10 Best Brown Sugar Substitute That’ll Taste Just as Sweet Baking and Beyond

Brown sugar brings sweetness, moisture, and richness to cookies, cakes, glazes, and more. But it also packs a lot of calories and blood sugar-spiking power. If you’re looking for healthier baking or ways to reduce sugar in your diet, using a brown sugar substitute may help.

This article reviews the best options for replacing Brown Sugar Substitute from coconut sugar to date paste with DIY recipes and more. We’ll compare nutrition facts, glycemic impact, taste, and how each substitute works in baking. Let’s dive in!

What Makes Brown Sugar Unhealthy?

Before covering replacements, we should discuss why finding a substitute for brown sugar makes sense health-wise.

While less processed than white sugar, all forms of Brown Sugar Substitute have downsides:

  • High calorie density: Over 385 calories per 100 grams! It’s easy to pour in hundreds of excess calories without feeling full.
  • Blood sugar spikes: The high glycemic index causes rapid insulin spikes that can lead to insulin resistance over time.
  • Tooth decay risk: Sugar feeds bacteria that erode tooth enamel and cause cavities or even tooth loss.
  • Inflammation promoter: Excess blood sugar triggers inflammatory pathways linked to aging, obesity, and chronic disease.
  • Addictive qualities: The brain’s dopamine response can be as addicting as some hard drugs, making sugar hard to give up.

For these reasons, using a brown sugar substitute to reduce intake – while still enjoying sweet flavors – is a smart health move. Now let’s explore substitution options…

Read More: No Sugar No Flour Diet

Easy Brown Sugar Substitute
Easy Brown Sugar Substitute

Sugar Substitutes Without Molasses

What makes brown sugar different than white sugar is the addition of molasses during processing. The rich, thick molasses adds color, moisture, and the signature brown sugar flavor.

Some Brown Sugar Substitute replacements aim to mimic both the sweetness and the molasses notes. But other options don’t rely on molasses at all. These may work better for certain recipes.

Popular no-molasses brown sugar subs include:

  • Coconut sugar
  • Dates
  • Raisins
  • Prunes
  • Applesauce
  • Bananas

These whole food options provide natural sweetness from fructose along with their own flavors and nutrition.

Let’s take a closer look at the most common no-molasses substitutes for brown sugar.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar (sometimes labeled coconut palm sugar) is made from the sap of cut coconut plant flower buds. The sap is boiled to evaporate moisture, leaving behind a grainy brown sugar.

Coconut sugar has become popular in recent years due to potential benefits over more processed sugars:

  • Low glycemic impact (35 GI)
  • Higher mineral content like iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium
  • Lower fructose than white and brown sugar at about 5% of total carbs
  • Subtle caramel flavor

The molasses-free sweetness and nutrition stats make coconut sugar one of the closest substitutes for brown sugar. Use a 1:1 ratio to replace. It adapts well in most recipes.

The downsides of this sugar substitute include higher cost and the sustainability issues around mass production. However, the eco-friendlier harvesting practices of some brands help alleviate concerns.


Chopped Medjool dates can substitute for Brown Sugar Substitute thanks to their sticky, rich sweetness. Dates offer additional benefits like:

  • High fiber slows sugar absorption
  • No chemical processing
  • Nutrients like potassium, copper, and magnesium
  • Antioxidants that reduce inflammation

Date paste or date syrup equates well to brown sugar in 1⁄2 cup measurements. Soak dates in warm water to soften, then blend into a paste consistency to mix into batters and doughs.

The texture may seem overly moist for some recipes. But the natural sweetness shines through while adding a nutrition boost.

Raisins and Prunes

Dried fruits like raisins, prunes, figs, cherries, and apricots contain highly concentrated fructose that substitutes for sugars in baking.

Follow a 2:1 ratio. For each 1 cup Brown Sugar Substitute called for, replace with 1⁄2 cup chopped dried fruit pureed into a paste. For convenience, find pre-made fruit purees near the jams or make your own.

Thanks to added fiber and antioxidants, dried fruit pastes make a far healthier choice than processed brown sugar. The flavors may seem more pronounced. But backing time and temp can be adjusted.

These time-tested, traditional whole-food sweeteners offer a satisfying taste along with nutrients. Relying more on unsweetened yogurt or milk when using dried fruit sugars balances moisture in recipes nicely.

Molasses-Based Brown Sugar Substitutes

While the above options provide natural sweetness, some recipes depend more on the color, texture, and flavor notes only molasses can provide.

Fortunately, there are a few excellent substitutions for obtaining the signature brown sugar + molasses combo.

