A Substitute for Brown Sugar

A Few Options If You're Out of Brown Sugar

Brown Sugar
Brown Sugar. Floortje/E+/Getty Images

Are you out of brown sugar or have you just discovered that yours has turned brick hard? You don't want to have to run out to the store if you're in the middle of a recipe, and why go to the expense when you can use this simple brown sugar substitute instead? It literally takes just a minute. All you need is some granulated sugar and molasses, and the molasses are optional if you don't happen to have any of that on hand either.

Substitute Granulated Sugar 

Just replace the brown sugar called for in the recipe with an equal amount of granulated sugar. Yes, it's that easy. Brown sugar is nothing more than granulated sugar with a bit of molasses added to it. Your recipe should still come out great, although you may notice a subtle change in the taste and moisture content. The difference should be negligible, however. If you're making a cookie recipe, you might find that your cookies come out a bit crisper and lighter in color than usual. Who knows? That could even prove to be a good thing.

Make Real Brown Sugar

If you have both granulated sugar and molasses in your pantry, you can make your own brown sugar in under a minute. Just stir one tablespoon of molasses into one cup of granulated sugar – no cooking required. Maple syrup can be used in place of the molasses if you don't have any molasses on hand. It has a slightly different flavor, but it will still work well.

How to Soften Hard Brown Sugar

If you're looking for a brown sugar substitute because your brown sugar is too hard to use, there's a really easy fix for that, too. Place it in a bowl and cover it with a moistened paper towel, then microwave it on high in 20-second increments until it becomes soft enough to use.

If you don't need the sugar immediately, try the apple approach if you happen to have some apples on hand. Place the sugar in a bowl with a few apple slices, cover the bowl with a damp cloth, and let it sit overnight. 

If You Have Light Brown Sugar and Need Dark Brown Sugar

Just add a tablespoon of molasses to a cup of light brown sugar to turn it into dark brown sugar, just as you would with granulated sugar. You can use a tablespoon of maple syrup for this purpose as well. Or just use your light brown sugar in place of the dark brown sugar that's called for. You probably won't notice any difference in your recipe. It works in reverse, too, if you need light brown sugar and only have dark brown sugar? You'll hardly notice the difference.

Live Somewhere Where Brown Sugar Isn't Available?

You can also use muscavado sugar or demerara instead of brown sugar. Both have a similar moisture content and flavor and work well. Use dark muscavado in place of dark brown sugar and light muscavado in place of light brown sugar.