7 Best Substitute For Sanding Sugar

Sanding Sugar Substitute

The art of baking is steeped in the subtle balance of textures, flavors, and aesthetics. Among the multitude of ingredients that contribute to the allure of baked goods, one that stands out for its culinary charm is sanding sugar. Characterized by larger, coarser, and more sparkling crystals than regular granulated sugar, sanding sugar holds a prized position in the realm of baking. Its resistance to melting and its crystalline appeal make it a preferred choice for bakers aiming for a visually delightful and tastefully crunchy finish.

However, sometimes, this specialty sugar isn’t at hand when the baking urge strikes, or perhaps, you’re exploring alternatives for a creative twist. This is where substitutes for sanding sugar come into play. Ranging from the commonly found granulated sugar to the more exotic Demerara sugar, these substitutes not only provide a similar crunch and sweetness but also open up an avenue for experimenting with different textures and flavors. In this article, we will explore the best substitutes for sanding sugar, examining their unique characteristics and how to use them effectively in your baking endeavors.

What is Sanding Sugar?

Before we explore the alternatives, let’s take a moment to understand what sanding sugar is. Sanding sugar is a type of sugar crystal that’s larger, coarser, and more sparkling than regular granulated sugar. It’s primarily used as a decorative element in baking, gracing the tops of cookies, muffins, and other confections with a beautiful crystalline finish that’s both visually appealing and delightful in taste. It’s resistant to melting, allowing it to maintain its glittering texture even when exposed to high oven temperatures.

Quick View of Substitutes For Sanding Sugar

  • Granulated Sugar
  • Demerara Sugar
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Pearl Sugar
  • Decorating Sugar
  • Crystal Sugar
  • Raw Sugar

Let’s now delve into the nitty-gritty details of these substitutes, exploring how each one can play its part in your baked creations.

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Best Substitutes For Sanding Sugar

When sanding sugar isn’t available, don’t let that curb your baking enthusiasm. There are several equally excellent alternatives that you can reach out for, each carrying its unique characteristics, flavor, and charm.

Granulated Sugar

First on our list is the readily available granulated sugar. As a staple in most kitchens, granulated sugar can be a lifesaver when you’re out of sanding sugar. Although the granules are smaller and not as sparkly, this substitute can add a sweet crunch to your baked goods that’s similar to that of sanding sugar.

In terms of its texture, granulated sugar is fine and uniform, allowing it to blend well into doughs and batters. It’s also brilliant at adding a light, sugary crust to your baked items when sprinkled over them before baking. However, bear in mind that it may not withstand high temperatures as well as sanding sugar, and can melt, creating a caramelized effect rather than a sparkling finish.

From a flavor perspective, granulated sugar is less sweet than sanding sugar. While this may not significantly impact the overall sweetness of your recipe, it could make a subtle difference to extremely delicate pastries.

Demerara Sugar

If you’re in the pursuit of a more exotic substitute, Demerara sugar could be your answer. Named after the Demerara colony in Guyana where it was first produced, this sugar variety is made from sugarcane and is characterized by its large, amber crystals that provide a toffee-like flavor.

Demerara sugar can make your baked goods extra crunchy due to its large crystals. It also retains a fair amount of moisture, which can contribute to a slightly softer interior in cookies or muffins. However, its most appealing trait is the delightful crunch it adds to the crust of baked goods, closely mimicking the texture of sanding sugar.

Flavor-wise, the distinct caramel-like taste of Demerara sugar can enrich your baking creations with a depth of flavor that’s more complex than what you get from ordinary white sugar. Keep in mind, though, that this could slightly alter the original taste of your recipe.

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Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar is another popular substitute for sanding sugar. Often mistaken for Demerara sugar, it also possesses large, amber crystals. But unlike Demerara sugar, turbinado sugar is made by steaming unrefined raw sugar.

Turbinado sugar’s coarse, crunchy texture makes it an excellent sanding sugar replacement in recipes where a crystalline sparkle is desired. Moreover, its resistance to melting at high temperatures makes it an excellent choice for recipes that require long baking times.

In terms of flavor, turbinado sugar is less sweet than sanding sugar but offers a delicate hint of molasses that can add an interesting nuance to your baked goods.

Pearl Sugar

If you’re seeking a truly unique aesthetic, pearl sugar could be an excellent alternative. Known for its large, pebble-like granules, pearl sugar retains its shape and size under heat, creating a distinctive crunchy texture in baked goods.

Its resistance to melting makes it a perfect finishing touch for pastries, muffins, and especially Belgian waffles, which traditionally feature this type of sugar. However, it’s worth noting that pearl sugar doesn’t have the same sparkle as sanding sugar, so it may not provide the same glittery finish.

Pearl sugar carries a light, sweet taste that is subtle and will not overpower your recipes. The result is a sweet, crunchy texture without a significant change in the overall flavor profile.

Decorating Sugar

Decorating sugar, also known as coarse sugar, is another good alternative for sanding sugar. The crystals of decorating sugar are large, similar in size to sanding sugar, giving your baked goods that desired crunchy texture.

The key advantage of decorating sugar is its ability to withstand high baking temperatures without melting, much like sanding sugar. This makes it an ideal choice for decorating cookies, scones, and other baked goods that require a sparkling, sugary finish.

Regarding flavor, decorating sugar is relatively neutral, making it a versatile choice that can blend seamlessly into almost any recipe without significantly altering the taste.

Crystal Sugar

Crystal sugar, with its large, clear crystals, can be a viable substitute for sanding sugar. This sugar variety is well-known in the culinary world for adding a visual appeal to bakery items, thanks to its sparkling appearance.

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Crystal sugar can withstand high oven temperatures without melting, maintaining its glimmering effect. This property, coupled with its ability to add a satisfying crunch to baked goods, makes it a worthy alternative to sanding sugar.

In terms of taste, crystal sugar is relatively neutral, with a light sweetness that won’t dominate your recipe, allowing the other flavors to shine through.

Raw Sugar

Last on our list is raw sugar. This unrefined sugar, derived directly from the juice of the sugarcane plant, has a golden hue and large, coarse crystals that can provide a beautiful, rustic finish to your baked goods.

While raw sugar doesn’t have the same sparkly finish as sanding sugar, it does offer a nice crunchy texture and a distinctive, rich flavor, thanks to the molasses content in it. These characteristics make raw sugar a unique substitute for sanding sugar.

The flavor profile of raw sugar is more complex than that of regular white sugar. The slight molasses notes can add a depth of flavor to your baked goods, making them taste more robust and interesting.

Substitutes for Sanding Sugar: Nutritional Profile

Here’s a quick nutritional comparison of our sanding sugar substitutes, based on a ¼ cup serving:

SubstituteCaloriesFat (g)Carbs (g)Fiber (g)Protein (g)Gluten
Granulated Sugar19405000Gluten-Free
Demerara Sugar18004600Gluten-Free
Turbinado Sugar18004500Gluten-Free
Pearl Sugar19405000Gluten-Free
Decorating Sugar19405000Gluten-Free
Crystal Sugar19405000Gluten-Free
Raw Sugar18004700Gluten-Free

Remember, the nutritional profile of sugar substitutes can vary, so always check the packaging for the most accurate information.


There’s no need to curb your baking enthusiasm if you find yourself out of sanding sugar. The substitutes we’ve explored in this article are all capable of offering the sweet crunch and visual appeal you’re after. While each substitute has its unique characteristics, they all make excellent stand-ins, and trying different ones can lead to delightful, and sometimes surprising, culinary results. Remember, baking is as much about the journey as it is about the destination, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Happy baking!

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