No worries if you run out of brown sugar while baking delicious chocolate chip cookies! There are nine smart substitutes you can use that we'll explore in more detail in this post.
Looking for a quick answer? The best brown sugar substitutes are white sugar and molasses, raw sugars such as muscovado, turbinado, and demerara, coconut sugar, liquid sweeteners, and less popular options like date sugar, jaggery, and applesauce.
Some of these options can be used as practical substitutes and may already be hiding in your kitchen cupboard. Don't let a lack of brown sugar stop you from creating the perfect batch of cookies.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Brown Sugar?
- What Does Brown Sugar Taste Like?
- What Do You Use Brown Sugar For?
- Brown Sugar Recipes
- What Does Brown Sugar Do In Baking?
- What's The Difference Between Light Brown Sugar And Dark Brown Sugar?
- Best Brown Sugar Substitutes
- 1. White Sugar and Liquid Sweetener
- 2. Coconut Sugar
- 3. Raw Sugars - Turbinado, Muscovado, Demerara Sugars
- 4. White Sugar
- 5. Liquid Sweeteners
- 6. Jaggery
- 7. Apple Sauce
- 8. Barley Malt Syrup
- 9. Dates and Date Paste
- How To Store Brown Sugar?
- Easy Cookie Recipes Without Brown Sugar
What Is Brown Sugar?
Brown sugar is a popular choice for baking because it adds a rich flavor and chewiness to recipes. But what is brown sugar exactly?
Brown sugar is refined white sugar with added molasses, resulting in a more flavorful and softer-textured product.
Brown sugar's color and flavor depend on the amount of molasses added. Simply put: light brown sugar has less molasses and is lighter in color, while dark brown sugar has more molasses and is darker.
What Does Brown Sugar Taste Like?
The brown sugar gets its distinct flavor from the added molasses, giving it a caramel or toffee-like taste.
Light brown sugar has a mild sweetness reminiscent of white sugar with a subtle caramel note, while dark brown sugar offers a deeper, almost bitter flavor resembling toffee.
What Do You Use Brown Sugar For?
Common uses for brown sugar include all sorts of savory, dessert and drink recipes, from sweetening baked goods like cookies, cakes, muffins to creating delicious flavor in sauces, marinades and sweetening cocktails.
What Does Brown Sugar Do In Baking?
In baking, sugar serves multiple purposes such as sweetness, tenderizing, and stability.
Brown sugar interacts differently with baking ingredients compared to white sugar. It draws out more moisture and creates a softer texture in baked goods.
Brown sugar is often used in cookie recipes for a chewier result, but you can still bake delicious treats without it.
What's The Difference Between Light Brown Sugar And Dark Brown Sugar?
Light brown sugar and dark brown sugar differ in the amount of molasses added to them, with light brown sugar containing around 3.5% molasses and dark brown sugar having approximately 6.5% molasses.
While they can often be used interchangeably, dark brown sugar has more moisture due to the higher molasses content.
Store the brown sugar properly in an airtight container which will help to retain its moisture and prevent it from becoming dry and hard over time.
Best Brown Sugar Substitutes
Before we go into brown sugar alternatives, here's a little tip: different varieties of brown sugar can be used interchangeably in recipes.
If you have one type and your recipe calls for another, it's not a biggie! Whether it's light or dark brown sugar, the difference in flavor and color is minimal, and you'll still end up with delicious flavor and texture.
Here are 9 best substitutes for brown sugar:
1. White Sugar and Liquid Sweetener
You can easily make your own brown sugar substitute using white sugar and liquid sweeteners such as maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey.
However, the best liquid ingredient you can add to white sugar would be molasses (brown sugar is actually made by combining white sugar with molasses).
How To Substitute
For light brown sugar, just mix 1 cup (200g) of granulated white sugar with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of molasses.
If you prefer dark brown sugar, increase the molasses to 2 tablespoons (30 mL).
2. Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is a plant-based and minimally processed sweetener. It's made from the flower sap of coconut trees and is often considered a healthier alternative to brown sugar, even though its nutritional profile is similar to brown sugar.
It is often confused with palm sugar, which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree.
Coconut sugar has a butterscotch caramel taste. Pure palm sugar’s flavor has many of the same notes but has smokier taste.
How To Substitute
The best part is that you can swap coconut sugar and brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio. So, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of brown sugar, you can use 1 cup of coconut sugar instead.
A quick note: Coconut sugar doesn't hold as much moisture as brown sugar does.
This can affect the texture of certain baked goods, making them slightly drier or denser than intended.
To overcome this, you can try adding a little extra fat like butter or oil to your recipe. Another trick is to melt the coconut sugar on a stovetop before incorporating it into your recipe.
3. Raw Sugars - Turbinado, Muscovado, Demerara Sugars
If you run out of brown sugar, you can easily substitute it with raw sugars like turbinado or demerara. They have a similar light amber color and mild caramel flavor that closely resembles brown sugar.
The best part is that you can use raw sugars in an equal proportion in most recipes without even noticing much of a difference.
Raw sugars are made from sugarcane that undergoes minimal processing, which in theory is healthier than using refined sugars.
However, raw sugars are drier and coarser compared to brown sugar, which can affect the final result of your recipe. The coarse granules of raw sugar don't always mix as smoothly into dough or batter, leaving behind a grainy texture.
This is especially noticeable in low-moisture baked goods or those that are intended to have a delicate texture.
A quick fix is to use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, and grind the sugar crystals into a finer texture, making them easier to incorporate into your recipe.
Or you can also partially dissolve the sugars in a small amount of warm liquid like melted butter, oil, or water before adding them to your batter.
Demerara Sugar vs Brown Sugar
Demerara sugar is raw cane sugar with large crystals and a light brown color, while brown sugar is refined white sugar with added molasses.
Demerara sugar has a subtle caramel flavor and a drier texture, while brown sugar has a richer flavor and moistness.
While they can be used interchangeably, demerara sugar adds a crunchy texture, while brown sugar provides a deeper sweetness and moistness to baked goods.
Best Raw Sugar To Use
Among the three, muscovado sugar is the closest match to brown sugar because it contains a similar amount of molasses and moisture.
The granules are also similar in size. However, muscovado sugar tends to be stickier and more prone to clumping.
When using muscovado sugar, you can replace it equally for brown sugar in almost any recipe.
Just keep in mind that it might require some sifting to remove any clumps before incorporating them into your dough or batter.
Using an electric mixer and adding the muscovado sugar gradually can also help improve its integration.
4. White Sugar
The easiest substitution for brown sugar is simply using granulated white sugar. They both work similarly in recipes but white sugar simply lacks the rich flavor that brown sugar brings to the table.
However, depending on the type of recipe you're making, you might not even notice much of a flavor change.
How To Substitute
For every cup of packed brown sugar that your recipe calls for, just swap in 1 cup of white sugar.
Just keep in mind that since brown sugar adds moisture to baked goods, you might notice a difference in texture, like your cookies turning out a bit crisper.
What Is The Difference Between Brown Sugar And Granulated White Sugar?
Brown sugar and granulated white sugar differ in taste and color. Brown sugar contains molasses (that are derived from sugar cane and not sugar beets like in white sugar making) giving it a richer flavor and darker appearance, while white sugar lacks molasses.
Thanks to molasses, brown sugar also retains some minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium, making it slightly more nutritious.
Its molasses content adds moisture and a caramel-like taste to baked goods. Both white and brown sugar have similar number of calories.
5. Liquid Sweeteners
If you're out of brown sugar, you can still substitute it with liquid sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar.
However, not every recipe that requires brown sugar will work with liquid sweeteners.
Since these substitutions are in liquid form, it's important to consider how the extra moisture might affect your dish, especially when it comes to baking.
How To Substitute
The exact measurements for substitution may vary depending on the specific recipe, but here are some basic tips that may help you:
- Replace each cup of brown sugar (200 g) with ⅔ cup (160 mL) of your chosen liquid sweetener.
