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Friday, September 7, 2012

List of Baking Ingredients in Singapore [Names of Sugars/Sweeteners (糖类) and uses]

I first had the idea of doing up this table because I was toying with the idea of going sugar-free (another failed idea) and at the same time doing research into sugar substitutes for my diabetic family members - remember my post on sugar-free chocolate cookies? I realized that knowing about the different types of sugars available in the market helped me in my decision making. I learnt what sugars to use and how it would affect my baking and whether it was beneficial (or not) to my health. So I’m hoping that this table will act as a jumping board for you to understand more about sugars too! 

Did you know that the word “sugar” traces it etymology from the Arabic word “sukkar” which traces its origins to the Sanskrit word “sharkara”? Now I know why Middle Eastern and Indian treats are so sweet ;p

Being one of the five basic tastes, you can be sure that there are many varying degrees of ‘sweetness’ and naturally many different types of sweet things contributing to that sweetness. Science and technology has developed such that not only are we able to derive/extract natural sugars from existing products, we have made ourselves artificial sugars too.

From my list for flours, I'm sure you can tell that I'm a 'list-y' person, but I've done sugars a bit differently, because I haven't done research as to what are the other names for sugars besides those names in mandarin, but I thought it would be more useful if I included a section on how these sugars are derived and how to substitute/use them in cooking/baking. Below is a list of both artificial and natural sugars, with common names as well as comments on each sugar. I have tried to include cooking tips and substitutions where possible.

And the most important takeaway for today is - did you know that besides those rows which are labelled as 'sugar, XX', the other sugars are technically not known as sugars? What do I mean? Well, I mean that if the product has say agave nectar or xylitol - it will be marketed as "sugar-free" or "no sugar added". And ignorant consumers will be fooled into thinking that the product has no sugar at all - which is technically true since that ingredient is not known as 'sugar'. So be aware alright!

For purposes of full disclosure and crediting, I have referred to a number of websites (particularly wiki) for the below information but have painstakingly put all that information together in the table below. 

English name
Other names
Comments (how it is made, how to substitute with white sugar, etc)

Artificial sugars or ‘sweeteners’ (E95X – E96X)
Acesulfame Potassium or K
Sold as Sunett or Sweet One
It is 200 times sweeter than white sugar but has zero calories. It is typically used as a sweetener in protein shakes.

Sold as Equal, NutraSweet, Canderel, 代糖, 阿斯巴甜

Same as above, although it is more prevalent in many food products like diet soft drinks, breath mints, etc.
Made by NutraSweet, not sold to consumers
This is between 7000 and 13000 times sweeter than white sugar!!! Seldom used in food products yet because only recently ‘invented’.

Sold as Sweet 10, Sweet ‘N Low
Another non-caloric sweetener, as above.

Sodium cyclamate
Sold Sweet ‘N Low
30-50 times sweeter. Typically used together with saccharin. It is banned in US FDA although sold in other places.

Sold as Splenda, Sukrana
It is 600 times (!) sweeter than white sugar. This is another sweetener safe for diabetics and it also does not promote dental cavities.

Did you know that sucralose is manufactured from a factory in Jurong in little Singapore?

Natural sugars
Agave Nectar
Also known as Agave Syrup or Blue Agave Nectar or Amber/dark agave nectar
It is about 1.5 times sweeter than white sugar and is made from the nectar from core of blue agave plant. It consists of fructose and glucose. It is sweeter, but less viscous than honey and is typically used as a vegan alternative to honey.

Cooking tip:
- Substitute ¾ cup of agave nectar for 1 cup of white sugar.
- Reduce temperature by 5-10°C to prevent overbrowning.

Beet sugar

This sugar is obtained from the sugar beet, and accounts for some 20% of the sugar production in the world. This is less popular in Asia since sugar beets are only found in temperate countries, whereas sugar canes are found in our tropical climes.

Brown rice syrup
Also known as rice syrup (if white rice is used), rice bran syrup
Made by cooking rice with spouted barley to break down the starches, straining the liquid and cooking until thickened. It contains glucose, maltose and maltotriose. It has a higher GI than sugar but is about half as sweet, so diabetics beware, this is not something you should take in excess!

Corn syrup, light/dark
Also known as glucose syrup, 玉米糖漿

Food syrup made from the starch of maize.  This is NOT high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is a sweeter compound than plain corn syrup and is made by processing corn syrup further. This is used widely in USA (together with HFCS) because of the corn subsidies there.

Coconut sugar
Also known as shakkar, gula melaka
Made from the sap of the coconut palm flower instead of the tree. Traditionally used in Southeast Asia. Has a low GI and has a higher mineral and amino acid content.

Different from palm sugar (see below).

