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You break out your mixing bowls, get ready to make chocolate chip cookies, and realize you need a brown sugar substitute since you ran out. Now what? 

Luckily, it’s simple to learn how to make brown sugar, as is swapping brown sugar for other sugars you may have on hand. We’re sharing our insight on how to make brown sugar, what to substitute, and how it may change your final baked goods, below.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have Brown Sugar?

There are more options than we can count these days, but while they all add sweetness to your recipe, there are a lot of things to consider when picking, or making, a brown sugar substitute. 

Let’s get the first question you might have out of the way: Can you substitute brown sugar for white sugar? While white sugar is not identical to brown sugar, you can sometimes substitute brown sugar for white sugar in a recipe. While your recipe will still be sweet, the consistency and taste may change, as brown sugar has more moisture than white sugar (hence the clumping!), and a richer flavor. 

A direct white sugar for brown sugar substitute may work better in some recipes than others, though, depending on the other ingredients in the recipe.

cinnamon on apples
Source: Unsplash
What can you substitute for brown sugar? Plenty!

What Can I Substitute for Brown Sugar?

1. White Sugar Mixed With Molasses

Mixing white sugar with molasses will likely be your most successful swap, as that’s how brown sugar is made in the first place! Mix one cup of white sugar with one or two tablespoons of molasses for light or dark brown sugar, respectively. 

2. White Sugar Mixed With Another Liquid Sweetener

If you don’t have molasses, you can make a brown sugar substitute by mixing white sugar with honey, maple syrup, agave, or date syrup.

3. Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is a naturally brown, sticky sugar with a caramel-like taste, so it more closely resembles brown sugar than white sugar does. You can use coconut sugar as a brown sugar substitute seamlessly using a 1:1 ratio, and while it’s not identical, you’ll likely end up with similar results to the original recipe.

4. Date Sugar

Similar to coconut sugar, date sugar is also a stickier, more moist alternative to white sugar that more closely resembles brown sugar.

5. Sugar in the Raw

While not all sugar that appears brown is the same as brown sugar, you can use sugar in the raw, such as turbinado sugar, in your recipe. Keep in mind that it will behave similarly to white sugar, as it’s dry, and try to avoid using raw sugar with large crystals as it may affect your recipe.

What Happens to the Recipe When You Substitute Brown Sugar?

White sugar has a sand-like consistency—it’s dry—while brown sugar is soft and moist, given the addition of molasses. To that end, if you swap brown sugar for white sugar in your recipe, it will likely be less chewy and more crispy. 

Other alternatives may behave differently, and it also depends on the recipe you’re making and how sensitive it is to changes in ingredients. A wetter or stickier alternative, like maple syrup or honey, will add more moisture to a recipe, while a drier option, like white sugar or sugar in the raw, will have a drier outcome than using brown sugar as the recipe called for.

How to Make Brown Sugar

Making your own brown sugar is super simple—all you need is white sugar and molasses. For each cup of white sugar, add one tablespoon of molasses for light brown sugar, or two tablespoons for dark brown sugar. And, voilà! You’ll have real brown sugar in no time. 

To make it even easier, add the white sugar and the molasses separately directly to your recipe, instead of pre-mixing it. 

If you don’t have molasses, feel free to use maple syrup, date syrup, or honey—while it won’t be a replica of brown sugar, it will add moistness to your drier white sugar.

If you don’t have brown sugar on hand, try making your own, or using another sugar as a substitute. The end result may be slightly different from the original recipe, but it will likely still be delicious!

Now, Whip Up Some Cookies!

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