- For every ⅔ cup (160 mL) of liquid sweetener used, reduce other liquid sources by approximately ¼ cup (60 mL).
Keep in mind that these sugar replacements may caramelize more quickly than brown sugar, so you might want to reduce the cooking time by a few minutes.
However, I recommend finding a specific recipe that is designed to be made with liquid sweeteners rather than substituting brown sugar yourself.
Honey is a great option for adding that dark sweetness to your recipe. Use ¾ cup of honey for every 1 cup of brown sugar.
Maple syrup is another option with a distinct maple flavor. It may not give you the exact texture of brown sugar, but it works well in recipes like granola or as a sprinkle over your morning oatmeal.
Agave nectar is a similar liquid alternative as the above options however it is less sweet than brown sugar so the flavor of the recipe will be quite different as well.
Liquid sweeteners work best in non-baked recipes like sauces or glazes, but if you're using them in baked goods, it may require some trial and error before you find the best balance.
For best results, I'd recommend going for a specific recipe that calls for liquid sweeteners.
Jaggery is also a type of raw sugar. It is an unrefined sugar with a caramel-like flavor commonly used in South Asian and African cuisines.
Jaggery contains more moisture than brown sugar. To account for this, you may need to reduce the amount of other liquids in your recipe slightly.
How To Substitute
To substitute it for brown sugar, use an equal amount of grated or crushed jaggery, adjusting the moisture content if needed.
Jaggery can have a slightly grainy texture, so it's a good idea to dissolve it in warm liquid (such as water or milk) before adding it to your recipe to ensure even distribution.
7. Apple Sauce
When you use applesauce instead of brown sugar, it adds a touch of sweetness and moisture while giving a subtle apple flavor to your baked goods.
Depending on the recipe, you can use either regular or unsweetened applesauce.
How To Substitute
To substitute, simply replace the brown sugar with an equal amount of applesauce in your recipe.
Keep in mind that the texture and taste might be a bit different since applesauce isn't as sweet or rich as brown sugar.
It's a good idea to experiment and adjust the recipe as needed to get the best results.
8. Barley Malt Syrup
Barley malt syrup is not as sweet as regular brown sugar, so you'll need to use a bit more of it to achieve the same level of sweetness.
Barley malt syrup has a consistency similar to molasses, so it adds a rich and thick texture to your recipes.
This can give your baked goods a deeper, more complex flavor profile.
How To Substitute
For every cup of brown sugar, you'll want to substitute it with 1 ½ cups of barley malt syrup.
9. Dates and Date Paste
Date paste is a simple all-natural sweetener that is commonly used in baking. To make an easy date paste you only need 2 ingredients - dates and water.
When using date paste as a substitute for brown sugar, simply follow a 1:1 ratio.
That means you can replace every cup of brown sugar with an equal amount of date paste. It is a healthier alternative and it adds both moisture and sweetness.
Date sugar is also an option but not widely available in stores. You can mostly find it in natural food stores or online.
Date sugar is made from ground dehydrated dates and works well as a replacement for both brown and white sugars.
You can swap it in using the same measurements as the original sugar called for in your recipe.
How To Store Brown Sugar?
To prevent brown sugar from hardening, store it in an airtight container in a cool dry place.
For extended freshness, you can use a piece of soaked terra cotta, marshmallows, a slice of apple, or bread.
The closest would be combining white sugar with a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup, honey, or agave or adding molasses.
Yes. You can substitute brown sugar for white sugar in a 1:1 ratio. The sweetness will be similar but brown sugar is more moist, and dense with a caramel-y flavor to it. The texture will also change but mostly in baking recipes (but not too much though).
You can make your own homemade brown sugar by adding molasses to white sugar. For light brown sugar, just mix 1 cup (200g) of granulated white sugar with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of molasses. If you prefer dark brown sugar, increase the molasses to 2 tablespoons (30 mL).
My favorite brown sugar alternatives include combining white sugar+molasses or liquid sweeteners such as maple syrup or honey. Or you can use raw sugars, as well as coconut or palm sugar if you have exhausted all the options.
Easy Cookie Recipes Without Brown Sugar
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