Toasted Sugar Recipe on Food52 (2024)


by: Stella Parks



3 Ratings

  • Makes 4 pounds (9 cups)

Jump to Recipe

Author Notes

In a low oven, granulated sugar develops a toasty flavor reminiscent of light caramel or turbinado, yet it remains powdery and dry. That means you can use it to replace white sugar in any recipe, adding a subtle note of complexity to round out the simple sweetness of your favorite dessert. Because of the time involved, you’ll want to roast a whole bag of sugar to make it worth your while. Just give it a stir every thirty minutes or so to help it toast more evenly, then cool and store like plain sugar.

You can toast smaller quantities of sugar while you blind-bake a pie crust—just use sugar with a foil liner in place of pie weights—or make small quantities in just 30 minutes at 350° F. Pour the sugar into a 10- or 12-inch skillet in a layer that’s a quarter-inch thick so that it toasts evenly. The exact timing will depend on the accuracy of your oven—keep a close eye on the sugar the first time around, then adjust the temperature for future batches accordingly.

Excerpt from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts by Stella Parks. Copyright © 2017 by Stella Parks. Reprinted with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. —Stella Parks

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 9 cups(4 pounds) refined white sugar
  1. Key Point: This technique will not work with raw or semirefined cane sugar, as its natural molasses content will begin to melt at much lower temperatures, causing the sugar to clump.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Put the sugar in a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish and roast, stirring well once every 30 minutes, until it darkens to a sandy tan, with a coarse texture like turbinado, about 2 hours. The color change can be strangely difficult to judge in the dim glow of an oven, so scoop out a spoonful to examine in better light.
  3. Let the roasted sugar cool away from any sources of moisture or steam until no trace of warmth remains, about 1 hour. If you notice molten caramel around the edges, pour the hot sugar into a heat-resistant container, leaving the melty bits behind; once cool, the baking dish can be soaked clean. Despite its innocuous appearance, roasted sugar can be dangerously hot, so take care not to touch it.
  4. Store for up to a year in an airtight container at room temperature.
  5. Troubleshooting:

    - Metal baking pans conduct heat more rapidly, and their corners may harbor traces of grease or moisture, factors that make the sugar more likely to liquefy around the edges.

    - Given the importance of maintaining a low temperature, use an oven thermometer to verify that yours runs true to dial. Otherwise, the sugar will caramelize too quickly and begin to liquefy.


  • American
  • Bake
  • Dessert

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60 Reviews

Luau21 May 15, 2024

Wow, this sounds fantastic! And my brain immediately goes to brown butter and roasted sugar chocolate chip cookies!

Eric A. January 7, 2018

You say that it'll keep up to a year. What happens after a year? Normal sugar keeps indefinitely when kept away from moisture.

Stella P. January 8, 2018

From the standpoint of perishability, toasted sugar will last as long as plain sugar. Due to the toasting it is more hygroscopic, so it can more readily absorb moisture from the air and clump over time; for that reason, indefinite storage may be problematic without a truly air tight container, so I listed "a year" as an arbitrary sort of timetable just to give folks something to go on.

judy November 11, 2017

This was a great experiment for me. I too went to Serious Eats to read the blog. I had an extra bag of sugar so I thought I would give this a try. I love to try different things in the kitchen. Took about 4 times as long to bake as stated. All day almost to get to light color. Checking and stirring as recommended. I let it cool and tasted. Tasted wonderful! Sadly baking the sugar changed the molecular structure (as explained in SE) in such a way that I could not tolerate it. I have several sugar/sweetener intolerances. Didn't know what to do with it, as I don't have friends who bake. So it sits. sad. I hope you all enjoy.

Eileen F. September 25, 2017

I'm not sure what happened that I had this problem. After roasting, I left it on the stove to cool. When I went back several hours later, it was hard as a rock. I scraped some of it, and put it through a strainer. I ended up putting it back in the oven at 300, and scraped off what had loosened up every ten minutes, still putting through a strainer. Did I need to stir it while it was cooling? Or was it something else I did wrong?

Stella P. September 25, 2017

It sounds like some excess moisture was trapped in the sugar, which can happen when the sugar doesn't have enough surface area to shed steam during cooling, or when it's particularly humid indoors (as the sugar itself is inclined to absorb moisture from the air). Stirring during the cooling phase can help, or you may try switching to a larger pan to increase the sugar's surface area so it can shed that moisture more effectively in the oven. Glad you were able to salvage it in the end!

