Burnt Sugar Recipe

Caramelizing Sugar
Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr
Ratings (14)
  • Total: 4 mins
  • Prep: 2 mins
  • Cook: 2 mins
  • Yield: 3 tablespoons (1 serving)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
394 Calories
28g Fat
38g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 tablespoons (1 serving)
Amount per serving
Calories 394
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 28g 36%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 14%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 0g
Calcium 0mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Burnt sugar is an important flavor and color ingredient used in Trinidad and Tobago cuisine, but it has a place in American cooking as well, such as in pound cake, burnt sugar cake, as a syrup spooned over cheesecake, and in beef and poultry recipes. Making it can be tricky because — despite its name — you must avoid actually burning it or it will become it bitter. The goal is to melt the sugar and this can be a somewhat delicate process, but it's worth the effort when you get the knack and have your timing down. 


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or canola)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (cane)

Steps to Make It

  1. Add the oil to large pot or pan. If you'll be using the sugar in a meat or poultry dish, use the same pot or pan you'll be cooking it in. 

  2. Warm the oil over medium-high heat until it's hot but not smoking.

  3. Sprinkle the sugar into the pot in an even layer. Let it melt until it begins to froth and bubble.

  4. Immediately add the remaining recipe ingredients as soon as the edges of the froth and the bubbles begin to turn a slightly darker shade. 

  5. Continue with the recipe you're making. 


  • In this recipe, timing is everything. You'll have a scant window of time—literally seconds—to add the other ingredients before the sugar turns bitter. Practice it a few times before attempting to use it in a recipe.
  • You can substitute brown sugar for cane sugar, although this makes it more difficult to pinpoint exactly when the sugar is cooked (since it's already dark). To do so, melt the sugar in a pan without oil. Remove it from the heat and slowly add in two times the amount of very hot water (i.e., if you start with half a cup of sugar, use a cup of hot water). Stir well, then return the pan to the heat and simmer on low for 5 minutes. The syrup will thicken when it's allowed to cool.
  • For a savory use, try burnt sugar in the iconic Caribbean dish trini pelau (brown chicken stew).
  • For an Old Fashioned cocktail, add 3/4-ounce of burnt sugar syrup to 1-ounce bourbon and a dash of bitters. Pour over ice.