This homemade brown sugar recipe only requires two ingredients and ensures you never run out of it again. Yes, making a brown sugar substitute is so simple, and better yet? It tastes just like what you buy at the store!
You’ll love adding freshly-browned sugar to these vegan chocolate chip cookies because it makes them so moist and delicious.
I hate those last-minute trips to the store. You know when you’re in the midst of making cookie dough and you realize you’re out of a crucial ingredient? Now, here’s at least one more ingredient you can make a home.
Why This Recipe is a Winner
- Adjusting how much molasses is used creates dark brown versus light brown
- The right ratio of molasses makes this recipe full of flavor and adds moisture to your baked goods
- Using your fingers to work the molasses through the sugar keeps this recipe easy to make and easy for clean-up as well
Molasses is like the magic wand that turns your regular sugar into brown, colorful sugar.
Or, said more accurately, molasses is what turns your regular old white sugar back to brown. Because technically, sugar is browner in its raw state. It’s kind of like how rice is really brown or wheat is really brown. Maybe the whole world is brown!
History of Brown Sugar
Believe it or not, the brown stuff hasn’t always had such a pristine image. In the 1800s the processed sugar industry distributed pictures of microbes that exist in this darker sugar and warned people not to eat it. The campaign was successful and led to the widespread adoption of white sugar over the brown variety.
Hmm. big industry sells a lot of products by spreading misinformation to an unsuspecting public? Someone call Oprah, I think we’ve got a story here!
How Brown Sugar is Made
There is such a thing as Natural Brown Sugar. It’s otherwise referred to as raw sugar. That means the sugar that is taken from the sugar cane is brown. There is a refining process that takes away the brown out of the raw sugar, and do you know what’s left over? Molasses!
So, they take the raw sugar, remove the molasses to make it white, and then add the molasses back to some of it and make it brown again. Are you confused? Me too.
The good news is that it’s really easy to make. You simply add a little molasses to your white sugar, stir, and that’s it.
And you get this awesome Martha Stewart vibe afterward too. I love that Martha Stewart Vibe. It’s like I want to say to my friends, “See that brown, colorful sugar? I made that!”
But, then I think to myself, Would Martha say that? Probably not. Sigh.
We could totally turn Martha Stewart into a verb.
I Martha Stewarted that sugar!
I like that better than confessing how I ran out of the stuff I usually buy at the store.
What Molasses is Best?
Sulfur dioxide used to be added as a preservative and clarifier, but it can cause allergic reactions, so most molasses is now unsulfured. Most of the time you’ll want to use fancy or light molasses (referred to as treacle in the UK) rather than blackstrap, which has a bitter flavor and is not preferred for baking.
Key Ingredients for DIY Brown Sugar
You can find the full printable recipe, including ingredient quantities, below. But first, here are some explanations of ingredients and steps to help you make this recipe perfect every time.
- Lemon — We’ll use both the zest and the juice of the lemon.
- Oats — I used rolled oats for this recipe, but you can substitute instant oats.
- Chia — We’ll add some ground chia seeds to create a thicker texture. You can use whole chia seeds; I just prefer ground because it creates a smoother finished texture.
- Syrup — I used maple syrup, but you can substitute agave nectar.
- Milk — We’ll use almond milk for the best overnight oats! Substitute your favorite plant-based milk.
- Yogurt — I love adding some plant-based yogurt (plain, unsweetened) for an even more tangy flavor.
- Protein Powder — I add some vanilla protein powder for increased flavor and nutrients. If your protein powder is not sweetened, you may want to add an extra teaspoon or two of sweetener.
- Cornstarch — We’ll use cornstarch to thicken the lemon curd topping.
- Turmeric — A pinch of turmeric makes that lemon curd sunny yellow.
- Granulated sugar — Any plain, granulated sugar works here.
- Molasses — We’ll change the amount of molasses used based on whether you want to make your sugar light or dark brown.
Don’t have molasses on hand? See below for how to make brown sugar without molasses.
How to Make Homemade Brown Sugar
You’re ready to make your DIY brown sugar but you need the steps. See the full recipe card below for more details, but here is a quick synopsis for making brown sugar:
- Pour molasses into a bowl with white sugar and stir until well combined.
- Transfer it to an airtight container for storage.
Quick Fix Tip
You can use a mixer to combine the molasses with sugar. Simply add the two ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix on medium-low speed until the molasses is distributed equally throughout the sugar.
Light Brown vs. Dark Brown Sugar
Wondering how to make a light brown sugar substitute? Here’s a guide:
- Light brown = 1 tablespoon molasses per 1 cup of sugar
- Dark brown = 2 tablespoons molasses per 1 cup of sugar.
How to Make Brown Sugar Without Molasses
I love to have molasses on hand to make things like my Soft Molasses Cookies or Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies. I love how soft and tender cookies are with some molasses added. However, there are those times when you don’t have molasses in the cupboards.
You can substitute maple syrup for the molasses using the recipe below, and it works like a charm.
Vegan Brown Sugar
Some vegans avoid regular granulated sugar because it can be processed with bone char. Use vegan granulated sugar as the base of this recipe (such as the link to the recipe card below), and you’ll be sure your brown sweet sugar is vegan.
Is Brown Sugar Expensive?
Brown sugar is made by adding molasses to refined white sugar. This extra step and additional ingredients make it more expensive than white sugar.
How much is brown sugar? It varies in price based on demand, supply, and your location, but you can usually find a standard 16-ounce bag of brown sugar for around $2.
But making your own is more affordable. Why? Because a jar of molasses typically costs less than $5. You can make a lot of brown sugar with one jar and some granulated sugar!
Store this sugar in an air-tight container. Because of the moisture from the molasses, you should add a terra cotta sugar gadget or a slice of bread to prevent the sugar from clumping. When properly stored, this sugar will keep for months.
Brown Sugar Recipes
Use your homemade brown sugar in any of these delicious vegan recipes:
That’s it for this homemade brown sugar. Enjoy!
DIY Brown Sugar
Light Brown Sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses
Dark Brown Sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- Place the white sugar in a large bowl. Pour in the molasses and stir until well combined. You may need to get your fingers involved to break up bits of molasses and distribute it throughout the sugar.
- Store in a nontransparent air-tight container. It will keep for months, however, it's recommended to add a brown sugar device or a slice of bread to prevent the brown sugar from clumping.
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The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Update Notes: This recipe was originally published in 2013, but was re-posted to include new photos, recipe updates, and tips in 2021.