugar are 100% vegan and others are not. A true vegan sugar must come from sugar beets and must contain words like organic, refined, natural, or raw on the label. Sugar becomes non-vegan if its production process includes filtering, and bleaching with bone char.

But before we go into different types of sugar and determine whether they are vegan or not, you must know first how sugar is derived.

Also, to make things clear that vegan is not about perfection, it is more about reducing animal suffering, boost one’s health and suffering, while reducing environmental impact.

So, without further ado let’s go down with the details.

Types of Sugar

Sugar beets and sugar cane are two popular sources of sugar.

However, the production process of the two is slightly different.

Generally, sugar is just a generic name for any sweet-tasting and soluble carbohydrate, mainly sucrose.

To make table sugar, sucrose is extracted from plant tissues.

These two, sugar beets and sugar cane are used to produce table sugar due to the higher sucrose concentration they contain compared to other plants.

Less in common, coconut palm and date palm are also considered as other sources of sugar.

Since vegan issues sugar because of their processing steps, let’s take closely the steps on how these two sources produce sugar.

Sugar Beets Production Steps

photo of sugar

Harvest

Sugar beets are a root vegetable that is harvested in the autumn and early winter. Because sugar beets grow in the ground, they are thoroughly washed and separated from leaves and extra debris.

Extraction

In a similar process to extracting tea from tea leaves, the sugar beets are cut into thin slices and placed in the hot water. Helps to extract the sugar into the water, when the water becomes a strong sugar solution. This is referred to as the juice.

Pressing

After most of the sugar is removed from the beets in the extraction step. The remaining beet slices are pressed to get rid of any remaining juice.

Carbonation

To remove any non-sugars from the sugar juice, small clumps of chalk are grown in it. Since non-sugars are collected in the clumps, they can be removed easily at the end of carbonation.

Boiling

After all, non-sugars are removed, the juice is boiled to dissipate as much excess liquid as possible. The remaining sugar syrup is ready for crystal formation.

Sugar crystal creation

Sugar dust is added to the sugar syrup to initiate sugar crystal formation. After the crystals are formed, the remaining crystal and liquid mix are separated in the centrifuges. The crystals are then further dried before packaging.

Final product

The resulting product is white sugar that is ready for use. No additional filtration is required.

Is Beet Sugar Vegan?

Since no animal-based products are used in the production of beet sugar. All varieties are vegan-friendly! Sadly, this is not the case for sugar cane.

Sugar Cane Production Steps

image of brown sugar

Harvest

Sugarcane is harvested by chopping off the stems and leaving the roots. The sugarcane roots will regrow in additional crops.

Extraction

While the sugar in sugarcane can be extracted by diffusion that is similar to sugar beets, it is typically done through crushing. In a similar manner to getting rid of the water out of the clothes.

The sugar cane is then crushed between the large rollers. The resulting sugar water solution is called the juice.

Cleaning

To remove any dirt, leaves, and other non-sugars from the juice, slaked lime is added to settle out any nonsugars. This works similarly to the chalk in the sugar beet processing.

Boiling

After all, non-sugars are removed, the juice is then boiled to remove as much excess liquid as possible. The remaining sugar syrup is ready for crystal formation.

Sugar crystal creation

Sugar dust is added to the sugar syrup to begin sugar crystal formation. Once the crystals are formed, the remaining crystal and syrup mix is separated in the centrifuges.

The crystals are further dried before storage. It is because not all of the sugars can be extracted from the syrup. The resulting end product is molasses.

Refining

Unlike sugar beet products, sugar cane is light brown. To achieve the pure white sugar we expect, the sugar cane is put through a decolorizing filter known as natural carbon.

Natural carbon looks like the bone char in the sugar cane industry. The bone char is made by heating animal bones at a very high temperature until they are reduced to become carbon.

Final product

The resulting sugar cane is pure white, like those found on the grocery store shelves. However, it is important to note that refined sugar does not contain any bone particles and must be Kosher certified. This bone char gets rid of the impurities from the sugar but does not become part of the sugar.

Is Sugar Cane Vegan?

Since animal-derived bone char is used to refine it, cane sugar is often considered being a non-vegan product. But, take note that the only refined variety of sugarcane is typically non-vegan.

