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Hi Bold Bakers!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE Brown sugar is an essential ingredient and a Bold Baking Basic. It adds an irresistible caramelly, toffee-like flavor, a richer color, and a lovely moistness and softness to baked goods. It’s also perfect for adding a warm sugar note to dressings, sauces, and marinades, and it’s a delicious sweetener for coffee and tea.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe was updated and improved on 6/13/2023, to include additional step-by-step photography, Pro Chef Tips, and answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Homemade brown sugar elevates every recipe it’s used in and because you can make it as light or dark as you like, you can give your cooking a personal touch. It’s economical, you can make the amount you need, and it’s fresh.
I know brown sugar is not available in all countries, but I don’t want you to leave it out of your baking, and with this homemade brown sugar recipe, you’ll never have to be without it again. It’s just two ingredients and two steps–what could be simpler?
Table of Contents
- What is Brown Sugar?
- Tools You Need
- How to Make Brown Sugar
- How to Store Brown Sugar
- What Can I Use Instead of White Sugar in this Recipe?
- What Can I Substitute for Molasses?
- Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- Recipes That Use Brown Sugar
What is Brown Sugar?
Brown sugar is simply white granulated sugar combined with molasses. Adding molasses gives white sugar a richer, deeper flavor. Because of the added molasses, brown sugar is moister than white sugar.
Sugar is made from the juice of sugar cane or sugar beets. The juice is evaporated until crystals form, and then the crystals are spun in a centrifuge to separate them from their liquid. That liquid is molasses. Brown sugar is made in a reverse process–molasses is added back to white sugar.
Tools You Need
- Granulated Sugar aka regular sugar or white sugar
You can substitute caster sugar, which has more finely ground crystals than granulated sugar. Substitute it in a 1:1 ratio.
I recommend using mild or dark molasses. Blackstrap molasses has a slightly more robust flavor and may taste a bit too strong.
You can substitute black treacle at a 1:1 ratio.
How To Make Brown Sugar
Combine molasses and sugar in a mixing bowl.
Rub in the molasses with your fingertips until the molasses is blended in.
How Do I Store Brown Sugar?
The air evaporates the moisture in brown sugar, leaving you with a rock-hard clump of unusable sugar.
The best way to store brown sugar is to store it in an airtight container with a slice of bread. Check out my article How to Store Brown Sugar for more details.
What Can I Use Instead of White Sugar in this Recipe?
For best results, use granulated sugar (aka regular sugar or white sugar) OR caster sugar.
- Turbinado, demerara, and raw sugar: These sugars still retain some of the molasses from the refining process. Their larger grains make them better for a sweet and crunchy topping and they’re not recommended for general baking purposes because they don’t easily dissolve in a dough or batter.
- Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar is drier than white granulated sugar. If you substitute coconut sugar for granulated sugar, it’s recommended that you add an additional tablespoon of liquid or fat (oil or melted butter) to your recipe.
What Can I Substitute for Molasses?
For best results, use mild or dark molasses or black treacle.
- Fancy Molasses, also known as Gold Star, can be substituted, but the results will be different because Fancy Molasses has a lighter and sweeter taste.
- Other molasses varieties like carob molasses, which has a rich, chocolate-like flavor, and grape or date molasses, which has more of a fruity flavor, can also be used.
- Not recommended are light treacle (golden syrup), honey, and maple syrup, because they lack the deep flavor of molasses.
Do You Recommend any Brown Sugar Substitutes?
- Muscovado sugar: This brown sugar is less refined, so it retains much of its molasses component. Muscovado has more complex flavors, with more pronounced caramel and toffee notes. It can be substituted for brown sugar, but since it’s moister you might have to sift it to remove clumps.
- Jaggery (made from palm sap or sugar cane juice), rapadura, or panela (boiled crushed cane sugar): You can substitute the granular form of any of these for brown sugar, and they can be substituted in equal amounts.
What’s the Difference Between Light and Dark Brown Sugar?
Dark brown sugar has a bolder molasses taste than light brown sugar. In commercial varieties, the concentration of molasses to sugar varies from 3.5% for light and 10% for dark brown sugar.
Can I Make Light Brown Sugar into Dark Brown Sugar?
Yes. Simply add a tablespoon of molasses to light brown sugar to make it into dark brown sugar.
Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- White sugar should not be used when brown sugar is specified in a recipe. Not only does it adversely affect the taste, but brown sugar lowers the acid/alkaline balance in a recipe, so it’s often used with baking soda for leavening.
- To measure brown sugar, firmly press it into the cup with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Level with the rim of the cup. The brown sugar should hold the shape of the cup when it is turned out.
- To fix crumbly brown sugar, you can grind it in a food processor to make it finer and remove lumps, or in a recipe that calls for melted butter and brown sugar, melt the brown sugar first then let it cool down to room temperature and continue as directed in the recipe.
- Soften brown sugar using the microwave. Place the hardened sugar in a microwave-safe bowl, and then place a damp paper towel on op. Microwave on medium for 30 seconds, or until it’s soft.
How to Use Your Brown Sugar
This brown sugar recipe is ESSENTIAL in recipes like my Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, Best-Ever Brownie Recipe, Sticky Toffee Pudding in a Mug, and Gingerbread. All of these recipes have something in common, they have a caramel flavor with a gooey, treacly texture. This sugar does that, that’s why I don’t want you to leave it out.
Get more Baking Basics recipes:
- How to Make Caramel
- The Best Sugar Substitutes
- How to Make Rolled Fondant
- How to Make Powdered Sugar
- How to Make Condensed Milk
And don’t forget to buy my Bigger Bolder Baking Everyday!
IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe was updated and improved ON 6/13/2023, to include additional step-by-step photography, Pro Chef Tips, and answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Full (and printable) recipe below!
Watch The Recipe Video!
How to Make Brown Sugar
Light Brown Sugar
- 1 cup (8 oz/225 g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoon molasses (treacle)
Dark Brown Sugar
- 1 cup (8 oz/225 g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses (treacle)
- Combine sugar and molasses in a mixing bowl. Using your fingertips rub in the molasses until the molasses is completely incorporated and the sugar turns brown.
- Store in an air-tight container for months. Because of the moisture, brown sugar has a tendency to clump together, to prevent this add a slice of white bread in the container and that will keep the sugar dry and fine.