Black sugar vs brown sugar: Are they the same thing?

There are many different types of sugar you can have: white, brown and hardly heard of black sugar. But what is black sugar actually? Is it the same as brown sugar? Or is it something different? In this post, we investigate both types of sugars and share our findings with you.

brown sugar

What is black sugar?

While many people are familiar with brown sugar, black sugar is not something you come across every day. At least it’s not readily available in supermarkets and if you want to buy it you will have to check speciality stores or online.

Black sugar is particularly popular in Japan, where it’s been made since the 17th century. It is a local speciality in Okinawa, also called ‘Kokuto’. Just like white sugar, Okinawa black sugar is also made from the sugarcane plant but it’s not as processed as white or brown sugar.

To produce black sugar, sugarcane is first crushed and the sugar cane juice is extracted. This is done mechanically with machines. To remove impurities, the liquid sugar cane is then boiled down (this takes hours) and once this process is finished, hot black syrup gets poured into cold metal trays where it naturally hardens into dry black sugar.

Due to the particular environmental conditions where sugar cane is grown, the Okinawa black sugar is of extreme quality and nothing like black sugar produced in other parts of the world.

Is black sugar the same as brown sugar?

Black sugar is often called brown sugar but they are not exactly the same thing. They are similar though as initial production steps are the same. Both black and brown sugar are made by boiling extracted sugarcane juice but this is where similarities in production end.

Black sugar is less processed as the molasses in this sugar never gets removed. In the case of brown sugar, molasses are normally completely removed (so the sugar becomes white) and then in the final stage of production molasses get added back to sugar.

However, to produce brown sugar, slightly different techniques are used all over the world. In factories, brown sugar is made by adding molasses at the end but in some places in the world, it is still traditionally made and production does not include the step that removes molasses, for example in Taiwan.

When brown sugar is made traditionally and no molasses are removed during the process, we can say that brown and black sugar are the same thing.

What is the difference between black and brown sugar?

The main difference between black and brown sugar is the amount of molasses they contain. Brown sugar contains a controlled ratio of molasses to sugar crystals while black sugar contains all of the molasses released during the sugar-making process. Molasses has a distinctive flavour and can be slightly bitter. The amount of molasses in sugar affects the sugar’s flavour. For this reason, black sugar has a stronger flavour than brown sugar. It also contains more nutrients (vitamins and minerals) than brown sugar.