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Learn how to soften brown sugar quickly using one of these methods and how to store it so it will stay soft! Never throw away clumpy brown sugar again when you learn how to soften it!

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bowl of brown sugar

Why does brown sugar get hard?

It’s the worst feeling when you go to use your brown sugar and it’s hard! 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 make hard brown sugar soft again. There are also ways to store it to keep it soft and I’m going to talk about all the methods here today.

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.

How to Soften Brown Sugar Video

How to soften brown sugar in 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.

brown sugar in container with bread

How to Soften Brown Sugar using Bread

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

Simply add a slice of bread to the canister of brown sugar and allow it to sit. After a few days, the sugar softens because of the moisture in the bread.

This is a foolproof way of softening brown sugar!

Other Ways to Loosen Brown Sugar

  • Use apple slices in place of bread
  • Use the oven instead of microwave: heat the oven to 200° and wrap your brown sugar in parchment paper or foil. Bake about 5-10 minutes, checking after 3 minutes to see how it’s going.
  • Use a damp paper towel: Place the brown sugar in a bowl. Wet a paper towel and wring it out. Place it over the brown sugar and let it sit for several hours.

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 – hardened sugar is a thing of the past once you use my tips.


Is brown sugar still good when hard?

Yes – it just needs to be softened using bread or the microwave trick.

How to keep brown sugar soft?

Be sure to store it in an airtight container – air will make it harden up. And use a terra cotta brown sugar saver if you consistently have trouble with it hardening.

How to soften brown sugar overnight?

Fix brown sugar overnight using the bread trick in an airtight container.

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.

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  1. Thanks for these ideas. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where we get lots of rain. When my brown sugar gets hard, I put it outside on a damp or rainy day, under cover and let the moisture in the air revitalize my brown sugar. Summertime that doesn’t always work, so its good to have these new-to-me methods.

  2. Thanks for the tip to soften brown sugar in the oven because I don’t have a microwave. It took 40 minutes, but it worked!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.