This recipe will show you how to make smoked sugar for cocktails, ice cream, pickles and even smoked cotton candy.
5 from 1 vote

By Christie Vanover | Published October 4, 2022 | Last Updated October 25, 2022

If you love the taste of barbecue, you’re going to love adding a hint of smoke to your desserts and cocktails. With this recipe for smoked sugar, you can get super creative – you can even make smoked cotton candy. Let me show you how.

smoked cotton candy on a stick in a jar of smoked sugar.

Ingredients

The ingredients for smoked sugar and smoked cotton candy are simple. You just need smoke and sugar.

  • Sugar: Use white cane sugar. Powdered sugar and brown sugar are not recommended.
  • Smoke: I’m using the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill for this recipe, so the smoke comes from the pellets that you place in the smoke box. You can test using different wood varieties to change the smoke flavor.
bottles of BBQ rubs on black background

How to make smoked sugar

  1. STEP ONE: Use two small aluminum drip pans and fill each with 1/2 cup of sugar. Place them side by side on the Ninja Woodfire Grill.
placing pan of sugar on Ninja Woodfire Grill.

NINJA PRO TIP: Because the Ninja Woodfire Grill has a convection fan at the top, I found that placing the sugar in two separate pans works best. When I placed the sugar in one pan, the fan circulated some of the sugar out of the pan.

sugar that spun off pan due to convection fan.
  1. STEP TWO: Fill the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill smoke box with pellets. Set the grill to the dehydrate function. Press the Woodfire Flavor Technology Button, which will ignite the pellets to create smoke. Set the temperature to 160F degrees and the time to 3 hours.
two pans sugar on smoking Ninja Woodfire Grill.
If you have the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill, add smoke by pushing the Woodfire Flavor Technology button.
  1. STEP THREE: Allow the sugar to smoke for 3 hours. Stir it every 30 minutes so each sugar granule gets kissed with smoke. If you see the smoke start to fade, refill the smoke box with more pellets. I usually add pellets every 45-60 minutes.
spoon cracking smoked sugar in a pan.
  1. STEP FOUR: Remove the sugar from the smoker and use it in your favorite recipe or store it.
spoonful of smoked sugar next to a jar of smoked sugar.

Smoked cotton candy

Smoked sugar is delicious in all sorts of recipes. It can be used to make simple syrup for cocktails or smoky brines for pickled vegetables. It can even be mixed with cream to make smoked ice cream.

One of my favorite things to make with smoked sugar is smoked cotton candy. You will need an at-home cotton candy machine. I bought one on Amazon for around $50. It’s great for making a few batches of cotton candy.

If you plan to make cotton candy in bulk to sell at a farmer’s market or for weddings, I recommend using a commercial-grade cotton candy maker.

What is cotton candy

Cotton candy is made when sugar is melted and spun into a floss that’s wrapped around a cone. When sugar goes through this process, it has a fine texture similar to cotton.

How to make smoked cotton candy

  1. STEP ONE: Follow the instructions on your cotton candy machine. They will likely tell you to turn your machine on for a couple of minutes to warm the elements. Then, you’ll turn the machine off to stop the spinning.
  1. STEP TWO: Using the measuring scoop that came with your cotton candy maker, scoop out one spoonful of smoked sugar and pour it into the cotton candy machine. Turn the machine on. The floss will start to rise in a few seconds.
  1. STEP THREE: Place a cotton candy cone or straw to the side of the heat element within the machine and twirl it around. The spun sugar will start to stick to it. Move the cone or straw back and forth and up and down while you spin it to collect all of the sugar.
spinning smoked sugar to make smoked cotton candy.

How to add color and flavor to cotton candy

Smoked sugar will create cotton candy that is very light amber, and almost white. If you want to make it more playful, you can add food coloring and a complementary flavor like vanilla, bourbon or maple.

If you want to add color to your sugar, use powdered food coloring, so the sugar stays dry. Experiment with the sugar to powder ratios. The final color will fade slightly as the cotton candy is made.

