I found a recipe for brownies I want to try. It calls for

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

How can I recognize if they mean hard or soft brown sugar? And how much of a difference does it make for the completed brownies if I use the wrong type? Should I just adjust the amount of sugar or other ingredients (and if yes, by how much)? Or do I have to try to make a substitution? I found a question which explains how to make soft sugar, but it requires a food processor, and I don't have one.

Edit Here is a picture of sugars, as Jay suggested per comment:

sugar types

In Germany, the only type found under the name "brown sugar" (brauner Zucker) is the one in the upper right corner. But I have heard that American recipes might need the kind in the lower right corner, which is not normally available here.

  • 2
    If a recipe from the US calls for brown sugar, it means what I believe you're calling "soft" brown sugar - the kind that clumps and sticks to itself a bit, and can be scooped and packed. (That is what you mean, right?) I don't know about substitutions/adjustments, though.
    – Cascabel
    Jan 19, 2012 at 18:01
  • Yea in the US there is only a distinction between light brown sugar and dark brown sugar(each with differing amount of molassess). I haven't come across "hard" brown sugar though. For curiousity's sake can you provide a url to a picture of what you are refering to as "hard" brown sugar.
    – Jay
    Jan 19, 2012 at 18:09
  • 3
    The upper right one will usually be called "raw sugar" or "evaporated cane juice sugar" here; I think in France it's called blonde sugar, though that might be slightly different. I used to find brown sugar in the "American" section of the expensive supermarket in our town's department store, but in a pinch, I'd just mix a little bit of Zuckerrübensirup (sugar beet syrup, essentially molasses) with refined sugar until I got the desired color.
    – JasonTrue
    Jan 20, 2012 at 1:12
  • @JasonTrue surely you mean "sucre roux"
    – njzk2
    Mar 29, 2021 at 19:16

3 Answers 3


The in the US, light brown sugar always means the one in the bottom left. The bottom right is dark brown sugar and has a higher molasses content. In the US, I typically see the 'brown sugar' in the upper right referred to as 'raw sugar' or the brand 'sugar in the raw'. If you're using a US recipe, it needs the bottom left.

If you don't have any and its an ingredient like in brownies, try adding the molasses and sugar as separate ingredients. 1 Cup of sugar + 1 tablespoon of molasses is about the right ratio for light brown sugar.

If you can't get molasses...try dark corn syrup, honey, or depending on the flavor your want, maple syrup. (A comment from @JasonTrue above mentions that beet syrup is an option as well, althought I haven't tried it.)

  • 1
    Just for the search engines, I'll note that the "raw sugar" pictured is actually named "turbinado". I've never seen it mentioned in a recipe, except for rimming a few rum-based mixed drinks or coffees. Jan 19, 2012 at 19:17
  • Even if you don't know the origin of the recipe, the fact that it says "packed" indicates that it's packable, so it has to be the soft kind.
    – Cascabel
    Jan 19, 2012 at 21:13

As Jefromi suggested, brownie recipes call for the sugar found on the bottom of the picture you have added. Probably the lower left one since it's a lighter brown. However if you are unable to get the brown sugar you are able to easily make it using granulated white sugar and molasses by mixing about 1 cup granulated white sugar with 1 table spoon molasses using a fork.


Just to add in the Australian terms.
Top - white sugar, raw sugar.
Bottom - light brown sugar, dark brown sugar

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