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8 Ways to Keep Brown Sugar Soft (And Soften If It Hardens)

Learn how to keep brown sugar soft and how to soften brown sugar after it has hardened.

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Brown sugar in a measuring cup; Shutterstock ID 1040731477; Shutterstock / Moonborne

Why Does Brown Sugar Get Hard?

If you’re a baker, then you know brown sugar can form into rock-hard chunks that are difficult to break up. Unlike other sugars, brown sugar hardens when exposed to air. This is because molasses loses moisture, making the sugar crystals stick to themselves. So, if it’s kept in an unsealed bag or a non-airtight container, it’ll likely become hard as a rock. Luckily, there are a few tricks to soften it in a hurry so you can continue baking those heirloom brown sugar desserts.

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Empty glass jar with a hinged lid - dishes for food; Shutterstock ID 1167411727;Shutterstock / VanoVasaio

Airtight Container

First and foremost, the best way to keep brown sugar soft in the first place is to store it the right way. When you store the sugar in a sealable, airtight container, there’s no air to absorb the moisture that causes the sugar to harden. This OXO food storage container set is a favorite of our Test Kitchen.

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Sliced white bread; Shutterstock ID 352819853;Gamzova Olga/Shutterstock

Sliced Bread


To keep brown sugar from drying out, turn to a loaf of bread. Throwing in a slice of white bread in your brown sugar container allows the sugar to draw moisture from it. The bread hardens while the brown sugar softens, keeping or returning it to a soft texture. This method is one of our top Amish baking tips that you should know.

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Glass bowl of white marshmallows in kitchen.; Shutterstock ID 41643064;Gamzova Olga/Shutterstock

Marshmallows


How do marshmallows keep brown sugar soft, you might ask? The same way bread does! The brown sugar is able to extract moisture from the marshmallows. And a couple of marshmallows is a small sacrifice for soft, fluffy brown sugar. By the way, this is the difference between light and dark brown sugar.

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Variety of organic apples sliced on wood table.; Shutterstock ID 322257455;Shutterstock / Arina P Habich

Apple

If you don’t have any bread or marshmallows laying around, apples work, too. Throw in a few slices and after a day or two, the sugar will be good as new. Just be sure not to leave them in there too long. These secret baking tips will help take your baking from good to great.

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brown sugar bearBrown Sugar Bear / Amazon

Brown Sugar Bear

This may be the cutest way to save your brown sugar. Soak the terra cotta Brown Sugar Bear in water and place in the bag or container of brown sugar. It’ll keep your sugar soft for 3-6 months. Here are more essential baking supplies to add to your cart.

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Faucet and water drop on white background; Shutterstock ID 590672204;Shutterstock / Lipskiy

Water

Moisture is a big deal when it comes to brown sugar. If your brown sugar has gone hard a a rock, and you can spare a few days, sprinkle a few drops of water in the bag of brown sugar and wait until it softens up. Be careful not to over do it though—water can also cause the sugar to dissolve.

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food machine empty view; Shutterstock ID 760276579;Shutterstock / gupina

Food Processor

Another helpful hack when you’re in a pinch is to use a food processor. It’ll break up the hard chunks, making the sugar usable once again. You can then use a fine mesh sieve to separate any large chunks that are leftover. In need of a food processor? Find out our Test Kitchen’s preferred food processor.

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Woman's Hands Closing Microwave Oven Door And Preparing Food in microwave.; Shutterstock ID 735463006Shutterstock / Zynatis

Microwave

If you’re in a hurry to soften brown sugar—as in, you’re baking cookies NOW—you’re in luck. Simply place a wet paper towel in with the sugar and microwave for 20 seconds.

Emily Racette Parulski
Emily Racette Parulski is a Senior Editor for Taste of Home, specializing in email newsletters. When she’s not writing about food, she’s baking something sweet to feed her chocolate obsession.

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