Sugar is a staple kitchen ingredient that makes our life sweeter daily.
We are using it as a sweetener in baked goods to keep them moist and soft, in desserts, drinks, jams, and many other recipes. But sugar is not only a sweetener. It has many other functions in food production.
Sugar works as a preservative, coloring agent, flavoring agent, to assist the fermentation process, and as a bulking agent. It is made by extracting the juice of the sugar cane and sugar beet plants.
Brown sugar is a common ingredient in sauces, baked goods, marinades, baked beans, drinks, and other recipes. However, if your recipe calls for brown sugar and you don’t have it on hand, you can use other sweeteners instead.
Read on to learn more about each substitute.
Brown Sugar Substitute
There are different types of sugar depending on the level of the molasses, the process of cleaning, crystallizing, and drying. One of the types of sugar is brown sugar. It is made when sugar cane molasses is added to refined white sugar crystals.
There are 2 types of brown sugar with different molasses content. Light brown sugar has 3,5% of molasses by weight and is perfect for baking. Dark brown sugar, on the other hand, has 6,5% of molasses by weight. You can use it to give flavor and color to barbecue sauces and other meals.
Dark brown sugar has a caramel flavor and dark color, while light brown sugar has lighter color and flavor. You can use light brown sugar and dark brown sugar interchangeably.
You will only have a small change in the color, texture, and flavor of the dish. However, if you don’t have any of them at hand, try some of these substitutes for brown sugar in your recipe for a flavor boost.
1. Coconut sugar
Coconut sugar is made from the sap that coconut palm flowers contain.
This plant base sugar contains small amounts of nutrients like calcium, zinc, potassium, and iron. Coconut sugar and brown sugar have similar caramel flavors and brown colors.
You can use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar in various recipes like sauces, cakes, cookies, baked goods, hot drinks, and every other recipe that calls for brown sugar.
The only bad thing is that it costs more than brown sugar.
2. Muscovado sugar
Muscovado sugar is partially refined or unrefined cane sugar with a very strong molasses-toffee flavor and dark brown color. You can choose between light and dark muscovado sugar.
A small part of molasses is extracted from the light muscovado sugar; thus it has a lighter color and milder flavor than the dark muscovado sugar. On the other hand, dark muscovado sugar is made without extraction of the molasses.
You can use muscovado sugar as a replacement for brown sugar in cookies, cakes, baked goods, marinades, barbecue sauces, and many other sweet and savory dishes. Substitute brown sugar with muscovado sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
3. White sugar
White sugar makes a great substitute for brown sugar if you don’t have other sweeteners at hand. It comes from sugarcane or sugar beets and provides a sweet flavor to different baked goods, desserts, and drinks.
People use white sugar to retain the moisture in different recipes and keep them soft and fluffy. They also use white sugar to provide a beautiful gold color, nutty flavor, and crispier texture.
Use white sugar in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute for brown sugar.
4. White sugar and molasses
You can use white sugar and molasses to prepare brown sugar. Mix one cup of sugar with one tablespoon of molasses and you will get light brown sugar.
If your recipe requires dark brown sugar, utilize two tablespoons of molasses and one cup of sugar. You can use this homemade brown sugar in every recipe that calls for brown sugar.
5. White sugar and maple syrup
White sugar and maple syrup is another mix you can use when you need brown sugar. You will need one cup of sugar and one tablespoon of maple syrup.
Mix them and use them in the meal instead of brown sugar. You will end up with a different color and a distinctive caramel-vanilla flavor in your recipe.
6. Agave nectar
Agave nectar is a sweetener made from the juice extracted from the agave plant’s leaves. It is a common ingredient in baked goods, sauces, dressings, desserts, cocktails, and beverages.
Agave nectar comes in light, dark, amber, and raw varieties. They all have different colors and flavors and work amazingly in various sweet and savory recipes.
Substitute one cup of brown sugar with 2/3 cup of agave nectar to get beautiful honey or maple syrup flavor depending on the type of the agave nectar.
Honey is a natural sweetener and a healthier alternative to sugar.
It is a common ingredient in various baked goods, marinades, beverages, sauces, and dressings. There are many different types of honey with different colors, flavors, and textures.
It can have fruity, floral, woody, nutty, or earthy flavors depending on the type of plant the bees wore collecting nectar from. You can substitute brown sugar with honey in different sauces, marinades, baked goods, and many other recipes.
Honey is sweeter than brown sugar, so you will have to use less honey in the recipe. To replace one cup of brown sugar use ¾ of a cup of honey.
8. Maple syrup
Maple syrup is made from the sap of the maple trees. The sap is boiled until it is thickened into a syrup. There are four types of maple syrup including golden, amber, dark, and very dark and they are all with different colors and flavors.
In general, maple syrup has a caramel flavor with a hint of vanilla, and a pale golden-dark brown color. Maple syrup works as a topping for waffles and pancakes, you can add it to salad dressings, barbecue sauces, and baked goods, or use it as a glaze for meat.
Use 2/3 of a cup of maple syrup as a substitute for one cup of brown sugar.
9. Turbinado sugar
Turbinado sugar is made from the extracted juice from the sugar cane. It is less processed with coarser crystals and dark brown color; therefore, it is also known as raw sugar.
