What is Pearl Sugar?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Pearl sugar looks very similar in appearance to the large pieces of salt you might find on a soft pretzel from a pretzel vendor. It is most common in Scandinavian countries, where it makes a pretty topping for many desserts and pastries. It’s a bit hard to find in the US, unless you know where to look. The easiest place to find it, according to most people is at either cake decorating stores or at nearby IKEA® stores, though it’s a guess as to whether a local IKEA will carry it. Another good place to look for it is online; even Amazon carries a few brands, most of them imported from Sweden.

Crushing up sugar cubes is one alternative to pearl sugar.
Crushing up sugar cubes is one alternative to pearl sugar.

This type of sugar doesn’t really look like pearls, but it does evoke pearl color in its whiteness. It could be best described as “large” granulated sugar. In the manufacturing process, sugar is pressed together to produce bigger grains, usually measuring about .07 inches (2 mm) each. It has more of an oval shape than a round shape, but each individual piece may vary in appearance.

Belgian waffle recipes may call for pearl sugar.
Belgian waffle recipes may call for pearl sugar.

The distinct advantage to pearl sugar if you want to sugar the tops of cooking items is that it tends to withstand a higher heat before melting. If you want to sugar a bit of bread, the pearl sugar won’t melt as it bakes in the oven, and will look the same coming out of the oven as it did going in. Granulated sugar, in contrast, may melt, especially if the baking time on a dessert is long.

Similar products made in the US include various types of coarse sugar, which may be available in brown or bright colors and pastels. Typically pearl sugar is the best choice if you want a white sugar topping for a baked good. One alternative if you don’t have pearl sugar on hand, is to crush up sugar cubes, as suggested by cook and talk show host Rachel Ray, as a quick substitution.

You can use pearl sugar to top any type of sweet bread or pastry. You may also find recipes for Belgian waffles that call for it. If you see recipes asking for nib sugar, be aware this is an alternate name for the sugar.

One popular recipe containing this sugar is the Swedish treat chokladboll. These are unbaked candies that are a mix of powdered cocoa, coffee, oatmeal, and butter, shaped into balls. They can be rolled in pearl sugar, and then additionally rolled in coconut flakes, though if they are topped with coconut, they are occasionally called kokosball.

Chokladboll often contains pearl sugar.
Chokladboll often contains pearl sugar.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon941976

Has anyone looked at the Ikea in Atlanta for pearl sugar? I'd like to know if they have it before I drive all the way up there.

anon235941

You can not buy pearl sugar at all Ikea stores. The one store I visited did not have it.

anon155886

The real pearl sugar is made in Belgium and nowhere else but in Belgium. It's a refined beet sugar that's compacted under very high pressure, meaning that crushing sugar cubes won't do the trick. I buy it online.

anon132077

You can also purchase pearl sugar from King Arthur Flour in White River Junction, VT.

Ikea is more than a furniture store - they also have bedding, lamps, etc, etc, etc and a variety of Swedish food products. Great store!

anon103935

At Ikea, the Swedish furniture store, they have a food section by the checkout, where you can find pearl sugar and other foods and candy. Pearl sugar is a must on cinnamon buns, melted sugar frosting should never be used on them. Sara.

snappy

Go with the crumbled sugar cubes, it's much cheaper especially when you figure in the shipping costs. I have never seen it in my local grocery stores, but then a bigger city with specialty shops might have better luck.

As a side note...IKEA the furniture store?

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