How to Soften Brown Sugar? 5 Proven Methods


Brown sugar is a versatile ingredient that is commonly used in various culinary applications. People keep asking how to soften brown sugar. In fact, it should be effortless to soften it using many ways we discuss here.

As the presence of molasses and sugar in brown sugar causes it to harden quite easily. Ultimately, it can be challenging to soften it for use. That’s why we need some proper guidance on how to soften brown sugar. 

Since most of us use brown sugar for baking and other stuff, it is necessary to soften it to fit into a measuring cup.

However, we definitely have a hard time doing that if all we have is a hardened lump or block of sugar. 

Luckily, there are several methods to soften brown sugar. As it should not be a complex process, the methods mentioned below make sure you don’t have to replace this vital ingredient unnecessarily.

Let’s dive deep…

How to soften brown sugar using the microwave? 

Here is a rundown of the steps:

  1. Put your brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Make sure it’s glass material. Avoid using steel or plastic. 
  2. Place a couple of damp paper towels on top of the brown sugar.
  3. Now cover the bowl with a glass wrap or a lid.
  4. Now, heat the bowl in the microwave for NOT MORE THAN 30 seconds. If it’s still not softened, continue to heat it for 10-second intervals, until it’s finally softened. 
  5. Finally, use a fork to fluff the sugar.
  6. Your brown sugar is ready for use. 

How to Soften Brown Sugar Straightaway?

  1. Place the hard sugar in a microwave-safe bowl, cover it with damp paper towels, and seal the bowl. 
  2. Leave the sealed bowl on the kitchen counter overnight. 
  3. By morning, the sugar will be soft and ready to use.

The best part is, if you don’t need to use it right away, you can store it in the fridge and use it whenever you need it later. 

Method #1: How to Soften Brown Sugar Without Microwave? 

  1. Well, this method may be a bit time-consuming, but it works. 
  2. Put your hardened brown sugar into a plastic container or bag. 
  3. Place a slice of sandwich bread on top of the sugar and cover the container with a lid or seal the bag. 
  4. Allow it to sit for at least 12 hours, or overnight. 
  5. Here begins the magic. Come back and see it for yourself.  All the moisture from the bread is transferred to the brown sugar, restoring its typical soft texture. 
  6. You’re done. 

Method # 2: How to Soften Brown Sugar Without Microwave?

  1. Soak a small piece of terra cotta in water for about 20 minutes.
  2. Place the dampened terra cotta piece in an airtight container with the dried-out brown sugar lump.
  3. Seal the container and leave it for approximately a day.
  4. The terra cotta will help revive the brown sugar by maintaining an ideal moisture level, preventing it from hardening again. 

How to Soften Brown Sugar with an Apple Slice?

This time, the method is absolutely gluten-free.  

You can use the above-explained bread method with apple slices as well. Simply, put an apple slice or two on top of the brown sugar and use them as a moisture absorber.  

You have softened your brown sugar. 

However, don’t forget to remove the apple slices afterward.

How to Soften Brown Sugar in the Oven?

  1. Spread the hardened sugar out on a baking sheet that is covered with parchment paper. 
  2. Put it inside and set the temperature to 250° F (120 degrees C)
  3. Every few minutes, check the sugar and use a fork to break it up until it becomes soft.
  4. Wait until it cools down. Once it is, start using it in whatever recipe you may like. 

Warning: This is a heat-intensive method, so always beware that you should not overheat it to the point where it starts melting or vaporizing. Just soften it and take it out. 

Also, avoid raising the oven temperature to hurry the process, just let it rise gradually. 

What are the Uses of Brown Sugar?

Here are some of the common uses of brown sugar:

  • Baking Recipes: It adds moisture, sweetness, and a rich caramel flavor. The most common uses are in cookies, cakes, muffins, bread, and pie fillings.
  • Sauces & Glazes: It adds a depth of flavor and helps create a thick, sticky consistency. It is often used in barbecue sauces, marinades, and caramel sauces.
  • Beverages: Brown sugar sweetens hot beverages like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. It dissolves easily and imparts a distinctive caramel taste.
  • Candies & Caramels: The moisture content and caramel flavor of brown sugar contribute to the texture and taste of these sweet treats.
  • Toppings & Sprinkles: Brown sugar can be used as a topping or sprinkled over foods like oatmeal, yogurt, or fruits.
  • Meat & Poultry Rubs: It helps create a caramelized crust and adds a touch of sweetness to balance out savory flavors.
  • Homemade Beauty Products: Brown sugar is sometimes used in scrubs and masks. It can be mixed with oils or other ingredients to create exfoliating scrubs for the face and body.

What are some brown sugar substitutes?

A bowl of brown sugar

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Sure! Here are some additional uses for brown sugar substitutes along with their respective items:

  • White Sugar & Molasses: This option works well with recipes that call for brown sugar, such as chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal raisin cookies.
    The molasses adds a rich flavor and moistness to the cookies, giving them a deliciously chewy texture.
  • Coconut Sugar: Use coconut sugar in recipes like caramelized desserts or sweet sauces. Its natural caramel-like flavor adds depth to dishes such as coconut sugar caramel sauce or coconut sugar roasted sweet potatoes.
  • Maple Syrup: It’s a famous pancake and waffle topping. Besides, maple syrup replenishes recipes like pumpkin pie or pecan pie. It gives a distinct maple flavor to complement the spices and nuts in these desserts.
  • Honey: Honey can be a great substitute for brown sugar in recipes like homemade granola or energy bars. It binds the ingredients together and adds a touch of natural sweetness. You can also use it in marinades for meats or glazes for roasted vegetables.
  • Agave Nectar: Agave nectar is ideal for sweetening beverages such as iced tea or lemonade. Its mild, sweet taste blends well with fruity and citrus flavors. You can also use it in salad dressings or as a drizzle over fresh fruit.
  • Stevia: Stevia is a good substitute for brown sugar in recipes where a low-calorie option is desired, such as sugar-free baked goods or diabetic-friendly desserts. It is extremely sweet, so you’ll need only a small amount to achieve the desired sweetness.

Extra Tips about How to Soften Brown Sugar

Tip #1: Store Brown Sugar in Airtight Container

To prevent newly opened brown sugar from becoming hard, we recommend you store it in an airtight container. 

Tip #2: Purchase Brown Sugar Saver

A good way to avoid the nag of hardened brown sugar is to purchase a thing called, Brown sugar saver.  This is a small piece of terra cotta. What you need to do is, simply wet it with water for about 15 minutes. Now place it in the container with the sugar. The terra cotta’s porous nature helps to retain moisture and can be re-moistened every few months to maintain the sugar’s softness. 

Tip #3:  Measuring in Pound Vs Cups

To help you with recipe measurements (weight vs packaging) please remember that one pound of brown sugar is equal to roughly two and a half cups of packed brown sugar.

Wrapping it Up:

It’s always great to conclude with some hot tips and I’m sure you enjoyed these tips about brown sugar. The methods mentioned above discuss so many viable ways on how to soften brown sugar. I hope you’ll find the most convenient one and solve our brown sugar problem for good.

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