Measuring sugar is a basic skill of baking. Do it wrong and you'll be facing a kitchen disaster, but when you know how to measure sugar of all varieties—granulated sugar, confectioners' or powdered sugar, and brown sugar—all your recipes will be off to a great start.
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When it comes to measuring sugar for baking and cooking, one size does not fit all. Baking is a science and not paying attention to detail in the ingredient measurements can be what makes those chocolate chip cookies turn out tough or spread too much. Follow along as we show you how to measure sugar of every type including granulated sugar, powdered sugar (aka confectioners’ sugar), and brown sugar. That's right, there are some differences for these, and our Test Kitchen tips are here to guide you through the correct way to measure sugar. We'll also cover which cups and tools you should use for all sugar measurements.

Sugar in silver measuring cup with measuring spoons
Credit: Blaine Moats

How to Measure Sugar

Before learning how to measure sugar, you need the right measuring tools. All sugar varieties are considered dry ingredients so use dry measuring cups and measuring spoons ($8, Target).

how to measure powdered and granulated sugar
Credit: Andy Lyons

How to Measure Powdered Sugar and Granulated Sugar

Powdered sugar and granulated sugar are measured the same way. Granulated and powdered sugar should be spooned into a dry measuring cup and leveled off with a straight edge.

Test Kitchen Tip: Be sure to stir the sugar first to remove any clumps. If there are a lot of lumps in your powdered sugar, you can pass it through a sifter or sieve ($8, Walmart) before measuring.

measuring brown sugar
Credit: Karla Conrad

How to Measure Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is measured a little differently. Pack brown sugar firmly into a dry measuring cup with a back of a spoon until it is level with the rim of the cup. Brown sugar should hold the shape of the measuring cup when it is turned out.

Do I Use Granulated, Brown, or Powdered Sugar?

If your recipe simply calls for sugar, use white granulated sugar. Powdered sugar, also called confectioners' sugar, refers to granulated sugar that has been pulverized; cornstarch is often added to powdered sugar to prevent clumping. If your recipe requires brown sugar, it will be noted as such. Brown sugar is a mix of granulated sugar and molasses; the amount of molasses determines whether the sugar is classified as light or dark (which means more molasses flavor).

How to Store Sugar

Boxed or bagged sugar needs to be transferred to a sealed plastic bag or an airtight container ($27, Walmart) to avoid hardening. As long as sugars are stored in a cool, dry place in proper food storage containers, they can keep indefinitely—though it's recommended to use within two years for best quality.

Use your new knowledge of how to measure sugar to accomplish a new baking adventure. Go for classic cakes or get out of your comfort zone with a new homemade treat such as pavlova or tiramisu.


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