Eileen F. September 26, 2017

Thank you! There was plenty of humidity in the air. I can't wait to bake with it. As soon as I have enough time later in the week. And to have some in a cup of tea when I can relax.

kasia S. November 1, 2017

Sugar is highly hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air and anything it's in contact with, its weird how the weather can affect cooking and baking so much. I can't wait to try this tho :)

Kate S. September 21, 2017

I halved the recipe and it worked great! I used 4 cups of sugar and roasted it in an 8x8 inch glass baking dish at 325°F for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. I used it in a Peach Pie and it lended a hint of caramel-like flavor. Thanks for the great idea!

CAROLYN September 8, 2017

Would you recommend roasting on parchment paper for easy transfer to a not-hot vessel for cooling to minimize further cooking and steaming?

Stella P. September 9, 2017

You can absolutely use a parchment layer if you prefer!

Michael K. September 1, 2017

Wondering if this roasted sugar can be used to make simple syrup. I love complex-flavor syrups in my old fashioneds and bourbon drinks. Would this sugar work for that application?

Stella P. September 1, 2017

Absolutely! It makes a truly amazing simple syrup. Even when the sugar itself doesn't seem dark, you'll be surprised how intense the color of the syrup is once you add water. Enjoy!

Michael K. September 1, 2017

Thank you!

Kimberly August 30, 2017

I read that if you use turbinado, if takes 2 hours. Standard sugar takes around 1 hour, correct?

Stella P. August 30, 2017

That's just a description of what the sugar will look like after 2 hours, dark and coarsely textured, visually similar to turbinado. Turbinado itself cannot be used with this technique.

Francie August 28, 2017

We have a gas oven which tends to be a bit more of a moist heat when using. Would roasting sugar work in this type of environment?

Stella P. August 28, 2017

Huh! I've made this in gas ovens before, but I've never noticed an sort of humidity or moisture about it. If that's a quirk of your oven or where you love, it's potentially a problem because sugar itself is hygroscopic. Do you normally have trouble drying things out in the oven?

Francie August 28, 2017

We live in the Pacific Northwest, so moisture is definitely an issue. When the oven is turned on initially, there is always condensation inside the oven door, but it goes away after fully heated. At a high enough temp, the oven doesn't have any trouble drying things out. I think I'll try roasting the sugar but I'll let the oven go a bit beyond the normal warming up phase so it is good and dry when I put the sugar in. Thanks..

Stella P. August 28, 2017

Ok! You may find you need to stir the sugar more frequently during roasting, and during cooling as well, in order to make sure the sugar doesn't steam itself.

Charlie September 5, 2017

France if you are getting condensation on your oven door, you may want to get the seals on the door and window checked.

AndyManlee August 28, 2017

How would this affect yeast and fermentation? I'm curious about making simple syrup from this to feed my SCOBY to try a nuanced flavor.

Stella P. August 28, 2017

It won't have any negative affect on fermentation, have at it!

AndyManlee August 28, 2017

Thanks Stella! Loving your book so far :)

Nancy G. August 27, 2017

Would it be possible to use "roasted sugar" in cooked jelly and jam recipes?

Stella P. August 28, 2017


Nancy G. August 28, 2017

Thank you . . .Perhaps an experiment with my soon-to-be harvested zinfandel grapes is in order.

Alex T. August 27, 2017

Wow, interesting method, but a great idea. I 'm going to make some to use it with my riz au lait .

Beth August 27, 2017

I have the same question as Emily: can this be done with organic sugar, or only the white stuff?

Stella P. August 27, 2017

Refined only! Organic sugar contains fructose, which will cause the sugar to liquify prematurely. Plus, it already has a unique flavor of its own, so it doesn't really need any help in that department.

emily August 27, 2017

What about using the typical organic cane sugar that is found in bulk in many natural food bulk sections? It is already a "caramel" the toasting effect similar? More intense? In the sense that it "decomposes" I wonder how this changes the nutritional physiological impact, if at all?

Stella P. August 27, 2017

Refined only! Organic sugar contains fructose, which will cause the sugar to liquify prematurely. (Fructose melts and caramelizes at a much lower temperature.) Plus, organic cane sugar already has a unique flavor of its own, so it doesn't really need any help in that department.

Jacqueline August 25, 2017

I love the thought of this and cannot wait to give it a try! Thank you for passing this along!

Deborah M. August 24, 2017

Is 325 considered a low heat to bake. I'm NOT a good baker so just wondering.

petalpusher August 27, 2017

Follow the recipe. You're baking sugar. Have faith in the instructions.

moi August 23, 2017

I'm excited to try this. I usually weigh my baking ingredients. Do you know if the weight changes after roasting?

Stella P. August 23, 2017

It still clocks in at 7 ounces/cup, so it can be used as a 1:1 swap in any recipe that calls for white sugar. Hope you enjoy!

Velvet D. August 22, 2017

Can you do this with coconut sugar?

