The 12 Best Brown Sugar Substitute Options 

 Last Update April 19, 2024

By Jenny Zhang

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When baking and cooking, ingredients often play a pivotal role in determining a dish's flavor, texture, and overall success. One such ingredient that frequently graces our recipes is brown sugar. Its unique caramel undertones and capacity to impart moisture and richness to baked goods have established it as a fundamental ingredient in kitchens worldwide. However, there are moments when you find yourself amid a culinary venture, only to discover that your pantry lacks this essential ingredient.

Fear not. In this guide, we will share the best brown sugar substitutes, uncovering their unique properties and how they can elevate your culinary creations. Whether it's for health-conscious choices or simply a matter of necessity, these substitutes offer a world of possibilities for your cooking endeavors.

The 12 Best Brown Sugar Substitutes

Light Brown Sugar

Light brown sugar is an excellent substitute for dark brown sugar, offering a milder, more subtle molasses flavor. This makes it particularly suitable for recipes where a less intense sweetness and moisture are desired without sacrificing the rich caramel notes characteristic of brown sugars.

Light brown sugar blends effortlessly into various dishes, from baked goods like cookies and cakes, which promote a tender texture, to savory sauces and glazes, which add just the right sweetness touch. The key difference between light and dark brown sugar lies in its lower molasses content, which also means it contains slightly fewer minerals. When substituting light brown sugar for dark brown sugar, it can be used in a direct 1:1 ratio. However, for those who prefer dark brown sugar's deeper, more pronounced flavors, slightly increasing the quantity of light brown sugar may help achieve a closer match in taste and color.

White Sugar And Molasses

White Sugar And Molasses

You can make your own brown sugar by combining white sugar and molasses. This combination is versatile and customizable for a dark or light brown sugar substitute, offering control over your recipes' depth of flavor and color. To create your own brown sugar substitute, combine one cup of granulated white sugar with one to two tablespoons of molasses for a DIY dark brown sugar substitute. Modify the quantity of molasses to attain the preferred degree of darkness.

This homemade brown sugar substitute offers the advantage of tailoring the sweetness and intensity of molasses to suit your specific culinary needs. It performs admirably in recipes such as cookies, cakes, and sauces, where the distinctive molasses flavor inherent in brown sugar is sought after. By using white sugar and molasses, you can enjoy the flexibility of adjusting your brown sugar substitute to achieve the exact taste and color profile you desire in your dishes. It's a convenient solution when you run out of brown sugar or wish to customize your recipes perfectly.

Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup emerges as a superb alternative to brown sugar, offering a distinct and natural sweetness with a rich, earthy undertone. When replacing brown sugar with maple syrup, the standard guideline is to utilize one cup of maple syrup for each cup of brown sugar specified in the recipe. This one-to-one replacement maintains the desired sweetness while introducing the unique flavor of maple.

Maple syrup is an excellent choice to replace brown sugar when infusing your dishes with a hint of its characteristic taste. It works exceptionally well in recipes where the deep, caramelized notes of brown sugar complement the overall flavor profile. Furthermore, maple syrup's natural sweetness pairs harmoniously with various ingredients, making it a versatile option in sweet and savory dishes.

Beyond its culinary appeal, this liquid sweetener also boasts potential health benefits, including antioxidants and minerals. Whether you're aiming to create a delightful stack of pancakes or add complexity to a savory sauce, maple syrup's natural charm and versatility make it a standout substitute for brown sugar.

Maple Sugar

Maple sugar, a delightful product of maple syrup crystallization, offers a unique and flavorful substitute for brown sugar. When using maple sugar as a substitute for brown sugar, replace it in a one-to-one ratio. This means you can confidently use one cup of maple sugar for each cup of brown sugar required in your recipe.

What sets maple sugar apart is its distinct and rich maple flavor, which infuses your dishes with a delightful sweetness and a hint of caramel. It's an ideal choice for recipes where the deep, molasses notes of brown sugar significantly enhance the overall taste. Maple sugar provides a wonderful balance between sweetness and a natural, earthy essence, making it a standout substitute.

Moreover, maple sugar boasts a more natural and unprocessed profile than brown sugar, aligning with those seeking a more authentic and less refined sweetener. Whether you're a fan of maple's unique taste or simply looking to experiment with different flavors, maple sugar offers a delightful and flavorful option as a brown sugar substitute in your culinary creations.



Honey is a natural and wholesome substitute for brown sugar, offering a unique sweetness with floral undertones that can elevate your recipes. When substituting honey for brown sugar, use it in a one-to-one ratio. This means that for every cup of brown sugar called for in your recipe, you can confidently replace it with one cup of honey.

The appeal of honey as a brown sugar substitute lies not only in its natural origin but also in its distinct flavor profile. Honey can impart a subtle floral and earthy note, enhancing the complexity of your dishes. It is particularly well-suited for recipes like marinades, dressings, and glazes, where its unique sweetness can shine. Also, honey adds moisture to your creations, creating a soft and tender texture.

Moreover, honey offers potential health benefits, such as antioxidants and antimicrobial properties, making it a nutritious choice for culinary endeavors. Whether you're looking for a natural sweetener or exploring new flavor dimensions, honey's versatility makes it a compelling substitute in various recipes.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar emerges as a compelling brown sugar substitute, offering a unique and mildly sweet flavor profile that sets it apart. Begin by incorporating half the quantity of blackstrap molasses compared to the brown sugar specified in your recipe, and then adjust according to your taste preferences. This means that for every cup of brown sugar required in your recipe, you can seamlessly replace it with one cup of coconut sugar.

