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Invert sugar is frequently used to sweeten and improve the quality of a variety of commercial and homemade confections.
You may wonder what invert sugar is and how it differs from regular table sugar.
This article explores everything you need to know about invert sugar, including what it is, how it’s made, and how it’s used.
Invert sugar — also known as invert sugar syrup or invert syrup — is a liquid sweetener made from granulated table sugar and water.
Invert sugar is created via hydrolysis, a process in which sucrose is mixed with water and heated until the bonds between glucose and fructose break. Enzymes or acidic ingredients like citric acid or cream of tartar can be added to expedite the process (2).
The result is a thick, sweet syrup comprised of half glucose and half fructose (2).
Because fructose is the sweetest type of natural sugar, the presence of free fructose in invert sugar gives it a much sweeter flavor compared with regular table sugar (
Why is it called invert sugar?
Invert sugar earned its name from its unique light-reflective properties.
The presence or absence of chemical bonds between sugar molecules can alter the direction in which light is reflected as it passes through them.
When polarized light passes through regular table sugar (sucrose), it’s always reflected in a certain direction. When the same light passes through invert sugar, it reflects in the opposite — or inverted — direction. Hence, it’s called invert sugar.
Invert sugar is a liquified form of table sugar in which the chemical bonds between glucose and fructose molecules have been broken.
Invert sugar’s primary function is to sweeten foods and beverages, but it also comes with several functional benefits.
It helps baked goods retain moisture and improves texture by preventing crystallization, which can occur when using regular table sugar.
If you’ve ever tried adding granulated sugar to a cold beverage like iced tea or coffee, you’ve likely noticed that sugar crystals don’t readily dissolve.
Invert sugar gives more a uniform sweetness and mitigates the problem of sugar crystals collecting in the bottom of your glass, as it’s considerably more water-soluble than regular sugar.
Invert sugar can be used in combination with other sweeteners to sweeten a variety of common foods, such as:
- ice cream
- soft-baked cookies
- frozen cocktails and other iced beverages
- flavored syrups
Invert sugar is also frequently used to ferment products like beer and kombucha.
Fully inverted sugar contains around 50% glucose and 50% fructose, but you can purchase or make it with varying concentrations of glucose, fructose, and sucrose depending on how long it’s heated.
Commercially prepared invert sugar is arguably the most convenient and chemically precise option, but it’s not always available in regular grocery stores.
If your local grocery store doesn’t carry it, you may have better luck finding it online or in specialty restaurants or bakery supply shops.
How to make invert sugar at home
Although it may sound daunting, making invert sugar at home isn’t complicated. The process takes a little over an hour and all you need is water, sugar, cream of tartar, and a candy thermometer.
Start by mixing 2 cups (480 mL) of water with 4.4 cups (1 kg) of granulated sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar in a pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat until it reaches 236°F (114°C), stirring occasionally.
Next, remove the mixture from the heat, cover, and let cool. Once it’s cool enough to handle, transfer it to a jar and store it in your refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Invert sugar sweetens foods like cakes, ice cream, and candy while helping them maintain a smooth texture and improving moisture retention.
Invert sugar is a form of added sugar, and its nutritional features are almost identical to those of regular table sugar or corn syrup.
Invert sugar contains about 46 calories and 13 grams of sugar per tablespoon (15 mL) (
It’s important to limit your intake of foods that contain invert sugar. Overconsumption of any type of added sugar is associated with an increased risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and obesity (
Although added sugar can be safely consumed in moderation, the American Heart Association recommends limiting your intake to no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams per day) for women and 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams) per day for men (
Simply treat invert sugar like any other form of added sugar and aim to avoid consuming too much to reduce your risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes.
Invert sugar is a form of added sugar and overconsumption could lead to negative health effects.
Invert sugar is a liquid sweetener made from table sugar (sucrose) and water.
It’s formed when the bonds between the sugars in sucrose are broken, resulting in a thick, sweet syrup comprised of 50% fructose and 50% glucose.
Invert sugar adds sweetness and helps improve moisture retention and quality in a variety of sweets like ice cream, cakes, cookies, and candy.
Nutritionally, invert sugar is similar to any other type of added sugar like table sugar or corn syrup. You should consume it sparingly, as consuming too much may contribute to negative health outcomes.
If you’re interested in trying invert sugar, you can purchase it online or try making it at home.