This easy two-ingredient substitute is perfect if you need brown sugar but you’re all out.
Today we’re talking about one of my favorite ingredients: brown sugar! Brown sugar is an essential ingredient in many baked goods. It adds a deep sweetness and rich color to all types of recipes.
If you’ve started to make a recipe and realized you’re out of brown sugar I have the perfect solution. You can make brown sugar with just two ingredients, and it couldn’t be easier!
What is brown sugar?
Brown sugar is granulated sugar combined with molasses. Light brown sugar has less molasses and dark brown sugar has more molasses. Brown sugar is soft and moist.
Not all sugar that is brown is “brown sugar”. For example, raw turbinado sugar is light brown but it is a dry, coarse sugar that cannot always be used interchangeably with brown sugar.
Why is brown sugar used in baking?
Brown sugar adds a deep rich sweetness to recipes. It imparts an almost caramel-like flavor and color. Depending on how it is used brown sugar can also add moisture and chewiness to baked goods and affect the leavening and spreading.
Brown sugar substitute (how to make brown sugar):
This is the BEST option if you need brown sugar and don’t have any on hand, or if you have a recipe that calls for a small amount of brown sugar and you don’t want to buy a whole bag. This isn’t a substitute so much as a method for actually making brown sugar at home. Here’s what you need:
Granulated sugar + molasses: Using a wooden spoon, silicone spatula, or your fingers combine the molasses into the sugar until it is evenly distributed and the sugar is an even shade of brown. It should be soft and moist, just like store bought brown sugar.
- For light brown sugar: Use 1 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of molasses.
- For dark brown sugar: Use 1 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of molasses.
This “substitute” can be used in any recipe that calls for brown sugar and you should not need to make any changes.
Once prepared, you can measure out this brown sugar however your recipe indicates. You will be able to pack it (firmly or lightly). Need more or less? You can easily adjust this recipe up or down.
Other brown sugar substitutes
I highly recommend that you use the molasses substitute, but in a pinch, if you don’t have molasses you can combine granulated sugar with any of the following:
- Maple syrup
- Agave nectar
Stir about 2 tablespoons of honey, maple syrup, or agave into 1 cup of granulated sugar.
NOTE: These substitutes (honey, syrup, agave) will not produce a result as close to brown sugar. The sugar will not be as dark and the flavor will not be as deep and rich. Your baked goods will be lighter in color and the results can vary based on the recipe.
Recipes using brown sugar
When using an ingredient substitute it is important that you understand how the ingredient you are subbing is used in the recipe. If using the recommended molasses substitute you can use it in any recipe that calls for brown sugar and the recipe should come out with the same result. If the brown sugar is only adding sweetness (think BBQ sauce and Sloppy Joes) you can use any of the substitutes.
Brown Sugar Substitute (how to make brown sugar)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses (for light brown sugar), increase to 2 tablespoons for dark brown
- Combine sugar and molasses until all of the sugar is an even shade of brown. You can use a spoon or silicone spatula, but I actually find it easiest to just use my fingers to rub the molasses and sugar together.