A Baker's guide to Brown Sugar - All your questions answered

Most of the baking recipes include both White and Brown Sugar. Whereas we're all familiar with the former, the later one sill sprouts some doubts in our mind. Like what is it, how its made, can it be substituted, etc?

So we have made a list of few questions which we felt were not answered satisfactorily anywhere.

What is Brown Sugar?

  • The original brown sugar was the slightly unrefined version of the normal white sugar.
  • It is that stage of sugar making where the final product is not separated from the processed sugarcane juice it is made from.
  • In very basic terms, this processed sugarcane juice is called Molasses and it is still present in brown sugar due to which it gets its color & its name.
  • However, the Brown Sugar available in the market today is just normal white sugar (from which the molasses was first removed) with molasses added back to it.

Why do we need brown sugar? 

  • Brown sugar (due to the presence of molasses in it) is softer in texture and has more moisture than white sugar. 
  • Because of this the baked goods which have brown sugar in them retain moisture better & avoid getting dried out for a longer time. 
  • Plus due to the deep sweet undertones and color of molasses, brown sugar enhances the overall flavor of the dish giving it a caramelized look as well. 

Can we replace brown sugar with normal white sugar in any recipe?

  • Yes, you can! 
  • The overall look of the product might change a bit due to the colorization properties of brown sugar, but that is not a problem with everything you might wanna bake. 
  • For instance, if you’re making a chocolate cake or a brownie or anything that has its own color profile, it would make no difference. However, if you use only white sugar while making chocolate chip muffins or say cookies then you would have to bake it a bit longer to get the desired golden brown color. 

What is 'packed brown sugar' generally mentioned in the recipes?

  • It is not a kind of brown sugar, even though it sounds exactly that!
  • What it means is that while measuring brown sugar, you have to press it down in the measuring cup and fill it up to the brim, fully packed till no more brown sugar can be fit into it. 
  • But, I would always recommend you to skip this and directly weigh your ingredients on a weighing scale to be 100% sure of how much are you putting in. 

What is the difference between Dark Brown Sugar & Light Brown Sugar?

  • Well, the difference lies in the amount of molasses added into the sugar. The more the molasses, the darker is the color of the sugar.
  • In India, however, we do not get both the varieties - at least by their name. We just get brown sugar and usually, it should mean the same thing, but different brands have their own ratios and hence might look different. 
  • So you can take that call of which one to buy looking at the different options available. 
  • Pro-tip: Take a medium shade of brown sugar, a very dark brown sugar would make your baked goods appear burnt. 

Is Brown Sugar the same as Jaggery?

  • No, they are nowhere close. 
  • Though both of them are made from sugarcane juice, their processing differs to a great extent. 
  • Making of sugar & in extension brown sugar involves the usage of chemicals which strip the sugarcane juice of its natural minerals.
  • Jaggery, on the other hand, is made without any chemicals.

I hope I have cleared at least the basics for you guys. I know this is in no way a comprehensive list and I will keep on adding it, but it should get you started with using brown sugar effectively in your recipes. 

Do let me know in the comments below, what are the other things that you wanna know about brown sugar sugar and I will surely answer them for you.


  • Arushi Sachdeva (Founder Dohful)

    1. I use Demerara Brown Sugar by Trust brand. This brown sugar is quite moist and dissolves very quickly in the batter, so I think it’s one of the best brown sugar available in the market. We did use another brown sugar brand in between (Puro) but did not like it at all due to the fact that it way way too grainier and was not dissolving fast.

    2. I have actually never tried making my own brown sugar, but it is definitely on my checklist of things I have to try, so whenever I do, I will surely keep you posted on the same.

  • Krati Goyal

    1. Can you suggest which brand of brown sugar is good in india
    2. Can we make our own brown sugar using molasses. So can you suggest which molasses is good to make brown sugar

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