The other varieties of sugar cane are organic, natural, raw, and unrefined, which are vegan friendly. If the sugar in the store contains any of these labels, then it is considered vegan.

For instance, the following is a vegan cane sugar.

Wholesome Organic Cane Sugar Non-GMO and Gluten-Free

Wholesome Organic is made from fresh organic sugar can juice that is evaporated and crystallized. It has a perfectly sweet pure cane sugar that is evaporated and crystallized.

You can use this sugar in place of granulated white sugar to sweeten and add an extra depth of flavor to coffee, cereal, and desserts. You may use the 1-for-1 replacement for refined white sugar.

The Wholesome’s organic sugar cane is USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project-Verified, Kosher Certified, which is naturally gluten-free and vegan.

This product works in harmony with the Earth to reduce the impact on the land and environmental footprint wherever they can.

This perfectly sweet natural sugar can be used to sweeten coffee, cereal, tea, and any baked goodies. Use wholesome organic sugar in place of refined white sugar.

This wholesome’s organic cane sugar is USDA Certified Organic, Kosher Certified, non-GMO Project Verified, and 100% Vegan.

Is Domino Sugar Vegan?

The Domino sugar is not vegan. They are using natural charcoal, which is a sterile material used to remove color, impurities, and certain naturally-occurring minerals from sugar during the refining process.

This acts similarly to a coffee filter that is not the sugar itself. There are no animal products in domino sugar.

However, the natural charcoal that is used is exclusive to the bones of non-European cattle. These healthy bones are incinerated for 12 hours at temperatures reaching over 700 degrees centigrade.

The burning process can destroy all the organic matter, including bacteria, viruses, and proteins.

It only leaves an inert granular substance called natural charcoal, which is about 10% elemental carbon and about 90% calcium hydroxyapatite.

On the other hand, the sugar is 100% pure cane and does not contain fillers of any kind. The sugar is not bleached and does not contain molasses flavor, which is naturally derived from cane through crystallization.

Is Brown Sugar Vegan?

Bone char does get used in brown sugar because of how brown sugar is created. The brown sugar is made from refined sugar with molasses add ons.

The refined sugar could come from refineries that use bone char to process the sugar that can potentially make brands of brown sugar that are not vegan.

Unfortunately, this means that the cookie your friend made for you uses only brown sugar that can be may or may not be vegan. This can be impossible to find out.

However, if you need to use brown sugar, then check this one out.

Wholesome Organic Dark Brown Sugar

This sugar is made from organic dark brown sugar that is soft and moist with a deliciously natural molasses flavor.

These perfectly sweet and robust brown sugar can be used to make brownies, gingerbread cookies, baked beans, and barbecue sauces. This sugar can give more sweet and savory dishes.

Wholesome’s Dark Brown Sugar is USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO Project Verified, Kosher Certified, Vegan, and is naturally Gluten-free.

The best thing about this product is that Wholesome’s organic dark cane sugar starts with sugar cane that is sustainably grown and harvested using methods that work in harmony with Earth, reducing the impact on the land and environmental footprint.

Is White Sugar Vegan?

One of those more unlikely no-go foods is white sugar.

As you know that sugar comes from the stalk of sugarcane, right?

And sugar cane is reasonably plant-sourced. Therefore, the answer lies in the sugar’s coloration. Granulated white sugar is not pure on its own, and sometimes the refining process involves a bone char.

Although white sugar does not contain bone char, it is decolorized with the ingredients to achieve the white hue. The bone char acts as a crude filter which is a porous material made by charring the bones of cattle from India, Pakistan, and Argentina.

For example, check out this one.

Happy Belly White Sugar

This white sugar from the Happy Belly store comes in a stand-up pouch packaging. The sugar is granulated and can be used for a variety of kitchen use like in baking and cooking.

Though it is hard to assume whether this white sugar is vegan, it is best to contact their customer support team. It is because some granulated sugar cannot be pure on its own and the sometimes refining process involves a bone char.

Is Raw Sugar Vegan?

Raw sugar is cruelty-free but not all are 100% vegan, meaning some of their products contain animal-derived ingredients. Unlike normally processed sugar cane, it is not decolorized using animal bone char.

