5 Smart Substitutes for Brown Sugar

You'll never go chocolate chip cookie-less again. 

The next time you’re jonesing for some late-night chocolate chip cookies (or apple crumble, coffee cake, berry cobbler...) only to reach into your cupboard and discover you’re completely out of brown sugar, fear not. There are alternative solutions that don’t involve running out to the grocery store in your PJs for some more. Not that there’s any shame in that, of course.

Consider a few of these last-minute back-up plans.

01 of 05

More White Sugar

White sugar in bowl
Sam Stowell/Getty Images

Even if you’re out of brown sugar, chances are you’ve got plenty of granulated white sugar on hand—so use it to your advantage. Use the same amount of white sugar as the recipe calls for brown sugar, and you should be just fine. If you’re making cookies, they may turn out a bit crispier than if you’d used brown sugar, but it won’t be a deal breaker.

02 of 05

Muscovado Sugar

Gentl and Hyers/Getty Images

Muscovado sugar is basically unrefined sugar cane that still has molasses in it (and plenty of it), which makes it a smart substitute for brown sugar if you’re looking for something that packs a real punch flavor-wise.

It comes from the island of Mauritius, just off the coast of Africa, and is much darker than your usual brown sugar variety. As a result, it’s much richer in flavor. You'll likely notice its delicious caramel flavor and slightly smoky aftertaste, which is why it can be found in everything from ginger cookies to barbecue sauce.

One more perk? It’s known for being moister than other sugars, so it won’t clump together when used in baking recipes.

03 of 05

Coconut Sugar

Michelle Arnold / EyeEm/Getty Images

Coconut sugar comes from the palm of a coconut that’s been boiled and dehydrated. And while it has around the same general calorie count as white sugar, it’s much lower in fructose, which is why it’s often pegged as a “healthier” option. (Take this with a grain of—ahem, salt—since the same amount of calories is the same amount of calories.)

Its caramel color looks fairly similar to brown sugar, but its similar taste to white sugar is what really makes it an ideal substitute when you’re looking for a replacement.

04 of 05

White Granulated Sugar + Molasses


In a pinch, you can go the DIY route and make your own brown sugar by "blitzing" some granulated white sugar with molasses. That’s all brown sugar really is, anyway.

And the best part is, it’s super easy.

Start with 1 cup of white sugar and a tablespoon of molasses for light brown sugar. Use 2 tablespoons of molasses for dark brown sugar. Combine the two by mixing them with a fork or a mixer until evenly combined. Voila: You have yourself some fluffy and delicious brown sugar in seconds.

05 of 05

Maple Sugar

EasyBuy4u/Getty Images

Maple sugar comes straight from maple syrup as opposed to sugar cane, and as a result, it adds a sweet and unmistakably delicious maple taste to almost any recipe. It’s commonly used to top off dishes like oatmeal or porridge but can easily stand in as a substitute for brown sugar in baking and works well in things like pies and cookies.

You can also look into trying other unrefined sugar options like palm sugar, which comes from sugar palm trees, or piloncilo, which comes from Mexican sugar cane and is typically sold in the form of a cone. While trickier to find in a grocery store, their interesting flavor profiles make them well worth hunting down and trying.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles