The world of sweet desserts, candies, and other confectioneries will be incomplete without sweeteners. One of the most popular sweeteners we used at that is brown sugar.
But as we all know, the kitchen can be unpredictable. So, what happens if you run out of brown sugar? Let me introduce you to the best brown sugar substitute you can use.
What's Brown Sugar?
Brown sugar is a product of sugar cane. It's among the most common types of sugar we use in the kitchen.
It's slowly but steadily becoming more popular because of how it helps prevent obesity. Brown sugar contains fewer calories, with a teaspoon only having around 17.
Brown Sugar vs. Granulated White Sugar
Brown and white sugar both come from sugar cane, but brown sugar undergoes less refining process, causing it to retain most of its molasses content.
In other words, white granulated sugar is largely pure sucrose, while brown sugar is mostly molasses.
Fun Fact: Its molasses content is also what gives it its signature brown color
Aside from the color, the molasses is responsible for the caramel-like flavor and moisture level of brown sugar, both of which you wouldn't see in traditional white sugar.
Dark Brown Sugar vs. Light Brown Sugar
Both dark brown and light brown sugar contain molasses. The only difference is how much molasses each of them have.
Dark brown sugar generally has twice the amount of molasses than light brown sugar. Because of this, dark brown sugar has a stronger flavor and higher moisture levels.
Best Brown Sugar Substitutes
Brown sugar is unique indeed, but thankfully, it's not irreplaceable. Depending on your recipe, you can replace brown sugar with any of the substitutes below.
1. Homemade Brown Sugar
As I've mentioned, the only difference between brown and white sugar is the molasses content. Ergo, you can make your own brown sugar at home with just white sugar and molasses.
This is possibly the best dark brown sugar substitute because it's literally the same thing. Just mix 1 cup of white sugar with 2 tablespoons of molasses.
But if you're looking for a light brown sugar substitute, use 1 tablespoon of molasses instead of 2. Substitute brown sugar with this mixture in a 1:1 ratio.
Test your DIY brown sugar on this Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies recipe.
2. White Sugar and Liquid Sweeteners
If you don't have molasses at home, it's not the end of the world yet. You can still make homemade brown sugar with white sugar and a liquid sweetener.
Some of the best ones I've tried include agave nectar, maple syrup, and honey. Use the same ratio above for making light and dark brown sugar. It also works as a 1:1 substitute for brown sugar.
The best part about this is that you can increase the proportions to make a huge batch and keep the excess for future use. Just be sure to store brown sugar in an airtight container to prevent clumping.
3. Muscovado Sugar
Muscovado sugar is very similar to brown sugar since it also contains molasses. The only difference is that muscovado sugar has a higher molasses content.
I decided to include muscovado sugar as a separate entry because it's become easy to find in countless stores nationwide.
Because it contains more molasses, it has a higher moisture level and a stronger flavor than brown sugar. Nonetheless, you can use it as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
This Apple Crumble Pie recipe will show you how to use it as a topping.
4. Raw Sugar
It's easy to confuse raw sugar with light brown sugar because of its color. That's also because raw sugar also contains molasses.
However, we get raw sugar by extracting most of the juice from the sugar cane, resulting in very dry granulated sugar.
Therefore, when using it as a 1:1 substitute, increase its moisture by adding butter, oil, or other liquid ingredients.
5. Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is also becoming more popular over the years because it's just as nutritious as brown sugar (making it a great white sugar substitute as well).
Even though it tastes similar to brown sugar, its moisture content is significantly lower. Ergo, while you can use it as a 1:1 substitute for brown sugar, you must increase its moisture with butter or oil.
If your recipe calls for warm liquid brown sugar, you can just melt coconut sugar in a similar fashion without adding oil or butter.
Here's a Chocolate Coconut Cake recipe to try it on.
6. Palm Sugar
Palm sugar is also brown even though it doesn't contain molasses. Instead of cane sugar, palm sugar comes from palm trees.
Traditionally, farmers harvest them from the sap of coconut or date palms, which is also how we get coconut and date sugar. (I separated coconut sugar because it's easier to find)
You will often see it sold in blocks or cones instead of granulated. Ergo, you need to shave or chop it first before using it to substitute brown sugar in the recipe.
