Brown Sugar Substitute – A Curated List of What to Use

Brown Sugar Substitute

Sugar is the most commonly used sweetening agent all over the world. Within that category, white sugar and brown sugar are the most common varieties used in the present times. But while white sugar can be used to sweeten any and every dish, brown sugar has specific application. Bakers generally prefer brown sugar for its unique flavor, color and texture. Fitness enthusiasts prefer brown sugar for its lesser calorie content in comparison to white sugar. White and brown sugars are even used interchangeably in case of an emergency situation in the kitchen. But interestingly, there are a number of things that can be used as a brown sugar substitute as well.

White Sugar and Brown Sugar: Know the Difference

Brown sugar is generally considered to be a healthy substitute of white sugar. Both are derived from the same crops, sugar cane/beet, and undergo the same process for sugar production. But what sets them apart, is the difference in the amount of molasses contained in both. The sugar juice from the sugar cane or sugar beet is extracted, processed for purification, and then heated. It forms a brown-colored concentrated syrup which is known as molasses. This thick sugary syrup is then centrifuged to obtain granulated brown sugar from it.

This difference is also the reason why brown sugar is considered healthier than its white counterpart. Brown sugar is said to contain fewer calories while also having some amount of calcium, iron and potassium. People trying to lose weight either cut down sugar completely from their diet or replace it with brown sugar. But a number of scientific studies have proven that the calorific difference between the two sugars is very minute. While brown sugar has 15 calories per 4 grams, white sugar contains 16.3 calories per 4 grams. Therefore, brown sugar hardly has any upper hand over white sugar in the nutritional sense, as opposed to popular opinion.

What to make

Apart from the health benefits of brown sugar, it is also profusely used in cooking, especially in baking. Although white sugar and brown sugar is often used interchangeably, the latter adds more density and flavor to the dish. It also gives a light-caramel color or brown hue to the food. Brown sugar, due to its high molasses content, retains more moisture which makes the goods soft yet dense. This makes it more suitable for baking rich cookies, sauces and glazes.

White sugar is added to goods that need adequate rising such as mousses, meringues, soufflés, fluffy baked treats, and more. That is why cakes that have a denser texture, like chocolate truffle, are made using brown sugar. But cakes having an airier texture are made using white sugar, such as vanilla cake or mixed fruit cake.

How to Make Your Own Brown Sugar Substitute

Now there you are, standing in the middle of your kitchen, ready to unleash the hidden baker inside you. But then you realize you have run out of brown sugar and the recipe specifically asks for it. No need to fret! Here’s an exhaustive list of what to use as a brown sugar substitute.

1. White Sugar and Molasses

To make white sugar, molasses is completely filtered out first, from the sugar granules. Then bone charcoal or crushed animal bone is added for a white colour. So if the recipe you are about to try requires brown sugar specifically, you can simply add back the molasses. For 1 cup of granulated white sugar, 1-2 tablespoon of molasses should do the trick.

2. White Sugar and Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is used as a topping for pancakes, oatmeal and porridge and is part of almost everyone’s kitchen cabinet. So the likelihood of availability of maple syrup at your home is higher than molasses.

Maple syrup also contains some beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. But at the same time, it is very high in sugar content. Its glycemic index is slightly lower than regular sugar and may not cause a spike in blood glucose levels. But it will still raise the blood sugar level to some extent.

Nevertheless, in case of a food-related emergency, you can use it to make a workable brown sugar substitute. Just add 1-2 tablespoon of maple syrup to 1 cup of white sugar and that should do it.

3. White Sugar and Honey or Agave Nectar

Honey and agave nectar are commonly used in most households as their nutritional value is quite high. Honey, if used regularly, could significantly lower your bad “LDL” cholesterol and increase good “HDL” cholesterol.

Both honey and agave nectar, make for a decent brown sugar substitute. You just have to add 1-2 tablespoon of honey or agave nectar to 1 cup of granulated white sugar. This should give you a brown sugar substitute that you can manage with for the time being.

4. Muscovado Sugar

You can use muscovado sugar as a brown sugar substitute as it’s also a minimally refined sugar containing molasses. But it also has high moisture content and therefore clumps easily. So before you add it to your batter, sift it well for any lumps that might be present.

5. Coconut Sugar

Another readily available substitute for brown sugar is coconut sugar. Made up of sap extracted from coconut trees, coconut sugar can be a good substitute for brown sugar. But it has lower moisture content than brown sugar. So you must add extra fat, such as oil or butter, to improve its moisture content.

6. Date Paste

You can easily make date paste at home within a matter of minutes. You just need three basic ingredients: ¾ cup of water, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract and a cup of warm pitted dates. Blend them in a blender and use it as a substitute for brown or white sugar. While brown and white sugars are refined sugars, dates are natural, organic and sweeter too.

