Toasted Sugar

Toasted Sugar
Toasting sugar in a low oven allows for a range of caramelization without ever sacrificing its crystalline structure. The result is a sort of “granulated caramel” that can be used in any recipe as a one-to-one substitution for plain sugar. A mere hour of toasting will dramatically tame the sugar’s sweetness, while extended periods of time will develop a more intense caramel flavor. So play around and find out what style works best for you.

Why It Works

A perfect one-to-one replacement for white sugar, with caramel flavor.

  • Gentle heat allows caramelization without harming sugar’s crystalline nature, which allows slow-toasted sugar to behave exactly like regular granulated sugar.
  • Glass and ceramic are poor conductors of heat, insulating the sugar for slow and even caramelization.
  • Occasional stirring eliminates hot spots, so the sugar won’t overheat or liquefy, while encouraging the evaporation of water (a by-product of caramel).


  • 4 pounds (9 cups; 1.8kg) granulated white sugar


  1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Pour sugar into a 9- by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
  3. Toast until the sugar turns ivory, about 1 hour.
  4. Stir well and continue roasting, now stirring once every 30 minutes, until darkened to light or sandy beige, 2 to 4 hours more depending on personal preference. Beyond that, the sugar will begin to liquefy.
  5. If you notice any liquid caramel around the edges, pour dry sugar into a stainless steel bowl. (The sticky caramel will remain stuck to the baking dish.) The sugar will be screaming-hot coming out of the oven, in excess of 212°F, so take care not to touch it.
  6. Set aside and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. If needed, grind the lumpy caramel in a food processor until powdery and fine.
  7. Transfer to an airtight container; store and use cup for cup or ounce for ounce in any recipe in place of plain sugar.

Cook’s Notes

While this recipe can be scaled to any size, considering the time and effort involved, I find larger batches more worthwhile. It doesn’t matter whether you pick up a bag of cane sugar or beet sugar, so long as it’s refined.


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