Simple Brown Sugar Substitutes

Bakers love brown sugar for its rich, complex flavor and the moistness it brings to baked goods.

By Cookist

From making cookies ultra-chewy and soft to adding more flavor and color to recipes, brown sugar is a must-have for every pantry. Molasses is what gives brown sugar its color and deep flavor – light brown sugar contains molasses while dark brown has more. If you're out of brown sugar, there are many different options you can use as a substitute in your baking or sauces, glazes, and marinades. Some of these options are a little healthier than brown sugar, and there is even a simple way to make keto-friendly brown sugar at home. If you've run out of brown sugar, here's what to replace it with.

White Sugar


There's no doubt that plain old white sugar is the easiest substitute for brown sugar. You can swap brown sugar for an equal amount of white sugar. However, using white sugar will make your baked goods a bit crispier because it isn't as moist as brown sugar.

Turbinado Sugar

You may recognize turbinado sugar from your local coffee house – it's a type of raw sugar with a light brown color. The sugar crystals are relatively large, so turbinado might not be the best option for baking, but you can add it to sauces, marinades, or hot drinks. Use a 1:1 ratio.

How to Make Brown Sugar


Did you know you can make brown sugar at home? All you need to do is mix regular white granulated sugar with molasses. It's that easy! To make light brown sugar, add 1 tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of white sugar. For dark brown sugar, use 2 tablespoons of molasses per cup.

DIY Keto Brown Sugar

Similar to mixing white sugar with molasses, you can mix your favorite keto-friendly sweetener, such as erythritol, with molasses to make a low-carb brown sugar substitute. Mix ¼ cup erythritol with ½ teaspoon of blackstrap molasses, whisk it well to combine and use it instead of brown sugar in your favorite keto dessert recipes.

Honey, Agave Nectar, Maple Syrup


While most of the brown sugar alternatives on this list are solids, you can swap your sweetener out for maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar. These liquid options work best with sauces, glazes, and marinades. If you're adding any of these three sweeteners to a recipe, you'll need to reduce the amount you add. Use ¾ cup of your preferred liquid sweetener for every cup of brown sugar. If there are other liquids in the recipe, omit a few tablespoons.

Muscovado Sugar

For baking recipes, muscovado is a great brown sugar substitute. It also contains molasses, but at a much higher level compared to brown sugar. Muscovado will lend your baking a richer, more complex flavor and keep your treats wonderfully moist. Light muscovado will give you the most similar flavor to brown sugar.

Palm Sugar


Palm sugar is a natural sweetener that comes from palm trees. It's a different product from date sugar, and it contains less glucose compared to white sugar or honey. Palm sugar is usually sold in blocks so you'll need to chop it or grate it before using it.

Coconut Sugar

With a similar level of sweetness to brown sugar, coconut sugar is a readily available sugar you can use as an alternative to brown sugar. Coconut sugar also has more trace nutrients than regular sugar. Substitute equal parts coconut sugar for brown sugar in your recipes.

Date Sugar


If you're looking for an alternative to refined sugars, pick up some date sugar to use as a brown sugar substitute. It's made from dehydrated dates and can be used as a straight swap for either brown or white sugar. Date sugar is a healthier alternative to either as it contains trace nutrients as well as fiber and various antioxidants.

Maple Sugar

Maple sugar is another fantastic unrefined sugar you can use as a replacement for brown sugar. One thing to note is that it has a noticeable maple flavor. That maple flavor can be a great addition to certain cookies and muffins, as well as an addition to your morning cup of coffee or bowl of oatmeal.

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