How to Soften Brown Sugar Quickly

If your brown sugar has turned as hard as a rock, here's what to do.

Whether you’re using light or dark brown sugar, this pantry staple has deep caramel notes and a hint of bitterness from molasses—making it ideal for spice rubs and glazes, quick breads and muffins, and any dessert made with warming spices. Unlike white sugar, brown sugar gives baked goods a depth of flavor and depending on the recipe, can make them rich and chewy. (Like these amazing chocolate chip cookies.)

And also unlike white sugar, a half-full box of brown sugar can turn rock hard when you’re not looking. Brown sugar is full of moisture (which is why it’s so soft) and is one of those ingredients that usually doesn’t get used up all at once. If a box of brown sugar has been sitting around in your kitchen cabinet for awhile, it may clump together and dry out. But don't toss it just yet. Thankfully, there’s a fix for that.

Cup of Brown Sugar
Michelle Arnold/EyeEm/Getty Images

Here’s what to do: Transfer the hardened brown sugar to a microwave-safe bowl or plate. Place a damp paper towel on top of the brown sugar. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Heat it in the microwave in 10-second increments, stopping to check the sugar for softness each time. Be careful to not overheat the sugar, or else it will melt. When the sugar has returned back to its former soft state, it’s ready to use.

And to prevent this from happening in the first place, don’t just roll up the plastic bag inside the brown sugar box and hope for the best. Store any unused brown sugar in an airtight container or ziplock plastic bag. I prefer using a bag because you can press the air out of it before you seal it—another way to keep brown sugar fresh.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles