How to Substitute White Sugar for Brown Sugar While Baking

No brown sugar on hand? Here's our Test Kitchen's foolproof substitution.

In our opinion, it's always baking season—but it's common to spend even more time in the kitchen once the holidays roll around. And when it coms to baking, 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? Luckily, there's a quick and easy solution for this. You can substitute white sugar for brown sugar in one of two ways: either by using them interchangeably or by relying on 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 just fine as a brown sugar replacement. If you happen to have molasses on hand, though, our Test Kitchen suggests this brown sugar alternative, which will maintain the dynamic, rich flavor of brown sugar. Here's the ratio to use for the same great-tasting results every time:

  • For every 1 cup brown sugar called for in the recipe, use 1 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tbsp. molasses. Stir together and use immediately according to your recipe.

Brown Sugar Facts

When you purchase brown sugar, it is already a mixture of granulated sugar and molasses. Not only will adding molasses to your white sugar give it the same flavor as brown sugar, it will also add moisture, making it the "packable" texture you know from the real thing. If you decide to substitute brown sugar with white sugar minus the molasses, it's important to keep in mind your cookies (or other baked treats) will turn out a little crisper, since they will lack some of the moisture usually contained in brown sugar. No matter the brown sugar substitute you decide to use, it's still going to yield a delicious result, just perhaps without the exact texture.

Brown sugar is commonly used in candied nuts, blondies, and some tarts. You can also use it (or one of our substitutes) to add sweetness to savory dinners like pork chops, sweet potato casserole, and 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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