The top 3 choices include:

  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Date paste + molasses
  • DIY brown sugar substitute recipes

Let’s explore the details of using each to replace regular brown sugar.

Blackstrap Molasses

Straight blackstrap molasses provides an obvious direct replacement for the molasses element of brown sugar. But it’s thicker, darker, and more bittersweet.

Molasses brown sugar substitutes like Grandma’s Original Molasses or Plantation Blackstrap Unsulphured Molasses replicate traditional recipes well.

Use an equal amount of blackstrap molasses in place of commercial brown sugar. Then reduce liquids slightly to account for the thicker consistency. Spices cover any bitter notes nicely.

This old-fashioned kitchen staple offers a decent dose of minerals like iron, potassium, and calcium too. The rich intensity pairs especially well with barbecue sauces, baked beans, gingerbread, and spice cakes.

Date Paste + Molasses

Another way to replicate both the sweetness AND the molasses found in brown sugar is by combining dates with blackstrap molasses.

Simply soak date pieces to soften then puree into a paste. Add roughly 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses per 1⁄2 cup date paste. Mix until fully incorporated.

Use this homemade combo in a 1:1 ratio when your recipe calls for brown sugar. Even finicky eaters likely won’t detect a noticeable difference.

Not only does this mimic the exact sugar profile, but you benefit from the nutrition found in dates and blackstrap molasses too. The moral of the story? Ditch the processed stuff for whole food alternatives whenever possible!

DIY Brown Sugar Substitute Recipes

Lastly, you can come extremely close to mimicking brown sugar flavor, moisture, and caramel notes by making your own substitute recipes. Some popular DIY options include:

1 cup Brown Sugar*

  • 1 cup coconut sugar + 1 tsp molasses*
  • 1 cup white sugar + 2 tbsp molasses*
  • 1 cup Date paste + 2 tbsp molasses*

Not only are these combinations simple to mix up yourself using healthy ingredients – but over time you can play with ratios to create your perfect sweetness, moisture, and flavor balance.

Be sure to measure carefully, mix thoroughly, and use a 1:1 ratio when swapping in any homemade blends in baking recipes or marinades needing that classic brown sugar kick.

Choosing the Best Brown Sugar Substitute for HEALTH

If health is your top priority when reducing Brown Sugar Substitute, pay attention to a couple key points:

1. Seek Low Glycemic Options

Ideally, choose sugars lowest on the glycemic index to minimize blood sugar spikes.

Options like yacon syrup, monk fruit, and diabetic-friendly sweeteners may appeal to health conditions like diabetes or metabolic disorders. But not all pass the taste test for traditional baking.

2. Prioritize Whole Food Sources

Stay closer to nature by selecting less processed foods over lab-created chemicals. For instance – a homemade date paste sweetener provides more nutrition than a stevia or aspartame packet from a lab.

Whole foods offer fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients while processed sweeteners are more likely to cause intolerances or metabolism issues long term.

What Brown Sugar Substitute
What Brown Sugar Substitute
Finding the Best Brown Sugar Substitute for BAKING

When baking, texture and moisture factors come more into play along with sweetness and taste. The brown sugar substitute needs to caramelize similarly to real sugar without totally throwing off the balance of ingredients.

Here’s what to look for in a good baking-focused brown sugar substitute:

  • Similar moisture and texture
  • Caramelizes and creams well
  • Won’t be grainy or sink in batters
  • Provides balanced sweetness + more depth than white sugar
  • Mimics sugar ratios in the original recipe

Based on these criteria, a few excellent candidates rise to the top for baking uses:

  • Date paste + touch molasses
  • Coconut sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • DIY brown sugar recipes

While healthy in their own right, sugar alcohols, stevia, monk fruit, and artificial sweeteners generally won’t have the binding qualities needed to substitute cup-for-cup for granulated brown sugar.

For simplicity, moisture, sweetness parity, and caramel flavor – the above options make baking substitutions a breeze while providing a touch more nutrition than standard pantry Brown Sugar Substitute.

Brown Sugar Substitutes for COOKIES

The best brown sugar substitute for cookies creates the signature chewy texture and sweetness cookie lovers crave.

Cookies depend heavily on creaming butter and sugar together. So dense fruit purees won’t work alone because butter needs dry ingredients to create air pockets leaving the dough.

The top 3 brown sugar substitutes for cookies include:

  • Coconut sugar – Substitute a 1:1 ratio for chewy cookies with crispy edges
  • Blackstrap molasses – Use a 1:1 ratio
  • DIY brown sugar – Cream just like regular brown sugar

Cookies turn out reliably delicious with these handy swaps. Spice lovers can punch up molasses flavors with ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon to craft amazing cookie flavors.

