Pearl sugar is a type of specialty sugar that is often used in baking in Scandinavia and a few other countries in Northern Europe. The sugar is not completely round, like real pearls, but it comes in large round-ish chunks of sugar. The most remarkable thing about this type of sugar is that it doesn’t melt easily when exposed to moisture or to high heat, meaning that you can mix it into some cookies for a little crunch or sprinkle it on top of a cake and the sugar will stay put (and stay very visible) as you bake. Pearl sugar can be found in different sizes, varying primarily by brand. Some are the size of large sea salt flakes, while others are more like peas or macadamia nuts. For me, the smaller sizes tend to me more versatile because they can double as sprinkles for baking.
At a glance, pearl sugar resembles sugar cube pieces. Sugar cubes are compressed blocks of sugar that are designed to dissolve easily in hot liquid. The individual grains of sugar are not held tightly together. Pearl sugar is much more heavily compacted, which is why it does not melt easily during baking. Mixing pearl sugar into baked goods will give them soem extra sweetness and crunch. Sprinkling it over the top of a bread or pastry will do the same, and will also give your baked good a nice finishing look.
You won’t find pearl sugar in just any market – not unless you live in Scandinavia, Belgium or some other country where it is commonly included in goodies – but you can find it at some specialty cooking stores, like Sur La Table, and at Scandinavian import stores, like the food section at Ikea. And, of course, you can also find it online.
KaraFebruary 23, 2010
Oh this is interesting, I’d never heard of this type of sugar before. Lately I’ve been using organic sugar I find at our local store, but it’s a bit pricey (but then again, it doesn’t clump up and become a royal pain like the cheap stuff).
Might have to give this a try!
joyosityFebruary 23, 2010
I bought some intending to use it to make real Belgian waffles, but now I’m wondering what else I can use it in. I’ll have to look up those special Swedish cinnamon buns recipe!
LeonieFebruary 23, 2010
Here in the netherlands we use it on top of something call ‘sugarbread’. It’s a sweet bread with cinnamon and sugar. We also have special gingerbread with a topping of pearl sugar.
KathrynMarch 11, 2010
I had never heard of pearl sugar before – nice article and thanks information. If I ever run across a recipe that calls for “pearl sugar” I won’t be scratching my head or frantically searching (and probably not finding, especially since it is popular in a another country, not in the US) to find out what the heck it is.
ReneDecember 15, 2011
If you are in Australia you can get it here:
Swaffles Pearl Sugar
They supply it in different sizes for both decoration as well as Liege waffles.
rosemaryandthegoatFebruary 25, 2013
We spent two weeks in France last year. In Provence our little bakery just a block from our house had the most wonderful pastries. A few had this sugar on top and it did add a nice chunch especially to the cream puffs. I could not find it in our tiny grocery next to our house there but now I know where to buy it.