How to Soften Brown Sugar

Is your brown sugar as hard as a rock? Learn how to soften brown sugar quickly using one of these methods.

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brown sugar in bowl

It’s the worst feeling when you go to use your brown sugar and it’s hard as a rock! Or – even worse – when you buy a box of sugar and by the time you even open it it’s hardened up.

Don’t worry – hardened brown sugar isn’t ruined. You can easily soften hard brown sugar. There are also ways to store it to keep it soft and I’m going to talk about all the methods here today.

Why does brown sugar get hard?

First, you have to know what brown sugar is made of: white sugar and molasses. The molasses in the sugar hardens when exposed to air because the moisture in the molasses evaporates, causing the sugar to clump together. Once the molasses dries out the brown sugar hardens and turns into a solid block of sugar.

Don’t worry though, hard brown sugar is still good – you just have to soften it.

brown sugar in bowl

Soften brown sugar quickly in the microwave

The fast way to soften brown sugar is to heat it in the microwave. Here’s what to do:

  • Place your desired amount of hardened brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl.
  • Saturate a paper towel with water and ring it out. Place the damp towel over the brown sugar in the bowl.
  • Heat it on high power in 30 second increments, until it’s softened.

Be sure to watch it so it doesn’t get too hot – brown sugar will turn to liquid if heated too long.

After a minute or two, depending on the amount of sugar, it will be soft enough to pack it and use it in your recipe.

Unclump Brown Sugar Easily

If you’re not in a rush and realize your brown sugar is clumped then you can easily soften it over time.

brown sugar in container with bread

Simply add a slice of bread or a slice of apple to the canister of brown sugar and allow it to sit. After a few days, the brown sugar will be soft again!

I prefer using the slice of bread method to the apple (there’s something gross about adding a wet apple to my canister of brown sugar).

This is a foolproof way of softening brown sugar!

How do you store brown sugar so it doesn’t get hard?

The trick is to store your brown sugar properly in the first place so it doesn’t have a chance to get hard.

  • Use Airtight Food Storage Containers to store your baking ingredients. Reducing the chance of air in the container will reduce the hardening of your brown sugar.
  • Use a Brown Sugar Saver, which is a piece of terra-cotta that, when soaked in water then added to your brown sugar canister, will maintain moisture for 3-6 months. (TIP: it also will preserver marshmallows, dried fruit and you can use it when you mail cookies or cakes to keep them soft!) **This can also be used in place of a slice of bread to soften your sugar if it’s already hardened.

Never fear – your brown sugar is not ruined if it gets hard. Simply use one of these methods to soften it and use it as normal!

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3 CommentsLeave a comment or review

  1. Dorothy, I read in an old cookbook of my husband’s grandmother to put a papertowel in with your brown sugar so I started doing that, it is an an air tight container and it seems to work, or the container is keeping it from hardening, thought I would share.

  2. When I get a new bag of brown sugar, I measure it in 1/2 cup measurements, put each half cup into plastic bags & freeze them. They will last for YEARS. When you thaw them, they’re as soft!