Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar: 5 Key Differences

Written by August Buck
Updated: July 10, 2022
Image Credit LeOPL/Shutterstock.com
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If you are curious about comparing beet sugar vs cane sugar, you’re in the right place. What might be similar and different between these two plants, besides the fact that they are both extremely popular crops for sugar production? And how can you learn what these plants need in order to grow best in your own backyard?

In this article, we will compare and contrast everything you need to know about cane sugar and beet sugar so that you can gain a full understanding of both crops. We will go over all of their uses as well as their preferred growing locations and care needs, such as water and sunlight. Let’s get started and learn all about these natural sweeteners now!

Comparing Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar

Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar
The physical description and growing process of beet sugar and cane sugar differs wildly.

A-Z-Animals.com

Beet SugarCane Sugar
ClassificationBeta vulgaris; Altissima subspeciesSaccharum officinarum
DescriptionGrows underground, forming a root that is wider at the top than the bottom. Typically white, this root sprouts beautiful green leaves and flowers, depending on the season. Grows to an average of 14-15 inches, and the entire plant is edible. Similar to a parsnip in appearance, the white root is where the sugar is.Grows in clusters of woody stalks or trunks, terminating in long, flowing leaves. Averages 8-25 feet in height, and has a flowery tassel when it reaches maturity. Has segmented portions with distinct rings, and the leaves are greener than the stalk.
Uses and TastePrimarily used to produce sugar for a number of culinary uses. It isn’t as widely produced for sugar as cane sugar is, but beet sugar is used in alcohol, syrups, cattle fodder, and as a limited biofuel. Tastes relatively sweet, but otherwise nondescript.Primarily used to produce sugar for a number of culinary uses, but also grown as a biofuel. The plant is also used in thatching applications and as food for livestock such as cows and goats. Tastes quite sweet.
Hardiness Zones3-10; 3 month growing time9-10; 12-month growing time
Water and Light NeedsNeeds full sunlight and well-drained soil, free of rocks and debris in order to form healthy roots or bulbs underground. Keep moist, but not soaking wet.Needs full and direct sunlight each and every single day to produce well. Also enjoys moist environments, so water often.

Key Differences Between Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar

Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar
Cane sugar grows in very different regions compared to beet sugar, preferring a tropical climate over a temperate one.

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There are a number of key differences between beet sugar and cane sugar. For example, these two plants are from very different plant families: beet sugar is from the amaranth family, while cane sugar is from the poaceae family. In addition, cane sugar grows in very different regions compared to beet sugar, preferring a tropical climate over a temperate one. Finally, the physical description and growing process of beet sugar and cane sugar differs wildly.

Let’s go over all of these differences and more in detail now.

Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar: Classification

One of the key differences between beet sugar and cane sugar has to be their plant families or classifications. While the chemical makeup of these two plants is strikingly similar when processed into sugar, they are from completely different families. For example, cane sugar is from the grass or poaceae family, while beet sugar is from the amaranth family, in the beet subgenus.

beet sugar vs cane sugar
The root found on beet sugar is a creamy white, with a flat top and leaves growing out of it, while cane sugar is found inside of the stalk.

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Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar: Description

The physical description of beet sugar and cane sugar is quite different from one another. For example, cane sugar grows in thin stalks that can reach up to 25 feet tall, while beet sugar grows underground as a large root or bulb, leaves only sprouting 2 feet into the air. In addition, cane sugar grows in dense clusters and fields, while beet sugar needs a bit more room for their roots to develop. 

The root found on beet sugar is a creamy white, with a flat top and leaves growing out of it, while cane sugar is found inside of the stalk. The entire beet sugar plant is edible, while most people only consume the interior portion of a sugar cane stalk, leaving the roots and leaves alone.

Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar: Uses and Taste

Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar
Both of these plants are imperative to sugar production, though cane sugar is used around the world more often than beet sugar is.

margouillat photo/Shutterstock.com

You may already know this, but beet sugar and cane sugar are used in very similar fashions. Both of these plants are imperative to sugar production, though cane sugar is used around the world more often than beet sugar is. However, this has less to do with taste and more to do with growing climates and agricultural capabilities. 

Some chefs report that granulated sugar from cane sugar is sweeter than beet sugar, though it is unlikely that the general consumer can tell this. However, tasting from the plant directly, beet sugar has a less potent sugary flavor compared to cane sugar. In addition, cane sugar can be used as thatching, while beet sugar is popular in making alcohol and syrups. 

Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar: Hardiness Zones

One of the main differences between cane sugar and beet sugar is where they grow. They have very different hardiness zones from each other, as cane sugar requires a tropical climate to support its long growing season, while beet sugar prefers temperate regions. For example, beet sugar grows best in zones 3-10 for 90 days, while cane sugar grows best in zones 9-10 for 12 months.

beet sugar vs cane sugar
Beet sugar soil needs to be clear of rocks and kept slightly drier compared to cane sugar soil.

LeOPL/Shutterstock.com

Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar: Water and Light Needs

Cane sugar and beet sugar have fairly similar light and water needs. They both enjoy full and direct sunlight and moist soil. However, beet sugar soil needs to be clear of rocks and kept slightly drier compared to cane sugar soil. While it may take some practice, you can grow sugar from either of these two plants in your own backyard!

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.