So, What’s the Difference Between Light and Dark Brown Sugar?

You're ready to bake and you've got one or the other. So is there a difference between light and dark brown sugar? We're here to explain (and share how to swap one for the other).

There are a few baking staples everyone needs in their pantry: flour, sugar, chocolate chips, leaveners and brown sugar. But when you’re filling your pantry with these basics, you may find yourself asking what’s the difference between light and dark brown sugar? And do you need both?

What Is Brown Sugar?

Brown sugar is simply regular sugar with molasses added. Molasses gives the sugar its signature color and a richer flavor. Brown sugar has a slightly sandy, sticky texture.

It’s always measured by packing it into the measuring cup (versus scooping it loosely). This will give you a more accurate measurement, as will a kitchen scale.

Because of the addition of molasses, brown sugar can dry out over time. If brown sugar gets hard, you don’t need to toss it! You can soften brown sugar easily. A terracotta brown sugar bear or marshmallow tossed into the canister will do the trick.

What’s the Difference Between Light Brown Sugar and Dark Brown Sugar?

Now, when you’re out shopping for your next baking marathon, you’ll find that store shelves are stocked with two kinds of brown sugar. So what’s the difference between light brown and dark brown sugar?

It’s just the amount of molasses included in the bag. Dark brown sugar has more molasses, which gives it a deeper color and more pronounced molasses flavor.

Can I Substitute Dark Brown Sugar for Light Brown Sugar?

When it comes to substitutions, feel free to swap light brown and dark brown sugar for one another in equal measure. These two types of sugar can be used interchangeably in any recipe.

If you want more molasses flavor in your recipe (this may be the case with something like baked beans or barbecue sauce) and you only have light brown sugar on hand, just stir an extra tablespoon or two of molasses into the recipe. That will give you that bold flavor you’re looking for while also saving you a trip to the store.

When it comes to baking with brown sugar, there’s not much need to add that bit of extra. Most recipes that call for brown sugar, such as classic chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon rolls and chocolate cake, are layered with plenty of other flavors; you won’t notice a little more or less molasses in the grand scheme of things.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.