Substitutes for Brown Sugar: 4 Easy Alternatives

We know the feeling… you’re in the middle of a favorite recipe and go to the pantry to pull out the brown sugar you have absolutely no doubt is right where it’s supposed to be on the shelf. Except for this time, it’s not there, it’s all gone. Your mind races through all the potential options and substitutes for brown sugar. You scan the adjacent shelves and take a quick assessment of your supplies: coconut sugar, granulated sugar, molasses, and maple syrup among other things. You’ve got lots of sweet stuff, but will any of it work as substitutes for brown sugar?
The short answer is, YES!

Here are four easy alternatives, or substitutes for brown sugar.

1.) Granulated Sugar
Granulated sugar, or white sugar, is a perfectly fine substitution for brown sugar. Use a 1:1 ratio and keep on baking. Just know that the end product will generally be a bit crispier and sweeter than if you had used brown sugar. This is because white granulated sugar has a lower moisture content which results in a crispier yield. This substitution will work in a pinch, but it really isn’t the best option. So if you’re a perfectionist this may not be your best choice.

2.) Maple Syrup
Another option is substituting maple syrup in your recipe that calls for brown sugar. It is best to use a darker maple syrup, like a Grade B, but any maple syrup will work. The ratio here is a 3/4 C of maple syrup for every 1 C of brown sugar. There is, however, a small caveat. Because maple syrup is a liquid and brown sugar is a solid this substitution requires a second adjustment, a reduction of a liquid elsewhere in the recipe. If the recipe calls for milk, water, or a similar liquid, subtract 2 Tbsps for every 3/4 C of maple syrup used.

3.) Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar looks a lot like brown sugar, and it can be very tempting to assume it is an easy 1:1 switch without any other considerations. And while it is a pretty easy switch, there is a little more to it than that. Coconut sugar does not generally mix as easily as brown sugar does with butter. The result is a dyer or more dense yield than you likely intended. The best way to address this issue is to add a bit of extra butter. The second potential issue is that because coconut sugar does not mix as well the result can have a speckled or granulated appearance. If you used a little extra butter to compensate for the first issue, this second issue will be purely cosmetic. However, you can generally fix a speckled look by running your coconut sugar through a food processor first, to refine it down to a finer grind.

4.) Molasses
This is probably the best way to solve the crisis of being out of brown sugar because using molasses to solve the problem is actually the proper way to create brown sugar.
But first, let’s have a quick lesson about brown sugar. There are two ways to make brown sugar:
Unrefined Brown Sugar is sugar that still retains some molasses from the refining process. Unrefined brown sugar generally comes in larger granules and is generally referred to as raw sugar, turbinado, or other similar names. While you can also use these as a substitute for brown sugar you will likely run into an issue of dryness in the finished product. This is because when baking recipes call for brown sugar they are referring to refined brown sugar.

Refined Brown Sugar is created when molasses is added back into the refined granulated sugar. The result is a finely ground sugar that is moist and brown, perfect for baking.

Okay, now that we understand the differences between the two types of brown sugar it is easy to see how molasses can be used to create brown sugar if you don’t have any. Simply add 1 1/2 Tbsps of molasses to 1 C of white granulated sugar and mix it well to create a light brown sugar. If you need a dark brown sugar simply use more molasses, generally 1/4 C of molasses per 1 C of white granulated sugar.

Want to avoid any substitutions and always ensure you have plenty of brown sugar? We offer a 50-pound bag of light brown sugar, sure to keep you baking without any worry.