How To Soften Hard Brown Sugar


5+ Easy Ways To Soften Brown Sugar - A Cozy Kitchen

How to Soften Hard Brown Sugar is a step-by-step tutorial on softening brown sugar. Duh. Have you ever gone to your pantry wanting to make cookies and then realize that the brown sugar is totally hard? It’s such a bummer.

I found about 5 or 6 bags of hard brown sugar and I wanted to do something about it!

My grandmother never taught me to do this. I learned about this years ago from Google and Instagram.I’m pretty sure I was baking at midnight (my favorite time to bake) and wanted to make cookies (obviously), only to find that the brown sugar was hard and looked like McDonald’s chicken nuggets.

If this isn’t obvious advice to you and you really would like to know how to save your brown sugar, continueโ€ฆ

5+ Easy Ways To Soften Brown Sugar - A Cozy Kitchen

There are a few methods on how to soften brown sugar:

The Best Ways To Soften Brown Sugar:

Option 1 to Soften Brown Sugar

  • Using an apple. You can actually place a sliced apple into your brown sugar bin and the moisture from the apple should transfer to the brown sugar. (But then your brown sugar sort of has an essence of apple?)

Option 2 to Soften Brown Sugar:

  • Using clay tiles. They sell clay tiles specifically for keeping brown sugar moist. Most bakeries use these and they are very effective. (Definitely the move but didn’t feel like going to the nursery.)

Option 3 to Soften Brown Sugar:

  • Microwaving the brown sugar. You can always add the brown sugar and a drop of water or two to a bowl. And then turn the microwave on high for 1 minute. This works like a charm. (I don’t own a microwave. I know, I know…)

Option 4 to Soften Brown Sugar:

  • White Bread! This is my favorite method. Grocery stores should really sell a few slices of bread, instead of a loaf. I’d be pretty into it.

How to Soften Brown Sugar with Bread:

  • I added the blocks of brown sugar to a bowl and added a slice of bread I cut in half.How To Moisten Brown Sugar
  • I wrapped the bowl in plastic and since I wanted to time the whole process, I wrote the time I started on the plastic wrap.

How To Moisten Brown Sugar

  • When I returned nine hours later, only half of the brown sugar had softened. And the bread felt dry and stale. All of the bread’s moisture had transferred to the brown sugar. MAGIC!


  • Some of the brown sugar was still dry so I added one more slice and left it overnight.

How To Moisten Brown Sugar

  • When I woke up in the morning, all of the brown sugar was soft.

You’ll need two slices of white or wheat bread. And normal, store-bought bread works best!

Why Does Brown Sugar Go Hard?

First we have to discuss, what is brown sugar. Each granule of sugar is coated in a thin layer of molasses. That’s really what brown sugar is: brown sugar coated and mixed with a bit of molasses. When the sugar is fresh and moist, the molasses that coats it, slips against the other granules easily. When it looses its moisture, that molasses hardens.

Is Hard Brown Sugar Bad?

The good news with hard brown sugar is that it can easily be re-hydrated. Molasses can absorb moisture from either bread or a clay plate or water (see above) and then you can proceed to use it in whatever recipe or way you like.

My Favorite Recipes that Use Soft Brown Sugar!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies

5+ Easy Ways To Soften Brown Sugar - A Cozy Kitchen

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


Leave a Reply

  • Reply Rebecca @ Pavlova's Dog March 25, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Crazy tips, but a good one! Thanks!

  • Reply Rachel March 25, 2013 at 4:06 am

    I, too, missed this lesson from my grandmother, so this was SUPER helpful! Thank you!

  • Reply Jen @ What Jen Does March 25, 2013 at 4:52 am

    I’d love to see your tips on how your organized your pantry. It’s something that I’ve been working on as well – but have been held back by what size container to buy for certain ingredients.

    • Reply Adrianna March 25, 2013 at 9:27 am

      I was thinking of doing this. I’ve scoured the internets for containers and don’t have all of them collected but I’ll post this after I’m done. Thanks!