While banana, applesauce, and date paste add beneficial nutrition – they change the moisture balance in delicate cookie doughs. Reserve these extras for quick breads, muffins, or cakes instead.

The Best Sugar Substitute for DIABETICS

For people with diabetes or insulin resistance, choosing a brown sugar substitute with a very low impact on blood glucose and insulin is vital.

Many studies confirm the natural zero-calorie sweeteners stevia and monk fruit are the most diabetically-friendly. They won’t spike blood sugar in even sensitive individuals.

For diabetics, the American Diabetes Association advises:

  • Use stevia or monk fruit sweeteners
  • Substitute equal ratios for up to 1⁄2 of the sugars called for
  • Get okay from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

The ADA supports these specific sweeteners as safest for glycemic control based on ample research confirming little to no effect on blood sugar or insulin when eaten in moderation as part of healthy meal plans.

Other sugar-free options like sucralose or aspartame may be fine for those handling insulin well – but some studies show negative impacts on gut health microbiome or hunger hormones on sensitive individuals.

While whole food sugars like fruit contain antioxidants and fiber, the natural fructose still raises blood glucose and requires care when diabetic. Check with your physician about appropriate sugar substitutions given your medical history and management plan.

Sugar-Free BROWN SUGAR Substitutes for KETO

Very low-carb or ketogenic diets depend on getting carbs extremely low to reach ketosis for rapid weight loss. Most brown sugar substitutes provide at least some carbs that could limit ketosis.

But a few great options for keto brown sugar exist:

  • Stevia + molasses – Add molasses for flavor
  • Monk fruit + molasses
  • Allulose brown sugar – New rare sugar with 90% fewer carbs than brown sugar

Combining extracts or drops of the natural sweeteners stevia and monk fruit with blackstrap molasses provides both sweetness and richness without spiking carb counts.

Allulose is an innovative sweetener allowed on keto diets. Brown Sugar Substitute Derived from fruits, it tastes and caramelizes like sugar with barely any carbs and zero glycemic impact.

Pairing allulose with molasses allows you to recreate your favorite high-carb desserts and baked goods while staying in ketosis for faster, simpler weight loss.

Brown Rice Syrup & Maple Syrup As Substitutes?

Two common brown sugar imposters that sound healthier at first glance are brown rice syrup and maple syrup. Unfortunately, both function more like sweets than whole-food sugar substitutes based on their nutritional profile.

Brown Rice Syrup

Don’t let the name fool you. Brown rice syrup starts from a whole grain but goes through extensive breaking down into almost 100% maltose sugars.

It may sound natural but essentially converts to glucose spikes almost as rapidly as high fructose corn syrup without vitamins or minerals.

Brown rice syrup is NOT a whole food nor a healthy sweetener.

A better option would be sweetening with a touch of regular brown rice, wild rice, or brown rice protein powder for nutrition and fiber rather than this refined syrup.

Maple Syrup

Pure maple syrup enjoys a wholesome reputation thanks to originating from maple tree sap. But it is still essentially boiled into a liquid sugar.

Per Tablespoon, maple syrup actually contains MORE sugar and calories than plain white sugar:

  • Maple Syrup: Has 13g sugar and 52 calories
  • Brown Sugar: Has 12g sugar and 45 calories

Yes, maple syrup offers traces of minerals like zinc and magnesium. But you’ll get far higher nutrition from whole foods like fruits and milk for fewer calories and less blood sugar impact.

Save pure maple syrup for occasional drizzling rather than using cup-for-cup to replace brown sugar.

Sweet Alternatives: Exploring Brown Sugar Substitutes

Brown sugar, a popular baking ingredient, adds depth and moisture to baked goods. However, for various reasons, you might seek healthy or alternative substitutes. This guide explores several options, their benefits, and considerations for baking, diabetics, keto diets, and more.

Why Seek a Brown Sugar Substitute?

There are several reasons to consider a brown sugar substitute:

  • Health: Reducing overall sugar intake, managing blood sugar for diabetics, or following a keto diet might necessitate finding alternatives.
  • Availability: Brown sugar might not always be readily available in your pantry.
  • Dietary Preferences: You might prefer naturally occurring sweeteners or options with specific flavor profiles.
Healthy Brown Sugar Substitutes

While “healthy” is subjective, several substitutes offer potential benefits compared to regular brown sugar:

  • Dates: Dried and ground dates add natural sweetness and fiber, making them a good choice for healthy baking.
  • Monk Fruit: This natural sweetener has a high sweetness potency, allowing you to use less while reducing calorie and sugar intake.
  • Coconut Sugar: Derived from coconut palm sap, it has a lower glycemic index than brown sugar, potentially impacting blood sugar levels less dramatically.
Substitutes for Brown Sugar without Molasses

