How to Soften Brown Sugar

We've all been there: brown sugar turned to brick. But don’t fret, you can’t unboil an egg but you can re-soften brown sugar. Here are our sugar-saving tips.

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October 22, 2021


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Nothing will spoil your cookie-making plans quicker than gathering up your ingredients only to discover that the brown sugar at the back of your cupboard is rock-hard. We tackled this problem in our test kitchen and discovered that stale brown sugar can be salvaged and softened. You can also keep a brand-new bag as soft as wet sand, indefinitely.

Why Does Brown Sugar Get Hard?

Brown sugar contains molasses, which contributes moisture, wet sand-like texture and robust caramel flavor. When exposed to the elements of your kitchen, the molasses will evaporate, turning your brown sugar to a brick.

How to Store Brown Sugar to Keep It Soft

You can keep your brown sugar soft indefinitely by storing it in a resealable plastic bag (squeeze every last bit of air out) within an air-tight container. For extra insurance, add a slice of bread in the bottom of the bag. It will bring just enough moisture to hydrate the molasses. And don't worry, the bread won’t mold.


Not only does this airtight container hold a 2-pound bag of brown sugar, but also it contains a terra cotta brown sugar disc in the lid that you can soak in water and store in the brown sugar to prevent the molasses from evaporating. Moreover, if your brown sugar does dry out, the soaked terra cotta piece is an effective way to rehydrate it quickly. Simply add it to the container and let it sit for 1 hour.

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How to Soften Brown Sugar with Bread or Tea Bags

If you have 2 to 3 days: Transfer your brown sugar into an airtight container and try resuscitating it with something that can add moisture, like a slice of bread (we know this one works!) or a couple of damp tea bags. We also tried other recommended fixes like marshmallows — which had no effect — and apple slices, which turned slimy.

How to Soften Brown Sugar with Terra Cotta

If you have 1 hour: Transfer the brown sugar to an airtight container and add a piece of terra cotta that you've soaked in water for 30 minutes. The terra cotta will gently add moisture to every last bit of brown sugar, softening it evenly and thoroughly. If you don't own a terra cotta brown sugar saver, you can use a clean small terra cotta planter tray or any small piece of terra cotta. We think it's worth buying one because this method is effective, reliable and relatively fast.

How to Soften Brown Sugar In the Microwave

If you only have 2 to 3 minutes: Often we are caught off guard by rock-hard brown sugar, so planning in advance isn’t an option. For the quickest results, place a lump of hardened sugar in a small microwave-safe bowl and cover it with a moist paper towel. Zap the sugar in the microwave on high in 20-second increments, breaking up any large clumps with a fork as you go. Be careful not to let the sugar start to melt or it will harden into a caramelized mess when it cools.

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