Light brown sugar is a flavorful sweetener used in baked goods and other foods ranging from oatmeal and banana bread to barbecue sauce. It is a milder alternative to the deeper flavor notes and darker color that dark brown sugar brings. If your household uses a lot of light brown sugar, you may find yourself out of it right when you need it most. For an emergency light brown sugar substitute, consider one of the following.
Your best bet: Make your own light brown sugar
Since both light and dark brown sugar consists of refined white sugar and molasses, it is relatively easy to make your own. Remember to remove as much refined sugar as the molasses that you add to the mixture. To arrive at a cup of dark brown sugar, combine 1 tablespoon of molasses with a cup (less one tablespoon) of refined white sugar. Mix by hand using a whisk or with a stand mixer to get a light brown sugar substitute that looks exactly like the prepackaged version. Light brown sugar should only be made with true molasses and not with blackstrap molasses, which has a very different character.
A decent second choice: Demerara sugar
Demerara sugar is an unrefined sugar with a gold color that is only slightly paler than that of light brown sugar. This sugar is made from the first boiling of sugar cane syrup. After boiling, the syrup is dehydrated until the sugar crystals form. The color of demerara sugar comes from the fact that it is made with sugar cane syrup, which does contain a little molasses.
Demerara sugar often has larger crystals than other types of sugar, including light brown sugar. It is a good alternative to light brown sugar in many baking applications, but the large crystals may make it unsuitable for others. For example, consider the fact that an ounce of it has less sweetening power than an ounce of refined white sugar.
In a pinch: Dark brown sugar + white sugar
You can make an effective substitute for light brown sugar by combining dark brown sugar with refined white sugar. While dark brown sugar may contain too much of the molasses flavor or have too dark a color for some recipes, cutting it with an equal amount of refined white sugar can mute the flavor and lighten the color. Once diluted, it becomes an effective substitute for light brown sugar.
Maple syrup is an effective substitute for liquid sweeteners like molasses and honey; you can also use to replace light brown sugar in many recipes. Use a 2/3 cup of maple syrup for every cup of light brown sugar that your recipe requires. Because light brown sugar is dry and maple syrup is a liquid, you will need to reduce the liquids in your dish to keep it from being too wet. If you add 2/3 cup of maple syrup, you will need to reduce the amount of liquid by that amount.
Honey is another liquid that you can use in place of light brown sugar. As with maple syrup, you will need to use less honey than your recipe requires for sugar. If your recipe requires 1 cup of light brown sugar, use 1/2 to 3/4 cup of honey. You will also need to adjust the other liquids in the recipe to compensate for the honey.