Brown Sugar Substitute

5 from 1 vote

Learn to make a brown sugar substitute at home! You can make homemade brown sugar if you need some and don’t want to make a trip to the grocery store. With just two ingredients you can make a substitute in no time!

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brown sugar in bowl

We’ve all been there: you’re making a recipe and realize you don’t have an ingredient. It’s the worst – especially if you don’t want to go to the grocery store (again).

It’s nice to know some easy baking substitutions when this happens. A lot of ingredients you bake with regularly can be made at home or substituted with something different.

See my complete list of baking substitutions!

What is brown sugar?

Brown sugar is a type of sugar that has added molasses in it. That’s why it’s brown: it’s the molasses mixed with white sugar.

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

All sugar is made from sugar cane or sugar beets. When the cooking process happens, the liquid that comes from the sugar can becomes a combination of molasses and sucrose. Depending on the kind of sugar being made, all or some of the molasses is removed and then the product is dried and crystalized into sugar.

Granulated sugar (or white sugar) has had all the molasses removed and is pure sucrose. Brown sugar contains some of that original molasses (or has added molasses), creating it’s brown color and distinct flavor.

Because of the molasses, brown sugar has more moisture in it than granulated sugar (which is why you’re able to pack it).

Light vs. Dark Brown Sugar

Light brown sugar and dark brown sugar are basically the same except for the molasses content. Dark brown sugar has more molasses than light, which gives it a darker and more complex flavor.

How to make brown sugar

Brown sugar is one of the things you can make at home! It’s easy to do with just two ingredients:

sugar and molasses
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Molasses

That’s it! Simply add 1 tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of white sugar and stir. This will create a light brown sugar substitute!

For dark brown sugar, simply add more molasses.

how to make a brown sugar substitute sugar and molasses in bowl

Can you make brown sugar without molasses?

What if you don’t have molasses? Well, then you’re kind of out of luck and a grocery store run is in your future. However, you can substitute maple syrup for brown sugar. It’s a bit tricky: use about 2/3 cup pure maple syrup for each cup of brown sugar, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup.

Substitutions like this don’t always produce the same results, so I recommend sticking to using actual brown sugar or making your own with granulated sugar and molasses.

Why do you pack brown sugar?

Have you ever wondered how to measure brown sugar? 99% of the time, brown sugar is called for as “packed” (remember how to read a recipe).

Because brown sugar is sticky, it’s important to pack it (press it down) so that you fill in all the air bubbles and air pockets created when you scoop it. White sugar fills in a measuring cup like sand, because it’s fine and not sticky. Brown sugar is the opposite.

Can you replace white sugar for brown sugar?

You can! You can substitute one for the other, however it will change the outcome of your recipe. For example, cookies made with brown sugar are softer, so using white sugar will make them crispier.

Next time you’re out of brown sugar, just make your own substitute!

Recipes that use brown sugar:

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Brown Sugar Substitute

Learn how to make a brown sugar substitute with only 2 ingredients!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Yield 1 cup
Serving Size 1 cup


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses


  • Stir together sugar and molasses with a fork. Use as directed in recipe.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

For dark brown sugar, add more molasses.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 832kcal | Carbohydrates: 215g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 9mg | Potassium: 293mg | Sugar: 215g | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword dessert
brown sugar substitute collage photo

It’s so easy to make a brown sugar substitute if you’re out by just mixing molasses and white sugar!

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  1. I live in a country where one can only get grape and mulberry molasses and, believe it or not, they just can’t help to make brown sugar. Oh, yes, it turns the sugar blue! However, the flavor is just horrid and too “different” to work for me. When I go to Europe in April/May, I hope that I can find molasses in Denmark. Funny that I found it in Phnom Phen a few years ago! Funny things that one learns while an expat for 10 years now . . . .