What Can I Substitute for Brown Sugar?

Brown Sugar

Thanks to clever marketing or plain ol’ illusion, there’s a myth that brown sugar is healthier than regular white sugar. 

But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Calorie-for-calorie, white and brown sugar are barely distinguishable.

To help you kick your brown sugar habit, this guide from Sweetkick explains why it should be ditched and provides you with several alternatives to try today.

What Is Brown Sugar?

We collectively refer to many types of sweeteners as “sugar.” There are some natural sweeteners, like honey syrup, refined sweeteners, like high-fructose corn syrup, and granulated sugars, like white table sugar. 

Brown sugar belongs to the last category. It’s made by refining sugar beets or sugarcane — which is the same process as white sugar. 

However, the key difference is that brown sugar has molasses added at the end, giving it a brown color and slightly complex flavor. 

Dark brown sugar has more molasses added, while light brown sugar contains only a bit of molasses. That said, the amount of added molasses is negligible in both types of sugar. 

Why Should You Ditch Brown Sugar?

If you’re looking to consume less sugar, and specifically less brown sugar, we have some reasons to back you up. Here are some of the best reasons to cut down on brown sugar. 

1. It’s Still an Added Sugar 

Brown sugar is mostly made up of a molecule called sucrose. 

Sucrose is also found in plants, like many fruits and some vegetables. When consumed in whole food form, it also comes with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant chemicals. 

But not brown sugar! This sweetener is stripped of anything remotely beneficial, so the only thing it does is spike your blood glucose levels and give you cravings. 

Adults shouldn’t eat more than six teaspoons of sugar per day. But when you consider that there’s no nutritional benefit to eating sugar, that number should be as close to zero as possible. 

2. Brown Sugar Doesn’t Have Any Special Benefits

Yes, brown sugar contains molasses, which is high in some vitamins and minerals — like iron, potassium, and magnesium. But brown sugar contains only trace amounts of them, so you’ll have to eat a lot of it to get any real benefits. 

So, if you’re using brown sugar to sweeten your coffee or baking a treat, there’s no benefit to it. 

3. It’s Basically the Same as White Sugar

White and brown sugar are made the same way, except the latter gets coated with molasses at the end. So, eating brown sugar is the same as eating white sugar — except for a minor taste difference. 

What Can I Substitute for Brown Sugar? 

1. Monk Fruit Sweetener

Monk fruit is a fruit grown in Asia. While the fruit itself is high in sugar, its juice is not. And this is the part that’s used to make monk fruit — a zero-calorie sweetener.

This sweetener gets its name from antioxidants called mogrosides. These aren’t digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract, which means monk fruit can’t provide calories. Plus, mogrosides may act like prebiotics, basically nourishing your healthy gut bacteria. 

2. Brown Monk Fruit Sweetener

In its unprocessed form, monk fruit is white. But it can have some additives that make it resemble brown sugar in taste and appearance. This includes malt extract, which comes from grain, or other natural flavors.

Not all “natural” flavors are good for you, so we prefer to stick to regular monk fruit. But if you like the taste of brown sugar, brown monk fruit sweetener can come pretty close. 

3. Stevia

Stevia gets a bad rep due to its bitter aftertaste. But this is a great zero-calorie sweetener that doesn’t spike blood sugar levels. Plus, it’s about 200 times as sweet as sugar, so a little goes a super long way. 

4. Allulose

Allulose is a type of sugar that’s very similar to fructose, which is found in fruits. It looks just like regular white sugar — with a sweetness that’s about 70% of sugar. 

However, allulose is only 0.4 calories per gram, so if you’re using it as an occasional sweetener, you’re not consuming any extra calories. 

Not only is allulose low in calories, but it has marginal effects on blood sugar levels — which can keep blood sugar roller coasters at bay. 

5. Molasses

Molasses is what gives brown sugar its dark color and rich flavor. It’s a thick, dark brown syrup made by boiling down sugar several times over. 

Molasses is not an ideal sugar substitute because of its slightly “burnt” taste. But it does have a pretty impressive nutritional profile. 

One tablespoon of molasses contains manganese, magnesium, copper, selenium, potassium, and iron — and in pretty significant amounts. 

That said, molasses is very high in sugar. It contains about 58 calories per serving, all of which come from carbs — and marginal fiber. Molasses can spike your blood sugar levels and derail your weight loss goals. 

So, it may be best to save molasses for special occasions if you’re hoping to stay on track. 

6. Pure Maple Syrup

Pure maple syrup is made by boiling down maple tree sap. It’s a natural sweetener, which means that it contains naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

While it’s lower in calories than brown sugar, it’s not a zero-calorie sweetener. So, just like with molasses, we’d consume maple syrup in moderation. 

Just one thing: Make sure you’re buying pure maple syrup. 

There are plenty of knock-offs on supermarket shelves that are pure sugar with flavors added in. To avoid accidentally buying them, check the ingredient list. The only thing listed should be “maple syrup.”

Kick (Brown) Sugar To the Curb

Hopefully, we’ve convinced you there’s no real benefit to eating brown sugar. If you’re craving the sweet stuff, substitute it with brown monk fruit sweetener, stevia, or your favorite sugar alcohol.

Or better yet, don’t! 

Dropping sweeteners from your diet can completely change your taste buds, making you less reliant on sweet treats throughout the day.

To help you reduce your consumption of sugar (and its substitutes), Sweetkick has many products designed to give your taste buds a makeover. Try our Herbal Tea, Macro Shake, Body Balance Powder, or Clusters to keep cravings at bay.


Added Sugar | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Modulation of Gut Microbiota Composition and Short-Chain Fatty Acid Synthesis by Mogroside V in an In Vitro Incubation System | PMC

What Is Allulose? | Food Insight