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Is Sugar Vegan? Brown Sugar, White Sugar, Caster Sugar?

Is sugar vegan - Brown sugar, white sugar, caster sugar

Last updated on December 3rd, 2023

Sugar is not always vegan, in fact, a lot of the time sugar is not vegan, it depends on the process of how it’s made.

Is Sugar Vegan?

Yes, of course, the plants that sugar comes from, sugar cane or sugar beet are vegan.

But sometimes bone char is used to give white sugar its pure white colouration. If the manufacturer uses bone char within the process then sugar is not suitable for vegans.

Is Sugar Vegetarian?

Sugar is not always vegetarian either. And it’s for the same reason, if bone char is used in the production process of the sugar, it’s not vegetarian either.

What is Sugar Made of?

Sugar can be made in several ways usually using either sugar cane or sugar beet.

Now, if you want to get all technical, sugar is actually a molecule that contains 12 atoms of carbon, 22 atoms of hydrogen, and 11 atoms of oxygen. That seems a lot for a simple tiny granule, but of course, everything consists of atoms. 

Anyway, this certainly isn’t a science lesson, so let’s continue….

All sugar made in the UK comes from sugar beets and sugar grown in the UK provides over half of the sugar consumed here. If you want to learn more about where sugar comes from check out this post about how sugar is made.

Sugar cane used from making refined sugar

How is Sugar Made?

Sugar is made by harvesting sugar cane and sugar beets. In sugar cane, the sugar is found in the leaves whereas in sugar beets, the sugar is found in the roots.

To use sugar cane to make the table sugar that we’re familiar with, the juice is extracted, purified, filtered and crystallized until it finally becomes golden-coloured, raw sugar.

The sugar in its raw format is then taken to a refinery and this is where the bone char usually comes into play, to create the white sugar we know.

However, sugar from sugar beets usually undergoes a slightly different process.

The top of the beet is cut off, it’s then sent away to be washed, chopped and boiled to extract the sugar. Next, the sugar is filtered and crystallised. This process does not require the use of bone char for decolourisation.

And this means that sugar from sugar beets is always vegan.

Sugar beets used for making sugar

What is Bone Char?

Bone char comes from burning animal bones at very high temperatures. It’s usually made using the bones of cattle from Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. If you’re looking out for this on a label it will be referred to as natural carbon, I suppose it sounds a little nicer.

Why is Bone Char Used to Make Sugar in the UK?

The refined table sugar we usually see has a very pure white colour, however, raw sugar has a slight brown colour.

So, bone char helps create the white colour. Technically its job is a decolorizing filter, removing colour impurities from liquids.

Is White Sugar Vegan?

The answer is… sometimes white sugar is vegan. Sugar beet sugar is always suitable for vegans.

However, sugar cane sugar often isn’t suitable for vegans.

If there’s no vegan label on the packaging you should be able to Google the sugar brand to find out. I imagine the company will be quick to say if they’re vegan-friendly.

But the bigger problem is when you’re in a coffee shop and you get a little packet of sugar for your soy or oat milk latte, it can be hard to know if it’s suitable for vegans or not.

Picture of white sugar

Is White Sugar in the UK Vegan?

A lot of the white sugar in the UK is vegan. In UK supermarkets, it’s actually pretty easy to find vegan-friendly sugar, if you know what you’re looking for.

You need to find sugar beet, unrefined or raw sugar and then you should be pretty safe.

What Brands of White sugar are Vegan?

It’s really not hard to find vegan sugar when you go shopping.

Most of the big brands, such as Silver Spoon and Tate & Lyle, sell white sugar that’s suitable for vegans.

But to be safe always check the label because their refined sugar may be fine but maybe their icing sugar isn’t.

Is Silver Spoon Sugar Vegan?

Yes, all Sliver Spoon sugar is vegan with the exception of their royal icing sugar, fondant icing sugar, and icing sugar. This is because their icing sugars may contain egg. Some of Silver Spoon’s sweeteners are not vegan either because they may contain milk. But if you are looking for an option for vegan white sugar

Is Silver Spoon Sugar Vegetarian?

Yes, Silver Spoon sugar is vegetarian, even their icing sugar and sweeteners are vegetarian. While they may contain milk or egg, which are not vegan-friendly these ingredients are fine for vegetarians.

Is Brown Sugar Vegan in the UK?

No, not all brown sugar is vegan. It seems to be a common misconception that it is, but unfortunately not.

This might seem a bit tricky, if brown sugar is brown then why would it need bone char as a decolorizing filter? Well, it’s because brown sugar is made by using white refined sugar and then molasses is added to give the colour.

