Brown Sugar Substitute in Cookies

Due to its deep, rich, and caramel flavor, brown sugar is a prominent ingredient in most cookie recipes. If you don’t have any on hand, don’t panic. There are many viable options, such as white sugar (plain or with mix-ins), molasses, honey, and other types of sugars.

Hey, there! My name is Michelle, and I am a self-taught baker with over ten years of experience. I almost always have brown sugar in my pantry, but that hasn’t always been the case (I get lazy and don’t want to go shopping sometimes, too). Luckily, I’ve found some great alternatives.

If you’re ready to bake a batch of cookies but find yourself sans brown sugar, keep reading. Below you will find a cumulative list of the very best brown sugar substitutes in cookies. 

Let’s get baking!

How to Replace Brown Sugar in Cookies

Brown sugar is found in plenty of cookie recipes, but the good news is, it can be replicated pretty easily. Whether you stick to basic ingredients like white sugar and honey or venture into less-traveled options like Muscovado sugar, you can find an alternative that works for you.

White Sugar

White sugar will always be a great backup plan for brown sugar. Why? Because almost everyone has white sugar on hand. This is especially true if you enjoy baking cookies. Let’s face it – most recipes want a white and brown sugar combo!

White sugar can replace brown sugar cup for cup in cookie recipes. It might lack some of the depth of brown sugar, but in many cases, you won’t even notice. Keep in mind that cookies will be crispier, though. 

If you want to add some richness to your white sugar, consider adding some mix-ins:

  • A tablespoon or two of molasses. White sugar and molasses are some of the best combos for replacing brown sugar. That’s because brown sugar contains molasses. So, you’re essentially making your very own light or dark brown sugar.
  • A tablespoon of maple syrup. Maple syrup is another viable option. It’s pretty similar in flavor and texture-wise to molasses. 
  • A tablespoon of honey. Another simple solution is honey. It might be a bit lighter than maple syrup and molasses, but it works like a charm. 

Alternative Sugars

When some people hear the word “white sugar,” they shudder, and that’s okay. Some people can’t have white sugar due to health reasons, whether struggling with high glucose levels or just wanting to be healthier overall with other sugar options.

Sound like you? Then you will love to hear that many alternative sugars can be used in place of brown sugar. Here are some of the top picks:

  • Coconut sugar. Coconut sugar tastes surprisingly similar to brown sugar but has the benefit of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. While you can use it in a 1:1 ratio, adding a bit of extra fat is recommended to avoid density and/or dryness.
  • Turbinado sugar. Another excellent alternative flavorwise turbinado is raw sugar which can also be used with a 1:1 ratio. You might want to dissolve it in warm water before adding it to your batter, though, as the granules are larger and more challenging to mix.
  • Muscovado sugar. Did you know that muscovado – like brown sugar – contains molasses? Muscovado has too much for most cookie recipes. Try to find light muscovado sugar or use half the amount for the desired result.
  • Palm sugar. Also referred to as palm date sugar, this type of sugar is sold as a thick paste that must be broken down before it’s added to your cookie batter. The flavor is excellent, though, so it’s well worth the trouble.

Liquid Sweeteners

Using a liquid sweetener, such as honey or molasses can pose a challenge. Yet, if you can mix the right concoction, you’ll have a superb brown sugar substitute in cookies.

So what’s the deal with liquid sweeteners? When added to a cookie recipe, you need to make sure you’re using ¾ cups per every cup of brown sugar called for. To avoid a watery, undesirable batter, you should also reduce the overall liquid.

Fruit Puree

If you haven’t heard by now, adding fruit puree to cookies (and other baked goods) has become increasingly popular. However, most people think that fruit purees should only be used for replacing butter. That’s not always the case.

If you’re in a pinch and need to add more sweetness to your cookie batter, you can always opt for fruit purees. The type of fruit you choose might impact the overall flavor, though. For example, you might notice a hint of apple or banana in your cookies if that’s your selected fruit.

The best option for replacing brown sugar in cookies is date puree. Date puree has an incredibly rich and toffee-like flavor that resembles the taste of brown sugar. Give it a try!


Now you know the best brown sugar substitute in cookies. If you’re still curious about this topic, check out these frequently asked questions below.

Can I replace sugar with brown sugar in cookies?

You sure can! Replacing white sugar with brown sugar in cookie recipes works like a charm. Remember that the flavor might have less depth, and the cookies might turn out crispier. (Is that really a bad thing, though? I’m a big fan!)

Can you substitute honey for brown sugar in cookies?

Yes, as they have similar flavor profiles. However, honey is a liquid, so you will need to reduce the ratio to ¾ cup per 1 cup of brown sugar. Other liquid ingredients should be reduced, too, for the best results.

Is Demerara sugar brown sugar?

Technically, yes. Demerara sugar is similar to brown sugar in its appearance and flavor. However, it is a much larger grain than brown sugar. Therefore, it’s typically used as a topping to provide some extra crunch. 

Is golden caster sugar the same as brown sugar?

While they are relatively similar, they are certainly not the same thing. Golden caster sugar is more refined than brown sugar and has a less intense flavor. So, it can be used as a replacement, but it won’t have the same desired range of flavor.

Final Words

No brown sugar? No problem. Reach for your white sugar and liquid sweeteners, or try out an alternative sugar like Muscovado to get the job done. You can even use fruit purees when you’re in a pinch and need to add some flavor and sweetness to your cookies!

Have you ever used one of these brown sugar substitutes in cookies? Which one is your favorite? Share your stories and ideas with us below!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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