Looking for Vegan Sugar? News flash – common white table sugar is NOT vegan.
What does that mean? Have we been living our whole lives as a lie? Have we negated our X years of veganism because we’ve been consuming white sugar like heathens? Does this make me a ‘bad vegan?’
The fact is, the terms ‘good vegan’ and ‘bad vegan’ are subjective, and we have to just try to be the ‘best vegans’ we can be given our resources and knowledge available.
One thing we can do, is to educate ourselves on seemingly vegan items are actually tainted by hidden non-vegan ingredients/processes.
Unfortunately, sugar is one of them.
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‘TABLE SUGAR’ IS NOT VEGAN!?
Table sugar refers to your everyday white sugar which you may be used to stirring into your coffee or using in baked goods.
Sugar is traditionally made from two major sources: sugar beets and sugar canes. In the USA, the majority white sugar comes from sugar canes.
The process of making granulated sugar from sugar canes requires harvesting and pressing the fresh sugar cane to remove the juices which are evaporated to yield raw cane sugar, aka turbinado.
However, turbinado is amber in color and goes through an additional step to become white sugar, by being filtered through bone char. That’s right BONE CHAR.
Cow bone, to be precise. Every year millions of tons of cow bones (usually from countries like Africa, India, and the Middle East) are processed into ‘bone char’ by being heated and refined to create charcoal which sugar manufacturers use to whiten sugar. Therefore white sugar is usually not vegan.
WHAT ABOUT BROWN SUGAR? OR POWDERED SUGAR?
Both light and dark brown sugars are basically refined white sugar mixed with molasses, and is not vegan. This is done for flavor, and is different from the brown hued turbinado sugar.
A good vegan substitute for traditional brown sugar is sucanat, which is is basically turbinado sugar that has retained its natural molasses, giving it a richer more complex caramel flavor (like brown sugar).
Icing sugar, confectioners sugar, or powdered sugar is just refined white sugar milled into a fine powder and mixed with cornstarch, and therefore is also not vegan.
WHICH CANE SUGARS ARE VEGAN THEN?
Simply put, raw unprocessed cane sugars (sucanat or turbinado) are indeed vegan, as they are not filtered through bone char.
Also, USDA certified organic sugar IS NEVER filtered through bone char and is vegan.
If the sugar is not raw cane sugar, or USDA certified organic cane sugar, then chances are that they are not vegan and you might want to consider an alternative sugar (see below) such as coconut sugar, beet sugar, agave, or sugar substitutes like Stevia or Splenda.
HOW TO SPOT VEGAN SUGAR AT YOUR GROCERY STORE
Luckily there are a few tell-tale signs to help you identify the vegan friendly sugars in your grocery isles. Here are some labels and keywords you should be looking for:
- Certified Organic
- Sold as Sucanat or Turbinado
- Pure/Raw Cane Sugar
- “Bone Char Free”
NOTE: ‘Non-GMO’ does not = Certified Organic
This can simply mean that the sugar canes themselves were not genetically modified, but speaks zero to how the sugar is processed.
SKIP THE CANE SUGAR, WHAT ABOUT ‘ALTERNATIVE SUGARS’ AND SUGAR SUBSTITUTES
Although spotting vegan cane sugar has become increasingly easier over the years, there have been an influx of new ‘alternative sugars’ and sugar substitutes that have entered the market all boosting different culinary advantages and health benefits (probiotic sugar, anyone?).
- Beet Sugar
- Coconut Sugar (aka Coconut Palm Sugar)
- Date Sugar
- Date Syrup
- Maple Syrup
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Corn Syrup
- Bee Free Honey
Sugar Substitutes (Low Glycemic Index, Low Carb & Keto Friendly):
- Stevia (natural) — I love Stevia drops!
- Monk Fruit Sugar (natural) — This is my favorite no-calorie sweetener!
- Xylitol (sugar alcohol)
- Erythritol (sugar alcohol)
- Splenda / Equal / Sweet & Low (artificial)
COMPANIES THAT MAKE VEGAN SUGAR
Of course, if you’re looking to continue using cane sugar or are looking for replacements for your regular table sugar, here is a handy list of companies that produce vegan friendly cane sugar for your convenience:
National Brands of Vegan Sugar:
- Big Tree Farms
- Bob’s Red Mill
- C&H, select varieties (Pure Cane Washed Raw Sugar & Pure Cane Certified Organic Sugar ONLY)
- Domino, select varieties (Demerara Washed Raw Cane Sugar & Pure Cane Certified Organic Sugar ONLY)
- Florida Crystals
- Imperial Sugar
- In the Raw
- Michigan Sugar Company
- Now Foods
- Sugar 2.0 + Probiotics
- The Raw Cane
- Western Sugar Cooperative
- Woodstock Farms
- Zulka — My personal favorite! Easy to find, and the most economical of the bunch
Store Brand [Organic] Vegan Sugars:
- 365 (Whole Foods)
- Simple Truth (Kroger/Ralphs)
- Simply Balanced (Target)
- Trader Joe’s
At the end of the day, we must try our best to avoid products that contribute to the suffering of animals and are generally just gross. Sometimes all it takes is a simple swap, which sends a powerful message to companies that consumers want healthy and natural products.
I hope that this guide comes in handy the next time you’re in the grocery store looking for a healthy cruelty free sweetener. If you use another brand of vegan sugar or alternative sugar that didn’t make the list, comment below and let us know!