  • Reply Bev @ Bev Cooks March 25, 2013 at 6:32 am

    Get OUT. I had no idea you could do this. I needed this tip Saturday night. But instead I just grumpily crumbled the sugar in my hands for 15 thousand hours.

    • Reply Adrianna March 25, 2013 at 9:28 am

      Dude. I know. I used to do that too. No fun!

  • Reply Natalie March 25, 2013 at 6:38 am

    whoaaaa I feel like my whole world just got turned upside down! This is magic!! No more throwing away rock- hard brown sugar! Now I just need to learn how to fold a fitted sheet and I’ll be set for life.

    • Reply Adrianna March 25, 2013 at 9:28 am

      When I finally learned how to fold a fitted sheet I felt like a changed woman.

      • Reply db March 26, 2013 at 9:38 am


        • Reply Tiff March 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm

          I just fold the corners into each other and fold them up. The best tip I ever learned was to put both sheets and 1 pillow case into the 2nd pillow case. Whenever I’m changing the bed, everything is together, and I don’t have to scavenge through the linen closet for that lost pillow case. I know everything in that case will fit my bed. This has saved me SO much time, and that closet is the tidiest place in the house. Yes, I need help in the pantry AND my closet! Thanks for the reminder of the brown sugar. You’re right. Stores should sell just a couple pieces of white bread. I’d hate to waste my homemade bread!

          • Theo April 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm

            Both sheets and 1 pillow case into the other pillow case!? Genius! My linen closet thanks you!

  • Reply Marie @ Little Kitchie March 25, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Great little tip! Totally agree that stores should sell a couple slices of bread!

  • Reply christin March 25, 2013 at 8:03 am

    omg so going to do this! i don’t have a microwave either!

  • Reply allie@sweetpotatobites March 25, 2013 at 8:37 am

    i don’t own a microwave either so this bread trick is great! i will definitely try this next time i need to soften brown sugar.

  • Reply Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) March 25, 2013 at 9:04 am

    These are awesome tips. I actually use the microwave tip but the bread tip could be useful for me as well!

  • Reply Aimee St.Germain (Cooking the Strip) March 25, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Thanks for the tip! Also, your countertop is lovely…

  • Reply Marcia March 25, 2013 at 9:30 am

    This is SO much better than the 7-part method I have been using:
    1. Smash brick-hard bag against counter
    2. Pound bag with hammer
    3. Ice hand (which was inadvertently banged after bag slipped off counter)
    4. Call superintendent to discuss repairing the crack in the counter
    2. Curse myself for not checking said bag prior to baking adventure
    3. Throw said bag in garbage
    4. Run to the supermarket for a new bag.
    6. Return home with lost ambition.
    7. Turn on the TV

    Thank you! Brilliant.

    • Reply Steph March 25, 2013 at 9:46 am

      O.K. O.K. Well done, you made a mouthful of coffee dribble down my chin and squirt out of my nose, thank you.

  • Reply Joan March 25, 2013 at 9:33 am

    If you leave a slice of bread in the container with your brown sugar, all the time, it will never get hard. Just check the bread every month or so to see if its gotten hard. If it has, simply replace it. Never fails to work.

    • Reply Adrianna March 25, 2013 at 9:37 am

      But won’t the bread get moldy?

      • Reply Callie March 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm

        I do this too and no, it doesn’t, surprisingly! Maybe because the brown sugar sucks all the moisture out of it?

  • Reply Kasha the FarmGirl March 25, 2013 at 9:35 am

    I just discovered a BRICK of brown sugar in my pantry. Thanks for this!!!

  • Reply Christina @ The Beautiful Balance March 25, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Amazing tip!! I always throw away the dry brown sugar haha. I have used the clay tile trick before and it sadly did not work. It worked for maybe a few days but once the clay tile dried it was over.

    • Reply Adrianna March 25, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Interesting! I’ve never used it so that’s good to know.

