Eat Smarter with These Brown Sugar Substitutes

Updated on February 26th, 2020
brown sugar substitute

Different people substitute brown sugar for white sugar for different reasons. Some like the distinctive taste of brown sugar, best described as a dark, nutty flavor. Additionally, brown sugar is a wonderful repository of added minerals, compelling many health-conscious individuals to substitute brown sugar for granulated white sugar.

However, for a healthy diet, the sugar intake must contribute to no more than 10%(1) of an individual’s daily calorie requirement, regardless of whether you use white sugar or brown sugar.

If you too want to make the switch to a healthier alternative to sugar, here’s a rundown of some healthy brown sugar substitutes.

List of Healthy Brown Sugar Substitutes

If you are in a crunch or have run out of brown sugar, here are a few brown sugar substitutes that can try:

1. Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado sugar is a kind of dark brown sugar, making it an excellent substitute for brown sugar itself. It is the least refined sugar, thereby making it the healthiest. It is also known as Barbados sugar, Khansari, or khand.

It imparts a similar flavor considering that, much like traditional brown sugar, Muscovado sugar also contains molasses. However, the molasses content and subsequent moisture content of Muscovado sugar are higher than regular brown sugar. Hence, it is not only stickier but more prone to clumping.

Muscovado sugar offers the following health benefits:

  • Due to minimal processing, Muscovado is a natural, unrefined product, making it a healthier alternative to refined sugar
  • It contains significant traces of iron, potassium, and magnesium – several minerals that can be directly absorbed by the body

Due to the similarity between brown sugar and Muscovado sugar, you can substitute it in equal quantities. However, while baking with Muscovado, you might want to sift the sugar to remove clumps. Further, grind it as well.

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2. Coconut Sugar

coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is retrieved from the sap of coconut trees. While coconut sugar does bear an appearance and taste similar to brown sugar, its moisture content is lower. The presence of vitamins, minerals, and even traces of fiber in coconut sugar render it healthier than other refined sugar. Coconut sugar is a great brown sugar substitute for diabetics due to its low glycemic index. Its fiber content can make it an ideal brown sugar substitute for those on a keto diet.

Coconut sugar possesses the following health benefits:

  • It has a lower glycemic index (GI) of around 54, with some variants having a GI as little as 25-35, which means that it causes a slightly lower sugar spike.
  • Coconut sugar is loaded(2) with potassium, magnesium, and sodium, which are essential electrolytes for the body’s heart, nerve, and muscle health.

A cup of coconut sugar can substitute a cup of brown sugar. Be mindful of the low moisture content of coconut sugar as it can alter the texture of your baked goods. You will notice your bakes products turning dryer and denser than usual. To counter this, you can add some extra butter or oil to the recipe.

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3. White Sugar and Molasses (Light and Dark)

A smarter way is to substitute molasses for brown sugar. Brown sugar itself is a combination of white sugar and molasses. Hence, this is basically a DIY substitute for brown sugar. While combining white sugar and molasses to make your own brown sugar, you also have the freedom to decide an appropriate proportion, which will give you control over whether you want dark brown sugar or light brown sugar.

To make light brown sugar, mix 200 grams of granulated white sugar with 15mL of molasses for light brown sugar. For dark brown sugar, double the quantity of molasses and add 30mL of it to 200 grams of sugar. Beat them together with a fork or blitz them in a blender and you’re done!

  • This combination has a lesser calorie-count(3) than white sugar.
  • Brown sugar prepared in this manner retains significant traces of calcium, iron, and potassium, making it superior to white sugar.

Since white sugar and molasses are essentially the same as brown sugar, you can substitute it with a 1:1 ratio.

4. Maple Sugar

maple sugar

Maple sugar is prepared from maple syrup, which is produced by boiling the sap tapped from maple trees. North America is the highest consumer and producer of maple syrup and its products. Maple sugar retains the qualities of maple syrup and is available in different grades (A and B), where grade B is the darkest variant.

There are low-carb versions of maple syrup available, which allows it to be a low carb brown sugar substitute.

Maple sugar offers the following health benefits:

  • Unlike honey, maple sugar (and syrup for that matter) contains no common allergens, making it allergy-friendly.
  • Maple sugar contains as many as 65 antioxidants apart from vital vitamins and minerals. In fact, its nutritional profile is comparable to apples and broccoli.

Since maple sugar is sweeter than regular or brown sugar, you can substitute a cup of brown sugar with 3/4th cups of maple sugar.

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5. Honey

Another brown sugar substitute is honey. It is perfect because of its sweet taste and medicinal benefits. However, those suffering from pollen allergy may want to stay away from honey.

The health benefits of honey are endless. Some key highlights are:

  • The organic variants of honey are loaded with antioxidants(4), which may reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and even cancer.
  • While it does cause a blood sugar spike, honey can be a healthier brown sugar substitute for diabetics as the sugar levels are less elevated when compared to regular sugar.

Since honey is present in its liquid form, you may have to alter your recipe accordingly. Replace 200 grams of brown sugar with 160mL of honey. At the same time, reduce the other liquid sources in the recipe by 60mL.


These above substitutes are renowned for being an excellent replacement for brown sugar. However, you may have to make certain modifications to your recipe, depending on the brown sugar substitutes you opt for. A right substitute and the right proportion can help you churn a healthier and yummy meal.


1. Can You Substitute White Sugar for Brown Sugar?

Ideally, you can. However, you might want to consider the substitutes listed above if you want the same texture and deep, rich flavor as brown sugar, and want to do away with the chewy, especially while baking.

2. Can You Substitute Dark Brown Sugar for Light Brown Sugar?

Dark brown sugar has a greater molasses content than light brown sugar. So basically, there is no distinct flavor or textural difference. However, dark sugar bears more mineral content and moisture than light sugar.

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