Our Test Kitchen's Foolproof Method for Substituting White Sugar for Brown Sugar

No brown sugar on hand? Here you'll find tips for substituting white sugar for brown sugar for all your favorite recipes.

It's always baking season for me, but I tend to spend even more time in the kitchen once the holidays roll around. Nothing beats the deep, sweet flavor that brown sugar adds to cookies, caramel corn, pudding cakes and more. It's even a staple ingredient for the holiday ham!

But what happens if your baking spree depletes your supply of brown sugar? Good news: You can substitute white sugar for brown sugar, either using them interchangeably or using our Test Kitchen's easy brown sugar substitute.

two measuring cups of white and brown sugar
Blaine Moats

How to Substitute Sugar for Brown Sugar

In a pinch, white sugar in an equal amount will work fine as a brown sugar replacement. If you have molasses on hand, our Test Kitchen suggests this alternative:

  • For 1 cup brown sugar, use 1 cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tbsp. molasses. Stir together and use according to your recipe.

When you buy brown sugar, it's already a mixture of granulated sugar and molasses ($3, Target). By adding molasses to your white sugar, it will have the same flavor and texture as the real thing. So if you decide to substitute brown sugar with white sugar minus the molasses, keep in mind your cookies will be a little crisper, since they will lack some of the moisture usually contained in brown sugar.

Brown sugar is commonly used in candied nuts, blondies, and shortbread cookies. You can also use it (or one of our substitutes) to add sweetness to pork chops, sweet potato casseroles and, of course, that show-stopping glazed ham. When you do have brown sugar stocked, make sure you are measuring it correctly and keeping it stored properly to prevent it from drying out.

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