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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!

bowl of brown sugar.

Easy Brown Sugar Substitute

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.

This recipe will tell you how to make a substitute for brown sugar – with just 2 ingredients!

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.

sugar and molasses

2 Ingredeints Needed

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

  • Granulated Sugar – also called white sugar
  • Molasses – unsulferd molasses is best
how to make a brown sugar substitute sugar and molasses in bowl

How do you make brown sugar?

  • 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.

What can I use if I don’t have brown sugar?

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.

  1. White Granulated Sugar: 1:1 substitution
  2. DIY Brown Sugar with Maple Syrup: Make the recipe below, but using maple syrup if you don’t have molasses.
  3. Coconut Sugar: You can substitute this 1:1
  4. Turbinado Sugar: Use this 1:1
  5. Maple Syrup, Agave or Honey: Skip the actual sugar and use one of these liquids, but use about 3/4 cup for every 1 cup brown sugar called for.

Note: You can substitute these, 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.


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 1/4 cup.

Why do you pack brown sugar?

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 brown sugar substitute for white?

Yes but it will change the outcome of the recipe slightly. Because of the moisture, brown sugar adds softness to recipes. Cookies made with just white sugar may be a bit crunchier depending on the recipe, etc.

brown sugar substitute in bowl

Brown Sugar Substitute Recipe

5 from 3 votes
Learn how to make a brown sugar substitute with only 2 ingredients!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Yield 1 cup
Serving Size 1 cup


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
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  • Stir together sugar and molasses with a fork. Use as directed in recipe.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

For dark brown sugar, add more molasses. Store brown sugar in an airtight container with a brown sugar saver so it doesn’t dry out.

Recipe Nutrition

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

It’s so easy to make substitute brown sugar by just mixing molasses and white sugar!

Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

5 from 3 votes

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  1. Hi Dorothy! I am relatively new to your site but loving your recipes and your baking tips! Regarding brown sugar, I recently had a recipe I was baking for a guest and wanted to make sure it turned out perfect… the recipe called for light brown sugar, which I can’t seem to find in any of the stores near me! I read about the white sugar and molasses method (on another site) for making brown sugar light or dark, so I bought molasses and made my own light brown sugar. I do have a lot of regular/dark brown sugar, but I’m never sure if I should directly substitute when it comes to recipes… I’m also a bit of a perfectionist and worrier, lol. What I do see in the stores is golden/yellow sugar, but I think I have yet to ever come across a recipe that calls for this! So it puzzles me as to why I can find so much golden sugar but no light brown sugar!

    1. Golden brown sugar is just light brown sugar with a fancied-up name. I use it all the time when recipe calls for light

  2. I made this, and then immediately made caramel sauce out of it. It worked perfect!! I’m never buying brown sugar ever again!

  3. 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 . . . .