If you’re using the smoked sugar to make smoked cotton candy, adding a little brown and yellow powder to make an amber color is nice.

The smoked sugar already creates an awesome flavor for cotton candy. If you want to add another flavor, start with one drop of a food-grade flavor for every cup of sugar. If you want the flavor to be more intense, add another drop.

How to use smoked sugar

In addition to making smoked cotton candy, smoked sugar can be used virtually any way that regular sugar can be used. Use it to line the rim of a cocktail glass or try one of the below recipes.

  • Smoked Simple Syrup: Combine equal parts smoked sugar and water in a pan. Heat over medium-low heat, until the sugar dissolves. Mix into cocktails or tea.
  • Smoked Pickled Red Onions: Combine 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup smoked sugar in a pan. Heat over medium-low heat, until the sugar dissolves. Place sliced red onions in a jar and pour the liquid on top. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then, cover and chill.
  • Smoked Ice Cream: Simmer 1 cup milk in a small pot over medium heat. Whisk 4 eggs and 1/2 cup sugar in a separate pot over low heat. Pour the warm milk into the eggs. Heat to 165F degrees. Strain and cool to 65F degrees. Stir in 1 cup heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Churn in an ice cream maker.

Storage

Store smoked sugar in an air-tight container like a jar in the pantry. After a couple of days, the smoke flavor will intensify a little bit more.

Smoked sugar can be stored in a jar in the pantry for several months.

Do not refrigerate or freeze smoked sugar, because it will clump.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does smoked sugar taste like?

It’s 100% all-natural sugar that has a subtle essence of smokiness. The smoke flavor can be varied slightly, depending on the type of wood pellets you use and how long you smoke the sugar. 3 hours is the perfect amount. If you want more smoke flavor, cut the time to 2 hours. If you want more smoke flavor, increase the time to 4 hours.

What type of sugar is used to make smoked sugar?

For the best results, use 100% pure cane sugar.

Can I smoke sugar if I don’t have a Ninja Woodfire Grill?

Yes. However, it’s a little more difficult. The advantage of the Ninja Woodfire Grill is that it can get down to 160F degrees. Most traditional smokers don’t go that low. If you smoke the sugar at a higher temperature, it will melt.

Want even more great grilling recipes and tips? Subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok for my latest grilling adventures. If you make a recipe, I’d love for your to leave a comment and rating below. Thanks.

spoonful of smoked sugar next to a jar of smoked sugar.

Smoked Sugar

This recipe will show you how to make smoked sugar for cocktails, ice cream, pickles and even smoked cotton candy.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings 48 tsp

Ingredients
 

  • 1 cup sugar

Instructions
 

  • Prep: Use two small aluminum drip pans and fill each with 1/2 cup of sugar. Place them side by side on the Ninja Woodfire Grill.
  • Heat Grill: Fill the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill smoke box with pellets. Set the grill to the dehydrate function. Press the Woodfire Flavor Technology Button, which will ignite the pellets to create smoke. Set the temperature to 160F degrees and the time to 3 hours.
  • Smoke: Allow the sugar to smoke for 3 hours. Stir it every 30 minutes so each sugar granule gets kissed with smoke. If you see the smoke start to fade, refill the smoke box with more pellets. I usually add pellets every 45-60 minutes.
  • Use or Store: Remove the sugar from the smoker and use it in your favorite recipe or store it.

Video

Notes

Yields 1 cup of smoked sugar
Smoked Cotton Candy: Follow the instructions on your cotton candy machine. Add one scoop of smoked sugar and spin the floss onto a cone or straw. 
Read the article above to learn more ways to use smoked sugar. 

Nutrition

Calories: 16kcalCarbohydrates: 4gFat: 0.01gSodium: 0.04mgPotassium: 0.1mgSugar: 4gCalcium: 0.04mgIron: 0.002mg

This estimate was created using an online nutrition calculator

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