What is the turbinado at Smoothie King?

The turbinado at Smoothie King is a natural brown sugar that is used as a sweetener in some of their smoothie recipes. Turbinado sugar, also known as raw sugar, is made from pure sugarcane juice that has been crystallized and minimally processed, retaining some of the natural molasses and character of the sugar cane. This results in large, amber-colored crystals that have a subtle molasses flavor profile. Turbinado sugar contains trace minerals and vitamins that are removed during the refining process of white sugar. It is often considered a healthier alternative to traditional refined white sugar.

What makes turbinado sugar different from white sugar?

There are a few key differences between turbinado sugar and regular white sugar:

  • Color: Turbinado sugar is light brown in color whereas white sugar is pure white.
  • Processing: Turbinado is less processed so it retains some of the natural molasses from the sugar cane juice. White sugar goes through extensive processing to remove all traces of molasses.
  • Flavor: The molasses in turbinado gives it a slightly caramelized, brown sugar flavor compared to white sugar which has a neutral taste.
  • Texture: Turbinado crystals are larger and crunchier than fine, powdery white sugar.
  • Nutrition: Turbinado contains small amounts of minerals including calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium that are stripped away from white sugar during processing.

So in summary, turbinado sugar is less refined, has a subtle molasses taste and contains traces of vitamins and minerals that white sugar does not have.

Why does Smoothie King use turbinado sugar?

There are a few potential reasons why Smoothie King chooses to sweeten some of their smoothies with turbinado sugar:

  • Natural, less processed ingredient: Using turbinado aligns with Smoothie King’s focus on making smoothies with simple, natural ingredients.
  • Subtle flavor enhancement: The molasses notes can provide a more complex, caramelized sweetness compared to plain white sugar.
  • Nutritional benefits: Turbinado offers trace nutrients not found in refined sugars which may appeal to health-conscious consumers.
  • Texture: The larger crystals add textural interest to smoothies.
  • Cost: Turbinado is typically more expensive than white sugar so it may be used selectively in premium smoothies.
  • Trendiness: Turbinado sugar has grown in popularity as a “healthier” alternative which can attract consumers seeking natural products.

The combination of subtle flavor enhancement, textural interest and nutritional advantages make turbinado a choice sweetener for smoothies targeting health-focused consumers. And its natural, minimally processed origins fit well with Smoothie King’s brand image.

What smoothies contain turbinado sugar?

While ingredients can vary by location, here are some popular Smoothie King smoothies known to be sweetened with turbinado sugar:

  • Strawberry X-Treme: Blended with strawberries, bananas, apple juice and turbinado sugar.
  • Caribbean Way: Pineapple, mango, bananas and turbinado sugar.
  • Green Tea Tango: Green tea, strawberries, bananas, turbinado sugar.
  • Coffee Bean Blast: Coffee, low fat milk, whey protein, turbinado sugar.
  • Pure Recharge: Spinach, kale, banana, turbinado sugar.

Turbinado sugar is commonly used in Smoothie King’s fruit-based and coffee smoothies to add sweetness while complementing the smoothie’s flavors. It provides a subtle molasses note that enhances the taste of ingredients like strawberry, mango and coffee beans. You’ll often find it blended with banana for extra sweetness and texture.

How much sugar is in a smoothie with turbinado sugar?

The amount of sugar in Smoothie King smoothies made with turbinado sugar varies based on the recipe and the size ordered. Most regular 20-24 oz smoothies contain around 30-50 grams of total sugars when made with turbinado sugar.

For example, a 24 oz Strawberry X-Treme smoothie is reported to contain 48g total sugars. A 20 oz Caribbean Way smoothie contains 46g total sugars. And a 24 oz Green Tea Tango has 33g sugars. These levels are comparable to Smoothie King smoothies made with white sugar instead of turbinado.

It’s important to note that while turbinado sugar itself contains trace nutrients, the overall sugar content is similar to white sugar. A teaspoon of turbinado sugar still contains about 4 grams of sugar, same as white sugar. So smoothies made with turbinado should still be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

What are the health benefits of turbinado sugar?

Some potential health benefits of turbinado sugar compared to regular white sugar include:

  • Higher nutritional value – Turbinado retains small amounts of minerals that are removed from white sugar in processing. It provides trace amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron.
  • Lower glycemic impact – The molasses may slow digestion slightly, resulting in a slightly lower glycemic response compared to white sugar.
  • Antioxidants – Turbinado contains antioxidants in the molasses that may help counter oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Prebiotic effect – The molasses provide food for healthy gut bacteria which supports digestive health.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that turbinado sugar is still sugar. It should be used in moderation as part of a healthy diet. But when just a touch of sweetness is needed, turbinado offers slightly more nutritional value than white sugar.

Is turbinado sugar keto-friendly?

Turbinado sugar is not considered a keto-friendly sweetener. This is because turbinado sugar is nearly 100% sucrose, the same carbohydrate found in regular white sugar. And sucrose is rapidly absorbed and raises blood sugar, which does not align with a ketogenic low carb, high fat diet.

A single teaspoon of turbinado sugar contains about 4g net carbs, entirely from sugar. To stay in ketosis on a keto diet, daily carbs are usually kept below 50g per day. So even a couple teaspoons of turbinado sugar could potentially knock someone out of ketosis.

Instead, keto-friendly sugar substitutes include options like stevia, monk fruit sweetener, erythritol and sucralose. These do not significantly impact blood sugar or ketone levels, allowing them to be incorporated into a true ketogenic diet.

Is turbinado sugar vegan and vegetarian?

Yes, turbinado sugar is considered both vegan and vegetarian. Turbinado sugar goes through less processing compared to white sugar, but does not contain any animal products or ingredients derived from animals. Turbinado sugar is simply extracted from pressed sugarcane stalks and spun in a centrifuge to produce crystallized sugar. Therefore, it aligns with both vegan and vegetarian dietary preferences and restrictions.

Is turbinado sugar organic?

Turbinado sugar can be found in both organic and non-organic varieties. Organic turbinado sugar is made from sugarcane that has been grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. It may also be processed in facilities dedicated to organic products. When buying turbinado sugar, look for packages certified organic by agencies like USDA Organic, Quality Assurance International (QAI) or Oregon Tilth to ensure you’re getting organic turbinado sugar.

Is turbinado sugar gluten-free?

Yes, turbinado sugar is naturally gluten-free. Turbinado sugar does not contain any grains like wheat, barley or rye, the sources of gluten protein. Turbinado sugar is produced simply from pressed sugarcane juice which does not contain gluten. Therefore, turbinado sugar is safe for gluten-free diets.

What is the glycemic index of turbinado sugar?

Turbinado sugar has a glycemic index of around 65, which is moderately high on the GI scale. For comparison, white table sugar has a GI of 60-65 as well. This means turbinado can raise blood sugar levels at a similar rate as regular white sugar when equal quantities are consumed.

However, turbinado may have a slightly blunted blood sugar impact compared to white sugar due to its molasses content. But overall, it should still be minimized for those with diabetes or pursuing a low glycemic diet.

Is turbinado sugar better for you than white sugar?

Turbinado sugar does provide trace amounts of vitamins and minerals that white sugar lacks. But it is still fundamentally sugar, over 99% sucrose. From a nutritional standpoint, turbinado sugar is only very slightly “better” than white sugar. It has nearly identical calories and carbohydrate content.

However, many still prefer turbinado sugar due to its subtle molasses flavor and texture. When you wish to add a touch of sweetness with a hint of brown sugar taste, turbinado can be a favorable choice over plain white sugar. But it should still be used sparingly as part of an overall healthy diet.

Is turbinado sugar processed?

Yes, turbinado sugar does undergo processing, but significantly less compared to white sugar. First, fresh sugarcane is crushed to extract the raw cane juice. This juice is cooked down into a syrup and spun in centrifuges to crystallize and separate the sugar granules. These crystals are then dried to produce the final turbinado sugar.

In contrast, making white sugar involves multiple rounds of boiling, crystallization, separation and bleaching using harsh chemicals like phosphoric acid to achieve extremely refined and purified white sugar crystals. So turbinado retains more of the original molasses and nutrients from sugarcane juice while white sugar processing strips these away.

Where can I buy turbinado sugar?

Turbinado sugar is becoming widely available both in stores and online. You can find it at most grocery stores in the baking aisle, typically near the white and brown sugars. Major chains like Walmart, Target, Kroger and Safeway carry various brands of turbinado sugar.

Natural food stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts are another reliable source. It can also be found through online retailers like Amazon and Vitacost. Popular brands to look for include Wholesome Sweeteners, Florida Crystals, Sugar in the Raw, and Big Tree Farms.

How do you substitute turbinado sugar in recipes?

In most recipes, you can substitute turbinado sugar 1:1 for white or brown sugar. The large, crunchy crystals can be used measure-for-measure to replace granulated white sugar. For baking, grinding turbinado sugar to a finer texture is recommended for better incorporation.

When substituting for brown sugar, you may wish to reduce other liquids slightly since turbinado provides inherent moisture from the molasses. Also consider adding spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger to complement the molasses notes.

Keep in mind that the molasses flavor of turbinado sugar will come through in the final recipe. This can enhance certain baked goods like gingerbread cookies, muffins and breads. But for recipes desiring pure sweetness, white sugar may be a better fit.

Is turbinado sugar the same as demerara sugar?

Turbinado and demerara sugar are very similar unrefined cane sugars. They are both made from the first pressing of sugarcane juice and have large, crunchy golden crystals. The main difference is that turbinado sugar is spun in a centrifuge as part of processing whereas demerara sugar crystallizes naturally in large open pans.

However, demerara and turbinado can generally be used interchangeably in recipes measuring cup-for-cup. They have nearly identical texture, sweetness and subtle molasses flavor that sets them apart from brown and white sugar.


In summary, the turbinado sugar used by Smoothie King is a natural brown sugar made from pure sugarcane juice. With its subtle molasses taste and crunch, it provides a flavor enhancement and textural contrast to smoothies. While containing trace nutrients, turbinado sugar is still similar to white sugar from a calorie and carbohydrate standpoint. Overall, it can be a favorable alternative to regular white sugar when a touch of sweetness is desired, but intake should still be moderated as part of a healthy diet.

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