After doing so, you can use it to replace brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
7. Turbinado Sugar
Even though turbinado sugar is also granulated, the granules are significantly larger than light or dark brown sugar.
It undergoes a longer refining process, resulting in a lower molasses content and milder flavor. Because of this, it's not the best brown sugar substitute for some recipes.
You can use it as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio, but if the recipe requires mixing it with other ingredients, it's better to use other alternatives.
Check out this Salted Caramel Popcorn Cake recipe and try using turbinado sugar as a substitute.
Many South Asian cuisines use jaggery as a sweetener. If you reside near an Asian market, try looking for it, as this can be an excellent substitute for brown sugar.
Like palm sugar, jaggery is sold in blocks and tends to be significantly thicker and harder. Ergo, you might have to shave it or use a food processor to turn it into powder.
Instead of having a caramel-like flavor, jaggery is more earthy. Nonetheless, you can use it as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
Here's a substitute for brown sugar that some people may find weird, if not controversial. Try replacing brown sugar with applesauce.
The flavor profile is obviously very different, but applesauce checks some boxes regarding sweetness and moisture.
Just avoid using it in recipes where you want a caramel-like flavor. Other baked goods, on the other hand, are fair game.
Try it on this Mini Apple Caramel Pies recipe.
Tips When Using Brown Sugar Substitutes
When looking for a light or dark brown sugar substitute, you must take into account the properties you need from the real thing.
So, before you replace brown sugar in your recipe, consider the following factors.
One thing that makes brown sugar unique is its flavor profile. The rich caramel-like taste is something you don't find in many sweeteners.
So, if this flavor is an important aspect of the recipe, try going for a substitute with a similar taste to muscovado and coconut sugar.
Because of its molasses, brown sugar holds more moisture than regular granulated sugar. This moisture also plays a crucial role in many recipes, especially baking.
While you can use some substitutes in a 1:1 ratio, remember that this is usually just for the flavor and sweetness. You're not getting the moisture you want from brown sugar.
Ergo, consider adding butter or oil, or increasing the proportions of other liquid ingredients in the recipe to compensate for the missing moisture.
Another thing that made brown sugar very popular, especially in recent years, is its nutritional content. It's significantly healthier than white sugar.
So, instead of simply replacing brown sugar with a substitute with a similar taste, consider its nutritional content as well.
Coconut sugar is one of the most popular alternatives for substituting white sugar nowadays, which also works for brown sugar.
The last thing you want to consider is accessibility. In a pinch, white sugar substitutes are perhaps the most accessible since this ingredient is a staple in every home.
But if you're heading out to the grocery store to buy substitutes for brown sugar, muscovado, coconut sugar, molasses, agave nectar, maple syrup, and honey are perhaps the easiest ones to find.
Brown Sugar Substitute FAQs
Homemade brown sugar is perhaps the best alternative because you can adjust the proportions to make a dark or light brown sugar substitute. But coconut sugar should work great with many recipes if you don't have molasses.
Fun Fact: You can also use coconut sugar to make a Homemade Agave Nectar Substitute.
Muscovado sugar is arguably the closest substitute for brown sugar because of its molasses content, caramel-like flavor, and moisture. Some raw sugars like turbinado and demerara should also have relatively close properties.
I strongly recommend only using plain white sugar as a brown sugar substitute if everything else is unavailable. The moisture and flavor profile are so different that you may not enjoy your baked goods.
Keeping Your Recipes Sweet with a Brown Sugar Substitute
Running out of brown sugar can be challenging, but several substitutes will provide a similar texture and flavor to your recipe (especially if you have molasses at home).
As always, your recipe is still the most important factor to consider when choosing from the best brown sugar substitutes.
If you want to replace some other ingredients in your recipe, check out Also The Crumbs, Please for more tips on improving your culinary skills.
You Might Also Like:
Homemade Brown Sugar Recipe
- Combine the white sugar and molasses in a small bowl.
- Mix the ingredients thoroughly until you've moisturized all the granules. (Check if the granules have completely turned brown).
- Use the mixture in a 1:1 ratio.
- Store the excess homemade brown sugar in an airtight container for future use.
You can find the video in the post above. If you don't see a video, please check your browser settings.