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What is Pearl Sugar?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon941976 — On Mar 25, 2014

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.

By anon235941 — On Dec 20, 2011

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

By anon155886 — On Feb 24, 2011

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.

By anon132077 — On Dec 05, 2010

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!

By anon103935 — On Aug 14, 2010

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.

By snappy — On Feb 05, 2010

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?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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