How to Soften Brown Sugar

Has your brown sugar hardened? It can be softened in no time – read on to learn how to make brown sugar soft again.

It’s very common to start creating a stir fry sauce or a batch of cookies that calls for brown sugar, only to discover that it’s rock hard. Not to worry – there are ways you can soften brown sugar with ease. 

Why does brown sugar get hard?

Brown sugar contains molasses, and molasses does not like air. When exposed to excess air, molasses tends to evaporate, turning moist brown sugar into hard clumps. 

If you need brown sugar quickly: Microwave the brown sugar with a moist paper towel

Place a lump of hardened brown sugar into a microwave safe bowl and cover the bowl with a moistened paper towel. Microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring and breaking apart the large clumps as you go. Be careful not to put the brown sugar in the microwave for too long, as it can start to melt.

If you have time: Let the brown sugar sit with a moist ingredient

If you know your brown sugar is rock hard 2 or 3 days ahead of having to use it, you can re-incorporate the lost moisture by adding in a couple of slices of bread or a couple moist teabags into the airtight container. The moisture will get absorbed by the sugar, which will allow you to break apart the hard clumps.

How to keep brown sugar soft with the right storage

You can prevent brown sugar from hardening by storing it in an air-tight container. It also helps to not have much air in the container – in other words, don’t place a couple of cups of brown sugar into a very large container, as it will expose the brown sugar to excess air. You can also add a slice of bread at the bottom of the container to provide the brown sugar enough moisture – it won’t go moldy. Lastly, you can store the brown sugar in it’s original packaging, but use a clamp to shut it tight and place it in an airtight container. 

How to make brown sugar

If you are out of brown sugar or don’t want to go through the effort of softening the clumpy stuff, you can always make your own at home. All you need is granulated sugar and molasses. 

  • To make light brown sugar, stir 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon of molasses using a fork until fully combined.
  • To make dark brown sugar, stir 1 cup of granulated sugar with 2 tablespoons of molasses using a fork until fully combined. 

If you don’t have molasses handy, you can substitute it with agave, maple syrup, or buckwheat honey. The flavor profile will be slightly different, but it can act similar to brown sugar in recipes.