Brown sugar

A common misconception is that brown sugar is caramelized sugar. Actually, the products marketed and sold as light and dark brown sugar are just refined white sugar to which varying amounts of molasses syrup have been added.

Brown sugar differs from raw sugar, which can look and taste similar to brown, but which is instead the unrefined residue left over after sugarcane has been processed to remove molasses and refine sugar crystals. Some types of raw sugar are then partially refined to remove such surface contaminants as mold or fiber, though some believe these give raw sugar a superior nutritive value. In the U.S., however, what is sold and marketed as "raw sugar" has been highly purified to remove such contaminants, negating much of the additional nutritive value.


Brown sugar (light and dark)
Refined white sugar that is then mixed with molasses syrup to impart color and a molasses flavor. The more syrup used, the darker the color and stronger the flavor.
Raw sugar
The residue left after sugarcane has been processed to remove molasses and refine sugar crystals. It is not the same as brown sugar, though the tastes are very similar. In the raw state, sugar may contain contaminants such as molds and fibers.
Demerara sugar
A type of raw sugar from Guyana. Large golden crystals and slightly sticky.
Muscovado or Barbados sugar
A type of raw sugar. Very dark brown and a particularly strong molasses flavor. Slightly coarser crystals and stickier texture than typical dark brown sugar.
Turbinado sugar
A type of raw sugar that has been partially refined by steam-cleaning to remove the surface molasses and contaminates. Blond color with a mild molasses flavor.
Free-flowing brown sugar
Specialty products produced by a special process that yields fine, powder-like brown sugar that is less moist than typical brown sugar, does not lump, and is free-flowing like granulated sugar.

Typical Nutritional Information

Amount per 100 grams

NOTE: Compared to granulated white sugar and the same weight of confectioner's sugar, brown sugar has more calories but also contains the above nutrients, which are only found in trace amounts in the white sugars.

Recipe Substitutions

brown sugar (1 cup)
1 cup white sugar + 2 Tbsp. sorghum molasses
dark brown sugar (1 cup)
1 cup light brown sugar + 1 Tbsp. molasses OR
1 cup granulated sugar + 2 Tbsp. molasses
light brown sugar (1 cup)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar + 1/3 cup granulated sugar OR
1 cup turbinado sugar
demerara sugar
turbinado sugar OR
granulated sugar OR
light brown sugar
muscovado sugar
dark brown sugar
turbinado sugar
demerara sugar OR
light brown sugar OR
raw sugar

NOTE: Liquid or granulated brown sugars should never be substituted for regular brown sugar in recipes.

NOTE: Unless otherwise stated by a particular recipe,brown sugar should correctly be measured by firmly packing it into a measuring cup of the correct size, using a spoon, spatula or other object to tightly press as much as possible into the cup and then level the top.

Techniques for Softening Hardened Brown Sugar

Brown sugar hardens when the moisture within the sugar is drawn out. This happens more frequently in conditions of lower humidity, as in the winter. To keep brown sugar from hardening as quickly, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, or in the refrigerator.

  • Place a piece of foil or plastic wrap directly on the sugar. Set a piece of crumpled, dampened paper towel on the foil. Cover container tightly. The sugar will absorb the moisture from the paper towel and become soft. Remove the paper towel when it has dried out.
  • Put a slice of brown bread or apple with the brown sugar in an airtight container.
  • Place the open bag in the microwave, with a cup of water. Microwave at 100% for 2-3 minutes, checking often. This is a quick fix only, as the sugar will harden again upon cooling.
  • Commercial clay figures (the one I've seen was in the shape of a bear) are available that are soaked in water for 20 minutes, and then placed in an airtight container with the brown sugar.

Dad's Seafoam Candy

As made by my father when I was a kid... It's basically a brown sugar version of divinity



  1. Completely dissolve the sugar in the water over low heat, then stir in corn syrup.
  2. Heat without stirring, bringing mixture to a boil, until the candy reaches the hard ball stage.
  3. Beat the egg whites and salt to stiff peaks.
  4. Pour the candy mixture over the beaten egg whites, and continue to beat with an electric mixture until it holds its peaked shape.
  5. Stir in the vanilla.
  6. Drop teaspoonfuls onto wax paper.
  7. Eat the yummy little seafoamy waves. Or cool them and save them in an airtight container for later. But why wait?

Some E2 Recipes Listing Brown Sugar as an Ingredient

Other Reported Uses for Brown Sugar

Other Products

Similar to the substitution of saccharine or aspartame (NutraSweet™) for white sugar, there also are commercially available non-sucrose substitutions for brown sugar. Sweet 'N Low, for example, markets Sweet 'N Low Brown Sugar®, a brown sugar saccharin substitute using nutritive dextrose, natural molasses flavor, 3.6% calcium saccarin, caramel color, cream of tartar, and calcium silicate. Also available is Sugar Twin Brown®, a brown sugar aspartame substitute.

Sources Consulted for this Compilation

  • Food Network (
  • Land O'Lakes, Inc.
  • Nutritional Data Taken from Agricultural Handbook No. 8, and U.S.D.A. "Nutritive Value of Foods" H & G Bulletin No. 72, Dated July 28, 1994
  • Oregon State University Food Resources (
  • SugarFreeKitchen (
  • SugarWeb (
  • The University of Illinois, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, Horticulture Solutions Series