There’s something magical about whipping up a delicious treat from scratch, whether it’s cakes, cookies, or pies. Still, we don’t always have all the ingredients we need on hand. One ingredient that you may run out of frequently is brown sugar. This sugar’s sweet, toffee-like taste and rich brown color makes it stand out from the rest. However, it’s usually sold in a 2-pound bag, which is smaller than the average 4- to 5-pound bag of granulated sugar. This is why keeping brown sugar in your pantry can be tricky if you use it often. On the other hand, you don’t always need brown sugar to make baked treats. These 10 brown sugar substitute options work in a pinch to infuse desserts with a sweet and caramelly flavor. Plus, we’ve included tips for seamlessly incorporating these brown sugar substitutes into your favorite recipes.
Quick Honey Facts:
- Adds natural sweetness, flavor, and moisture
- Rich in antioxidants and vitamins
Honey is a natural sweetener that can easily replace brown sugar in your recipes. The rich, golden color and unique honey flavor make it an excellent substitute, providing a similar sweetness and moisture content to brown sugar. Moreover, honey is rich in antioxidants and vitamins, making it a healthier option for baked goods, whether you’re whipping up crispy chocolate chip cookies, glazes, or cakes. Because honey is sweeter than brown sugar, use ¾ cup honey for every one cup of brown sugar. You also may want to reduce any added liquid and lower oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Maple Syrup
Quick Maple Syrup Facts:
- Derived from the sap of maple trees
- Contains minerals and antioxidants
When using maple syrup as a brown sugar substitute, it’s important to choose pure maple syrup as opposed to imitation maple syrup. Pure maple syrup is derived from the sap of maple trees and contains minerals and antioxidants, whereas imitation maple syrup is made from corn syrup and artificial flavors. To replace brown sugar with maple syrup, use ¾ cup of maple syrup for every cup of brown sugar needed, and reduce the liquid content in your recipe by about three tablespoons. Keep oven temperature the same.
3. Coconut Sugar
Quick Coconut Sugar Facts:
- Made from the sap of the coconut palm
- Low glycemic index, making it a healthier option
- Caramel-like flavor, similar to brown sugar
Coconut sugar is another natural sweetener that can be used in place of brown sugar (and save you a trip to the grocery store). Made from the sap of the coconut palm, coconut sugar has a low glycemic index, which means it won’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike as rapidly as regular sugar. Additionally, coconut sugar has a caramel-like flavor that is quite similar to brown sugar, making it an ideal substitute for your baked goods. Replace brown sugar with an equal amount of coconut sugar in your recipes. Keep oven temperature the same.
4. Date Syrup
Quick Date Syrup Facts:
- Rich in antioxidants, fiber, and minerals
- Natural sweetness without added sugar
- Low glycemic index
Date syrup is a natural sweetener made from pureed dates, and it can be used as a brown sugar substitute in your baking recipes. Not only does date syrup provide a natural sweetness without added sugar, but it also boasts a low glycemic index and is rich in antioxidants, fiber, and minerals. To use date syrup as a brown sugar substitute, use ⅔ cup of date syrup for every cup of brown sugar needed, and reduce the liquid content in your recipe by about ¼ cup. Keep oven temperature the same as original recipe.
5. Agave Nectar
Quick Agave Nectar Facts:
- Low glycemic index
- Derived from the agave plant
Agave nectar, or agave syrup, is a natural sweetener derived from the agave plant. Its low glycemic index makes it a good choice for those watching their blood sugar levels. Since agave nectar is sweeter than brown sugar, use about ⅔ cup for every cup of brown sugar needed in your recipe. Don’t forget to reduce the liquid content in your recipe by about ¼ cup to account for the added liquid from the agave nectar. Keep oven temperature the same as original recipe.
6. Brown Rice Syrup
Quick Brown Rice Syrup Facts:
- Less sweet than brown sugar; use more of it in recipes
- Nutty flavor adds depth to baked goods
- Made from fermented cooked rice
Brown rice syrup is made from fermented cooked rice and has a nutty flavor that adds depth to your baked goods. It is less sweet than brown sugar, so you’ll need to use 1 ¼ cups of brown rice syrup for every one cup of sugar. As with other liquid sweeteners, be sure to reduce the liquid content in your recipe by about ¼ cup when using brown rice syrup as a brown sugar substitute. Keep oven temperature the same as the original recipe.
