Brown Sugar Substitutes – What Are Your Choices?

Brown sugar substitutes

There are many reasons that you might want brown sugar substitutes.

One is that you simply don’t have brown sugar in the house. That’s not hard to do. Or, perhaps you want a healthier version, one that is lower in carbs.

Some people find that they just want something a little different. And why not? There are plenty of options to choose from.

Whatever you need, we’ve got you covered.

Alternatives to Brown Sugar for Baking

Brown sugar in a jar

I can’t count how many times I’ve run out of brown sugar at the wrong moment. There’s no time to go down to the store when you’re halfway through a recipe.

Some of these substitutes are perfect for that situation. Others are ideal if you want a slightly different flavor profile.

​White Sugar

Most of the time, you can simply substitute in white sugar for brown sugar without changing quantities.

The impact will depend on what you’re making.

  • ​For example, cookies made with white instead of brown sugar tend to be crisper, as white sugar has less moisture.
  • ​This also means that white sugar won’t always work as a replacement, especially if the recipe is complex.

​White Sugar + Molasses

This substitution is basically the same as the previous one. But, you’re also adding in 2 tablespoons of molasses for each cup of substituted white sugar.

The combination creates a similar taste and texture to brown sugar. You won’t even notice the difference

You can also make your own brown sugar from these two ingredients, as the video below shows.

​White Sugar + Maple Syrup

This is a variation of the previous idea, perfect for anyone who doesn’t have any molasses available. Once again, you add 2 tablespoons of the syrup and 1 cup of white sugar for each cup of brown sugar.

The maple syrup creates a slightly different flavor, but the substitute still works effectively.

​White Sugar + Agave Syrup

This is the same thing again, giving another variation on flavor.

​Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is often considered to be healthier than regular sugar, as it is lower in fructose. Just be aware that the calorie content is roughly the same.

It’s a good brown sugar replacement as it has a similar color and taste.

You probably won’t even notice the difference in your baked goods.

​Muscovado Sugar

This is a type of unrefined sugar. Because of this, it still contains molasses.

Muscovado sugar is darker than brown sugar, with a richer and more caramel taste. It’s also a particularly moist sugar.

These aspects make it perfect for baking. You’ll find that it makes recipes much more interesting.

​Maple Sugar

Maple Sugar

As the name suggests, maple sugar is produced from maple syrup. This creates a distinct maple flavor. You can use it in the place of brown sugar with ease.

The flavor profile will make your baked goods taste a little different, but that’s not a bad thing.

Instead, the richness of maple sugar works perfectly with many recipes.

​Turbinado Sugar

This is another unrefined sugar option. It has a mild molasses taste, which isn’t as noticeable as the flavor in brown sugar.

It is also less moist. As a result, you might need to add a few drops of molasses (or maple syrup) in recipes that require moisture.

Low Carb Brown Sugar Substitutes

Make your own brown sugar

People on a low carb or keto diet have fewer options for brown sugar. But, you don’t have to go without. There are some alternatives that can be used in low carb recipes.

Make Your Own

There are various prepackaged options that you can buy. They can often be used exactly like brown sugar, making them fast and easy.

If you don’t like that idea or don’t use brown sugar all that often, what about making your own?

Kim from Low Carb Maven offers a brown sugar substitute recipe that you can try out.

  • ​Her post talks about the maple extracts she tried to get the right flavor and various other useful pieces of information.
  • ​She also includes information about substituting one of the sweeteners to ensure the finished product is perfect.

​A slightly different version comes from Gwen's Nest. This one uses molasses to help increase the brown sugar flavor.

  • ​Because of the molasses, this recipe isn’t entirely carb free, but it is very low in carbs.
  • ​For each cup of the sweetener, you would get 3 carbs.
  • ​This isn’t a large amount. You would rarely ever be consuming an entire cup of the sweetener at a time – regardless of your recipe.
  • Many people would find that the sweetener is worth the few carbs that it contains.

​There are other recipes out there too. Most rely on a similar combination of ingredients.

​Why Make Your Own?

Making your own low carb brown sugar is more complex than regular brown sugar, but there are distinct advantages.

​For one thing, you can make as much (or as little) brown sugar as you need. This is much better than buying a bag of a brown sugar alternative and only using a little bit.

​Additionally, store-bought alternatives can be expensive. The cost varies depending on the brand, but I’ve seen a 3 lb bag for around $23 and a pack of 2 1.1 lb bags for around $30. It’s often cheaper to make your own.

​For anyone who wants something readymade, check out the options below.

Sukrin Gold – Brown Sugar Alternative

​This is one of the most popular low carb options and with good reason. Sukrin Gold was specifically designed as an alternative to brown sugar. It can also be used as a 1:1 replacement for sugar or brown sugar.  

It contains no calories and does not affect blood sugar levels.

The main components are erythritol and steviol glycosides from stevia. These are both popular low carb sweeteners. The inclusion of malt extract helps to create a similar flavor profile to brown sugar.

Reviews are extremely positive and it’s clear that the sugar does what it claims to.

Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener 

​This sweetener is similar to Sukrin Gold, except that it just uses monk fruit and erythritol as ingredients. The combination allows it to be used as a 1:1 sugar replacement.

Due to the sweetener choice, the product also has no calories and does not affect blood sugar. The only carbs present are from sugar alcohols.  

Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener ​gets many positive reviews and tends to be well-received. It’s also a good choice for anyone interested in monk fruit as a sweetener. It's also a perfect low carb sweetener for ​people who doesn't like stevia.

Swerve Brown

​Like the regular version of Swerve, Swerve Brown contains no calories and no net carbs. All of the carbs present are from erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol.

Once again, the sweetener has no blood sugar impact. You can also directly replace brown sugar for it.

The ingredients are more complex than the previous sweeteners and include: Erythritol, prebiotic oligosaccharides, vegetable glycerin, fruit juice concentrate and natural flavors.

While reviews are generally positive, the inclusion of natural flavors may be unappealing to some. Such flavors tend to be processed (despite the name) and companies do not have to specify precisely what they included.

​The inclusion of fruit juice concentrate as an ingredient means that there will be some carbs present per serving. However, ​Swerve Brown states that there are no carbs. This means the amount must be less than 0.5 gram carbs per serving. 

Truvia Brown Sugar Blend

​This is another brand that produces a brown sugar alternative. The key low carb sweeteners are erythritol and stevia leaf extract.

However, the blend also uses sugar and molasses as ingredients. This produces a flavor profile that is closer to the real thing.  

A 1 tsp serving size contains 2 grams of carbs from sugar and 2 grams from the erythritol. 

Because sugar is included as an ingredient, you need to be more careful about using it.

  • ​The Truvia blend can raise blood sugar levels, although not as much as regular brown sugar.
  • ​For anyone on keto, the 2 grams of net carbs per serving is significant.

​Final Thoughts

There is no single best substitute for brown sugar. What you use is going to depend on your needs and the ingredients that you currently have available.

Regardless of whether you’re going low carb or not, take care with sweeteners. It’s easy to overdo it and many foods don’t need sweetening at all.

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