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The Best Brown Sugar Substitutes For Baking And Cooking

The Best Brown Sugar Substitutes For Baking And Cooking

Looking to replace brown sugar in your recipes? Explore the best brown sugar substitutes in this FAQ, providing you with practical alternatives for your cooking and baking needs.

We go into details about how to use each brown sugar substitute below and when you should use each one, but here’s a quick snapshot of our best brown sugar substitutes.

1 c of Brown Sugar =
2/3 c Agave Nectar
1 c Coconut Sugar
1 c Date Sugar
1 c Demerara Sugar
1/2-2/3 c Honey
¾ c Maple Syrup
1 c Muscovado Sugar
1 c Turbinado Sugar
1 c White Sugar + 2 t Molasses
A silver cup filled with brown sugar next to a spoon on a tray filled with brown sugar.

How do I measure brown sugar correctly?

To measure brown sugar correctly, either lightly scoop and level it in a measuring cup or firmly pack it in, depending on your recipe’s instructions. Accurate measurement matters in baking and cooking for consistent results.

How can I substitute brown sugar for white sugar in a recipe?

You can substitute brown sugar for white sugar in a recipe at a 1:1 ratio. Be aware that brown sugar has a richer, caramel-like flavor and slightly more moisture, which can affect taste and texture.

How can I accurately measure brown sugar without a measuring cup?

You can use your hand or spoons if you want to measure brown sugar without a measuring cup. One handful is about half a cup, and 16 tablespoons or 48 teaspoons make one cup. Opt for a kitchen scale or a measuring cup if you want accurate measurements.

A glass jar filled with brown sugar and a spoon.

Brown Sugar Substitutes

1. Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is a naturally derived sweetener produced from the agave plant, and it can be used as a replacement for brown sugar. As a substitute, it pairs well with pancakes, oatmeal, muffins, marinades, dressings, and hot beverages, though its liquid consistency and stronger sweet flavor mean recipes might need tweaking.

Substitute 2/3 cup of agave nectar for every cup of brown sugar.

2. Coconut Sugar

You can directly replace brown sugar with coconut sugar in baking recipes like cookies, muffins, and cakes.  It has a caramel-like flavor, and while it can caramelize similarly to brown sugar, it might slightly adjust the moisture in baked goods. Typically pricier and viewed as more eco-friendly than brown sugar, it’s wise to use coconut sugar in moderation, just like any sweetener.

Use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio.

3. Date Sugar

It’s possible to substitute date sugar for brown sugar in recipes where its unique flavor and texture fit, like in some baked goods, granolas, or sprinkled on top of dishes. However, due to its unique properties, like not melting or caramelizing and being less sweet, you might need to make adjustments based on the specific recipe and your desired outcome. 

Substitute date sugar in a 1:1 ratio and adjust if needed. 

4. Demerara Sugar

You can totally swap out brown sugar for Demerara sugar in baked goods, especially if you’re looking for a similar texture and some caramel-like flavor notes. However, it’s important to note that Demerara sugar, a cane sugar variety, has larger crystals and a slightly different flavor compared to traditional brown sugar, which is typically softer and moister.

Replace brown sugar with Demerara sugar in a 1:1 ratio.

5. Honey

You can use honey instead of brown sugar in many different recipes, especially in baked goods like oatmeal cookies, muffins, and banana bread, as well as in barbecue sauces and teriyaki marinades. But due to its distinct taste and moisture content, it’s best to experiment with specific recipes to achieve the desired outcome.

Replace brown sugar with 1/2 to 2/3 cup of honey for each cup of brown sugar in your recipe.

6. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup does serve as a great alternative to brown sugar, especially for those seeking natural sweetening options. Flavor-wise, it provides a unique, rich taste with subtle woody and vanilla flavors compared to brown sugar’s deep, caramel-like sweet note due to the molasses content. This substitute works best in baked goods, sauces, and dressings, but it may change the final texture and consistency of your dish.

Substitute 3/4 cup of maple syrup for every cup of brown sugar.

7. Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado sugar can be used in place of brown sugar, but remember it has a stronger molasses flavor and is often moister and clumpier. This substitution works well in gingerbread cookies, molten chocolate lava cakes, sticky toffee pudding, and oatmeal raisin cookies. Mix muscovado sugar with white sugar to soften the taste if you’re concerned about the robust flavor. 

Substitute it in a 1:1 ratio.

8. Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar, or raw sugar, has a mild molasses flavor, offering a balance between white and brown sugar. Its coarse texture can give baked goods a subtle crunch, making it a great choice for cookies, muffins, crumbles, and coffee cakes. It also works well in sweet sauces or meat glazes and in beverages such as tea or coffee, where its unique flavor can elevate the taste.

Substitute it in a 1:1 ratio.

9. White Sugar + Molasses

Combining white sugar with molasses creates a brown sugar substitute, blending the sweet flavor of white sugar with the rich, caramel-like note of molasses. This mix can be used in recipes ranging from cookies to sauces, effectively replicating the taste and texture of traditional brown sugar.

Mix a cup of white sugar with 1 to 2 tablespoons of molasses for every cup of brown sugar.

A wooden spoon sitting on top of a pile of brown sugar.

The bottom line

When using the brown sugar substitutes we’ve discussed, be aware of their different textures, which can affect your recipe’s cooking times. To achieve the best results, watch out for over-drying or burning, regardless of your cooking method. If you’re unsure about which substitute to use, try this simple solution: mix 1 cup of white sugar with 2 tablespoons of molasses for every 1 cup of brown sugar.

More About Brown Sugar

Brown Sugar Substitutes: 9 Best Substitutes

Brown Sugar Substitutes: 9 Best Substitutes

Brown sugar substitutes can be a lifesaver, especially in a pinch. Here are some of the best substitutes, plus FAQs and recommended ratios.


  • Agave Nectar: 2/3 c agave nectar for 1 c brown sugar
  • Coconut Sugar: Use an equal amount as brown sugar (1:1)
  • Date Sugar: Use an equal amount as brown sugar (1:1)
  • Demerara Sugar: Use an equal amount as brown sugar (1:1)
  • Honey: 1/2 - 2/3 c honey for 1 c brown sugar
  • Maple Syrup: 3/4 c maple syrup for 1 c brown sugar
  • Muscovado Sugar: Use an equal amount as brown sugar (1:1)
  • Turbinado Sugar: Use an equal amount as brown sugar (1:1)
  • White Sugar + Molasses: 1 c white sugar + 2 T molasses for 1 c brown sugar


  1. Replace brown sugar with one of our 9 suggested substitutes.
  2. Use one of the above ratios when substituting for brown sugar in a recipe.

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