Dark treacle
Black treacle, molasses
Treacle is made from the syrup that remains after sugar is removed in the refining process, ie, a by-product of the sugar making process.

You can substitute molasses or blackstrap molasses for treacle, although molasses tend to be more bitter.

Date sugar
Made from ground, dehydrated dates. It does not dissolve in liquid and burns easily.

Dried sugar cane juice
Evaporated cane juice or unrefined sugar
Made with the same process as demerara – by extracting juice from sugar cane and evaporating liquid until it crystallizes.

Natural sugar alcohol extracted from fruits and fermented with yeast. No calories. Less likely to cuase gastric side effects as compared to other sugar alcohols. About 60% as sweet as white sugar.
Fruit sugar, 果糖
Derived from natural sugars of fruits and vegetables. 1.73 times sweeter than white sugar (sucrose).
Golden syrup
金黃糖漿, light treacle, pale treacle, cane syrup
A mixture of invert syrup and sucrose.

Other substitutes
- Combine two parts light corn syrup plus one part molasses
- Combine equal parts honey and corn syrup
Also known as dextrose, grape sugar, 葡萄糖漿
A simple sugar (monosaccharide) which is the ‘fuel’ of most bio-organisms, including plants.

Highest sugar content of all the natural sweeteners.

Cooking tip:
- Substitute ½ cup of honey for 1 cup of white sugar. 
- Reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup and increase baking soda by ¼ tsp. 
- Reduce the oven temperature by 5-10°C to prevent overbrowning.

Invert sugar
Created by combining sugar syrup with an acid compound, breaking it down to glucose and fructose.


A sugar alcohol. As with most sugar alcohols, there is a risk of gastric distress when consumed in large quantities because the body treats it as a dietary fibre instead of a simple carbohydrate.

Also known as Gur, Kalkandu, Gula Merah, Rapadura
Made from the sugarcane or date palm tree. It is a concentrated product of cane or date juice without the separation of molasses and crystals. It is widely used in Indian cuisine and has religious significance to Hindus. Ayurvedic treatment, if you subscribe to it, recommends jaggery for throat ailments.

Milk sugar
A natural sugar occurring in milk, it is only about 20% as sweet as white sugar (sucrose).

Luo Han Guo
Lakanto, Monk fruit
羅漢果, 罗汉
Natural sweetener and has low calories. The fruit contains lots of Vitamin C too! Because it is native to China, it’s of no surprise that TCM uses it quite a bit and it is easily available at Traditional Chinese Medical Shops in its dehydrated form.

Malt syrup/ Maltose
barley malt syrup, dark malt syrup,
Maltose is typically produced by germinating cereals, hence the name “barley malt syrup”. It is typically used in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong as a sweet. Malt can be used to increase the 'sugar' in your breads and it is typically used in breads (and beer of course). PS charsiew gets its gloss from it too!

Common substitutes include molasses, rice bran syrup or maple syrup.

Maltitol syrup
A sugar alcohol which is about 75% as sweet as white sugar but with fewer calories. It is typically used as a sweetener for hard candies and chewing gum. Note that excessive consumption will result in diarrhea!
Cooking tip:
- Substitute 1½ cup of maltitol syrup for 1 cup of white sugar. 
- Reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup or increase flour by  ¼ cup and increase baking soda by ¼ tsp. 
- Reduce the oven temperature by 5-10°C to prevent overbrowning.

Manna sugar or mannite
Naturally found in seaweeds and many other plants. Its pleasant taste makes it popular as coating for hard candies, chewable tablets, chewing gums, etc.

Maple syrup
楓糖漿, 楓樹糖漿, 楓糖
A syrup made from the sap of the maple tree, it was first used by the aboriginal people in North America. Maple syrup is a good source of manganese and other minerals. It is graded on color, with Grade A being the lightest in color (and the one that goes superbly on pancakes)!
Cooking tip:
- Substitute 0.75 cup of maple syrup for 1 cup of white sugar. 
- Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons and increase baking soda by ¼ tsp. 

Treacle, 黑蔗糖漿, 糖蜜, 甘蔗糖蜜
Dark thick residue left over from making sugar from sugar beets or cane. Sugar beet molasses is typically too bitter for human consumption and is used as a medium for growing yeast.

Light molasses are the residue from the first round of boiling whereas dark molasses are residue from the second round of boiling.

Molasses are also a traditional ingredient in gingerbread and rye bread.
Cooking tip:
- Substitute 1½ cup of molasses for 1 cup of white sugar. 
- Reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup and increase baking soda by 1 tsp. 
- Reduce the oven temperature by 5-10°C to prevent overbrowning.

