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The 5 Best Brown Sugar Substitutes That You Could Use

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Brown sugar is an important ingredient to have in your kitchen. You can use it when cooking dishes and baking. It is even used for beverages. It’s a sweetener that you can use for almost everything. However, not everyone is aware of its content, how it’s made, and the substitutes that you can use if ever you don’t have one on hand.

Let this article enlighten you with the facts and tips that you need to know about brown sugar. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

How is Brown Sugar Formed?

This kind of sugar is very similar to regular white sugar, but with the presence of molasses. This is the reason why they have a brown color. There are two ways which brown sugar can be formed. The first one is when there’s residual molasses in the sugar crystals. This is called natural brown sugar. Meanwhile, manufacturers can also manually mix molasses with white sugar. This is usually the commercial brown sugar that you will find in grocery stores. 

It can also be surprising for some people to discover that there are other kinds of brown sugar.

But first things first, the shade of the sugar depends on how much molasses they contain.

The most common is the light brown sugar, which is commonly used when baking. This is the type that contains 3.5% of molasses. The second is dark brown sugar.

Why substitute Brown Sugar?

As useful as brown sugar is, there are still times wherein another kind of sugar should be used in a recipe or as a seasoning. The simplest reason to look for a brown sugar substitute is when you really need it but you don’t have enough supply in your kitchen.

There are sugar types that can compensate for the amount of brown sugar that you need to complete your preparations. Another reason is to change up the taste of the food by using other sweeteners. Some other forms of sugar can give a different taste to food, so you can experiment and research on which kind of sugar will benefit your dream dish.

Everyone who uses sugar can also opt for brown sugar substitutes. But, for specific people, there are situations wherein changing brown sugar to another sweetener is not only important, but also mandatory. For examples, those suffering from diabetes must use something else to put sweetness to their food. Some bakers and chefs also mix and match sugars to whatever dish they are making, since the molasses content of brown sugar can affect whatever they are making.

There are lots of reasons that can make you look for a brown sugar substitute, which is why we’ve compiled the best substitutes out there. Read the facts and nutritional value of each one to know which suits your taste or your lifestyle the best.

Brown Sugar Substitutes

1. White Sugar 

The simplest brown sugar substitute is to just use plain white sugar in place of it. It is made the same way as brown sugar, but the molasses has been removed in the process, so the taste is a bit simpler. White sugar is also not as moisture-absorbent as brown sugar, so if you’re used to your dishes being super moist, don’t expect the same results.

This type of sugar provides a lot of benefits. It’s a good source of energy since it gets converted into glucose, enters your bloodstream, and absorbed by your body’s cells. Those who love going to the gym or people who loves to get physically active, often carry sugar cubes with them in case they need some extra boost in their energy.

white sugar

White sugar is also good for low blood pressure patients and diabetic patients. The sugar level of a diabetic patient can fluctuate several times, especially when they undergo extreme diet. In this case, sugar will help revive the body.

Those who love to study or who have upcoming exams will be glad to know that white sugar also helps make the brain function better. If you lose excessive amounts of sugar in your body, you might black out. This doesn’t mean that you have to regularly eat sugary foods. Taking sugar in moderation is the best since too much of this can also be really bad for your health.

When using white sugar, make sure to use twice the amount of brown sugar that you need to use. The finished product may have a crispier texture when white sugar is used, so just be prepared for that possibility. This is because white sugar doesn’t have the moisture that brown sugar has. It’s basically the end product that you will get once you remove all of the moisture of the sugarcane.

You can use white sugar to add flavor in your savory dishes. You will find several recipes that use this ingredient to give the food a great twist. As usual, white sugar is used to sweeten baked goods as well as beverages. It’s one of the easiest sweetening ingredients that you can buy. It’s also the most common. Making syrups is also very easy using white sugar.

If you are planning on making candies to treat the kids at home, white sugar is also commonly used, either as a main ingredient or as a brown sugar substitute. Just be creative!

What makes this a great substitute is that you can find it everywhere. You can even ask one of your good neighbors for some if ever you ran out of any kind of sugar and you really really need one. It’s just something that almost everyone has.

It’s very ideal because you usually don’t need to go out of your way to find it. When you go inside the grocery store, it’s very easy to spot. You know immediately where to find it, and it’s not as expensive as the special kinds of sugar.

Aside from this, you can use it not only as a substitute but for almost all kinds of recipes that need sweetening. It’s an all-around ingredient.

2. Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado sugar is made from sugar cane, but is unrefined and contains a lot of molasses, giving it a darker color than your typical brown sugar. It originally came from Africa; to be specific; it was first milled on Mauritius island and was brought to different markets all over the world. It has a stronger flavor due to the amount of molasses in it. There are people who describe Muscovado sugar as being close to caramel in taste, and a smoky aftertaste.

What makes this kind of sugar different from other kinds is its natural or unrefined form. Each of its crystal still holds the healthy molasses that has been stripped away from white sugar.

Muscovado sugar contains 15 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates in every teaspoon. While it can contain more nutrients than other types of sugar, it is absorbed by your body in the similar way. It contains magnesium, potassium, and iron. However, just like every other sugar, it’s going to be unhealthy if you consume too much amount of this.

This type of sugar is usually more expensive since it is exotic and is believed to be a healthier sweetener than other kinds of sugar. Muscovado do not go through extensive processing because it might remove the minerals that set it apart from regular sugar.

As a brown sugar substitute, this can work when you want your finished products to have a strong flavor as well. In addition, it is also known to be moister than other sugars or sweeteners, so you don’t have to worry about it clumping together.

There are various recipes where you can use Muscovado sugar. Some examples of these are Muscovado carrot cake, Juniper toffees, pear and chocolate puddings, and mojito cake. You can also use Muscovado in savory recipes like in your barbeque sauce. It’s going to work as great as brown sugar.

Overall, there is not much difference between Muscovado sugar and brown sugar since they both contain molasses. The first one is more expensive which might be a downside but if you’re conscious about the nutrient and mineral content of the sugar you’re using, then Muscovado is a great brown sugar substitute for your recipes.

However, you have to be careful since this kind of sugar has a stronger flavor and moister, so don’t get carried away when using it. Make sure to check the taste of what you’re cooking to avoid putting too much and ruining your food in the end. Find the perfect balance by taking it slow evaluating your mixture every once in a while.

3. Coconut Sugar

This sugar is slightly more different than the other substitutes in this list because it’s not made out of sugar cane. Instead, it’s made out of the palm of a coconut. The sugar is formed when the palm is boiled. The calorie count that it contains is the same as white sugar’s, but it has a lower fructose content. Meanwhile, the color is the same as brown sugar’s which is why it’s a great substitute. You won’t have to worry about having a lighter shade since they have similar colors.

If you’re wondering what kind of minerals you’ll get from coconut sugar, then here are some of them:

  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Iron

Aside from these mineral content, it’s also believed that coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than other types of sugar.

If you don’t know yet what glycemic index is, it’s used to measure how certain foods will raise the sugar level of your blood. And coconut sugar scored lower than table sugar. It means it only gives a slightly lower increase in blood sugar. This might be one of the reasons why some people prefer coconut sugar.

Additionally, coconut sugar contains a fiber that is known as inulin, which slows down glucose absorption. Diabetic patients can use this as a substitute for brown sugar in their diet plan. However, it should be consumed like regular white sugar because it still contains calories. Patients should also be careful when buying one because there are coconut sugar products being sold in the market that is mixed with table sugar. Always read the label of the product to avoid getting fooled and buying the wrong one.

There is no doubt that coconut sugar is a great alternative for brown sugar especially for people who want a more nutritious kind of sugar in their recipe. Since this kind has almost the same qualities that brown sugar has, it will also give you the output or texture that you are expecting to have.

However, consumers should still take note of the fact that sugar is sugar. It still contains calories and it shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts. Just because it seems more nutritious than table sugar, doesn’t mean you are allowed to eat too much of it. Be conscious with your sugar intake especially if you have a health condition.

4. Maple Sugar

Another substitute that you can try is Maple sugar. This is created through maple syrup. Aside from its caramel sweetness, you will also taste the maple flavor of this substitute. It is usually utilized when making oatmeal or porridge. But people also use it as a brown sugar substitute for pies and cookies.

What makes maple sugar very different from brown sugar is the flavor. Maple sugar will have a hint of cinnamon, vanilla, and sometimes even hazelnut. And this only makes this substitute even more special.

If you want to use it for your recipe, you should take note that it has the same color as light brown sugar, so if you’re going to use it as an alternative for dark brown sugar, then know that it might give your food a lighter color. Brown sugar is moister too, so if you want this alternative to have the same kind of effect to the recipe, consider adding 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup.

Interestingly, you can also use brown sugar to substitute maple sugar, but you might have to use more amounts to achieve the level of sweetness that maple sugar will give. But when it comes to the mineral content, maple sugar wins the battle. Maple sugar contains calcium, magnesium, and antioxidants.