  • Reply Megan | Eats Daily March 25, 2013 at 9:39 am

    That’s very helpful advice! Thanks! Now I just need your same enthusiasm for Spring Cleaning, any tips for that? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just kidding

  • Reply Dixie March 25, 2013 at 9:48 am

    I will definitely try this, even though I only have rye bread, but then the package says to use immediately….so how do I Keep it from hardening? Or do I have to go through all this more often?

    • Reply Adrianna March 25, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Hmm…rye bread doesn’t have a ton of moisture. You could add a slice and see if it works. I bought super cheap white bread from the drug store for like 99 cents. Worked like a charm.

  • Reply Steph March 25, 2013 at 9:51 am

    “3. Microwaving the brown sugar. (I donโ€™t own a microwave. I know, I knowโ€ฆ)”

    YAY!! Ours blew up a few weeks ago and we haven’t been able to replace it… it’s annoying when you need the coffee to be /just a bit warmer/ but otherwise, it hasn’t been missed… makes me think we may not replace it. But then I’d have to buy bread just to keep the brown sugar soft! Hmmm…

  • Reply sandra March 25, 2013 at 9:53 am

    wow – who knew – bread. what a great thing to know. Ever since I saw Joy the Baker’s post about making brown sugar yourself (just add molasses to regular sugar) I stopped buying the stuff. Saves a lot of headache in doing what you just had to do up there.

  • Reply Barb March 25, 2013 at 10:01 am

    The bread will also help keep “soft cookies”. Put a slice in with the cookies.

    • Reply Kat April 2, 2013 at 9:48 am

      I use this trick all the time and it works wonders on keeping those soft, chewy cookies just they way they are meant to be for days on end!

  • Reply eileen marie March 25, 2013 at 10:17 am

    I’ve got some stuck in a canister & microwaving didn’t help. I’m going to try they other tricks!

  • Reply Stefanie @ Sarcastic Cooking March 25, 2013 at 10:26 am

    So cool! Thanks Bill Nye!

  • Reply Tamika March 25, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Thanks for the tip! The other day I was looking at my rock hard brown sugar, wishing that I knew how to save it. Now, I do! Will definitely give this a try.

  • Reply Katie @ Blonde Ambition March 25, 2013 at 11:22 am

    This is completely life-altering news to me! I soften my hard brown sugar by, um, stabbing it with a butter knife. Your way seems a little less barbaric ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply Cheri March 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I too, fell for the cute little clay disk thingy to soak in water and then put in with the brown sugar. It did not work. I’d recommend sticking with the bread idea. If anyone knows how to keep the dang stuff from drying out to begin with, that would be an awesome tip as well! I buy the organic hootsie tootsie stuff and have the bag folded over 1,000 times, and so far it seems to be working, but for future reference it would be nice to know if there is a secret trick to it never drying out to begin with. Great post!

  • Reply Koko @ Koko Likes March 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    GENIUS, never even thought about doing this before!

  • Reply Ledfoots Pet Bakery March 25, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Great advice. I have not tried the bread trick. But used the apple before. The best trick I want to share, is to keep the brown sugar air tight in a bag. If you don’t allow air in then it will never get hard. I do this now just to save on time. Especially when I want those cookies now! LOL

  • Reply aoife @ the gannet March 25, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    i LOVE knowledge like this. And I love your cute labeling. Just did a huge spring (i say spring but it has been freakishly snowing in London….) clean blitz of my flat. Got really into it and a bit manic but after the craziness passed i felt very zen and smug superwoman. Please share more tips!!! xxx

    • Reply Adrianna March 25, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      I will! XO

  • Reply Laura March 25, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    I just did this the other day! I am gluten free, though, so the soft bread thing doesn’t really exist and real bread would contaminate my sugar. For a quick and easy fix, you could either (1) grate the block of brown sugar (yawn) or microwave the brown sugar in a bowl with a cup of water in the microwave also. The moisture of the evaporating water goes into the sugar without the sugar getting all weird and melty!

    • Reply Adrianna March 25, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      Ah good idea! Yes, this trick is definitely not ok if you’re gluten-free. Good job on finding a solution!

