5 Brown Sugar Substitutes to Try

Raw sugar still life

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Out of brown sugar, or just discovering that yours has turned brick-hard? If you're in the middle of a recipe, you can use this simple brown sugar substitute until you're able to get to the store for another bag.


  • Granulated sugar
  • Molasses (optional)


To make a successful substitute, just replace the brown sugar called for in the recipe with an equal amount of granulated sugar.

Since brown sugar is nothing more than granulated sugar with a bit of molasses added to it, your recipe should still come out great. You may notice a subtle change in the taste and moisture content of your recipe, but the difference should be negligible. If you're making a cookie recipe, for example, you may 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.

Illustration of brown sugar substitutes

The Spruce / Ashley Deleon Nicole

How to Make Real Brown Sugar

If you have granulated sugar and molasses in your pantry, you can make your own brown sugar in under a minute. 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 will still work well.

How to Soften Hard Brown Sugar

Looking for a brown sugar substitute because your brown sugar is too hard to use? There's actually a really easy fix for that.

Add 1 tablespoon of molasses to a cup of light brown sugar to turn it into dark brown sugar. This will give you the real deal.

If you don't have molasses, use 1 tablespoon of maple syrup instead, 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, if you do. Need light brown sugar and only have dark brown sugar? Go ahead and use it. You'll hardly notice the difference.

When You Can't Buy Brown Sugar

Use muscovado sugar or demerara instead. They have a similar moisture content and flavor and will work well as a substitute for brown sugar. Use dark muscovado in place of dark brown sugar and light muscovado in place of light brown sugar.

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