You’re just about to whip up a batch of your famous secret-ingredient chocolate chip cookies when suddenly you realize you’re all out of brown sugar. Ugh! Put down the car keys–there’s no need to run to the store. Try these easy brown sugar substitute ideas instead!

glass dish filled with brown sugar and measuring cup, from Shelf Cooking

Raise your hand if you’ve ever started on a recipe that calls for brown sugar only to find that yours was a clumpy, hard mess? Yeah. Us, too. It’s the worst! But we’ve got good news. There are SO many clever ways to make a brown sugar substitute on the fly. Sweet!

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Find out which ingredients make for an easy brown sugar substitute. Plus, learn how you can bring your hardened brown sugar back to life. No more dreaded clumps! 


honey in a measuring cup on a white marble countertop, from Shelf Cooking

If you’re like us, you probably keep a jar of honey in the pantry. If so, you’re in luck! Substituting honey for brown sugar is easy peasy. Here’s what you need to know.

In general, we suggest replacing every cup of brown sugar with ⅔ cup of honey. You’ll want to keep consistency in mind, though. When replacing a dry sweetener with liquid, you may want to cut back on other liquid ingredients.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re using ⅔ cup of honey, reduce any other liquid ingredients by about ¼ of a cup so your recipe doesn’t turn out too soggy or sticky.

Pro Tip: If you spill honey on your counters, hot water is your friend! Moisten a rag with hot water and it will wipe right up, no soap needed!


Have you ever wondered why brown sugar is, well, brown? The secret ingredient is molasses! The ooey, gooey, yummy concoction gives brown sugar its hue.

This clever brown sugar substitute sounds so simple, and trust us, it is!

  • Just add one tablespoon of molasses to one cup of regular table sugar to create a cup of brown sugar.   
  • If you’d like your sugar a bit darker, you can add slightly more molasses to the mixture. Just stir, stir, stir, and in no time you’ll have a nice batch of homemade brown sugar.

No molasses or honey on hand? No worries! We’ve got a few more tips and tricks to share.


woman pouring white sugar into a mixing bowl, from Shelf Cooking

While not everyone keeps their kitchen stocked with molasses, most of us have some maple syrup handy. Waffles, anyone?!

This quick and easy brown sugar substitute works just like the molasses.

  • Just add one tablespoon per one cup of white sugar and mix thoroughly.
  • Again, if you’d like a darker end result, you can add in an extra tablespoon of syrup.

That’s it! Easy as pie, huh? Still, there are times you want to keep it simple and might be wondering…


The short answer is, yes. You totally can use white sugar!

One word of warning, though. While substituting white sugar for brown won’t alter the taste of your recipe, it will change the consistency.

If, for example, you like your cookies on the softer side, you may prefer to use brown sugar. Cookies baked with white sugar tend to turn out a bit crispier. 

If you do decide to use white sugar instead of brown, use an equal measurement. 


hard brown sugar in a bowl, from Shelf Cooking

It is such a bummer when you open your brown sugar only to find it's solidified into one giant brick. Next time that happens, don't throw it away! We have a few hacks for you.

If you need to use your brown sugar right away, you’ll love this quick trick!

  • Just pop your sugar into a microwave-safe bowl, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave for about 30-seconds.
  • Check and see if you need to microwave for any additional time.
  • If so, try 15-second increments at a time. 

Boom! In less than a minute, you’ve got useable brown sugar. No grocery run required!

Planning to use the brown sugar later? Maybe you’ve got a weekend baking marathon planned? You can toss a couple of slices of bread into an airtight container with the sugar. Let them sit for a couple of days, and you’ll find that the sugar has magically softened! This method is perfect if you need a creative way to use up bread that’s about to expire. A marshmallow will also do the trick!


To keep your brown sugar as fresh as it is delicious, store it in a cool, moist area in a rustproof container with a tight-fitting lid. You can also store your brown sugar in any type of re-sealable, moisture-proof plastic bag. For best results, make sure to use it within six months from the time you buy (and open) it.

Alright, well there you have it! Pick out your easiest brown sugar substitute and get to work. Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Brown sugar substitution in a container, from Shelf Cooking

Looking for other can’t-miss kitchen hacks? Craving something sweet after all this talk of sugar? We think you’ll like these posts: 

Happy baking!