Is Brown Sugar Vegan?

If you’re a vegan, you’ll be well versed in avoiding certain foods, as they aren’t suitable for a plant-based diet. This involves keeping away from milk, eggs, and honey, but have you thought about whether brown sugar is vegan or not?

Brown sugar is used in countless recipes, foods, and even drinks available on the market. Unfortunately, some sugar brands aren’t vegan, as they’re made with a substance called bone char.

Is Brown Sugar Vegan

As the name suggests, bone char is ground-up bones from cattle. It gives sugar its appealing white and silky appearance.

This may make regular sugar unsuitable for vegans, but does the same go for brown sugar? You’ll find the answer within this article, as well as some tips to avoid purchasing bone char sugar in the future.

Why Is Bone Char Used In Sugar

Sugar refineries have been using bone char to whiten sugar for hundreds of years. As the demand for sugary treats increased, the sugar cane industry grew too.

However, the majority of sugar consumers didn’t know that they were eating cattle bones alongside their sugar.

Sugar is made from sugar beets or sugar cane. Bone char taken from cattle bones in Argentina, India, and Pakistan, then sold to traders in Brazil, Egypt, and Scotland.

Traders from these countries sell bone char to sugar manufacturers in the United States. The FDA aims to prevent cattle bones from being used in the United States.

Bone char can only be collected from cattle that have died naturally, but this isn’t being enforced.

Natural sugar has a slight brown tinge to it. Bone char is added to give sugar its white glossy appearance. This is the case for white sugar, but bone char is used in brown sugar too.

A lot of sugar brands on the market don’t explicitly state where they source their sugar from, so it’s tricky to know what companies use bone char and which ones don’t.

The only sugar known to be fully vegan is beet sugar, as bone char isn’t used to alter its appearance.

Is Bone Char Used In Brown Sugar?

Brown sugar is brown in color, so it’s easy to believe that bone char isn’t added to it. However, bone char is used due to the way brown sugar is made.

Brown sugar is a mix of regular refined sugar and extra molasses. The original refined sugar may potentially be sourced from manufacturers that use bone char in their methods.

Unfortunately, this may mean that your usual brown sugar brand may not be vegan at all, along with any sweet treats made in the kitchen or sourced from a bakery. It’s also practically impossible to find out whether your brown sugar uses bone char or not.

How To Avoid Bone Char Brown Sugar

Now that you know some brown sugar brands may not be vegan, you can know what to look out for the next time you’re at the store.

It’s best to avoid any sugar that is sourced from sugar cane. Products labeled as ‘100% pure cane sugar’ are more likely to be filtered with bone char.

Swapping your regular brand for 100% beet sugar is an easy way to make sure your sugar is vegan.

Similarly, look out for brown sugar that’s marked as organic. Products that are made with organic sugar are often free from bone char. You may also see other labels like gluten-free or non-GMO certified.

If you want to be certain that your sugar is 100% plant-based, try switching to coconut sugar. Other than being free from bone char, coconut sugar has other advantages too.

It’s full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, containing around 400 times more potassium compared to refined sugar.

It’s low on the GI index, meaning that it’s better for your blood sugar levels. Coconut sugar is also naturally gluten-free, so it’s also a good option for celiac individuals.

If you don’t want to swap out brown sugar for other types of sugar, you can try making a vegan version at home. You’ll know exactly what’s going into your recipe, so you’ll be fully confident that your brown sugar is fully plant-based.

You can find several vegan brown sugar recipes online, but they all involve mixing a little molasses with coconut sugar.

Add more molasses if you want dark brown sugar, and a little less if you want light brown sugar. The result is gluten-free, vegan brown sugar. You’ll also save a little money by making your sugar at home too.

Is Brown Sugar Vegan?

Is Brown Sugar Vegan Or Not?

A lot of vegans have different answers to this question. Some don’t mind if bone char is used in their sugar, while others care more and wish to avoid it completely.

The answer to this question depends on your beliefs surrounding veganism. If you’re stricter about your food choices, you may want to avoid any sugar products unless you know where they are sourced from.

This approach also means you can’t consume a lot of baked treats and will have to avoid eating at most restaurants.

Others may do better with a more relaxed approach. This involves trying to buy or make vegan-approved sugar whenever possible, but still eating at restaurants and eating baked treats when offered.

It’s nearly impossible to find out where the sugar in the United States is sourced from, so some vegans may find it easier to live their lives through this lens.

Vegan Brown Sugar Products

There are a few certified brown sugar brands available to purchase. You should be able to find the following brown-sugar products online or at your grocery store.

Sugar in the Raw

This sugar brand uses unrefined and unbleached sugars that are completely free from bone char. You can find this affordable brand available by the bag in most grocery stores. Their sugar is a good replacement for refined sugar as it melds well within several recipes.

Now Foods Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar is processed in a way that doesn’t use bone char, so it’s always suitable for vegans. Now Foods’ turbinado sugar is suitable for several diet plans. It’s gluten-free, low in sodium, and completely organic.


Zulka makes vegan products available for purchase on their website. They’re a little harder to find in stores, but they can be ordered easily online. Their sugar is affordable, non-GMO, and locally grown. You can find their sugar available on Amazon.

Final Thoughts

There you have it – brown sugar isn’t vegan. In fact, the only true vegan sugar is beet sugar. However, this is pretty hard to find.

But, by choosing any of the alternatives we’ve listed above, you can rest assured that any sugar you’re adding to your food or drink is 100% vegan.

Brett White
Latest posts by Brett White (see all)