All out of brown sugar but want to make a batch of cookies? Make a substitute with just two ingredients! This post will explain how to make brown sugar with ingredients you have on hand already. 

Two glass jars full of a homemade brown sugar substitute. A bowl of brown sugar rests in the background.

What Is Brown Sugar? 

Brown sugar is a key ingredient in many baked goods. But what exactly is it?

In short, refined brown sugar is simply sugar that has some molasses added to it. The traces of molasses in the sugar, give it a distinctive brown color and a slight caramel flavor.

If a recipe calls for brown sugar and you don’t have any on hand, it’s better to make your own substitute than omit it entirely. This simple ingredient adds moisture to baked goods and also adds a lovely depth of flavor so don’t leave it out!

In today’s post, I’m breaking down everything you need to know on how to make your own.

A bowl of granulated sugar next to a small jug of molasses.

Recipe Ingredients 

This is a simple two-ingredient recipe. As such, there’s really no wiggle room for substitutions. Make sure to use the ingredients listed below for best results. 

  • Molasses: Make sure to use an unsulphered molasses and avoid using blackstrap molasses. I really love the brand Grandma’s molasses and use it all of the time in my baking!
  • Granulated sugar: Also called white sugar. This recipe calls for 1 cup of granulated sugar, but you can easily scale it up to make more, if needed. Just be sure to adjust the amount of molasses accordingly. 

Molasses being poured into a bowl of granulated sugar. A small jug of molasses rests in the background.

How to Make Brown Sugar 

This is such a simple recipe to make. Once you know the secret to making your own at home, you’ll be amazed you didn’t try it sooner! 

To make the this substitute, combine 1 tablespoon of molasses and 1 cup of granulated sugar in a bowl. If needed, use a fork or your hands to work the molasses into the sugar until it’s well combined and fluffy.

You can can either use it right away or store in an airtight container for future recipes.  

Light vs Dark

Certain recipes will specify light or dark brown sugar. The lighter sugar contains less molasses and therefore has a lighter flavor. The darker sugar is more robust in flavor thanks to its higher molasses content. 

Here’s how you can adjust this recipe to make either one: 

  • For light brown sugar: only add 1 tablespoon of molasses
  • For dark brown sugar: add 2 tablespoons of molasses

A homemade brown sugar substitute in a white bowl with a spoon sticking out. A small jug of molasses rests nearby.


Storage Instructions 

To ensure that it stays fresh, I recommend storing it in an airtight container at room temperature. 

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad? 

So long as the sugar is stored in an airtight container at room temperature, it shouldn’t go bad. However, it will harden over time, which makes it difficult to use. 

To soften it, place it in a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with a damp paper towel. Cook it in 10-second bursts until soft, using a fork to break up big clumps. 

How Do You Keep It Soft?

To keep brown sugar soft, add a slice of bread or a marshmallow to the container. The sugar will absorb the moisture from the marshmallow or bread, which helps to keep it soft!

An overhead view of a measuring cup of homemade brown sugar. A bowl of brown sugar and a small jug of molasses rest nearby.

Recipe Tips 

  • Use an unsulphured molasses to make this recipe. I prefer the Grandma’s brand. 
  • I don’t recommend using blackstrap molasses in this recipe. It’s incredibly bitter and won’t create the classic flavor that you love. 
  • I prefer to mix the molasses and sugar together with a fork or my hands. It may seem a little clumpy at first, but it will come together as you continue mixing it. 

Different Ways To Use It! 

A bowl of light brown sugar with a spoon resting in it. A small container of molasses sits in the background.

How To Make Brown Sugar

5 from 1 rating
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
All out of brown sugar but want to make a batch of cookies? Make your own brown sugar substitute with just 2 ingredients!


Servings: 1 cup
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons unsulphered molasses


  • Combine the granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of molasses (for light brown sugar) or 2 tablespoons of molasses (for dark brown sugar) in a large bowl and mix until well combined. If needed, use a fork to work the molasses into the sugar.
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Danielle Rye
Did you make this recipe?Mention @livewellbakeoften on Instagram or tag #livewellbakeoften.