What Is the Best Substitute for Brown Sugar?

April 01, 2020


Photo by: Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images

Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images

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By Regan Cafiso for Food Network Kitchen

If you're out of brown sugar, there's no need to scrap your cooking and baking plans. Avoid an extra trip to the grocery store with one of these clever swaps.

What Is Brown Sugar?

Commercial brown sugar is made from granulated sugar mixed with with molasses, giving it a soft, moist texture and deep, caramelized flavor. It adds richness, sweetness and extra moisture to baked goods and other dishes.

Brown sugar is commonly available in light-brown and dark-brown varieties. Both are soft and packable, but dark brown sugar contains more molasses, giving it a stronger, more pronounced flavor. Most recipes specifically call for one variety or the other, but in a pinch, they are interchangeable and can be swapped 1:1.

Make Your Own Brown Sugar

You can make your own brown sugar at home with just two ingredients: granulated white sugar and molasses. Any kind of molasses will work — even blackstrap molasses — but we prefer to use unsulfured molasses.

  • For light brown sugar, use 1 tablespoon molasses for every 1 cup of granulated sugar.
  • For dark brown sugar, use 2 tablespoons molasses for every 1 cup of granulated sugar.

To make it, beat both ingredients together with an electric mixer at low speed until well combined and uniform, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

If you don't have molasses, you can try another liquid sweetener like pure maple syrup or agave syrup, but the flavor will be slightly different.

Swap with Regular Sugar

What if all you have in the house is regular white sugar? Granulated sugar can be substituted for brown sugar in most recipes — but expect baked goods to be a bit crisper and flatter due to the absence of that extra moisture. The overall flavor will also be slightly milder. For every cup of packed brown sugar, substitute 1 cup white sugar.

Store Properly

Whether homemade or store-bought, air is the enemy of brown sugar. If not kept properly, it rapidly dries out, turning into an unusable, rock-hard brick. Luckily, brown sugar can be softened and brought back to usefulness, but to prevent hardening, always store it in a tightly-sealed container.

Recipes that Use Brown Sugar:

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