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How to Soften Brown Sugar

Nothing is more disappointing than opening your cupboard to discover your bag of fluffy, soft brown sugar has hardened into a solid lump! Learn How to Soften Brown Sugar and have it back in action for all sorts of tasty recipes.

What is Brown Sugar?

Brown sugar is granulated white sugar with added molasses. The two are mixed together until each granule of sugar is covered with molasses. The only difference between light and dark brown sugar is the amount of molasses used.

Can I Make Brown Sugar?

You sure can. In a pinch, you can make your own brown sugar at home.

  • Light brown sugar: Mix 1 cup of white sugar with 1 tablespoon of molasses.
  • Dark brown sugar: Mix 1 cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of molasses.

Why Does Brown Sugar Go Hard?

Brown sugar goes hard when the moisture in it evaporates. It is important to store brown sugar in an airtight container to prevent this from happening. When brown sugar is stored incorrectly (ie. not airtight), your package of soft sugar can quickly become a hard, unappealing lump as the natural moisture in the granules evaporates. While it’s still technically safe to eat, hardened brown sugar is impossible to measure properly and is difficult to use in recipes because the lumps don’t break down the way sugar normally would.

A bowl of brown sugar on a kitchen towel

Easy Ways to Soften Brown Sugar

If you’ve opened your pantry to find a bag of lumpy, hardened brown sugar, never fear! There are a few easy remedies that you can try that should soften your sugar back up – and prevent it from happening again.

In the Microwave

By far the quickest way to soften brown sugar in a pinch is in the microwave. Place the dried-out lump of sugar in a microwave-safe bowl, and cover the bowl with a damp paper towel. Microwave the sugar in 10-second bursts, breaking it up with a fork in between, until it’s grainy and soft again.

Two notes of caution: Be careful when handling, as the sugar can become very hot! Secondly, whatever you do, don’t over-microwave it, as this will cause the sugar to melt.

With a Slice of Bread

This next method takes a bit longer. Place the lumpy brown sugar along with a slice of fresh bread in an airtight container, and leave it for 24 hours. The sugar will absorb the moisture from the bread and should return to a soft, crumbly texture. Don’t forget to take the bread out of the container afterward, so that it doesn’t become moldy! Just leave it in there long enough to rehydrate your brown sugar.

With an Apple Slice

This method works the same way as the bread slice! Follow the same directions, only using a slice of apple instead (also remembering to remove it after 24 hours).

With a Piece of Terracotta

Terracotta has become a crafty solution for maintaining moisture in brown sugar! Soak a piece of (clean) terracotta in water, and after about 20 minutes place it in an airtight container with the hardened sugar lump. Leave it for a day or so, and the sugar will be revived. Terracotta can be left in with the sugar to prevent it from lumping again – you can even find terracotta “sugar savers” (affiliate link) in many kitchen supply stores.

Storing Brown Sugar

Now that you’ve revived your brown sugar, it’s time to store it properly! Store brown sugar airtight and in a cool and dry location (like a pantry, and not the fridge). This will keep it soft, grainy, and ready to use.

23 Recipes With Brown Sugar to Try

Are you ready to use your brown sugar? Here are 23 of my favorite recipes (there are even more if you search this site for brown sugar!):

Two caramel brulee lattes with mantecadas

Caramel Brulée Latte

This easy caramel brulée latte recipe is a homemade copycat of the Starbucks drink. Caramel sauce, vanilla, and brown sugar create a decadent base for your latte, which is topped with whipped cream and more caramel!

Bowl of oatmeal with blueberries.

Creamy Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal

If you like a touch of sweetness in the morning, Creamy Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal is the breakfast for you! Customize it with fresh fruit, nuts, maple syrup, or whatever else you like. 

Pouring maple syrup on a slice of french toast casserole

Overnight Blueberry French Toast Bake

This luscious overnight french toast casserole is full of juicy blueberries and topped with crunchy brown sugar cinnamon streusel. 

A slice of baked french toast apple casserole on a plate with whipped cream

Bourbon Apple Crisp French Toast Casserole

This magnificent French toast casserole is made with layers of bread soaked in bourbon-spiked custard. The bread is covered with cinnamon-spiced cooked apples and finished with a brown sugar oat topping.

An apple cinnamon bun on a plate

Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls

These Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls have all the flavors of a classic apple pie stuffed in cinnamon roll form. Fluffy buns are swirled around tender apples, then drizzled with a simple vanilla icing.

