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Light Brown vs. Dark Brown Sugar-

I have always used these two sugars interchangeably. Is there some use for which they should not be used as equivalents?

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  1. As far as I know the only real difference is that there is more molasses in the dark, whether added or left in during processing. So there is a stronger molasses flavor. There may be a bit more moisture in the dark, although probably not enough to make a difference in most recipes. In fact a recipe where moisture level was critical probably wouldn't be using brown sugar in the first place.

    5 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      The main difference is in the molasses content and dark sugar will have a bit heavier taste in a recipe. If you only have dark and you are concerned about moisture content, try this DRY your brown sugar. I spread it out on a baking sheet and "cook" at 200 degrees for about an hour. It becomes like granulated sugar in consistency but maintains it's taste. I use it in rubs and others things that I need to be able to sprinkle. It makes a killer cinnamon sugar for sprinkling on french toast and pankakes.

      1. re: Grillncook

        Thank you...i was just about to ask this. It seems that no matter what i store my brown sugar in, i end up with one gigantic lump when i go to use it the next time.

        1. re: iluvtennis

          If you put a slice of apple in a ziplock bag and add the box of sugar, it will soften up pretty quickly.

        2. re: Grillncook

          Yeah, my dry rubs have had a problem of clumping slightly with brown sugar in them. Thanks for the tip.

          1. re: MaxCaviar

            I'd love to take credit for the tip but I got it from Paul Kirk's "Championship Barbeque" cookbook.

      2. Good question. On that note, does anyone know the difference between regular and granulated brown sugar other than moisture content? I was out of the regular stuff once and substituted the other; I noticed that my cookies came out a little dryer than usual.

        4 Replies
        1. re: marzapane

          I made the outstanding NY Times chocolate chip cookie (as one big cookie that I decorated for a party) with dark brown sugar and while it was okay, I didn't like it.

          I then tried it, again as one giant cookie, with light brown sugar and it made all the difference. It was delish.

          I've now sworn off dark brown sugar.

          1. re: dolores

            dolores, what was the difference, specifically? Was it flavor, texture, moistness?

            1. re: marzapane

              I was trying to think as I was typing, marzapane. I think the cookie was more crumbly and darker and too sweet.

              I know it was the sugar, since the brown sugar was the only ingredient I switched.

              1. re: marzapane

                Because dark brown sugar has more molasses in it, it will have a much more earthy taste, probably you would think it as being much heavier almost to the point of being bitter. I never use dark brown sugar unless a recipe specifically calls for it.

          2. I always wondered this same question but used them interchangeably too. Thanks for asking, I figured the result would just be more or less molasses.

            1. Brown sugar is simply sugar with some molasses in it. Dark brown has, on average, about twice as much molasses as light brown sugar, so you'll get a stronger molasses taste when using dark brown. Then there's also Muscovado dark brown, which has an even stronger molasses taste, although that's because of the way it's made. Most brown sugar is simply white sugar to which molasses has been added back. In Muscovado, the sugar cane juice is boiled down and dried until you get the final product. If you made brown sugar by adding blackstrap molasses back in, you'd be close to Muscovado.

              So no, you shouldn't use them interchangeably because they'll each impart a different strength of molasses flavor. If light brown has a molasses 'strength' of 1, dark is a 2, Muscovado is a 3.

              And yes, you can save your money and cabinet space by simply using white sugar in your recipes and adding either 1 or 2 tablespoons of molasses per cup of sugar, to approximate light or dark brown sugar. You can further tweak your molasses taste by using light, dark or blackstrap molasses.