Dark Brown Sugar Substitute: 6 Delicious Swaps

What Is Dark Brown Sugar?

Brown sugar is, in the simplest terms, white sugar that has been flavored and tinted with a bit of molasses. It has a combined sugar and molasses mixture but is not as sweet as white granulated sugar. Both are produced from sugar cane juice or sugar beet.

Brown sugar, which comes in both light and dark versions, is an important ingredient in many recipes for both flavor and color.

Dark brown sugar (also known as old-fashioned brown sugar) is a complementary ingredient in several recipes.

It is used in barbecue rubs for meat, spice cakes, baked beans, gingerbread, and other dishes that require a deep molasses flavor.

For all purposes, you should keep some brown sugar at hand at all times. If you don’t have it, there are a few good brown sugar alternatives.

Difference Between Light And Dark Brown Sugar

Some of the recipes, like coffee cake, sweet potato casserole, or honey-baked ham, need to have dark brown sugar.

It is, quite simply, white sugar that has been flavored and tinted with a good bit of molasses. The darker the brown sugar, the more the quantity of molasses contained in it.

Light brown sugar contains less amount of molasses. It contains about 3.5 percent molasses, compared to 6.5 percent in the dark brown version. This is what accounts for their differences in color and flavor.

The dark version has a deeper and more complex flavor. Its color and flavor are similar to caramel or coffee.

Best Substitute For Dark Brown Sugar

Have you found yourself in a baking aisle? Are you wondering about which light and dark varieties of brown sugar to use for your recipe?

And in some situations, it may become absolutely necessary for you to find an alternative to the missing ingredient.

So here are six delicious and best brown sugar substitutes to use in a pinch:

1. Light Brown Sugar

Undoubtedly, the best dark brown substitute is light brown sugar.

It contains molasses and refined sugar, like the former.

The only difference is that it contains less amount of molasses than the darker version. To mitigate this drawback, you can add a tablespoon of molasses to each cup of light brown sugar.

Without any addition, you may also use unadulterated, light brown sugar instead. Of course, in this case, you will miss a bit of molasses’ color and flavor.

You may also read about the white sugar substitute options in another article here.

2. Honey

When you are left with no brown sugar at all, honey is an excellent substitute option.

Importantly, honey can make your dish more moist and flavorful with more sweetness than sugar.

However, before using honey in place of brown sugar, you should be aware of some facts.

First and foremost, use honey in less quantity than the actual amount of sugar required for your recipe. This is because honey is sweeter and heavier than the equivalent amount of sugar. Approximately, 2/3 cup of honey is enough to replace one cup of dark brown sugar.

Secondly, the acidic nature of honey may affect the flavor and taste of some of the dishes you prepare with it. If that is the case, you can use ¼ teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of honey to neutralize the acid.

Lastly, overheating honey can destroy some of its nutrients and spoil the flavor. Therefore, add honey to your dishes toward the end of cooking or baking.

3. Maple Syrup

If you are happy to have a dark brown sugar substitute without molasses, then maple syrup is a healthy option.

While substituting, you can use about ¾ cup of maple syrup instead of every cup of sugar. You will have to reduce other liquids in your dish while using maple syrup.

Another option is to combine 1 cup of granulated white sugar with 1 tablespoon of pure maple syrup to use as a substitute for dark sugar. Even the most sophisticated palate will find it difficult to distinguish the differences in your dish.

Substitute For Brown Sugar

4. Coconut sugar

The coconut sugar is made from the nectar accessed from the tree’s flower-bud stem.

It is nutritious like brown sugar but it’s a healthier sugar alternative. These two can be used interchangeably in a 1:1 ratio.

The only difference is that it does not hold moisture as well as the former. For this reason, the texture of baked goods with coconut sugar is slightly drier and denser.

Bakers usually add a little extra fat, like oil or butter, to the recipe. Most cooks prefer to melt the coconut sugar on the stovetop before adding it to the recipe.

Also, see if any coconut sugar substitutes can be used in your baking.

5. Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado is a type of partially refined, unrefined sugar. It is dark brown in color and contains a lot of molasses similar to brown sugar.

From the color and taste, it’s difficult to distinguish muscovado from traditional brown sugar. However, it has a higher moisture content that makes them stickier.

One cup of this sugar is equal to one cup of brown sugar.

Always swift this sugar to remove the clumps before adding it to your batter or dough. Use a kitchen blender to improve the integration of muscovado sugar in the dough.

Related article: Dangers of sugar for health

6. Homemade Dark Brown Sugar

If you have run out of dark brown sugar you can easily make your own brown sugar at home.

By adding 6.5 percent molasses to white sugar, you get deep brown sugar. For this purpose, make sure to add only light or dark molasses but not blackstrap molasses.

If you input it briefly, you get brown sugar by adding some molasses to it. The exact formula is 1/4 cup of molasses per cup of white sugar.

Please note, it is not simply combining and mixing two ingredients. As you increase the amount of white sugar, you also increase the quantity of molasses in proportion. For example, for every three cups of white sugar, add one cup of molasses.

Mixing the two ingredients by hand is the traditional method of making brown sugar. However, using a mixer ensures the perfect blending of molasses and white sugar. It makes the finished product look exactly like prepackaged brown sugar.

So, homemade brown sugar is the best replacement for the darkened brown sugar that you buy from grocery stores.


When you’re out of brown sugar, there are enough easy substitute options to choose from.

Even raw sugars like demerara, turbinado, and date sugar are great to replace brown sugar. Turbinado sugar can be substituted for brown sugar in equal proportions.

The simplest and great brown sugar substitute is to use 1 cup of granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons of molasses.

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