Spiral coffee cake in springform pan after sides are removed

Giant Morning Bun Spiral Coffee Cake

Swirls of nutty brown sugar-cinnamon filling are nestled in a brioche-like dough for a coffee cake like no other.

Pumpkin mug cake with vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips, spoon taking a scoop out

Easy Pumpkin Mug Cake

This Pumpkin Mug Cake is super easy to make and comes together in minutes! With just the right amount of pumpkin spice, it’s a simple fall dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth with hardly any effort.

A scoop of brownie with ice cream on a spoon

Brownie in a Mug

If you need a chocolate fix stat, this easy brownie in a mug recipe is just the ticket. Made in a few minutes and studded with melty milk chocolate chips, it’s perfect topped with vanilla ice cream!

A plate piled high with peanut butter oatmeal cookies

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This easy recipe makes chewy cookies that are a combination of 3 classics: chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, and peanut butter cookies! I like to call them: Can’t Make Up My Mind Cookies. 🙂

Chocolate sugar cookies cooling on parchment paper

Chocolate Sugar Cookies (Earthquake Cookies)

These chocolate sugar cookies have chewy centers, crisp edges, and the perfect amount of sparkly sugar on top. An easy cookie recipe that a favorite in our house!

3 oatmeal raisin cookies on a plate, one with a bite taken out

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This easy oatmeal raisin cookie recipe makes soft and chewy cookies. They are compulsively eatable! One of our favorite cookie recipes and perfect for packing in school lunches.

A plate piled with blue cookie monster cookies

Cookie Monster Cookies

Get ready for a cookie frenzy! These fun Cookie Monster cookies are loaded with two different kinds of cookies wrapped up in a soft and chewy, delightfully blue cookie base.

A stack of Biscoff sandwich cookies on a wooden cutting board.

Homemade Biscoff Sandwich Cookies

These Biscoff cookies are a bakery-style treat featuring a creamy vanilla filling sandwiched between spiced cookies.

Five pumpkin scones on parchment paper next to a cup of coffee

Pumpkin Scones With Spiced Glaze

Soft and crumbly scones, flavored with pumpkin and spices and sweetly topped with a maple glaze.

Overhead shot of Pumpkin Apple Apricot Bread cut into wedges

Pumpkin Apple Apricot Bread

With fall-inspired flavors, a light airy texture, and spiced apple filling, this Pumpkin Apple Apricot Bread is destined to become a family favorite.

Three pumpkin apple muffins, one cut in half

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

These Pumpkin Apple Muffins are one of my favorite fall-baking traditions. With tender pieces of apple and the warming flavors of cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg, every bite of these pumpkin muffins is an autumn treat.

Apple crisp in a rustic bowl with ice cream

Apple Crisp

This easy apple crisp recipe has soft, cider-sweetened apples covered with a crunchy brown sugar oat topping. Add caramel sauce or vanilla ice cream, then dig in!

Close up of a slice of blueberry buckle.

Blueberry Buckle

This old-fashioned Blueberry Buckle has all the delicious flavors of a giant blueberry muffin, bursting with fresh berries and topped with a buttery crumb. This is one of our favorite summertime desserts when blueberries are in season!

A plate with Senorita bread rolls, one broken in half

Señorita Bread

This easy señorita bread recipe makes fluffy rolls filled with a brown sugar swirl and finished with a crunchy cinnamon sugar topping. This Filipino-Spanish bread is soft and super satisfying with a hot cup of coffee in the morning.

Italian rum cake with a slice taken out

Italian Hangover Cake

This Italian hangover cake is a tender cake topped with caramelized bananas and homemade rum sauce. The end result is impressive, but the process is totally easy!

A peach cobbler pound cake sliced open

Peach Cobbler Pound Cake

This peach cobbler pound cake is studded with diced fresh peaches and is topped with peach slices smothered in cinnamon brown sugar. The entire thing is finished off with a drizzle of maple icing!

Sliced devil's food cake.

Devil’s Food Cake

With fluffy layers of chocolate cake in between silky fudge frosting, this devil’s food is a sinfully delicious cocoa-based dessert. Topped with chocolate ganache, it’s devilishly chocolatey.

S'mores cake with torched marshmallow frosting.

S’Mores Cake

This S’Mores Cake is a chocolatey showstopper layered with graham cracker frosting and creamy marshmallow frosting. The frosting is torched right before serving, giving this cake the toasted marshmallow flavor that makes campfire s’mores so irresistible!

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