The difference with turbinado sugar is that it is processed in such a way that it leaves a portion of the molasses in the sugar instead of refining it out.

Examples of raw sugars include muscovado sugar, demerara sugar, such as the one below.

Dark Muscovado Sugar

The sugar milled in this manufacturer is special because it retains much of the flavor of the cane that is grown on soil rich in volcanic ash.

It has a strong lingering flavor that goes well with other rich flavors like gingerbread, coffee, chocolate cakes, and fudges.

For a more robust flavor with your favorite recipes, you may use it in place of dark brown sugar. This sugar takes the flavor and color of the sugarcane juice from where it is made.

It has been certified Kosher and verified as non-GMO by the NonGMO Project. The sugar has a fine, moist texture and contains high molasses content.

Billington’s Natural Demerara Unrefined Cane Sugar

This natural demerara cane sugar has a rich aroma that can enhance any sweet recipe you put in.

It is perfect in hot beverages, baked goods, and creates a sparkling topping for cakes, cookies, muffins, and gourmet desserts.

The sugar is produced from the first crystallization of sugar cane juice with no bleaching or chemicals in the production process.

It is Kosher certified, naturally Gluten-Free, and is Vegan.

Is Icing Sugar Vegan?

You may have heard that regular white sugar is non-vegan because they filter it using bone char, it is charred and powdered animal bone.

There is one exception to this though, icing sugar. Icing sugar does not use bone char but some of the most popular brands of icing sugar contain dried egg white.

If you have a spice grinder and a lot of time on your hands. You can make whole icing sugar by adding a bit of cornflour to the regular sugar and then blend it.

Wholesome organic icing sugar

This rich and creamy sugar with a mellow and smooth flavor is the choice of many pastry chefs.

The best thing about this sugar is that it is certified organic and fair trade, non-GMO, kosher, making her suitable for vegan, halal, vegetarian, and other plant-based diets.

This organic icing sugar gives a toffee flavor to baked goodies, which is great for dusting, fillings, and frostings.

Is Powdered Sugar Vegan?

Powdered sugar is made by combining finely ground sugar with cornstarch, which is used to prevent caking.

As with brown sugar, powdered sugar is vegan and depends on the original sugar used. If the original sugar was refined cane sugar, the powdered sugar will not be vegan.

On the other hand, if the original sugar was vegan-friendly, then the powdered sugar as cornstarch is always vegan-friendly.

Trader Joe’s Organic Powdered Sugar

As the name implies, expect that this sugar is finely pulverized to tiny particles.

It is made from the first crystallization of organic cane juice, which is both Certified-organic and Kosher.

This unrefined organic sugar comes in a pouch so that it can be easily poured into a container.

What Makes Sugar Not Vegan?

Why do some sugars are not considered vegan?

Well, to make refined sugar from sugarcane, these sugar cane stalks are crushed to separate the juice from the pulp. This juice is then processed, filtered, and is bleached with bone char.

sugar and coffee

The pure white color associated with sugar comes from the bone char. Because some production of sugars utilizes this process, most vegans will not eat this kind of refined sugar.

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Healthier Sugar Alternatives

Many people avoid refined sugar for some health reasons. So, for those who wish to avoid refined sugar, here are some alternatives:

Date sugar

To replace white sugar with date sugar, substitute it with a 1:1 ratio.

Maple syrup

To replace white or brown sugar, substitute ¾ cup of maple syrup for each cup of white and brown sugar. Reduce the liquids to 3 tablespoons for every cup of maple syrup.

Coconut sugar

Replace brown sugar with coconut sugar by substituting it with a 1:1 ratio.

Stevia

In baking, substitute ½ teaspoon of undiluted stevia powder or 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia extract for every cup of sugar.

Monk fruit

In baking, substitute ½ teaspoon of monk fruit sweetener for each cup of sugar.

Brown rice syrup

Substitute 11/3 part of brown rice syrup for brown or white sugar. Reduce the liquid to 3 tbsp per cup of sugar.

Agave Nectar

Substitute the ⅔ cup agave for every cup of sugar. Reduce the liquid in the recipe with 3 tablespoons per cup of sugar.

Photo credit: ©canva.com

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