5. Honey

One of the most obvious substitutes for brown sugar or even any kind of sweetener is honey. It’s a natural sweetener that you can find anywhere. In fact, a lot of people prefer honey than sugar. The reason for this are the health benefits that this bee product gives.


Honey contains minerals, enzymes, B vitamins, vitamin C, antioxidants, and amino acids to start with. What’s, even more, inviting about honey is that it’s known for having anti-inflammatory properties. It also has antimicrobial properties that can help kill germs.

By now, you might be very excited to try this brown sugar substitute. However, before you start buying jars of honey, you must first know the rules when using it as an alternative for sugar. Here are some of them:

  • Since honey is in liquid form, reduce the measurement of your liquid ingredients in the recipe as well. The general rule is subtracting ¼ cup in other liquid ingredients for every 1 cups of honey that you want to use.
  • Honey tastes sweeter than sugar. Use only ½ to 2/3 cup of honey for every 1 cup of sugar in your recipe.
  • Lower your oven’s temperature because baked goods with honey content will burn faster than those that contain sugar.

How to Make Brown Sugar on your own?

Do you want to try your DIY skills in the kitchen by making brown sugar yourself?

Making your DIY brown sugar is very easy. If you don’t want to try any of the brown sugar substitutes above, then you can just make your own brown sugar.

The first thing to do is to mix molasses with granulated sugar. You can use your mixer if you want to, to make sure that everything is mixed carefully. But if you do not have one in your kitchen, you can just use a fork.

The ratio is 1 tablespoon of molasses per 1 cup of granulated sugar. The mixing process is not for someone who is very impatient because it will take time before the ingredients blend together. Just keep mixing until it looks like the brown sugar that you see in grocery store shelves.

The great thing about making your own sugar is that you know exactly just how much you’ll need for the recipe. This means you won’t have to worry about keeping excess amounts of brown sugar. Just make sure that you’re making the right amount that is only enough for your recipe. It can be a hassle to keep this kind sugar soft in storage.

Let’s Sum It Up!

Brown sugar is a sweetener that is widely used today. You can use it in your savory dishes, sauces, and when baking as well. It’s known for having a stronger flavor than table sugar, and a moister texture. However, brown sugar is not for everyone.

There are several reasons why you might want to know the different brown sugar substitutes, and one of them is when you don’t have one on hand. It’s a common ingredient but what if you run out of supply? You have to be resourceful and use these substitutes to avoid the hassle of going out just to get one.

Another reason is for health benefits. People who are conscious about their health might want to try other kinds of sweeteners for their food. Brown sugar might be known as natural brown sugar, but there are better sweetening ingredients out there like honey.

Honey contains anti-inflammatory properties which is good for those who have allergies. Coconut sugar is also a good option because it contains minerals that regular sugar doesn’t have. Consuming sugar moderately is okay for your body. It actually gives you the energy that you need and helps your brain function well.

However, it’s important to take note that all of these substitutes are still, basically sugar. They ate high in calories and will be bad for your health if you eat too much. It can cause obesity and diabetes. When it comes to flavor, Muscovado sugar and Maple sugar are great substitutes. They will give your recipe extra flavors which can be exciting as well. There are lots of recipes that you can experiment with. It’s going to be a fun learning experience for you and your taste buds.

Meanwhile, if you just want to have the easiest substitute, or if you don’t have the time explore and experiment with your ingredients, you can just reach for your regular table sugar and use it to make your food sweeter. If you have molasses available in your kitchen, you can easily make your own brown sugar by mixing them with granulated sugar and making sure that they blend perfectly together. It should come out exactly like brown sugar.

Overall, each substitute has unique properties and characteristics that you must keep in mind. You might need to research more about them, but finding the right one depends on your priorities and on the person who will eat your food. If you’re cooking for someone who is very specific about the nutrient content of his or her food, then it’s really great to know the facts that we’ve uncovered about each brown sugar substitute.

As for the recipes that you can do with them, it doesn’t really matter as long as you are willing to experiment in the kitchen. And of course, know the rules. For example, using honey instead of brown sugar will require you to reduce the amount of liquid ingredients. These basic rules are important so always keep them in mind.

Another important thing to remember is to not get overwhelmed with the nutrient and mineral content of sugar substitutes. In the end, they are still sugar, and you have to be mindful when eating sugary food.

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Gabrielle Anderson

On a day to day basis, Gabrielle manages her own fitness company but in her spare time contributes t...

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