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Can you substitute white sugar for brown? Answered

Can you substitue white sugar for brown sugar, or vice versa if you only have one type and the recipe calls for the other? Earlier I was baking cookies and needed white sugar, but I only had brown. Could I have used brown sugar intead of going to the store for white? If I can use either sugar, do I use the same amount? Thanks for your help!


Granulated sugar of any kind is considered a "liquid" when baking or cooking, since it will melt into a liquid at a relatively low temperature.  But brown sugar is generally produced by centrifuging molasses with white sugar.  If you have some molasses, the ratio would be thus:
To make one cup packed light brown sugar-
        1 cup of white granulated sugar
         1 - 1/2 Tablespoons of molasses.
Mix these together in a food processor or similar with a dough attachment (you don't want to break down the sugar crystals or turn them into a powder sugar, you just want to coat the crystals with the molasses).
For a dark brown sugar, you want to add 4 tablespoons of molasses to the white sugar.

In spite of their difference in weight, you can substitute brown sugar for granulated white on a 1 to 1 basis, and the most significant difference will be taste.
Remember, this is going to affect the chemical reaction which occurs during baking.  But as a general rule of thumb this is  taught to most chefs -

-Substitute white sugar for brown sugar on a 1 to 1 basis, but add 4 tablespoons of molasses per cup, and decrease the total amount of liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons.
-To use honey in place of sugar, use 7/8 cup for every cup of sugar, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons.
-To use sugar in place of honey, use 1-1/4 cups of sugar plus 1/4 cup more liquid.
-To use maple syrup in place of sugar in cooking, use 3/4 cup for every 1 cup of sugar.
-To use maple syrup in place of a cup of sugar in baking, use 3/4 cup, but decrease the total amount of liquid in the recipe by about 3 tablespoons for each cup of syrup you use.
-To use sugar in place of a cup of maple syrup, use 1-1/4 cups of sugar plus 1/4 cup more liquid.

According to How It's Made, brown sugar is nothing but white sugar with molasses spun into it. So maybe if you mixed the molasses and sugar first to get the right texture, you could make your own? I don't bake much and haven't tested this theory.

You can use it, but it will distort how much it rises, the sweetness and the texture. White sugar is absorbed and does little to the mixture but change the taste, when brown sugar melts it becomes a liquid in it's own right. Depending upon what recipe you're doing this with will have different results, it's if just some cookie then go for it, if it's your daughter's birthday cake, buy what it says.

Sure and if you've got molasses add just a touch of that to replace some of the flavor of the missing brown sugar.


8 years ago

Yes you can do so. The brown sugar though will impart some flavour besides sweetening. It is generally used in 'heavier'/ richer recipes such as fruit cakes etc., Use slightly less brown sugar as it is heavier, and as I said imparts a flavour. Having said that I disregard most of the rules of the cookery school that trained me! I use raw demerara sugar (brown-largish 'grain'), in all my baking! (Exception: Scotch Shortbread/ Icing etc!) No disasters so far!