Light Vs. Dark Brown Sugar – How Do They Compare?

There are many types of brown sugar, but light and dark brown sugar are the best known and easiest to find. Both are chemically similar and are made using the same processing methods; however, they are two completely different products. If you are faced with a choice between them, you will want to weigh their differences carefully before deciding. Let’s compare the two.

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How does light brown sugar differ from dark brown sugar?

Light brown sugar and dark brown sugar differ in appearance, and that difference has to do with the molasses content in each. Molasses is the dark brown, viscous byproduct from processing sugarcane juice to promote sugar crystallization. To make brown sugar the sugar is refined, then some of that molasses is returned to it to make the sugar brown. The amount that is returned to the sugar crystals is what determines whether you get light or dark brown sugar. Light brown sugar has less of it; dark brown sugar has a higher molasses content.

The lower proportion of molasses in light brown sugar means that it has a milder caramel-like taste, while dark brown sugar, has a more intense flavor. Since molasses is a liquid, more of it means that the sugar will be moister in texture and less of it means that the sugar will be dryer.

If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?

Light brown sugar can technically be used in many recipes that require dark brown sugar. Both will provide the same amount of sweetness, so you can switch them out to increase or decrease the molasses flavor to your liking.

But if you want to make a substitution while being faithful to the recipe, you will have to make an effort to simulate the brown sugar you are replacing. For example, you can add molasses to light brown sugar to replicate the darker color and deeper flavor of dark brown sugar. Without the addition of molasses, light brown sugar is paler in color and lacking in that rich flavor. It also has less moisture. All of these can impact your expected results without that additional molasses.

Similarly, dark brown sugar can be used as a substitute for light brown sugar if you add some refined white sugar to dilute the molasses flavor and color. Dark brown sugar will not be a good light brown sugar substitute without the addition of white sugar. It will make most baked goods too dark and (in some cases) too bitter. You will also need to consider moisture for your baking. The lack of moisture in light brown sugar (or the added moisture in dark brown sugar) can affect the extent to which a cake rises.

–> Learn More: What’s A Good Dark Brown Sugar Substitute?

How do you convert light brown sugar into dark? And vice versa?

As mentioned, this all comes down to the amount of molasses in the sugar. Light equals less molasses while dark equals more. So there are simple calculations to go in either direction. We cover below the conversions, plus how to make each light and dark brown sugars from granulated white sugar.

To convert light brown sugar into dark

  • Start with your desired amount of light brown sugar.
  • Add a small amount of molasses to the light brown sugar. The molasses will darken the sugar and add a richer flavor.
  • Start with about 1 tablespoon of molasses per cup of light brown sugar. You can adjust the amount of molasses based on your preference for darkness and flavor.
  • Use a fork or whisk to thoroughly mix the molasses into the light brown sugar until it is evenly distributed.
  • Continue adding molasses and mixing until you achieve the desired darkness and flavor.

Note: It’s important to keep in mind that the texture of the sugar may change slightly when adding molasses. Remember, dark brown sugar typically has a slightly moister texture compared to light brown sugar.

To convert dark brown sugar to light

  • Start with your desired amount of dark brown sugar.
  • Measure an equal amount of granulated white sugar.
  • Combine the dark brown sugar and granulated white sugar in a mixing bowl.
  • Mix the two sugars together thoroughly until well blended.
  • Your resulting mixture will now resemble light brown sugar.

To make light brown sugar from white sugar

Add one tablespoon of molasses to white sugar. Stir to thoroughly combine. Add more molasses to your desired color.

To make dark brown sugar from white sugar

Add two tablespoons of molasses to white sugar. Stir to thoroughly combine. Add more molasses to your desired color.

When should you use each ingredient?

Use light brown sugar when you need a little molasses flavor and a light brown color. One classic use is in chocolate chip cookies, another is in pineapple upside down cake. Similarly, you can add it to mildly flavored cereals and to coffee. In most of these applications, too much molasses would make the food items unattractively dark or unpalatable.

Use dark brown sugar when you want the deep molasses flavor and in foods where a deeper brown color is desired. Barbecue sauces are one area where a darker brown is usually better. Note that if a recipe requires brown sugar without stating the type, you will want to use light brown sugar in almost all cases.

  1. Light Brown Sugar, 3.5 lb.
    $21.99 ($21.99 / Count)
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    02/18/2024 05:01 am GMT
  2. Dark Brown Sugar, 24 oz.
    $14.91 ($0.62 / Ounce)

    Providing color and flavor, dark brown sugar can often be hard to substitute. Keep extra at hand to keep your recipe to the book as often as possible.

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    02/18/2024 05:06 am GMT