Baker Bettie

What is Pearl Sugar and How to Substitute

Pearl sugar is a type of specialty sugar used in baking. Sugar crystals are compressed together to form larger nibs of sugar. Learn how to make a homemade pearl sugar substitute to use for Liege Waffles as well as other baking uses! Pin it for Later »

Real pearl sugar vs homemade pearl sugar

What is Pearl Sugar?

Pearl sugar, also called nib sugar, is a type of specialty sugar popular in Europe. Sugar crystals are compressed together to form larger sugar pieces that will not dissolve into baked goods.

There are two types of pearl sugar: Swedish Pearl Sugar and Belgian Pearl Sugar. Swedish pearl sugar is smaller in size and used mainly for topping and garnishing baked goods. It holds its shape well and adds a nice crunchy element to pastries. Belgian pearl sugar is larger in size and can tolerate higher heat. Belgian pearl sugar is used mainly to make Belgian Liege Waffles.

Uses for Pearl Sugar

Pearl sugar can be used for a variety of baking applications. Sprinkle it on top of sweet buns, danish pastries, and even croissants! Sprinkling the sugar on top of the pastries before baking will add a crunchy element to the final product.

Belgian liege waffles are perhaps the most well known use for pearl sugar. Liege waffles are distinct in that they are made with a yeast dough that has large amounts of pearl sugar mixed throughout. The sugar crystals caramelize in the waffle iron creating crunchy bits on the outside of the pillowy waffle.

Where to Buy Pearl Sugar

Pearl sugar is not often sold in regular grocery stores in the US but can sometimes be found in specialty grocery stores, especially those that specialize in Eurpoeon products. Pearl sugar can also be found on Amazon and many other websites. However, pearl sugar can be pricey and I like to make my own.

How to Make Pearl Sugar

To make your own pearl sugar substitute, all you need is some sugar cubes and something to smash them with. I like to use a meat mallet but you could use a hammer or a skillet.

Sugar cubes and a meat mallet used to make homemade pearl sugar

Put the sugar cubes in a ziplock bag and smash them until you create your desired size. Keep the crystals larger if you are using them for Liege waffles and make them smaller if you will be sprinkling them on top of baked goods.

That’s it! Super cheap and easy homemade pearl sugar!

Homemade Pearl Sugar

Homemade Pearl Sugar

Homemade Pearl Sugar

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 2 minutes

Pearl sugar is a type of specialty sugar popular in Europe. This is a quick and much cheaper substitute using sugar cubes broken up into small pieces.

Ingredients

  • sugar cubes

Instructions

  1. Place the sugar cubes in a ziplock bag.
  2. Use a meat mallet, hammer, or skillet to smash the sugar cubes into smaller pieces. For Belgian style pearl sugar, leave the pieces larger, about the size of peanuts. For Swedish style pearl sugar, smash the pieces smaller, about the size of peas.

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Nutrition Information:

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0

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18 comments on “What is Pearl Sugar and How to Substitute”

  1. Thank you, Bettie, for all your informative posts. I’ve learned so much! It’s like going to a cooking/baking school, but being able to attend in my pjs. And have coffee during them. Please keep them coming. This post came in the nick of time. I just found a recipe that used pearl sugar and had no clue that it was so easy to make it myself. You are a jewel!

  2. Thank you for all the information Baker Bettie. I have learned valuable information from your website, one of my favourite sites! I have passed the information onto my daughter. All these years of baking and I am still learning!

  3. Hiya, if these cubes melt in teas then would it not melt in bakes goods when crumbled up? thanks

    • Hi Cynthia! Great question! When you add sugar cubes to tea it doesn’t actually melt, it dissolves into the liquid becoming one. Because sugar cubes are so compact, they do not decompose as quickly as regular sugar especially when they are not mixed into a liquid. If you do use them in something like a liege waffle where very high heat is applied directly onto the sugar it will decompose and caramelize. But if it is sprinkled on top of a baked good it will stay in tact. Hope that makes sense!

  4. Hello
    I saw you have offer a homemade substitute for the pearls but are they the same exact thing except how they are made?
    Thank You 

    • Hi Annie, pearl sugar and sugar cubes are made using the same concept. Sugar cubes are just meant for tea or coffee and the pearls are specifically for baking. But that is why it works to break the cubes into smaller pieces if you don’t have access to pearls.

    • They have the same ingredient–sugar–and the broken sugar cubes may work pretty well in liege waffles, but this is not a perfect replication. Actual pearl sugar is not made of a bunch of tiny granules pressed and stuck together in the same way as a sugar cube is. Manufactured pearl sugar is kinda like pretzel salt in texture, except it’s sugar. But unless you are putting whole pieces in your mouth by themselves, I’m not sure you’d notice….and in waffles? After it’s melted and caramelized, I think it’d be very difficult to tell the two apart.

      • Yes, exactly. It broken sugar cubes are a good substitute if you do not have access to or do not want to spend the money on pearl sugar. I’ve made liege waffles and other pastries using both the real thing and the homemade version and they both work well.

  5. Could you use brown sugar cubes?

  6. Is pearl sugar the same as sugar candy? I use sugar candy when baking honey cake. I find it locally in packs of 25 gram. Looking at the description, I come to the conclusion that it is the same product. Will try baking liege waffles tomorrow. Wish me good luck!

    • Hi there! Pearl sugar is not the same as sugar candy! Sugar candy is melted sugar that has been formed into candy while pearl sugar is whole sugar pieces that have been compressed together. That said, I’m not sure if the sugar candy will work. Did you try it?

  7. I baked waffles using sugar candy. It works to a certain extend. The intense heat makes the sugar to camelarise, and the waffles discover to a black shade. They have all been eaten and nobody complained.

    • Hi Michel! You do want the sugar to caramelize. That is how Liege waffles are made. But you don’t want it to burn which maybe it did by the way you describe it turning black? Thank you for letting me know how it worked!

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