How to Substitute Molasses for Brown Sugar

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No brown sugar? Substitute molasses.

Brown sugar is a common ingredient in many baked goods, including a variety of popular cakes and cookies. If you are pressed for time and don't have any brown sugar stashed away in your pantry, however, you can quickly and easily make a brown sugar substitute using molasses and white sugar. The ratio of molasses to white sugar will depend on whether you are trying to substitute brown sugar or dark brown sugar.

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What Is Brown Sugar?

The refined brown sugar available for purchase at most grocery stores is essentially granulated white sugar that has been combined with molasses. There are two types of brown sugar: light and dark. The difference between them is straightforward: Light brown sugar contains less molasses than dark brown sugar. Light brown sugar contains 3.5 percent molasses content, while dark brown sugar contains 6.5 percent molasses.

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Brown sugar should not be confused with turbinado, which is also brown in appearance. While turbinado also contains molasses. It is a raw sugar that has not been processed and should not be your first choice to replace brown sugar in a recipe because of the difference in grain size.

How to Make Brown Sugar

If you have white sugar and molasses at home, you can make your own brown sugar substitute by simply making a mixture of these two ingredients. If you are making a recipe that calls for light brown sugar, you can use granulated white sugar instead and also add 2 teaspoons of molasses for each cup of sugar you use. For example, if the recipe calls for 2 cups of light brown sugar, you'll need 2 cups of granulated white sugar and 4 teaspoons of molasses to make a proper replacement.

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If you need to whip up a substitute for dark brown sugar, use a tablespoon of molasses per cup of sugar rather than 2 teaspoons. Therefore, to substitute 2 cups of dark brown sugar, you will need 2 cups of white sugar and 2 tablespoons of molasses. Rather than going through the added step of mixing together the white sugar and the molasses, you can simply add them separately to the rest of the ingredients.

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Brown Sugar vs. White Sugar

While you can confidently substitute brown sugar with a mixture of white sugar and molasses, if you swap out brown sugar for white sugar alone, you risk your baked goods not rising or spreading as desired. This is because the acidity of brown sugar reacts with another common baking ingredient – baking soda – which affects how much a cake rises or how much cookies spread.

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In addition, by using white sugar, you will be missing out on some of the caramel notes that brown sugar contributes. Light brown sugar can also be used as a substitute for dark brown sugar and vice versa, though this will change the color and texture of the baked product because of the difference in the molasses content. When it comes to replacing brown sugar, you also want to be cognizant of the grain size of the sugar you are using, as this can significantly affect the texture of the finished product.

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