Molasses, blackstrap

These are molasses derived from the third boiling of sugar cane syrup. It is high in calcium, magnesium and potassium, as well as iron, making it extremely beneficial for those suffering from iron deficiencies (ahem, menstruating women!).

Non-diastatic malt

It is a dried barley malt syrup, and is used in bread making as a sweetener.

Palm sugar
椰糖, 爪哇紅糖

This is made from the sap of the stems of palms.

Sorbitol syrup
Glucitol, rice sorbitol syrup
This is another sugar alcohol (polyols), but is only about 60% as sweet as white sugar. It is typically used commercially.

Sorghum syrup
Sorghum molasses or sweet sorghum syrup
This is the the product from boiling down sorghum cane juice. Typically used in Southern US.

Short for “sucre de canne naturel”
This is a brand name for whole cane sugar which is made by crushing sugar canes then extracting the juices and heating it to create the sugar granules. It is essentially dehydrated cane juice and is approximately 13% molasses and 87% sugar.

Sugar, black
黑糖, 红糖, 赤糖、紫糖
This is a sugar predominantly popular in Asia, especially Taiwan. It is basically unrefined sugar from the sugar cane. Like molasses, it is very high in iron and other minerals, and is often used to reduce menstrual pains. 
Sugar, brown
Refined white sugar which has some molasses added back to it for flavor and color.

Sugar, castor
細砂糖, 幼砂糖, 幼糖
Caster sugar, superfine sugar
Very fine granulated sugar, fine enough to fit through a sugar ‘caster’.
Sugar, coarse
Sanding sugar, decorating sugar
Coarse sugar is recovered when molasses-rich, sugar syrups high in sucrose are allowed to crystallize. The large crystal size of coarse sugar makes it highly resistant to color change or inversion (natural breakdown to fructose and glucose) at cooking and baking temperatures. These characteristics are important in making fondants, confections and liquors.

Sugar, confectionary
Confectioners’ sugar, Powdered sugar, icing sugar, snow sugar, 糖粉
Mechanically crushed so that no crystals remain. Sometimes mixed with cornstarch or anti-caking agent  to keep it from clumping
Sugar, dark brown
Combination of molasses and white sugar

Sugar, demerara
Similar to muscovado sugar, it has large light brown, irregular grains. The grains are usually larger than those of turbinado sugar. It has a natural molasses flavouring and

Sugar, muscovado (dark or light)
粗糖, 黑砂糖, moist sugar or Barbados sugar
Another type of raw sugar, this is more popular in Asia. It is made up of large brown sugar crystals which are high in mineral content, dried without spinning in a turbine. It is more moist than normal brown sugar and has a strong molasses flavour.

Sugar, rapadura
Panela, panocha
Another type of unrefined whole cane sugar, this is more typical in Latin America and is high in dietary iron.

Sugar, raw cane, unrefined
Raw sugar is light brown/tan in color and it is the product that you get at the point right after the sugar cane has been processed and refined.

Sugar, refined, white, granulated, table
白砂糖, 砂糖
To many people, this is what sugar is. Small white crystals which are the product from heating, crystallizing and drying (and bleaching) sugar cane.
Sugar, rock 
Chinese rock sugar, yellow rock sugar, 冰糖
Clear or white or yellow crystals made by slow cystallisation from a saturated sugar solution.

Sugar, turbinado

Another type of raw sugar, turbinad is medium brown in color and is found in the form of large crystals. Turbinado sugar is made from the crystallisation of heated pressed liquid of sugar canes which is later spun in turbines and centrifuges to speed up the crystallization and drying process. Hence the name turbinado!

Stevia (honey leaf)
Sold as packaged stevia – Sweetleaf, Truvia, Purevia
Calorie free natural sweetener from a leaf. This natural sweetener has long been used in Japan, but has been gaining popularity in USA, Europe, and other parts of Asia. In its original ground version, it is green and can be found in Chinese medical shops in Singapore/Malaysia. If you buy the packaged/refined versions, it is available as white crystals or clear liquid.

Vegetable glycerin
Glycerin, glycerine, glycerol
It is about half as sweet as white sugar, but has more calories than white sugar. It is typically used commercially as a thickener or filler, just see if there’s “E422” in your food label. That’s glycerol.


Low-calorie sugar alcohol from birch trees.

Yacon syrup

Made from the root of the yacon plant, which is indigenous to the Andes mountains. Has low calories and is suitable for diabetics.


Alice said...

thank you for the list, very useful :)

daphne said...

isn't it amazing? How sugar is hiding everywhere? Ever since I start eating clean 90% of the time, I realised that pretty much every package has sugar!

Extra Virgin Chef said...