Molasses, a key ingredient in brown sugar, contributes to its distinctive flavor and moist texture. If you want to avoid molasses, consider:

  • White Sugar: A neutral substitute in a 1:1 ratio, but it lacks the moisture and richness of brown sugar.
  • Honey: Offers a distinct flavor profile and additional nutrients, but use it sparingly due to its higher calorie content.
  • Maple Syrup: Similar to honey, it adds a unique flavor. Adjust the recipe’s other liquids as maple syrup is more liquid than sugar.
Brown Sugar Substitutes for Specific Uses
  • Cookies: Dates, mashed bananas, or applesauce can replace some or all of the brown sugar, adding moisture and natural sweetness.
  • Baking: Coconut sugar, monk fruit, or a combination of white sugar and molasses can work well in most baking applications. Experiment and adjust sweetness and moisture as needed.
  • Diabetics: While some substitutes might be lower on the glycemic index, consult your doctor before making significant dietary changes, as even “healthy” substitutes can still impact blood sugar. Artificial sweeteners might be an option in moderation, but discuss them with your healthcare professional.
  • Keto Diet: Most brown sugar substitutes, except stevia and erythritol, contain carbohydrates and are not suitable for a strict keto diet.
Brown Sugar Substitute Conversion Tips

Remember, substitutes vary in sweetness and moisture content compared to brown sugar. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Dry substitutes: Use a 1:1 ratio but adjust the recipe’s liquid ingredients as needed, as dry substitutes might absorb moisture.
  • Liquid substitutes: Use less than a 1:1 ratio (around ⅔ to ¾ cup for 1 cup of brown sugar) and reduce other liquids in the recipe to avoid a soggy outcome.


Moderating sugar intake provides incredible benefits from blood sugar regulation to reducing inflammation, cavities, potential nutrient deficiencies, and weight gain.

Thankfully many easy, delicious brown sugar substitutes help cut back on sugar without sacrificing the taste, texture, or enjoyment of favorite recipes.

Options like date paste, blackstrap molasses, coconut sugar, dried fruit purees, monk fruit, allulose, and stevia make swapping out brown sugar a breeze.

Be mindful of carb counts if managing diabetes. Seek organic, minimally processed alternatives over artificial sweeteners for health.

And rely on whole food sources like fruit, yogurt, and nut butter over syrups or juices to obtain vitamins, protein, and nutrition in your diet.

Brown Sugar Substitute
Brown Sugar Substitute

Read More: Brown Sugar Substitute


1. Can I use white sugar instead of brown sugar in all recipes?

White sugar can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute for brown sugar in most recipes. However, it lacks the molasses content responsible for brown sugar’s distinct flavor and moist texture. You might notice a difference in the final product, with baked goods being slightly crispier and less chewy.

2. How do I substitute molasses for brown sugar?

Molasses itself isn’t typically used as a direct substitute for brown sugar. However, it’s a key ingredient in creating your own brown sugar substitute. Combine 1 cup of white sugar with 1 tablespoon of molasses for a light brown sugar substitute, or 2 tablespoons of molasses for a darker version.

3. What are some natural sweeteners for baking besides brown sugar?

Several natural sweeteners offer alternatives to brown sugar, each with its own characteristics:

  • Dates: As mentioned earlier, dried and ground dates provide sweetness and fiber, making them a good choice for healthy baking.
  • Coconut Sugar: This natural sugar derived from coconut palm sap has a lower glycemic index than brown sugar and a slightly caramel-like flavor.
  • Apple Sauce: Unsweetened applesauce can replace some or all of the sugar in recipes, adding moisture and natural sweetness while reducing overall sugar content.

4. Can I use honey or maple syrup as a substitute for brown sugar?

Honey and maple syrup can be used as substitutes, but remember:

  • They add distinct flavors that might not always be desirable in every recipe.
  • They are liquid sweeteners, so you’ll need to adjust the recipe’s other liquids to avoid a soggy outcome. Use a smaller quantity than the brown sugar called for (around ¾ cup for 1 cup of brown sugar) and reduce other liquids accordingly.

5. Are artificial sweeteners a good option as a brown sugar substitute?

Artificial sweeteners like stevia and erythritol are very low in calories and do not raise blood sugar levels. However, they often have an aftertaste, and their sweetness intensity can vary significantly from brown sugar. Experiment cautiously and in moderation, especially if you have underlying health conditions, and consult a healthcare professional for guidance.

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