7. Jaggery

Jaggery is rich in antioxidants and minerals such as zinc and selenium. It aids in digestion, detoxification, boosting immunity, easing menstrual pain and has a number of other health benefits. But what might come as a surprise to you is that it can also be used as a brown sugar substitute.

Jaggery is made from sugar cane or palm sap but it is not as sweet as brown sugar. Hence you should add jaggery in higher quantity when being used to sweeten the dish instead of brown sugar. It’s a fairly good replacement for brown sugar to make toffee sauce, sticky buns, coffee cakes, and other desserts.

8. White Sugar-Plain and Simple

It’s quite possible that of all the brown sugar substitutes mentioned herein, you don’t have any at the moment. Or you might be having the ingredients, but not the mood or patience to make brown sugar from them. In such a tight situation, use white sugar instead and use it unabashedly. This is the time when you must recall that after all, they are both sugars! You can use white sugar as a replacement to brown sugar in the same measurement. It’s true that white sugar cannot provide the flavor, texture or color that brown sugar does. But as they come from the same source, they can most definitely be used as substitutes of each other.

So, there you have it, 8 simple alternatives for brown sugar that you can find or create in the comfort of your home. But remember, liquids like maple syrup, honey or agave nectar add more moisture to the recipe in comparison to molasses. So when you are making a brown sugar substitute from any of these, consider reducing the number of other liquids being used in the recipe. This will help you in managing the moisture content of the recipe in question. Also, you should reduce the cooking time by a few minutes as these liquids caramelize faster than brown sugar.

Brown Sugar Substitutes in the Market

If making brown sugar at home is too much hassle for you, you can simply buy it readymade. This is more convenient for those who are interested in only the health benefits of brown sugar. There are many products available in the market that have calorie content that is even less than brown sugar.

1. Sukrin Gold

A very famous brown sugar substitute, Sukrin Gold, mainly is erythritol which has no effect on blood sugar. This happens because the human body does not have the enzymes to break down erythritol.

Sukrin Gold is made by fermenting glucose obtained from non-GMO corn Starch with a natural culture. It is best suited for a zero-sugar or low-carb diet.

2. Ketofy-Keto Sweetener

Manufactured by Wellversed Health, Ketofy-Keto Sweetener is a good alternative for sugar, especially for a low-carb or keto diet. It claims to have the same sweetness per gram as normal sugar. It’s made up of erythritol and stevia, both natural sweeteners and they don’t interact or get metabolized in the body. It can be used as an alternative to sugar in all recipes.

3. Raw Sugars

Raw sugars, such as Demerara and Turbinado can be used like brown sugar substitutes. But because raw sugars are coarser in comparison to brown sugar, you can grind them in a spice grinder. Or, dissolve them in a warm liquid, like oil, butter or water, before adding them to the dough. Otherwise, they may not mix uniformly in the batter leaving behind a grainier texture, adversely impacting your recipe’s end result.

4. Stevia Extracts

Stevia extracts, such as Truvia or Rebiana, are plant extracts and are quite famous as high-intensity novel sweeteners. As they have zero calories and are non-chemical in nature, they can be good substitutes for brown sugar. Stevia extracts are generally used by people who are trying to lose fat or persons with diabetes or heart disease.

5. Splenda

Splenda contains sucralose which is about 600 times sweeter than your regular white sugar. It also has no calories which again, makes it a better alternative to brown sugar.

6. Xylitol and Sorbitol

Xylitol and sorbitol fall under the category of sugar alcohols. Although these are 25-100% as sweet as sugar, they have slightly fewer calories than sugar. Most of the harmful effects of sugar are due to the high fructose content in it. Xylithol, on the other hand, contains no fructose. It even improves dental health as it reduces the risk of cavities and tooth decay. But you should avoid consuming xylithol in high quantity as it may cause digestive issues like bloating or diarrhea.

Both, xylithol and sorbitol, do not cause a sudden spike in blood glucose level. This makes them ideal for obese people and people with Type 2 diabetes.

Also, although Xylitol and sorbitol can be used like brown sugar substitutes in cooking and baking they cannot be liquefied. Therefore, you can’t use them in recipes that require caramelization.


Brown sugar finds its place in our daily lives in a number of ways. But it’s possible that you may run out of it at home and need an immediate brown sugar substitute for a recipe. When used in the place of brown sugar in cooking or baking, brown sugar substitutes generally work as well as brown sugar itself. Although some sort of minor adjustments might have to be made and you are good to go.

Brown sugar forms part of everyone’s weight loss diet as well. But it’s still a form of refined processed sugar and it has calories too. Hence, you might want to find a substitute for brown sugar for further reducing your calorie intake.

Well, either way, as it comes out, there are plenty of brown sugar substitutes to choose from. You can use natural alternatives like molasses, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar or muscovado sugar. Or you can use zero calorie sweeteners such as Sukrin Gold, Ketofy-Keto Sweetener, Stevia and others in this category.