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Picture this: you’ve found the perfect cookie recipe. You gather all your ingredients and supplies, crank up your favorite baking music, and get started. You’re less than an hour away from digging into some delicious homemade cookies. What could possibly go wrong? 

Well, you’re about to open the container of brown sugar and find out. You know, because you’ve probably been there: what used to be brown sugar is now hard as a rock. Ugh. 

This happens when the molasses in brown sugar is exposed to air and evaporates. But don’t let that slow you down! There are ways around this baking predicament. If you’ve ever wondered how to soften brown sugar so your future cookie attempts aren’t foiled, keep reading.

brown sugar
Source: Pixabay
Don’t let that delicious brown sugar go to waste!

How to Soften Brown Sugar

There are multiple strategies for softening brown sugar:

Without a Microwave

If you’re not in a rush, you can resuscitate hardened brown sugar over a period of two to three days without using a microwave. 

First, move the brown sugar into an airtight container. Toss in something that can add moisture—a slice of bread or a couple of damp tea bags have been proven to do the trick! You should begin to see and feel a change in the sugar’s texture after two days, but you can always wait an extra day if you need it. 

With a Microwave

Need to know how to soften brown sugar quickly? Go with the microwave technique. It only takes a few minutes! 

Place the hardened brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl, then cover it with a moist paper towel. Microwave the brown sugar for 20 seconds at a time on a high heat setting, using a fork to break up any large clumps between increments. 

Stop the process as soon as the brown sugar appears to be getting soft enough to work with—if you wait too long, the heat will begin to melt and caramelize the sugar crystals. 

Use Brown Sugar in Chocolate Chip Cookies! 

How to Make Chocolate Chip Cookies: Two Recipes With Variations

How to Store Brown Sugar So It Doesn’t Get Hard 

Now you know how to soften brown sugar in the microwave and out of the microwave, which is great! But you can actually prevent it from getting hard in the first place. Save yourself the trouble of figuring out how to soften hardened brown sugar by storing it in an airtight container as soon as you bring it home. If you’re using a bag for storage, be sure to squeeze out every bit of air before you seal it. 

To be extra sure that your brown sugar will stay moist, you can keep a slice of bread in the bottom of the container.  

How to Make Brown Sugar and Other FAQ

Here’s How to Make Brown Sugar 

Since you can buy brown sugar easily enough at the store, you’ve probably never considered making it yourself—but you can! All you need for DIY brown sugar is white sugar and molasses or treacle. 

To make light brown sugar, mix one cup of white sugar with one teaspoon of molasses or treacle. To make dark brown sugar, mix one cup of white sugar with two teaspoons of molasses or treacle. It’s really that simple! Just be sure to store the finished product properly so it lasts as long as possible. 

How Long Does Brown Sugar Last? 

Brown sugar doesn’t technically go bad and has an indefinite shelf life, but that doesn’t mean it will hold its quality forever. It’s best to use brown sugar within about two years of purchase so that it retains all that delicious flavor. 

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad? 

Nope! Just try to use it within two years of purchase to maximize yumminess. 

Brown Sugar Savers

Bread comes up a lot in discussions of how to soften hard brown sugar, and it really can be a brown sugar saver! As explained above, you can use it to resuscitate brown sugar that’s already hardened or to prevent brown sugar from clumping up too much in the first place. 

There are also products on the market—like this one!—that are specifically designed for maintaining the moisture in brown sugar. Your favorite airtight storage containers will also go a long way when it comes to saving the brown sugar in your pantry. 

Enjoy Brown Sugar in Brownies Too! 

Bake the Perfect Ooey, Gooey Triple Chocolate Chip Brownie