Best Brown Sugar Substitute

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Let’s say you’re in the middle of making a recipe and you’ve just realized you don’t have brown sugar, but your recipe calls for it. Do you have to make a special run to the grocery store, or can you simply use a few basic pantry ingredients and create your own brown sugar substitute?

We’ve outlined several of the best substitutes of cane sugar, as well as sugar free, keto friendly and natural non-cane sugar substitutes for brown sugar.

brown sugar molasses white sugar

What is brown sugar?

Brown sugar is simply white sugar with molasses mixed into it to give it its brown color.

What’s the difference between brown sugar and white sugar?

The difference between brown sugar and white sugar is that brown sugar is white sugar, but with molasses added into it. Light brown sugar has less molasses added than dark brown sugar.

Why is brown sugar used in baking?

Brown sugar is used in baking to add richness of flavor and it also adds moisture into the content.

When brown sugar is used in cookies for example, it will result in a softer, moister cookie than if just plain white sugar was used.

Light brown sugar vs. dark brown sugar

The difference between light vs. dark brown sugar is the amount of molasses that has been mixed into it.

Light brown sugar has less molasses than dark brown sugar. Dark brown sugar has more molasses which is what gives it a darker color and a richer caramel flavor.

Can you use light brown sugar and dark brown sugar interchangeably?

Yes, you can use light brown sugar and dark brown sugar interchangeably. But even though they’re interchangeable they’re not exact substitutes for one another.

Using dark brown sugar when your recipe calls for light brown sugar will cause the outcome of your food to have a richer, more robust flavor than if you were to use light brown sugar.

How to substitute for brown sugar

If you don’t have brown sugar in your pantry and you don’t want to make another trip to the store to buy some, you’ll appreciate knowing that you can make your own brown sugar substitute at home or use other pantry items to replace it in your recipe. We’ll go over each of the brown sugar substitutes below.

How is brown sugar different from raw sugar, cane sugar, muscovado, and turbinado sugar?

Brown sugar is different from other sugars that have a brown color tint like raw sugar, cane sugar, muscovado, and turbinado sugar because brown sugar has the addition of molasses, whereas the other sugars mentioned do not.

Best Brown Sugar Substitutes That’ll Taste Just as Sweet

Below are several recommendations for substituting brown sugar. We’ve included cane sugar-based options as well as non-cane sugar as alternate solutions. We’ll also include the ratio for how to substitute brown sugar for each one.

brown sugar and white sugar

White sugar + molasses

Using 2 simple ingredients of granulated white sugar and molasses is how to make homemade brown sugar. This results in a nice, soft brown sugar just like what you’d buy in the grocery store. It’s the absolute best substitute for brown sugar. Here’s how to make it:

For dark brown sugar, use 1 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of molasses.

For light brown sugar, use 1 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of molasses.

Add the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until it’s well incorporated. Use as a 1 to 1 brown sugar substitute for cinnamon rolls and other recipes. It’s the best1 cup brown sugar substitute.

White sugar + maple syrup

If you’re wanting to know How to make your own brown sugar substitute without molasses, mixing white sugar with maple syrup is another possibility, although we highly recommend the molasses plus white sugar method if possible.

To make brown sugar using white sugar and maple syrup, mix 1 cup white sugar with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup until fully incorporated. Use as a 1 to 1 substitute.

White sugar + honey

White sugar and liquid sweeteners like honey can stand in the gap as a brown sugar substitute if you don’t have molasses.

To make a form of brown sugar using white sugar and honey, mix 1 cup white sugar with 2 tablespoons of honey until fully incorporated. Use as a 1 to 1 substitute.  

White sugar + agave nectar

Can you make brown sugar without molasses? Yes, although using molasses gives you the best outcome. Using agave nectar is another option for a liquid sweetener. It works in a pinch.

To make a form of brown sugar using white sugar and agave nectar, mix 1 cup white sugar with 2 tablespoons of agave nectar until fully incorporated. Use as a 1 to 1 substitute.

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar falls into the category of healthy substitutes for brown sugar. It is made from the sap of a coconut tree and has a similar flavor to coconut milk.

For example, if your recipe calls for ½ cup of brown sugar, you can use ½ cup coconut sugar in its place. You can use coconut sugar as a 1 to 1 substitute for brown sugar.

molasses brown sugar

Raw sugars

Raw sugar is more like white sugar than brown sugar because it doesn’t have a molasses content, even though it tends to be brown in color. When using raw sugar in place of brown sugar you can expect that the results will be less moisture content.

You can consider adding a bit of liquid to compensate. Use raw sugar as a 1 to 1 substitute.

Muscovado sugar

Muscavado sugar has a bolder flavor content than brown sugar. It comes in a light and dark color. Muscavado sugar contains molasses which gives it its brown color. It can be used as a 1 to 1 substitute.

Turbinado sugar

Turbinado sugar can be used as a replacement for brown sugar if you’re in a pinch. Though it’s slightly brown in color, it doesn’t have the molasses content that brown sugar does.

The granules are larger than regular sugar and are best used as a finishing to the tops of baked goods. Turbinado sugar can be used as a 1 to 1 substitute in a pinch.

Plain white sugar

Using white granulated sugar can also be acceptable in many recipes. It will still provide the same sweet aspect, but the main difference is you might notice a crispier outcome because plain white sugar doesn’t have the same moisture properties as brown sugar does.  Use as a 1 to 1 substitute.

Jaggery

Jaggery can be purchased in a hard block form. It works well in savory dishes as it has somewhat of an earthy flavor. Use Jaggery as a 1 to 1 substitute.

Cane sugar alternatives

Still thinking about what can I substitute for brown sugar? We have some cane sugar alternatives that can be some of the best brown sugar substitutes you can use when baking.

Maple syrup, Maple sugar, Maple butter

Maple syrup and maple sugar are about as sweet as sugar, so they work well as a 1 to 1 substitute. Since maple syrup is a liquid, rather than granules, you’ll want to slightly decrease the other liquid in the recipe to keep the outcome from being too soupy. As a brown sugar substitute, maple syrup can work in a pinch.

Honey

Honey is a viable substitute for sugar in baking. You should note, however, that honey is sweeter than sugar so less should be used to maintain a similar level of sweetness in recipes.  As an alternative brown sugar substitute, honey can work in a pinch.

Barley malt syrup

One of the benefits of using barley malt syrup in place of sugar is that it has fewer calories. For example, 100 grams of sugar contains about 392 calories, whereas barley malt syrup contains about 300 calories for 100 grams.

Brown rice syrup

You’ll want to use about 1 cup of brown rice sugar for every ¾ cup of sugar in a recipe. As is the case when using any syrup, you’ll want to decrease the amount of other liquid in the recipe so that the outcome isn’t too soupy.

Amazake

Amazake works best as a sugar substitute in things like smoothies and ice cream. It can also be used as an egg substitute in baked goods.

Date sugar, date paste, date molasses

Date sugar and date paste are made from dehydrated dates that have been processed to form a substance that is used as a sweetener like sugar. It’s considered a natural, healthier substitute.

brown sugar in a measuring cup

Palm sugar

Palm sugar can be used as a 1 to 1 substitute for granulated sugar. The benefit of palm sugar is that it contains less glucose than table sugar or honey. So, it is a better choice as a brown sugar substitute for diabetics and those with heart disease.

Apple sauce

Apple sauce doesn’t have the same properties as sugar does, but it works well as a substitute for sweetener in baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and quick breads. It provides good moisture for the item as well. Consider using apple sauce as a replacement if you’re in a pinch.

Frequently Asked Questions

Following are questions that are asked frequently about substituting brown sugar. We trust you’ll find the answers helpful. If you have a question that’s not asked here, feel free to post it in the comments box below.

Can you use regular sugar if you don’t have brown sugar?

