How to Soften Brown Sugar (Plus 20 Ways to Use It!)

Nothing is more disappointing than opening your cupboard to discover your bag of fluffy, soft brown sugar has hardened into a solid, unusable lump! Learn How to Soften Brown Sugar and have it back in action for all sorts of tasty recipes. See below for helpful tips, plus 20 recipes that use brown sugar at the end of this post!

A glass bowl filled with soft brown sugar

What is Brown Sugar?

Brown sugar is granulated white sugar with added molasses. The two are mixed together until each granule of sugar is covered with molasses. The only difference between light and dark brown sugar is the amount of molasses used.

In a pinch, you can make your own brown sugar at home. For light brown sugar mix 1 cup of white sugar with 1 tablespoon of molasses. For dark brown sugar, mix 1 cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of molasses.

Why Does Brown Sugar Go Hard?

Brown sugar goes hard when the moisture in it evaporates. It is important to store brown sugar in an airtight container to prevent this from happening. When brown sugar is stored incorrectly (ie. not airtight), your package of soft sugar can quickly become a hard, unappealing lump as the natural moisture in the granules evaporates. While it’s still technically safe to eat, hardened brown sugar is impossible to measure properly and is difficult to use in recipes because the lumps don’t break down the way sugar normally would.

Overhead of brown sugar in a glass bowl

Easy Ways to Soften it Up Again

If you’ve opened your pantry to find a bag of lumpy, hardened brown sugar, never fear! There are a few easy remedies that you can try that should soften your sugar back up – and prevent it from happening again.

In the Microwave

By far the quickest way to soften brown sugar in a pinch is in the microwave. Place the dried-out lump of sugar in a microwave-safe bowl, and cover the bowl with a damp paper towel. Microwave the sugar in 10-second bursts, breaking it up with a fork in between, until it’s grainy and soft again.

Two notes of caution: Be careful when handling, as the sugar can become very hot! Secondly, whatever you do, don’t over-microwave it, as this will cause the sugar to melt.

With a Slice of Bread

This next method takes a bit longer. Place the lumpy brown sugar along with a slice of fresh bread in an airtight container, and leave it for 24 hours. The sugar will absorb the moisture from the bread and should return to a soft, crumbly texture. Don’t forget to take the bread out of the container afterward, so that it doesn’t become moldy! Just leave it in there long enough to rehydrate your brown sugar.

With an Apple Slice

This method works the same way as the bread slice! Follow the same directions, only using a slice of apple instead (also remembering to remove it after 24 hours).

With a Piece of Terracotta

Terracotta has become a crafty solution for maintaining moisture in brown sugar! Soak a piece of (clean) terracotta in water, and after about 20 minutes place it in an airtight container with the hardened sugar lump. Leave it for a day or so, and the sugar will be revived. Terracotta can be left in with the sugar to prevent it from lumping again – you can even find terracotta “sugar savers” (affiliate link) in many kitchen supply stores.

Storing Brown Sugar

Now that you’ve revived your brown sugar, it’s time to store it properly! Store brown sugar airtight and in a cool and dry location (like a pantry, and not the fridge). This will keep it soft, grainy, and ready to use.

20 Recipes that Use Brown Sugar

Are you ready to use your brown sugar? Here are 19 easy recipes to put your sugar to work!

Breakfast & Dinner

A little caramelized flavor goes a long way when it comes to these easy breakfast recipes and savory dinner ideas!

Stack of waffles with a slice taken out, topped with berries, cream and syrup

Fluffy Brown Sugar Pumpkin Waffles


Spice up your weekend brunch with these delicious spiced pumpkin waffles made with cinnamon, ginger, and brown sugar.

A black bowl of pumpkin granola

Pumpkin Spice Granola


A versatile and easy recipe for homemade granola filled with the flavors of pumpkin spice, maple syrup and brown sugar. Fall-inspired and super delicious, you’ll be serving this with everything from yogurt, to smoothie bowls, to parfaits!

Bowl of oatmeal with blueberries.

Creamy Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal


How about a creamy bowl of homemade maple brown sugar oatmeal for breakfast? Just add fresh fruit and your other favorite toppings for a healthy start to your day. This recipe is pretty much cozy in a bowl!

Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso Latte (Starbucks Copycat)

Learning how to make your favorite Starbucks drinks at home is peak DIY! Get your practice in with this easy copycat recipe for an iced brown sugar latte with shaken espresso, made with oat milk.

A woman's hand is pouring glaze from a small white measuring cup over a cooked spiral ham on a serving platter.

Slow Cooker Ham with Brown Sugar Glaze

A succulent, whole ham prepared in the slow cooker with plenty of brown sugar is easy, wholesome and perfect for family dinner! This glazed ham recipe is quick to prep before the slow cooker does the rest.

turkey tenderloins that are grilled and sliced, with a brown sugar and whole grain mustard sauce

Grilled Turkey Tenderloin with Brown Sugar and Whole Grain Mustard

This easy dinner idea sees juicy turkey tenderloin smothered in a savory homemade brown sugar and whole grain mustard sauce.

bbq pulled pork in a serving bowl with buns beside it to make barbecue pork sandwiches

The Best Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

The whole family is going to love this easy Instant Pot pulled pork recipe, with deliciously sweet-savory BBQ sauce flavored with brown sugar.

Garlic Brown Sugar Baked Chicken - Juicy, beyond DELICIOUS oven baked chicken breasts full of flavor with just a handful of ingredients and on the table in 30 minutes!

Garlic Brown Sugar Baked Chicken Breasts


You only need a handful of ingredients, among them brown sugar, garlic, and spices, to make this easy baked chicken for your next weeknight dinner. This is some seriously flavorful and juicy chicken, ready to pair with tons of sides!

Up close image of loaded sweet potato with a fork picking up some sweet potato and marshmallows.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes


This is one side dish you can always count on to turn out delicious! Twice baked sweet potatoes topped with brown sugar and marshmallows are a true classic family recipe.

Brown Sugar Bacon Sloppy Joes


Kid-friendly Sloppy Joe’s are a fail-proof recipe for family meals, full of ground beef, super tasty, and delightfully messy. This version made with brown sugar and bacon is a fun twist that really packs in the flavor!


These easy desserts are rich and delicious, featuring brown sugar as the star ingredient!

Homemade Pop Tarts covered with icing and cooling on a wire rack

Homemade Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts


You’ll be so impressed with this easy recipe for homemade Pop Tarts, you’ll never go back to the store bought version! Made with buttery cinnamon brown sugar filling surrounded by crumbly pastry, these Pop Tarts are the best kid-friendly breakfast.

Chocolate brownies with pecan pie topping set on top of a white plate.

Pecan Pie Brownies


What’s better than pecan pie and brownies? Both of those things together! This recipe for brownies topped with a buttery, caramelized pecan pie topping will blow other brownie recipes away with its delicious brown sugar flavors.

Grandma's cookie recipe made with walnuts and brown sugar

Grandma’s Nut Cup Cookies

An authentic cookie recipe that’s stood the test of time! This family spin on pecan tassies will have everyone raving over these wonderful cream cheese cookie cups loaded with walnuts and brown sugar.

A loaf of sour cream coffee cake cut to show the inside

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

This sour cream coffee cake is topped with a cinnamon sugar and chocolate streusel that’s a delight for the senses! Gorgeous flavors of brown sugar and cocoa mingle together in a breakfast cake that’s unlike any other.

Slices of chocolate chip banana bread.

Easy Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread


Vegan or not, you’ll fall in love with the rich flavors of this vegan chocolate banana bread! Made with cocoa powder and sweetened with brown sugar, this is an easy plant-based breakfast recipe that is sure to satisfy.

plate filled with apple blueberry crumble topped with ice cream

Easy Apple Blueberry Crumble

Juicy apples and fresh blueberries are topped with a rich brown sugar and oat crumble in this easy dessert recipe! Light, fruity, and full of summer flavor!

hand pie

Iced Brown Sugar Pumpkin Hand Pies

Like a homemade toaster strudel, but even BETTER! These flaky, buttery baked hand pies are filled with delectable brown sugar and drizzled with vanilla glaze for a perfect sweet treat.

Visit the recipe finder for more food tips and tricks, plus loads of recipes featuring your favorite ingredients!

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