Everything You Need to Know About Toasting Sugar

updated Jun 26, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Take plain sugar, apply a little gentle heat, and the humble pantry staple magically transforms into something fragrant, honey-hued, and delicately caramelized in flavor. You’ve just made toasted sugar — and it’s the easiest way to upgrade your home baking.

Toasting sugar isn’t an entirely new baking technique — pastry chefs have been using it as their secret weapon for decades. Some toast small batches of sugar for topping creme brûlée, while others make big batches for flavoring ice cream and cakes. Stella Parks is often credited with bringing this technique to home bakers, first at Serious Eats and later in her Brave Tart cookbook. I was personally introduced to this bonus ingredient last fall when I started using sugar in place of pie weights — a trick that results in a boon of lightly toasted sugar. 

3 Ways to Toast Sugar for Baking 

Toasted sugar doesn’t require an advanced pastry degree. Here are three easy ways to make it home. 

1. On the stove. Pastry pros often toast small batches of sugar on the stovetop to draw out moisture and add flavor to delicate desserts. Cover the bottom of a small pan with sugar (make sure it’s less than 1/4-inch deep) and toast it over low heat. You’ll need to stir regularly and keep a close eye on it, or else you’ll end up with hot, molten sugar syrup. 

2. 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. I personally find four cups (or about one pound) at a time ideal for my home-baking needs. 

3. While pie baking. This is multitasking at its finest. The next time you blind bake a pie shell, fill the parchment-lined shell with sugar instead of beans.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

How to Store and Use Toasted Sugar

Toasted sugar lasts as long as your granulated sugar does when properly cooled and sealed in an airtight container. You can use it in any recipe that calls for granulated sugar, whether you’re baking, cooking, or making drinks. Because its flavor is delicate, toasted sugar works best in simple recipes with few ingredients. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use it.