Raw brown

What Brands of Brown Sugar are Vegan?

If brown sugar is what your sweet-tooth fancies you don’t need to give it up because you still have options.

Brown sugar from sugar beets and raw brown sugar is suitable for vegans because it doesn’t undergo the filtration process using bone char. You can pick up vegan brown sugar in most supermarkets.

Both Silver Spoon and Tate & Lyle’s brown sugars are vegan-friendly.

Is Caster Sugar Vegan?

Caster sugar is the same as regular sugar, it’s just ground more finely.

Golden caster sugar is usually unrefined and this would likely make it suitable for vegans. However, white caster sugar may have been refined using bone char, in this instance, it would not be suitable for vegans.

The best way to be sure is to look for caster sugar made from sugar beets or check for the vegan label.

Is Demerara Sugar Vegan?

Yes, demerara brown sugar is vegan because even though it can be made using sugar cane it still doesn’t require bone char.

This is because it is raw sugar and it doesn’t go through the decolorizing filtering process.

Is Molasses Vegan?

Yes, usually molasses is vegan. This is because it contains no animal products and it’s typically extracted from the sugar-making process before the bone char step begins. However, the facility may use bone char in one of the next steps of making the end product of the sugar.

So for this reason some vegans will avoid sugar that comes from factories that use bone char.

Is Turbinado Sugar Vegan?

Yes, turbinado sugar is suitable for vegans. Although turbinado sugar can be made from sugar cane and most of the process is the same as refined sugar, it’s not decolourized and filtered using animal bone char and it keeps its off-white/browny colour.

Is Organic Sugar Vegan?

Yes, the good news is that all organic sugar is vegan. So, both brown organic sugar and white organic sugar are always fine. This is because the refining phase of organic products has strict rules and they ban the use of chemicals, additives, and bone char during this process. 

Is Icing Sugar Vegan?

This one is a bit trickier, sometimes icing sugar is vegan. Icing sugar, also known as confectioner’s sugar, is just like refined sugar, so, it depends on how it’s made. And then even if it’s made using sugar beet there’s still a chance it’s not vegan because it can often have dried egg whites added.

So Icing sugar is definitely one to check more carefully.

How do I Know if my Sugar is Vegan?

Well firstly, if it’s made using sugar beets it will always be suitable for vegans, unless it’s icing sugar.

But even if it’s made using sugar cane it may still be suitable for vegans, check the packet to see if it says ‘suitable for vegans’ and if it doesn’t, take a look on the manufacturer’s website and hopefully, you’ll be able to find the answer there.

What are the Best Vegan Sugar Substitutes?

Dates - vegan sugar alternative

Well, many vegans do use sugar as it is very possible to find vegan-friendly sugar, however, if you’re looking to avoid sugar just to be on the safe side or maybe because you prefer a sugar-free diet, there are plenty of alternative sweeteners available.

Here’s a list of 10 vegan sugar substitutes:

  • Dates
  • Maple syrup
  • Fruit puree
  • Coconut sugar
  • Palmyra blossom
  • Nectar
  • Monk fruit
  • Molasses
  • Agave syrup
  • Stevia

Is Stevia Sugar Vegan?

Yes, stevia is vegan-friendly and often considered a great sugar substitute.

It’s extracted from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana and it has a very sweet taste so can be used as the perfect sugar replacement in certain things.

Sweeteners going into a cup

Is Canderel Vegan?

No, Canderel is not suitable for vegans because it is made using lactose, the sugar found in cow’s milk. However, some of their other products do not contain lactose and are suitable for vegans.


Vegans do not need to give up sugar. There are plenty of options available. As a vegan, we just need to know not to assume that every type of sugar is vegan-friendly.

As long as we know what we’re looking for we can find all the sweet sugary goodness we could possibly need.

Now you know all you need to about sugar here are some other posts to help you on your vegan journey:

Meet the Author

Author Bio - Sinead OCarroll - The Wondering Wandering Vegan

Meet Sinead O’Carroll: Vegan explorer, sustainability advocate and the founder of The Wondering Wandering Vegan. Embracing veganism since 2018 and vegetarianism since 2005, Sinead is armed with a Vegan Health, Nutrition and Lifestyle qualification, and is on a mission to share her passion for cruelty-free living. 

With a taste for adventure and a heart for eco-conscious choices, she’s here to prove that vegans never miss out on flavour, fun or style. Join her in enjoying the delights of a vegan-friendly world! 🌱✈️🌍
Want to know more? Check out Sinead’s About page here.

Follow me on Instagram to see all the delicious vegan food I find, the vegan and cruelty-free products I use and what I get up to as a travelling vegan.

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