Brown sugar has an elegantly sweet taste that’s reminiscent of crystallized molasses and toffee. It’s also been compared to caramel sometimes because of the syrupy taste molasses brings in. Brown sugar is prepared by combining sugarcane molasses with refined white sugar crystals, which gives it its dark color.
White sugar and brown sugar are indistinguishable in terms of nutrition and flavor. However, if you’re looking for healthier options or alternatives in a pinch, here is a curated list of 10 clever ingredients you can substitute for brown sugar.
#1. White Sugar
If you’re ever out of brown sugar and your recipe calls for it, white sugar is the next best thing. It’s a no-fuss even replacement that helps you achieve the desired level of sweetness in any given recipe. The only difference between white sugar and brown sugar is the molasses.
Molasses gives brown sugar its caramel-like flavor. If that element of brown sugar is crucial for your recipe, you can make your own light brown sugar at home by mixing white sugar with molasses. Mixing one cup of granulated white sugar with 1 tbsp. of molasses will give you a brown sugar replica. If you want to make the sugar darker, you can add another tablespoon of molasses.
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar = 1 Tbsp. White Sugar.
Honey is a luscious sweet substance made by honey bees. It’s usually processed with added sugars to increase the sweetness. But if you search for it, you might be able to find raw organic honey, too, that is sweet enough. Honey makes a good substitute for sugar as a sweetener in beverages like coffee or tea.
If you’re planning to use honey in baking, you need to account for the additional moisture it brings in. Also, honey has a viscous consistency that can mildly alter the final results based on the recipe.
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar = ¾ Tbsp. Honey.
#3. Maple Syrup
Next on this list is a common baking ingredient with a near-identical flavor to brown sugar. Maple syrup has a rich, clean, sugary taste with a complex medley of caramel, vanilla, and prune. Maple syrup is often used as a dressing over pancakes, waffles, and other popular baked treats. Using maple syrup to drizzle or glaze your baked goods gives them a sensational aroma detectable throughout the house.
However, like honey, maple syrup can alter the final taste of the recipe. It carries many intense flavors and has a similar consistency to processed honey. Maple syrup also packs a punch when it comes to sweetness. So, to avoid oversweetening your dish, it’s advisable to start with a little and add more as per taste.
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar = ½ Tbsp. Maple Syrup.
Muscovado is the closest raw, unrefined sugar to brown sugar. It contains a similar amount of molasses and the granules are also similar in size. Muscovado is a practical baking substitute for brown sugar because it contains the same amount of moisture, thus protecting the final result.
Muscovado comes in both light and dark varieties. For a brown sugar substitute, light is the best choice because dark muscovado brings an unsolicited bitterness to recipes.
1 Tbsp. White Sugar = 1 Tbsp. Muscovado.
If you’re looking for a slightly healthier substitute for brown sugar, jaggery is the best choice. Also known as “panela” in Latin America, jaggery is a concentrated product of can juice and often date or palm sap. The molasses and crystals are unseparated, so it has a soft texture.
Jaggery is both lower in fat and a little higher in protein, thus offering some health benefits. It doesn’t taste as sweet as brown sugar, so if you want to match the sweetness in your recipe, you will need to substitute more.
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar = 2 Tbsp. Ground Jaggery.
#6. Agave Nectar
Agave nectar or maguey syrup is a commercially produced sweetener. It has a unique flavor that’s sweeter than sugar but more neutral than honey. It’s also slightly thinner than honey, so remember to account for the change in moisture content.
Agave is commonly used as a vegan alternative to honey but also works as an alternative for most sweeteners including brown sugar. Agave nectar has a slimy texture and dissolves quickly, so it’s best used as an alternative for sweetening beverages and soft baked goods.
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar = ¾ Tbsp. Agave Nectar.
#7. Palm Sugar
Palm sugar is made from saps found in the flower buds of the coconut tree. It’s typically sold in compressed packages, so you may need to shave or chop it before you can use it. Palm sugar makes a good substitute for brown sugar as it has a similar mild caramel flavor and dissolves without getting sticky.
Palm sugar is pretty close to brown sugar in terms of sweetness, so it can be substituted evenly.
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar = 1 Tbsp. Palm Sugar.
#8. Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar, or coco sugar, is a palm sugar product that is derived from the sap of coconut palms. It’s considered to be a healthier alternative because it contains minerals, vitamins, and fibers that are absent in white sugar.
Coconut sugar can be substituted with brown sugar evenly as it has a similar sweetness. The only problem is that coconut sugar doesn’t absorb moisture well, leading to moderately different results depending on the recipe. To improve the moisture content, you can add some oil or butter to the batter.
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar = 1 Tbsp. Coconut Sugar.
#9. Demerara Sugar
Demerara is a type of raw, unrefined sugar that looks a lot like brown sugar. It’s darker than brown sugar and has much larger crystals that can make it difficult to mix with dough or batter.
Demerara sugar tastes quite close to brown sugar so it makes a good replacement, as long as you don’t mind the extra crunch it may add.
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar = 1 Tbsp. Demerara Sugar.
#10. Turbinado Sugar
Turbinado is a type of light brown, partially refined cane sugar. It is similar to brown sugar in taste and easier to work with than Demerara. Eateries tend to keep turbinado sugar as a condiment on their tables to sprinkle over oats or stir with coffee.
Turbinado has a subtle caramel flavor that can blend with both sweet and savory dishes. The only drawback is turbinado sugar can be up to three times as costly as white sugar.
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar = 1 Tbsp. Turbinado.