7 Amazing Brown Sugar Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Using brown sugar substitutes may be necessary for some recipes if you’re making baked goods and come up short!

Brown sugar is a variety of traditional white sugar that contains 4-10% molasses, which provides the brown color. The addition of molasses changes the flavor slightly, making it sweeter than normal sugar, possessing a burnt or caramelized flavor to your recipes. However, if you don’t use brown sugar very often, or if your brown sugar has become dried out and hard as a rock, you may need to use some of these brown sugar substitutes.

Substitutes for Brown Sugar

The best alternatives to brown sugar include molasses, muscovado sugar, coconut sugar, maple sugar, honey, and white sugar, among others.

White Sugar

In most cases, using brown sugar instead of white sugar only improves the flavor of a recipe, but substituting white sugar for brown sugar can diminish the spice and bite from desserts and baked goods. However, for recipes that call for small amounts of either sugar, they can be used interchangeably. One can also use granulated white sugar in place of brown sugar.

Muscovado Sugar

This is an unrefined or partially unrefined variety of sugar that has a higher molasses concentration than normal brown sugar. These crystals are dried in the sun, rather than in a centrifuge and tend to be stickier than normal brown sugar.

A jar of granulated brown sugar, a spoon and bowl of brown sugar powder, and brown sugar cubes on a cloth


As the key ingredient of brown sugar, it only makes sense that molasses can be used to substitute in a recipe. However, remember that brown sugar is only composed of about 4-6% molasses, so don’t add too much of molasses, or you will overpower your recipe. You could also make your own brown sugar if you have white sugar and a good supply of molasses.

Light Brown Sugar

Light brown sugar is a pale version of brown sugar that is considered more subtle in sweetness and is used in more delicate baked goods and sweets.

Maple Sugar

Maple sugar has a slightly different flavor than brown sugar, but it can add the sweetness that you may be lacking in your recipe; only use in moderation, as maple sugar is a very concentrated form of sugar.


Similar to maple syrup, honey will slightly change the sweetness profile of your final dish, but it can work as a viable substitute for brown sugar.

Coconut Sugar

Although not the most common ingredient in every kitchen, coconut sugar can be traded out in equal proportions for brown sugar.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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