Yes, you can use regular sugar in place of brown sugar. However, using plain white granulated sugar as a substitute for brown sugar will alter the flavor and the texture of the outcome of your recipe. It will make it less moist and less caramel in flavor.

How do you make homemade brown sugar?

The best way to make homemade brown sugar is to mix white granulated sugar with molasses. This is a true substitute for brown sugar purchased at the grocery store. We’ve also listed several other alternate brown sugar substitutes above.

molasses in a jar

How do you make brown sugar from white sugar?

To make brown sugar from white sugar, just add molasses and mix it together until you achieve the desired darkness of brown sugar.

What is the difference between white sugar and brown sugar?

The difference between white sugar and brown sugar is that brown sugar is made from white sugar, but molasses has been added to give it a richer robust caramel flavor.

Brown sugar also provides moisture to any recipe where it’s used, making the outcome softer in things like making breads, cookies, and cakes.

Is there sugar-free brown sugar?

Swerve brown sugar substitute can be purchased in grocery stores as well as online. It’s a natural sweetener that is intended to be a brown sugar substitute.

How to make sugar free brown sugar

Is there a brown sugar substitute? To make sugar free brown sugar use the following ingredients for Brown Sugar Substitute Recipe (Sugar-Free, Low Carb):

2 cups Xylitol
1 cup Erythritol
1 tsp Stevia Extract
1 tsp Molasses

Mix the ingredients together, stirring well. Use as a 1:1 substitute for brown sugar.

How can I make low carb sugar free brown sugar?

To know how to make low carb sugar free brown sugar, use the recipe above for sugar free brown sugar to make low carb sugar free brown sugar.

All of the ingredients can be found in bigger grocery stores, specialty grocery stores, and online. We’ve included the links for online ordering on each of the ingredients. It can work well as a brown sugar substitute keto or sugar free brown sugar substitute.

Can you freeze keto brown sugar?

Keto brown sugar is best when stored at room temperature in an airtight container. Cooling brown sugar causes it to harden, making it more difficult to use.

Is molasses keto-friendly?

Traditional molasses by itself is not keto friendly because it’s made of sugar-based carbohydrates. However, in the case of using molasses to make brown sugar, only a small amount of molasses is used, hardly enough to alter the amount of net carbs.

brown sugar top down

Can I use brown sugar substitute for white sugar?

Can brown sugar substitute white sugar? And can brown sugar substitute for granulated sugar? Technically, in most cases brown sugar can be used in place of white sugar and vice versa. You might notice a slight variation in the outcome of color, flavor, and texture with this change. Brown will provide a richer, more caramel flavor as well as a higher moisture content.

Can light brown sugar substitute dark brown sugar?

Can light brown sugar substitute for dark? Yes, they can be used as a substitute for one another. Dark will have a richer flavor content as well as provide more moisture. But they are similar enough that they work perfectly as a substitute for the other one.

What is a healthy alternative to brown sugar?

Healthy alternatives to brown sugar include ingredients like honey, maple, and agave nectar. These are all healthy light or dark brown sugar substitutes and are natural sweeteners.

How long does homemade brown sugar last?

Homemade brown sugar can last for up to a month in good condition if stored in an airtight container at room temperature. It can also be used as soon as it’s made.

Which brown sugar substitute is the best to use?

The brown sugar substitute that’s best to use is the one that meets the dietary needs of those who gather around your table and allows you to use the ingredients that are available to you. Any of the brown sugar substitutes we’ve listed here work well.

Why do you pack brown sugar?

You’ll notice that most any recipe that calls for brown sugar also lists the ingredient as packed brown sugar.

Why should you pack brown sugar? It’s important to pack your measured brown sugar to achieve an accurate measurement. Packing brown sugar allows all of the sticky sugar granules to be smooshed together, removing any air pockets.

How to store brown sugar

The best way to store brown sugar is in an airtight container at room temperature. Keeping it in a moist location will help it maintain its softness and will keep it from becoming hard. The quality of brown sugar is best when used within 6 months of the time it is opened.

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