Turbinado sugar contains fewer molasses than brown sugar and has a light caramel flavor. It is a common ingredient in many baked goods, hot beverages, desserts, barbecue sauces, meat rubs, and as a topping.
If you are using turbinado as a substitute for brown sugar you will get a dryer and grainy texture because of the coarse crystals. To obtain a finer texture you can grind the sugar. Or dissolve it in a small amount of liquid like warm water, oil, or melted butter.
Substitute brown sugar with turbinado sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
10. Demerara sugar
Demerara sugar is also minimally processed like turbinado sugar and has a light brown color, toffee flavor, and crunchy texture. Its sugar crystals are larger than the sugar crystals of the turbinado sugar.
With a stronger molasses flavor than turbinado sugar, demerara sugar is a good substitute for brown sugar in some baked goods like biscuits, cheesecake bases, as a sweetener for coffee and tea, and as a topping on desserts. Use demerara sugar as a substitute for brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
11. Palm sugar
Palm sugar has a caramel flavor with a hint of maple and is less sweet than brown sugar. It is made from the sap of the palm flowers which is boiled until it thickens.
Palm sugar is minimally processed without any chemicals, so it is known as unrefined sugar. It is usually sold as syrup and in form of cakes and bricks.
This sugar is used in desserts, beverages, candies, rice dishes, curries, baked goods, sauces, and many other sweet and savory dishes.
Palm sugar can be substituted with brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
Jaggery is a sweetener produced in Africa and Asia.
Usually, it is made from sugar cane. However, in some countries, it is made from the date palm. The sugar cane juice is boiled and then it is placed into molds to cool.
You can find jaggery in liquid forms, granules, and solid blocks. The color of this ingredient can range from light golden to dark brown with a flavor similar to brown sugar.
Jaggery is a common ingredient in baked goods, desserts, sauces for meat and vegetables, hot drinks, and candies. You can substitute brown sugar with jaggery in a 1:1 ratio.
Molasses is a byproduct of sugar extraction from the sugar beets and sugarcane. Usually, sugar cane juice is boiled and crystallized three times to extract sugar. Thus, molasses can have a different flavor, color, and nutritional content.
The molasses extracted after the first boiling process has the lightest color so it is known as light molasses with super high sugar content and thin texture.
The other 2 types of molasses are dark and blackstrap molasses. Dark molasses is extracted after the second boiling. It has a darker color and contains less sugar than light molasses.
Blackstrap molasses has a very thick texture, dark color, and contains the least amount of sugar than the other two types of molasses.
Molasses has a sweet and smoky flavor and works well in many desserts, baked goods, barbecue sauces, baked beans, and many other sweet and savory dishes.
Substitute one cup of brown sugar with two tablespoons of molasses in your recipes for the best final product.
14. Date sugar
Date sugar is made from ground dried dates. It has a sweet flavor similar to butterscotch and light brown color. Date sugar doesn’t melt like brown sugar but it will give a sweet flavor and beautiful color to your recipe.
Date sugar is a healthy alternative for brown sugar you can use in different baked goods, sauces, desserts, and marinades. Use date sugar as a substitute for brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
15. Sukrin gold
Sukrin gold has a similar flavor, color, and texture to brown sugar. This natural low-calorie and gluten-free sweetener is mostly erythritol and small parts of stevia and malt.
Sukrin Gold doesn’t contain additives, artificial colors, and preservatives. It works well in many desserts, baked goods, tea, coffee, barbecue sauces, and other recipes.
You can substitute brown sugar with Sukrin gold in a 1:1 ratio.
Is there a substitute for brown sugar in baking?
If you want to substitute brown sugar in baking you can use maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, molasses, and raw sugars like turbinado and demerara.
Can you use regular sugar if you don’t have brown sugar?
If you don’t have brown sugar, you can use regular sugar in your recipe.
You will get a final product with a lighter color, different flavor, and crispier. Use 1 cup of regular sugar as a substitute for 1 cup of brown sugar.
How do you make homemade brown sugar?
You can make homemade brown sugar if you have white granulated sugar and molasses. To make light brown sugar put 1 cup of white granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of molasses in a bowl. Mix with a mixer or wooden spoon until it is fully blended.
Store it in an airtight container to stop it from drying out. If you want to make dark brown sugar use two tablespoons of molasses and one cup of white granulated sugar.
Can you make brown sugar with honey?
Yes, you can make brown sugar with honey. You will need 1 cup of granulated white sugar and 2 tablespoons of honey. Mix them until they combine.
If you want to get dark brown sugar with a stronger flavor you can use buckwheat, honey. It has dark color and sweet slightly bitter molasses flavor.
What is the difference between brown sugar and dark brown sugar?
The difference between brown sugar and dark brown sugar is in the amount of molasses they contain. Dark brown sugar contains 6,5% of molasses by weight, while light brown sugar contains 3,5% of molasses by weight.
Brown sugar is a common ingredient in many sweet and savory recipes for its flavor and color.
However, if you have run out of brown sugar, you can use some of the substitutes in this article that will give the desired flavor texture, and color to your recipe.
Light brown sugar, molasses, or maple syrup make great substitutes for dark brown sugar, while demerara sugar, turbinado sugar, and light agave nectar can replace light brown sugar.
Try them and see which one will work best in your recipe.