What makes coconut sugar an attractive option is its distinct caramel and butterscotch notes that can enhance the taste of your dishes. It's an ideal choice for recipes where the rich molasses flavor of brown sugar contributes to the overall depth and character, such as in cookies, cakes, and barbecue sauces. Additionally, coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than traditional sugars, making it a potential choice for those seeking alternatives with a lower impact on blood sugar levels.

Coconut sugar's natural origin and unique taste make it a standout substitute, providing a delicious and slightly different twist to your culinary creations. Whether you're looking for a subtle change in flavor or aiming to accommodate specific dietary preferences, coconut sugar is a versatile and delightful sweetener option.

Date Sugar

Date sugar, made from dried, ground dates, offers a wholesome and natural alternative to brown sugar with its unique sweetness and rich flavor. When substituting date sugar for brown sugar, use it in an equal one-to-one ratio. This means you can replace one cup of brown sugar with one cup of date sugar in your recipes.

What sets date sugar apart is its distinct taste, which carries the essence of dates and imparts a delightful caramel-like flavor to your dishes. It's a fantastic choice for recipes where brown sugar's deep molasses undertones significantly enhance the overall taste. Date sugar can elevate baked goods, oatmeal, and even savory dishes, hinting at a natural sweetness.

Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap molasses, the dark and robust byproduct of sugar refining, offers a potent and distinctive substitute for brown sugar in various culinary applications. When using blackstrap molasses as a substitute, it's essential to do so judiciously, as its intense flavor can easily overwhelm a dish. Start by using half the amount of blackstrap molasses as the brown sugar called for in your recipe and adjust to taste. For instance, if your recipe requires one cup of brown sugar, begin with half a cup of blackstrap molasses.

What makes blackstrap molasses a standout substitute is its profound and complex flavor profile, characterized by deep, bittersweet notes with hints of toffee and spices. This makes it a perfect choice for recipes with the bold, molasses taste of brown sugar, such as gingerbread, barbecue sauces, and baked beans, playing a crucial role. Moreover, blackstrap molasses offers nutritional benefits, including rich in iron, calcium, and various vitamins, making it a health-conscious choice in culinary endeavors.

Agave nectar

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar, obtained from the agave plant, is a versatile and natural alternative to brown sugar in various culinary applications. When opting for agave nectar as a substitute, replace each cup of brown sugar in your recipe with 2/3 to 3/4 cup of agave nectar, adapting the quantity to reach your preferred level of sweetness.

What makes agave nectar a compelling alternative is its mild and neutral flavor, which allows it to blend seamlessly into a wide range of dishes. It's an excellent choice when you want to maintain the sweetness of brown sugar without introducing additional flavor complexities. The low glycemic index of agave nectar also makes it suitable for individuals looking for a sweetener with a milder impact on blood sugar levels.

Furthermore, agave nectar boasts a higher sweetness concentration than brown sugar, so you can use slightly less while achieving the same level of sweetness. This can be beneficial in recipes that aim to decrease sugar content without sacrificing flavor.

Granulated Sugar

Granulated White Sugar

While this brown sugar substitute is not our favorite, granulated sugar can be used to substitute light brown sugar in many recipes. When using granulated sugar as a substitute, you can typically replace each cup of brown sugar with an equal amount of white sugar. This one-to-one ratio maintains the level of sweetness in your dishes.

While granulated sugar lacks the molasses flavor of brown sugar, it can still impart a pleasant sweetness to your recipes. This makes it suitable for dishes where the distinct molasses taste of brown sugar is not a defining characteristic, such as in basic cookies, cakes, or sweet beverages. Granulated white sugar's simplicity and versatility make it a convenient choice when you need to substitute brown sugar in a pinch.

Keep in mind granulated sugar is heavily processed from its natural sources and is high in empty calories devoid of essential nutrients. Regular consumption of refined sugar can lead to weight gain and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and tooth decay. Its addictive qualities also encourage overeating, disrupting a balanced diet and undermining overall health.

Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado sugar is one of the best brown sugar substitutes. Celebrated for its rich molasses content and deep, caramel-like flavor, making it an amazing substitute for light or dark brown sugar. Unlike conventional brown sugar, which often involves adding molasses to refined white sugar, muscovado sugar is minimally processed, retaining its natural molasses. This not only imbues it with a moist, sticky texture but also enriches it with minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium, offering slight nutritional advantages over its more processed counterparts.

Muscovado sugar's robust flavor profile makes it an excellent choice for baking, imparting a warm, complex sweetness to cookies, cakes, and sauces. You can replace brown sugar with muscovado sugar at an equal 1:1 ratio when substituting. However, its potent taste might lead some to adjust the amount slightly, depending on personal preference and the desired depth of flavor in the recipe.

Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado Sugar

With its sparkling golden crystals and mild molasses flavor, Turbinado sugar stands out as an excellent brown sugar substitute. This sugar is less processed than traditional brown sugar, retaining a light layer of natural molasses, which gives it a subtle caramel-like taste. This makes Turbinado sugar a healthier option due to its minimal processing and adds a delicate depth of flavor to beverages, baked goods, and desserts.

Turbinado sugar is larger and has a crunchier texture, which can enhance the finishing touch on muffins, cookies, and crumbles. When substituting turbinado sugar for brown sugar, you can use a 1:1 ratio, though the slightly less pronounced molasses flavor might prompt slight adjustments based on personal taste preferences. Its use brings a hint of sophistication and a more nuanced sweetness to various dishes.

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.