Brown Sugar Substitute

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Brown Sugar Substitute

Working on a recipe that calls for brown sugar? If you don’t have any, can’t buy it in your area, or are just now discovering that yours is rock hard, turn to one of these tried-and-true substitutes to keep your recipe on track.

How to Make Your Own Brown Sugar

If you have granulated sugar and a bottle of molasses in your pantry, your best bet is to whip up a quick batch of brown sugar. It couldn’t be easier. Just stir one tablespoon of molasses into one cup of granulated sugar, until it’s fully incorporated. This will give you light brown sugar. Need dark brown sugar? Simply increase the molasses to two tablespoons per cup of sugar.

Working on a recipe that calls for less than a cup of brown sugar? Here’s how to make the amount you need:

1/2 cup light brown sugar = 1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1-1/2 tsp molasses
1/4 cup light brown sugar = 1/4 cup granulated sugar + 3/4 tsp molasses

For dark brown sugar, double the amount of molasses.

No molasses on hand? Then, use maple syrup instead. This will give your brown sugar the normal color and moisture content, but it will add a subtle maple flavor to your recipe. As long as this works with the other flavors in the recipe, it shouldn’t make any difference.

Looking for a low-sugar brown sugar substitute? Just use your favorite 1:1 sugar substitute in place of the granulated sugar called for in this homemade brown sugar recipe.

Other Sugars You Can Use in Place of Brown Sugar

Don’t sweat it, if you don’t have the ingredients to make your own brown sugar. Since the only difference between granulated sugar and brown sugar is a bit of molasses, you can just use an equal amount of granulated sugar in your recipe. This may change the flavor and color of your recipe in subtle (but negligible) ways. Cookies made with granulated sugar, for example, will be crispier and have a lighter color.

If you live in a country where brown sugar isn’t sold, just use muscovado sugar or demerara sugar instead. They have a similar color and moisture content, so they’ll do the same job in recipes. Use light muscovado, if your recipe calls for light brown sugar, and dark muscovado, if your recipe calls for dark brown sugar.

How to Turn Light Brown Sugar Into Dark Brown Sugar

Only have light brown sugar, and need dark brown sugar for a recipe? Just stir a tablespoon of molasses into each cup of brown sugar your recipe calls for, or save a step and use your light brown sugar as is.

If your recipe calls for light brown sugar, and you only have dark, go ahead and use the dark. It won’t make a significant difference.

How to Soften Hard Brown Sugar

Looking for a brown sugar substitute because yours is brick hard? Just use one of these tricks to soften it back up:

Option 1 – Place your brown sugar in a bowl. Wet a paper towel, and squeeze out the extra water. Then, drape it over the bowl, and microwave for 20 seconds at a time, until your brown sugar is soft. The sugar will be hot when you take it out, so exercise caution when handling it.

Option 2 – If you don’t need your brown sugar for a day or so, stick it in an air-tight container with a slice of bread or a few apple slices. The sugar will absorb the moisture from the bread or apples. Placing a damp paper towel over a bowl of brown sugar overnight, will do the same thing.

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Brown Sugar Substitute

Brown Sugar Substitute

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Here are several tried-and-true brown sugar substitutes, including low-sugar and molasses free versions.

  • Total Time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 tbsp molasses


For Light Brown Sugar: Stir one tablespoon of molasses into a cup of granulated sugar, until evenly incorporated and no clumps remain.

For Dark Brown Sugar: Stir two tablespoon of molasses into a cup of granulated sugar.

Nutrition facts are for the light brown sugar version.


More Brown Sugar Substitutes:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar + 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • An equal amount of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of your favorite 1:1 sugar substitute + 1 tbsp molasses
  • An equal amount of muscovado sugar or demerara sugar
  • Turn light brown sugar into dark brown sugar by adding 1 tbsp molasses per cup
  • Use light and dark brown sugar in place of each other

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