Cookies & Cups > Baking Tips > How To Make Brown Sugar

How To Make Brown Sugar

Don’t rush to the store the next time you run out of brown sugar. Make this homemade substitute instead! Learn how to make brown sugar with 2 ingredients in 5 minutes!

For more easy baking tips and substitutions, check out my tutorials on homemade buttermilk and how to make cake flour, too!

Why You Should Make This Brown Sugar Substitute

Can you make brown sugar at home? Yes! And it’s SO easy to do. If you have 5 minutes, a bag of white sugar, and a jar of molasses in your pantry (leftover from your last batch of molasses cookies, obviously), you can make this easy substitute. Here’s why you should:

  • 2 ingredients. With just 2 common pantry ingredients, you can save yourself the emergency dash to the grocery store the next time you run out of brown sugar.
  • Scalable. This basic recipe can be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, or you can make a half-batch. Keep leftovers airtight in your cupboard until you need them.
  • Light or dark. Make a light or dark version depending on what a recipe calls for. You can use this substitute in all of your favorite baking ideas, savory dishes, and more.
Overhead close up view of brown sugar in a measuring cup, next to a bowl of brown sugar.

What Is Brown Sugar?

Once upon a time, brown sugar consisted of unrefined sugar crystals that still contained some traces of molasses. Nowadays, however, it’s made mostly by adding molasses to refined white sugar. Essentially, what we’re doing today!

Ingredients for brown sugar with text labels overlaying each ingredient.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Below are some quick ingredient notes. Scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of the post for a printable ingredients list.

  • White Sugar – We’ll turn regular white granulated sugar into homemade brown sugar with this easy DIY.
  • Molasses – You’ll want to use dark molasses or light molasses, and not blackstrap molasses, which has a bitter taste. Make sure to check the labels on the jars!

How to Make Brown Sugar 

To make your own light brown sugar, all you need to do is combine 2 cups of granulated white sugar with ¼ cup of molasses. Stir. Tada! If you’d like to make dark brown sugar instead, double the amount of molasses to ½ cup. See the recipe card for printable instructions.

Tips for Success

How easy was that? I’ll leave you with these quick final tips:

  • Use the right molasses. You’ll find 3 types of molasses in stores, but only 2 types are appropriate for baking: light or dark molasses. Make sure that you don’t use blackstrap molasses, which has a very bitter, not-great flavor.
  • Press out any clumps. If you notice that the molasses is forming clumps in the sugar, use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to press the clumps against the side of the bowl to break them up.
  • Store airtight. I go into more details on this below, but make sure to store this sugar airtight right away. Air causes sugar to harden, so the sooner you store it, the better.
Overhead view of a bowl of brown sugar with a metal scoop.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use this as a substitute in recipes?

Yes! If you’re out of brown sugar, you can use this homemade substitute in any baking or cooking recipe, from roasted carrots to pound cake to chocolate chip cookies.

Can I make brown sugar without molasses?

If you don’t have molasses, you can try substituting equal amounts of pure maple syrup or dark buckwheat honey in this recipe. It won’t be the real thing, however, so it won’t have the same depth of flavor.

Why did my brown sugar harden?

Exposure to air causes the molasses in brown sugar to dry out, resulting in hardened sugar. Proper airtight storage is key! I recommend storing your sugar in a Ziploc bag or airtight container, with as much air removed as possible. See the section below for details.

How do I soften brown sugar?

If your sugar has hardened, there are a couple of tricks that you can use to soften it. The first option is to place a bread slice in with the sugar. Weird, maybe, but your sugar should soften within a few hours! If you’re in a hurry, microwave the hardened sugar in a microwave-safe bowl covered with a damp paper towel for 20 seconds. This helps to soften it quickly. 

Close up of brown sugar in a measuring cup with a bowl of brown sugar in the background.

How to Store

The best way to store brown sugar is in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag. I like the Ziploc method as it’s easy to press out the excess air. 

If you’re using a Tupperware container or similar, I recommend pressing a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the sugar before closing the lid. Properly stored, sugar will keep for up to 6 months (or longer).

More Baking Substitutes and Tutorials

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Overhead view of a bowl of brown sugar with a metal scoop.

How To Make Brown Sugar

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  • Author: Shelly
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x
  • Category: Baking Tips
  • Method: No-Bake
  • Cuisine: American


Learn how to make brown sugar at home with just 2 ingredients: white sugar and molasses! This homemade brown sugar substitute is ready in minutes. Double the amount of molasses for dark brown sugar!


  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses


  1. In a large bowl stir together the sugar and molasses until combined and evenly light brown in color.
  2. Store airtight.


  • This recipe makes light brown sugar. To make dark brown sugar double the amount of molasses.

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