Have you ever started a recipe only to find that you are out of a key ingredient, such as dark brown sugar? Or maybe you only have light brown sugar, but the recipe calls for dark. What is the difference between light and dark brown sugar? Are light brown sugar and dark brown sugar interchangeable?
Today I’m going to talk about dark brown sugar – one of my absolute favorite baking ingredients. When I had my bake shop, we solely used dark brown sugar because I’ve always felt it is superior. But light brown sugar is more accessible, easily found in stores, and is what most baking recipes call for. So let’s talk about the difference.
What is the difference between light and dark brown sugar?
Both light brown sugar and dark brown sugar contain the same two ingredients – cane sugar and molasses. Light brown sugar has a lower percentage of molasses and dark brown sugar has a higher percentage of molasses. That is the only difference!
But what does that mean for your baked goods? Well, if a recipe calls for dark brown sugar (or for light) that flavor is going into the entire recipe. Dark brown sugar has more molasses and is darker in color. This translates to a richer flavor in your baked goods as well as a darker color.
Many people say that dark brown sugar is only used for certain things, and that it is not most common for classic baked goods. But I beg to differ. I use dark brown sugar in classic bakes like cookies, brownies, and more. Try it out in my Chocolate Chip Crinkle Cookies or my Coffee Cake Muffins.
How do you make dark brown sugar?
Dark brown sugar is very easy to make, just like light brown sugar. All you need are two ingredients: organic cane sugar and organic blackstrap molasses. In the bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, you mix up these two ingredients until uniform. That’s it! And I am going to show you how to make your own dark brown sugar below.
Can you make dark brown sugar from light brown sugar?
Yes, you absolutely can make dark brown sugar form light brown sugar. If you don’t have cane sugar, and you have light brown sugar, you can make dark brown sugar out of light brown sugar instead.
Because dark brown sugar and light brown sugar contain the same two ingredients, you can use light brown sugar to make dark brown sugar. When doing so, you just add in less molasses than you would if you were using cane sugar.
I actually prefer to make homemade dark brown sugar out of light brown sugar because the cost is lower. This is something I just know from owning a bake shop for over ten years! While organic cane sugar is less expensive than organic light brown sugar – organic blackstrap molasses is much more expensive per ounce than both.
So, when I make homemade dark brown sugar out of cane sugar, I need to add way more molasses than if I am making it out of light brown sugar. That larger amount of molasses adds up in cost. So, I always make my homemade dark brown sugar out of light brown sugar instead of cane sugar.
There is no right or wrong way to make dark brown sugar. It’s just a personal preference if you want to make it with cane sugar and molasses or light brown sugar and molasses. Or you can use whatever you have in your pantry at the time!
My beta for how to make your own dark brown sugar is this. I buy organic light brown sugar, usually from Wholesome. And, then I make homemade dark brown sugar out of that light brown sugar. If I am out of light brown sugar and I need it, then I will make light brown sugar from scratch as well.
Does light brown sugar taste the same as dark?
No, light brown sugar does not taste the same as dark brown sugar. Because the molasses content is different, the flavor will also be different. Light brown sugar has a lighter flavor, and dark brown sugar has a richer and more intense flavor.
Are light brown sugar and dark brown sugar interchangeable?
Yes and no, light brown sugar and dark brown sugar are interchangeable in a recipe as far as the ingredient itself goes. You will not “mess up” your recipe if you replace one for the other. They work about the same in baked goods.
The difference in changing out light brown sugar for dark or the other way around is the flavor. When someone is writing a recipe, all the ingredients are considered, and they play a major role. So, if you swap out dark brown sugar for light or light brown sugar for dark – your recipe may either be too rich or not rich enough. So proceed with caution.
Which brown sugar is best for baking?
There is no “best brown sugar” for baking, in my opinion. I think both light brown sugar and dark brown sugar have a place in your pantry and in your baked goods. Some say that dark brown sugar is only reserved for Gingerbread or things like that, but I disagree.
I think you can use dark brown sugar in almost any baked good, so long as you account for that flavor in your recipe. I sometimes will use more dark brown sugar, and less cane sugar. This can create the same effect as using half light brown sugar and half cane sugar. Or it can also mimic the flavor of using all light brown sugar. Or, it can add more flavor to your baked goods.
It all depends on your ratios, the recipe, and what you are baking. So, there is no best brown sugar for baking. Both light brown sugar and dark brown sugar should both have a place in your pantry, and you should use them both often!
When a recipe calls for brown sugar should you use light or dark?
When a recipe calls for brown sugar and it doesn’t specify if it is light or dark, then it is most likely light brown sugar. While most people only use light brown sugar, it can sometimes be left off the recipe notes if written by a home cook. So, in that case, use light brown sugar.
So I am going to give you a recipe for how to make your own dark brown sugar. This simple recipe for Homemade Dark Brown Sugar is going to give you the option to use organic cane sugar or organic light brown sugar, and the right amount of molasses for each!
I highly recommend using Wholesome Blackstrap Molasses, as that is the molasses I use for these recipes. You can use any kind of organic cane sugar you prefer, my favorites are Costco, Wholesome, and Florida Crystals. And I use Wholesome Light Brown Sugar.
Why use organic ingredients in this recipe? You all know I’m a huge organic advocate, and I bet you may be thinking sometimes, Why would I even bother to use organic ingredients in something that is so sweet and indulgent? But, that is the exact reason why you should use organic ingredients! Sweet things need to have flavor in order to be good, otherwise they are just sweet and they don’t taste like much else. Organic ingredients are more pure than conventional ones, therefore they actually have more flavor than the non organic options. Say it with me, organic means more flavor! And not just more flavor but a more true and pure flavor. And organic ingredients are much healthier for you to eat in general as they do not contain GMOs or anything artificial. Plus, you are being environmentally friendly when you choose organic ingredients!
So, I highly recommend that you buy the best organic ingredients for this recipe! You can also shop my Amazon Storefront for all my favorite organic ingredients here. Tip – hover over each ingredient to see the name. And if you want to learn more about organic foods and the difference, read my post here on Food Labels and What They Mean.
Homemade Dark Brown SugarDifficulty: Easy
You can use cane sugar or light brown sugar to make homemade dark brown sugar. This recipe gives you the option to use whichever you have on hand, along with blackstrap molasses.
- Option 1
454 grams (2 cups) organic cane sugar
79 grams (1/4 cup) organic blackstrap molasses
- Option 2
454 grams (2 cups) packed organic light brown sugar
35 grams (1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons) organic blackstrap molasses
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the sugar (either cane sugar or light brown, whichever you are using) and molasses. It helps if you add the sugar first, then create a small hole in the center and add the molasses in there. This helps because then it won’t stick to the sides right away and it will mix in more easily and more uniform from the start.
- Turn the mixer on low, and mix until combined. Using a hard scraper spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle to remove excess molasses, and mix again.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
- High Altitude — Follow the recipe as noted.
Did you like this post?
Make sure to check out the post How to Make Light Brown Sugar, which I’m sure you’ll love too! And, share it with someone who you think may also like it!