The Best Brown Sugar Substitutes

If you’re about to bake cookies and find you’re out of brown sugar, these easy substitutes will save you a trip to the grocery store.

Brown sugar substitutes
Alison Bickel

We’ve all been there: You suddenly get a deep craving for chocolate chip cookies and you realize you have everything you need except brown sugar.

No need to panic! You can still bake a batch of warm, chewy cookies without having to make a trip out to the grocery store.

Here are 5 brown sugar substitutes, all of which will work just as well as the real deal.

Can You Substitute Light Brown Sugar for Dark Brown Sugar, and Vice Versa?

Before we get into our favorite brown sugar alternatives, it’s important to note that if you happen to have one variety of brown sugar, they can be used interchangeably.

If your cookie recipe calls for light brown sugar and you only have dark brown sugar, you can absolutely use it. Dark brown sugar contains more molasses than light brown sugar, so the end result might be deeper brown and have a slightly richer, more molasses-forward flavor, but truthfully, you probably won’t notice any difference at all.

5 Brown Sugar Substitutes

Out of light and dark brown sugar? Here are your best bets:

1. White Sugar

Yes, plain ol’ granulated sugar can replace brown sugar! It’s a straight one-to-one substitute, so for every cup of brown sugar called for, use a cup of granulated sugar.

You will notice a difference in the end result. Brown sugar adds moisture to baked goods and gives them lots of chewy softness. When you substitute white sugar for brown sugar in chocolate chip cookies, for example, the cookies will be much crispier overall which, while different, is a delicious twist all its own!

2. White Sugar + Molasses

Brown sugar is simply white sugar that’s been enhanced with molasses, which provides color, flavor, and softness, so you can truly hack your own brown sugar by combining the two yourself!

Mix 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon of molasses to mimic a cup of light brown sugar. Mix 1 cup of granulated sugar with 2 tablespoons of molasses to mimic a cup of dark brown sugar.

3. White Sugar + Maple Syrup or Honey

If you don’t have molasses on hand, you can combine white sugar with another liquid sweetener, like maple syrup or honey.

Mix 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup or honey. While the flavor will be a little different, you’ll still get that chewiness in your baked goods.

4. Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is another one-to-one substitute for brown sugar. It’s very similar in flavor and sweetness. It’s not as moist, though, so like plain white sugar, it will produce a drier, crispier baked treat.

5. Turbinado, Muscovado, or Demerara Sugar

These raw, unrefined sugars look a lot like brown sugar, ranging in color from pale to deep brown. Use these sugars as a one-to-one substitute for brown sugar.

Of all the three, muscovado is the closest to brown sugar because it contains a similar amount of molasses, and therefore, moisture. The granules are also similar in size, while the granules of turbinado and demerara sugar are larger and harder to mix into batters and doughs.

Muscovado comes in both light and dark varieties, but light muscovado is the best choice, as dark muscovado has a unique and strong, slightly bitter flavor.