Stella P. August 23, 2017

Alas, no, due to its fructose content, coconut sugar will not stand up to the roasting process.

Desarbs August 21, 2017

Can you do this in smaller batches? I would love to try this, but for just me, 4 pounds is excessive.

Stella P. August 22, 2017

Small batches cook too quickly for the darker shades, but you can definitely give small batches a brief toasting. Google "BraveTart quick toasted sugar" and the first result will explain what you need to do.

Linda August 24, 2017

Tried Googling "BraveTart quick toasted sugar" and the only links where for this page and a scented body lotion?!? Any ideas on how to find tips for smaller batches without the pie crust? Thank!

Stella P. August 24, 2017

Oh, that's so weird! Here's the link:

petalpusher August 27, 2017

Desarb- the 4 pounds of sugar is good to use for up to a year. Store it or share it.

Printz August 20, 2017

Nope, don't need another reason to be tempted to add extra sugar on my baked goods-but THIS sounds delicious! Thanks to Antonia James for the heads up- copied your link from Stella's pie crust recipe. Much appreciated.

Toasted Sugar Recipe on Food52 (2024)


How do you make toasted sugar? ›

In the oven.

This is the easiest way to make any sized batch of toasted sugar. Spread the sugar out onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Parks is a fan of using an insulted glass or ceramic dish if you're toasting two or more pounds at a time.

How to make toasted sugar bits? ›

Pour sugar into a 9- by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Toast until the sugar turns ivory, about 1 hour. Stir thoroughly and continue roasting, pausing to stir every 30 minutes. The sugar will produce steam as a byproduct of toasting, so it must be stirred well to allow that moisture to escape.

How do you toast sugar without melting it? ›

Preheat the oven to 325°F. At this low temperature, the sugar will toast rather than melt. Pour the sugar into a glass or ceramic 9” x 13” pan. Avoid using a metal pan — it will conduct more heat and is more likely to melt the sugar.

Is toasted sugar worth it? ›

Although toasted sugar is a tasty sweetener, the flavour is subtle, so it won't shine in busy recipes, such as chocolate chip cookies. You will want to try simple recipes to make your toasted sugar the featured ingredient. Try using it in a meringue, simple syrup, marshmallows, whipped cream or angel food cake.

Is toasted sugar less sweet? ›

At that stage, it doesn't have a pronounced caramel flavor, but it tastes dramatically less sweet, with a richness uncharacteristic of plain sugar. It's sort of like the umami of sweetness, more satisfying in a way that's hard to describe unless you've tasted it for yourself.

Why do you toast sugar? ›

Toasted Sugar is a great way to add flavor to your favorite baked goods. By gently baking granulated sugar, it develops a unique caramelized flavor that lends itself well to cookies, cakes, and more. Toasted Sugar is a great way to add flavor to your favorite baked goods.

How long does toasted sugar last? ›

Despite its innocuous appearance, roasted sugar can be dangerously hot, so take care not to touch it. Store for up to a year in an airtight container at room temperature.

At what temperature does sugar caramelize? ›

Caramelization is what happens to pure sugar when it reaches 338° F. A few tablespoons of sugar put in a pan and heated will eventually melt and, at 338° F, start to turn brown. At this temperature, the sugar compounds begin to break down and new compounds form.

How to toast sugar in a pan? ›

Choose a glass or ceramic 9-by-13-inch pan. Use something with deep sides. Metal will conduct too much heat which will caramelize, not toast, the sugar. Pour the sugar in and toast the sugar for one hour.

How do I know when sugar is caramelized? ›

Carefully watch the caramelizing sugar until it reaches exactly the right color - no more no less. Perfect caramelized sugar should be a dark, amber color - almost the color of an old copper penny. You will know your caramel is finished when it is just past the smoking point.

What does toasted sugar smell like? ›

Nice addition to my expensive perfume collection. it does smell like vanilla very sweet smell i like it and would buy it again. its not a long lasting fragrance i put it on in the morning before heading to work it lasts about a hour.

Is caramelised sugar bad? ›

Enjoying treats that contain caramelised sugar in moderation, as part of a balanced diet, is likely to have minimal impact on overall health. Additionally, considering the diverse sources of acrylamide in the diet, it's essential to maintain a well-rounded approach to nutrition.

What is the taste of charred sugar? ›

Taking the Sugar to the Brink of Burning

Most recipes instruct you to cook it only until it reaches a golden amber color, but if you take it just a few seconds longer it changes everything. Suddenly the subtle caramel note transforms into a rich, pleasantly bitter flavor that shines.

How to make good caramelized sugar? ›

Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium to low heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes or until the sugar caramelizes and turns golden brown. Do not stir the mixture as the sugar heats or it can start to crystallize.


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