Hi. Thank you for this list - I can only imagine how painstaking it must have been to compile it and am therefore grateful. I have been thinking of how to reduce sugar intake in my food. But I'm left more confused after reading your article. Please allow me to ask some clarification questions here:

1. I thought replacing white sugar with dark molasses (blackstraps) is a better alternative than the other way round. But you seem to suggest replacing molasses with white sugar?

2. Like you, I also have diabetic family members. You did not say in your article how this piece of extensive research has helped to make or change certain dietary decisions. Would greatly appreciate if you could just elaborate on that.

Again, many thanks for this great compilation which I'm sure I will keep coming back to, as I have done for your flour list. Cheers.

Unknown said...

Bookmarked! Very informative post. Can imagine the amount of research gone into this type of compilation. Great job!

Janine said...

@daphne: I agree - most of the sugar free sweets actually are not 'sugar' free!

Janine said...


Thanks so much for the comment and I’m glad the table for flours was of some use to you! I love it when readers ask me questions :] To answer your questions,

This table is more or less an introduction as to what types of sugars are there, and what I meant was that for 1 cup of sugar, you can substitute 1.5cups of molasses :) or the other way around if that is desired.

As for how I have adapted my baking for diabetics at home, I must first caveat this by saying that the diabetics I have at home are old-age diabetics, or Type II diabetics, which is still quite mild. So while there is a need to regulate the blood sugar, they can still take in moderate amounts of sugar.

Here are just some ways my mom and I have changed the way we cook and bake:

- I almost exclusively use organic demerara sugar. This means that coffee and tea is sweetened with demerara as well, which is still sugar, but slightly better than refined white sugar.
- For most recipes, I tend to use at least 25% less sugar.
- Besides reducing sugar, I’m sure you are aware that diabetics should try to stay away from refined products. So what I usually do is to substitute all-purpose flour with wholemeal flour where possible. I find that the organic wholemeal flours are so finely ground that you almost cannot tell the difference between wholemeal and normal flour. In fact, in most of my muffins, I tend to use wholemeal flours entirely without any compromise to taste. If your wholemeal flour is more coarsely ground, it doesn’t matter as well because wholemeal flour does add a nice little ‘bite’ to the cake, almost resembling nut meal.
- Also, I do not buy commercial bread, instead I bake my own whole wheat/grain sourdough, which uses 75% whole wheat (and 25% refined bread flour) and about 3g sugar (I use demerara brown sugar typically) for every 100g of flour. I sometimes use add-ins like raisins and dried berries which have natural sugars/sweetness to up the sweetness of the bread if I want a sweeter loaf. Otherwise it’s usually a normal pain au levain/boule.
- Another breakfast alternative I have is granola, which I sweeten with applesauce/pumpkin/banana and a small amount of honey/molasses/sugar. This again, is combined with oats and other grains/seeds (flaxseed, linseed, quinoa, buckwheat and the like), which help reduce blood pressure (another problem in my family) and helps with diabeticism I think.
- For recipes requiring a finer sugar crystals, I grind the demerara sugar with my food processor and substitute at least half of the white sugar in the recipe with this demerara and use xylitol for the other half. I tend to prefer xylitol and stevia over the other sugar alternatives (ie, Equal and what not), so I use xylitol grains (which look deceptively like white sugar crystals) for baking cookies and cakes which require sugar to be in crystal form and creamed with butter. I tend to substitute about 100% white sugar for 75% xylitol. As for stevia, I use it in liquid form for other bakes which use for example honey or liquid sugar. The only drawback is that xylitol is not available in Singapore (as far as I am aware), so you will have to get it online.
- I have not tried making sponge cakes with sugar alternatives because I think that it will compromise on the structure of the cake, but like I said, because my family members are mild diabetics, they can take some white sugar in moderation.

I hope this answers your question, and I do hope you read this even though it was slightly long winded. If you have any tips that you use in your kitchen, I would be delighted to know as well!

lena said...

janine, appreciate your effort in putting up this list. to be honest, i'm still not aware of some of the sugars that you listed up there. as for the dark and corn syrup, i didnt know they are actually glucose syrup, i actually thot it's another kind of sugar which can be used as a substitute. I guess it clears my doubt.

Madeleine said...

Thanks for the list!! I thought that it was really helpful. Do you know where to get some of these natural sugars?

Janine said...

@Madeleine: which natural sugars are you referring to? a large number of these sugars are available at the marketplace and Cold Storage.

Unknown said...

I love this list ! Really good food education, I would have loved to meet you, a pity that you couldn't join the food revolution event this year. Food manufacturers are continually trying to deceive consumers with strange names to cover up the same products. It's great that this list is up here.

Unknown said...

Any idea where i can get barley malt syrup in singapore?

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