Out of brown sugar and wondering if you can substitute white sugar? You can! Try one of our emergency brown sugar substitute ideas if you find yourself in a bind.

By Kelsey Ogletree
Updated July 30, 2020
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You can’t always run to your neighbor’s house to borrow a cup of sugar. When you’re in the middle of making a batch of delectable cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, or caramelly bread pudding, the last thing you want to have to do is drop everything (eggshells, dirty measuring cups and all) and head to the store to buy a fresh bag of brown sugar. Luckily, if you run out of this distinctive variety of sugar, which gets its color and soft texture from the addition of molasses, you have options. Take note of these ideas for a clever brown sugar substitute, which rely on ingredients you likely already have in your pantry.

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No-Fail Brown Sugar Substitute

For 1 cup brown sugar, substitute white sugar in an equal amount. Keep in mind, substituting brown sugar for white sugar won't make your recipe any healthier; there aren't any brown sugar benefits that white sugar doesn't have. Though brown sugar has added molasses, brown sugar nutrition is almost exactly the same as regular granulated sugar.

Test Kitchen Tip: Substituting white sugar for brown sugar will cause cookies to be a little crispier. You may be wondering: Can I make brown sugar with white sugar and molasses? The answer is yes! To fix the crispiness of a straight white sugar swap, simply add 2 tablespoons molasses for every cup of white sugar.

Pin our smartest ingredient substitution ideas to save your recipe next time you're unexpectedly missing an item.

Brown Sugar Basics

Granulated brown sugar is a mix of granulated sugar and molasses. The amount of molasses determines the color, and whether the sugar is classified as dark or light brown sugar. Dark brown sugar will have a stronger molasses flavor. You can buy light and dark brown sugar in granulated form, and you can also find brown sugar cubes online or in some grocery stores.

Did you know that brown sugar isn't just for baking? It’s also a flavor-changing ingredient in recipes like glazed ham, baked acorn squash, and even pork chops. If you don’t have any on hand, you can turn to a brown sugar alternative to be able to make these delicious recipes anytime.

Healthy Substitutes for Brown Sugar

For 1 cup brown sugar, substitute 1 cup organic brown sugar, coconut sugar, or date sugar, or substitute up to half of the brown sugar with agave nectar in baking. Keep in mind: Sugar substitutes replace sugar and omit carbs and added sugar, while sugar substitute blends replace half of the sugar and reduce added carbs and added sugars by half.

Discover more healthy ingredient substitutions here.

How to Store Brown Sugar

If you store your brown sugar properly, you won’t need a brown sugar substitute because yours will always stay fresh. First, you’ll want to store brown sugar in a cool, dry place to prevent it from clumping. Don’t forget to use a properly sealed container. A set of airtight storage containers ($50, Bed Bath & Beyond) are a smart option.

To prevent brown sugar from hardening over time, there are a couple of storage hacks you can try. Place one marshmallow in the same container as your sugar, which will help regulate the moisture in the container so your brown sugar doesn't dry out. Or, you can also add a damp terracotta disk ($3, Sur la Table) to a tightly sealed bag to help keep your brown sugar soft and fresh.

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