Quick Molasses Facts:
- Dark, rich flavor similar to brown sugar
- Can be used in combination with other sweeteners
- Contains iron, calcium, and potassium
Molasses is a byproduct of sugar production and has a dark, rich flavor similar to brown sugar. It’s even used to make brown sugar — light brown sugar has a smaller amount of molasses, while darker brown sugars have more! While it’s not as sweet as brown sugar, molasses can be combined with other sweeteners to achieve the desired level of sweetness in your baked goods. Additionally, molasses contains iron, calcium, and potassium, making it a more nutritious option. To replace one cup of brown sugar, use ⅓ cup molasses and ⅔ cup of another sweetener, such as granulated white sugar, honey, or maple syrup. As with other liquid sweeteners, be sure to reduce the liquid content in your recipe by about ¼ cup when using molasses plus honey or maple syrup as a brown sugar substitute. Keep oven temperature the same as the original recipe.
8. Fruit Syrups
Quick Fruit Syrup Facts:
- Natural sweetness from fruit
- Can be made from a variety of fruits
- Adds unique flavors to your baked goods
Fruit syrups, such as apple, pear, or apricot syrup, can also be used as a DIY brown sugar replacement. These syrups provide natural sweetness from fruit without the added sugar. They also add unique flavors to your baked goods, depending on the type of fruit syrup used. To replace one cup of brown sugar, use ¾ cup of fruit syrup and reduce the liquid content in your recipe by about 3 tablespoons. Keep oven temp. the same as original recipe.
Quick Stevia Facts:
- Calorie-free and great for those watching their weight
- Much sweeter than brown sugar, use less in recipes
- Comes in various forms, such as liquid or powder
Stevia is a calorie-free sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It is much sweeter than brown sugar, so you’ll need to use less of it in your recipes. Stevia comes in various forms, such as liquid or powder, and can be used in baked and unbaked recipes. To replace one cup of brown sugar with stevia, use one teaspoon of liquid stevia or ⅓ teaspoon of stevia powder, and increase the liquid content in your recipe by about ¼ cup to account for the missing bulk. Your baked goods will not brown as much with stevia (it doesn’t caramelize), so you may want to add a few tablespoons of molasses for color. Keep oven temperature the same as the original recipe.
Quick Applesauce Facts:
- Adds natural sweetness and moisture
- Great for low-calorie baking
Applesauce is a versatile ingredient that can replace brown sugar in your baking recipes. It adds natural sweetness and moisture, making it ideal for low-calorie baking. To use applesauce as a brown sugar substitute, simply replace the brown sugar in your recipe with an equal amount of applesauce. You may need to adjust the liquid content in your recipe, as applesauce will add more moisture than brown sugar. Keep oven temperature the same as the original recipe.
While the substitutes listed above are my top picks for the best substitutes for brown sugar, there are a few other options to consider:
- Muscovado sugar: This dark brown sugar substitute adds depth and complexity to baked goods such as cake and cookie recipes.
- Date sugar: Made from dried dates, this natural sweetener has a mild molasses flavor and can be used in a 1:1 ratio.
- Turbinado sugar: This unrefined cane sugar has a light brown color and mild caramel flavor. It’s not as sweet as regular brown sugar, so it may require an additional sweetener.
- Demerara sugar: This unrefined sugar has a brown color and molasses caramel flavor, making it a great option for adding depth of flavor to your treats, no matter what the recipe calls for.
- Palm sugar: Made from the sap of date or coconut palms, this sugar has a mild caramel flavor and can be used in a 1:1 ratio.
- Jaggery: This unrefined sugar has a deep brown color and earthy molasses flavor. It’s not as sweet as regular brown sugar, so it may require an additional sweetener.
- Maple sugar: Like its friend maple syrup, maple syrup can be used to add a sweet and signature flavor that can be substituted for granulated sugar on a 1:1 ratio.
- Homemade brown sugar: To make your own brown sugar, you can easily mix one cup of granulated white sugar with a tablespoon of molasses.
Fresh Out of the Oven
Now that you know about these 10 delicious brown sugar substitute hacks, you can sweeten up your baking game and try new flavors and textures in your recipes. From natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup to healthier options like stevia and applesauce, there’s a brown sugar alternative for everyone. So go ahead and experiment with these substitutes in your favorite baked goods, and enjoy the unique flavors and health benefits they offer!