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How to Soften Brown Sugar

Are you tired of dealing with rock-hard lumps of brown sugar? We’ve got the perfect solution for you in this comprehensive guide on how to soften brown sugar.

Whether you’re a seasoned baker or a kitchen newbie, our tried-and-tested techniques will ensure your brown sugar remains soft and ready for use.

Say goodbye to frustrating baking disasters and hello to perfect, sweet treats by learning the ultimate secret to mastering how to soften brown sugar.

How To Soften Brown

There are a few ways to soften brown sugar. One is to place the brown sugar in a bowl with a piece of bread or an apple slice for 24 hours. Another way is to microwave the brown sugar for 30 seconds.

how to soften brown sugar

Softening brown sugar is easy and depending on how quickly you need it will depend on what method you might want to use. Brown sugar is simply white sugar coated with molasses.

The reason that it clumps together is that over time the moisture evaporates which causes the sugar crystals to stick together.

Whether you store your brown sugar in an airtight container or not it will eventually harden over time.

This doesn’t mean that it has gone bad or that you need to throw it away. You just need to add moisture back into it.

1. Microwave

Using the microwave to soften brown sugar is the fastest method. There are two ways of softening brown sugar in the microwave.

Place your hardened brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and choose one of the following 2 next steps.

  • Get a paper towel or dishcloth wet and then ring out all of the extra water. You only want the towel to be damp. Lay it over the bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds. or…
  • Fill another microwave-safe bowl about 1/3 full with water and place it in the microwave next to the bowl of brown sugar. Microwave for about 30 seconds. I prefer this method because you don’t know what’s in the paper towel.

Use a fork to mix it up a little and break up the clumps. If you find that you need just a few more seconds, add another 15 sec at a time.

Make sure you don’t overdo it as we aren’t wanting to cook the brown sugar, only soften it.

You can use this brown sugar in my Ghirardelli cookie recipe.

2. Oven

If you aren’t in a time crunch but do need it relatively soon you can soften brown sugar in your oven. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees, put your hardened brown sugar in foil and wrap tight, then place it on a baking sheet in case it drips.

Check on it every 5 minutes or so until it is soft. Make sure to wear an oven mitt because it is going to get HOT. Allow for the brown sugar to cool off before adding it to your recipe.

3. Overnight

Adding bread (or believe it or not apple slices) to an airtight container with your hardened brown sugar and letting it sit overnight will soften it. The moisture from the apples or bread will slowly be added back into your brown sugar.

You can also make your brown sugar soft again by leaving it out on the counter overnight in a bowl with a dampened dishtowel laid over it. Again, the key to softening brown sugar is adding moisture back into it.

These methods, however, take time.

4. With an Apple Slice

  • Add a quarter of an apple or three slices to eight ounces of brown sugar in an airtight container.
  • Give it time to soften, which can range from a few hours to a day depending on the amount of sugar.
  • Keep in mind that the apples may get mushy and transfer some of their flavors to brown sugar.
  • Remove the apples after the brown sugar has softened.
  • Enjoy the softened brown sugar!

5. Bread

To get the job done, simply put your block of hard brown sugar in an air-tight food container or bag and cover it with a slice of bread.

Seal the bag (or container) and let it sit overnight (at least 12 hours) and you’ll be ready to go.

It is also important to know how to store sugar long-term so that it is fresh and long-lasting for your future baking.

Method Tools Needed Time Required
Microwave Microwave-safe dish, damp paper towel 20-30 seconds
Bread Trick Airtight container, slice of bread Several hours or overnight
Apple Trick Airtight container, apple wedge Several hours or overnight
Grating Grater or microplane Varies depending on the amount
Oven Oven-safe dish, aluminum foil 5-7 minutes

Why does brown sugar harden?

This is a common issue that occurs when sugar is exposed to air and its moisture evaporates, according to America’s Test Kitchen.

Brown sugar contains molasses, which is what gives it its color and damp texture. Without adequate protection from air, the moisture will evaporate, causing the sugar to harden.

How to keep brown sugar soft

The best way to keep your brown sugar soft is to make sure that it has moisture. Keeping it in an airtight container is important. The less air the better to prevent it from drying out.

If you keep it in a food storage bag you want to make sure to get out as much air as you can before zipping it closed.

Its been proven that terra cotta will keep brown sugar from hardening. They sell discs specifically for this but you can also use a broken part of a terra cotta pot as well. I like to use brown sugar bears!

Soak the terra cotta in water for about 30 minutes. Completely dry off the disc or piece and place it in with your brown sugar

It retains water and will keep moisture in the container and prevent clumping.

You will have to soak the terra cotta every few months to keep moisture in because that will eventually dry out.

Frequently Asked Questions for Softening Brown Sugar

Yes, brown sugar is still good when it is hard. Brown sugar is sugar crystals coated with molasses and when it dries out the crystals stick together and the molasses hardens.

All you need to do is reintroduce a little moisture and soften the brown sugar and you are good to go.

The brown sugar gets hard when it isn’t stored properly and gets too much air to it. The molasses sucks the moisture out and when it dries out it turns into a solid rock of sugar.

This causes the sugar crystals to then stick together like glue and become hard as a rock.

Yes, you can still use hardened brown sugar in your recipes! Hardening of brown sugar occurs when the moisture in the sweetener evaporates due to aging or improper storage, such as being stored in a paper box with fewer protective barriers. It is still safe to eat and use’

how to soften brown sugar

How to soften brown sugar

A few ways to soften brown sugar using the oven, microwave or simply leaving it out overnight. Here are step-by-step instructions for each method.
4.75 from 8 votes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 836 kcal


  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Dishcloth
  • Aluminum foil
  • Glass bowl


  • Brown sugar
  • 1 slice of bread


Microwave with a towel

  • Place your hardened brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl
  • Wet a paper towel or dishcloth and ring out the excess water, then lay it over the bowl with the brown sugar.
  • Place in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
  • Using a fork break up the clumps and add a few more seconds if needed.

Microwave with a bowl of water

  • Place your hardened brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and into the microwave.
  • Place another microwave-safe bowl in the microwave next to the brown sugar about 1/3 full of water.
  • Microwave both bowls for about 30 seconds.
  • Break up the brown sugar with a fork.

Oven Method

  • Preheat your oven to 250°F
  • Wrap your hardened brown sugar tightly in tin foil and then place it on a baking sheet.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes and check on it. Be sure to wear oven mitts as it is going to be hot.
  • Add another 5 minutes if needed but don't overdo it.


  • Place a slice of bread (or apple slices) into an airtight container with the brown sugar.
  • Let it sit out on the counter overnight and the moisture from the bread (or apples) will loosen your brown sugar.


Serving: 1gCalories: 836kcalCarbohydrates: 216gProtein: 1gSodium: 62mgPotassium: 293mgSugar: 213gCalcium: 183mgIron: 2mg
Keyword 3 ways to soften brown sugar, best way to soften brown sugar, soften brown sugar in the microwave, soften brown sugar in the oven, soften brown sugar overnight
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In conclusion, knowing how to soften brown sugar can save you both time and frustration in the kitchen.

By following the easy techniques shared in this guide, you’ll be able to keep your brown sugar soft, fresh, and ready for any baking adventure.

Don’t let hard brown sugar ruin your culinary masterpieces – follow our tips and enjoy hassle-free baking like never before.

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