  • Reply Julie @ Table for Two March 25, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Really?!?! Wow, I didn’t know that this would work!! I know that you can put bread with your cookies to keep them from getting hard but I didn’t think it’d work with brown sugar. I MUST try this because I literally have a block of brown sugar sitting in a container that I keep stabbing my knife at. It’s so frustrating but thank you so much for this wonderful solution!!

  • Reply Jayne March 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    I always knew this to be the way to soften brown sugar but you know what? Whenever my brown sugar hardens (which rarely happens in this yearlong hot humid weather), I just pretty much smash the bag on the counter a few times. haha.. So unladylike. I’d better start using the bread method.

  • Reply lynn @ the actor's diet March 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm


  • Reply Sasha March 25, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    You’ve just revolutionized my life. This is amazing.

  • Reply jan March 25, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I live in AZ where EVERYTHING get dry and hard (an open box of crackers will still be fresh after months). I store my opened bags of brown sugar in a large zip lock bag with a damp paper towel. So, bag in bag with a with damp towel in between. It works better than the bread thing – which my grandma did share years ago.

  • Reply Tieghan March 25, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Love this since my brown sugar always seems hard!

  • Reply Sophia March 25, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    This is so helpful! As I am a person constantly battling trying to sift through hard lumps of brown sugar and never thought to google it! As you are now going full out on spring cleaning, do you have any tips on keeping those pesky moths that ruin perfectly good flour out of the pantry? They’re returning after just getting rid of them… Help!

    • Reply Adrianna March 26, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Yes, transfer your flours into airtight containers. I’ve been scouring the internets for the best (and most affordable) containers so when I’m done I’ll be sure to share!

    • Reply Elaine Long May 16, 2013 at 8:42 pm

      If you store flour in the freezer, the little buggers won’t hatch…. Believe it or not, the eggs are in the grain before it is ground….

  • Reply Kiran @ March 25, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    I need to try this, thanks for sharing!!

  • Reply Julie March 25, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Wow, this is great! Now I won’t have to keep throwing away the brown sugar! I can’t believe you don’t own a microwave! It’s a great principle, but sometimes a girl just needs some instant gratification (and a break). What do you make popcorn in?

    • Reply Adrianna March 26, 2013 at 11:28 am

      I make it the very ol’ fashion way: in a pan! I kinda like it. But honestly, I’ve definitely been thinking of getting a microwave. I just need to figure out a space where I can put it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Miss Kim March 26, 2013 at 2:08 am

    Imagine working in a professional kitchen and having a big bucket of brown sugar hardening! It hardens repeatedly. We don’t have time to mess around with bread. We break/scoop out a portioned amount and soften it..usually flashing it in the oven will do it. It softens fairly quick, so keep an eye on it! Another method I’ve seen is leaving it out in the sunlight. It works, but takes longer.

    I can’t believe you had the patience to use bread!!

    • Reply Adrianna March 26, 2013 at 9:26 am

      It only took a day for me and I don’t need brown sugar every day like you probably do. A friend of mine runs a bakery and she uses the microwave trick.

  • Reply aoife @ the gannet March 26, 2013 at 2:08 am

    oh just thought – do you think this would work with solidified almond paste and marzipan?!

    • Reply Adrianna March 26, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Oooo…I’m not sure. I don’t use marzipan a ton but I’ve always had luck (not sure what recipe you want to use) in thinning it out in a pan with a splash of milk.

  • Reply Tina March 26, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Very informative! I mistakenly put brown sugar in the fridge n it stayed soft.
    I must get into spring cleaning. I feel so zen-like clean after this post

  • Reply amy March 26, 2013 at 6:28 am

    I keep an orange(small clementine) in a glass jar with my brown sugars…the orange never molds or rots – maybe the sugar preserves it – and the brown sugar is always soft:)

  • Reply Lauren | Sweet Splendor March 26, 2013 at 10:43 am

    I never heard of doing that with bread! So interesting! There’s so many alternate uses for things that I will never know…

  • Reply Hilary March 26, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    I liked the post bc it’s funny!! Also, the Marcia person comment was LOL!!!
    I don’t own a microwave either and… *blush* i also make my own brown sugar! it’s super easy and then that way i don’t buy brown sugar once a year and then forget i own it until i’ve accumulated 8 hard bags in my pantry (my sister does that, but she’s preggars so she gets to do whatever she wants right now:)

    • Reply this is lemonade March 27, 2013 at 6:50 am

      Wow how do you make brown sugar? I always thought it was a kind of sugar lol, feel a bit dumb now ๐Ÿ˜›

      • Reply Hilary March 28, 2013 at 6:12 pm

        Oh TOTALLY EASY (:
        and don’t feel dumb, it’s some sort of secret I’m posting right now (:
        1 cup granulated sugar
        1 Tbsp molasses
        That’s it!!!
        you can control how light or dark you want it,

  • Reply Cass @foodmyfriend March 26, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    That is such a cool trick!! I am not patient enough to wait for it to soften though. I’m the crazy that just throws it in ๐Ÿ˜›

  • Reply this is lemonade March 27, 2013 at 6:46 am

    I quite like the essence of apple brown sugar idea! I’m thinking the bread one would be great if you just so happened to need some breadcrumbs too. Stale essence of sugar breadcrumbs ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply Marjorie Taylor April 1, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    The bread might work but I really needed it right away. The way spoken about here takes much longer than I want to shoot for. Thanks for the tip but no thanks.

  • Reply Francesca April 3, 2013 at 10:46 am

    This trick also works with softening cookies. I just pop a slice of bread in a container with homemade cookies, and they stay soft and moist!

  • Reply Abby April 7, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I read that bread tip a few years ago, and I use it 24/7 now! I always have a slice of bread in there–I just change it out every other week or so.

    And I’ve also seen half-loaves of bread in a few chain supermarkets (Kroger, etc)…that’s pretty close to a few slices! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply How to Bake Flat Cake Layers May 2, 2013 at 12:00 am

    […] like my last how-to, I’m a little insecure about this post. Do you know this already? Is this […]

  • Reply Evi May 9, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Awesome tip, thanks for sharing! Will have to try that out sometime- I definitely have a “hard brown sugar” problem once in a while!

  • Reply christine July 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    you can also use a damp paper towel resting on the top, it’s worked in the past for me and no wasting foods – yay!!

  • Reply Tips&Tricks: Kitchen - Design Crush August 26, 2013 at 9:00 am

    […] How to soften brown sugar. […]

  • Reply Alison at NOVA Frugal Family September 23, 2013 at 6:01 am

    My mom always put the bread into the brown sugar…she also used that with oatmeal cookies if they got a little dried out in the container. I laughed at your part of the post that said that people were rolling their eyes at common sense advice but not everyone knows it. I had a mother who taught me most of the recipes and cooking that I use today so I was really lucky ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Donna giblin September 27, 2013 at 9:55 am

    You can leave a slice in your container or bag the entire time and it stays soft so you won’t have to soften it. That’s the way my grandmother did it, that’s the way my mother did it, that’s the way I do it! Hope this helps.


  • Reply Pamela Downer September 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Once I open the bag, I put a slice of apple in it.

  • Reply Terri September 27, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Add a slice of bread to your homemade cookies and they stay nice and soft.

  • Reply jenny September 28, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Isn’t it great? Bread has been my ‘go-to’ save for years. But sometimes when you have those “BUT I NEED THE BROWN SUGAR NOW!!!” it’s frustrating. I bought one of those terracotta bears (they have a flower one too) that is sold anywhere they kitchen equipment. You soak it in water (about a half an hour) and it keeps your BSugar soft for a really long time. The good thing is that when the terracotta bear/flower finally loses all it’s water the bread trick works much faster because it will never get THAT rock hard. Just a Family and Consumer Science teacher sharing her two cents!

  • Reply Kate February 21, 2014 at 10:36 am

    You can also break into manageable chunks and chuck in the food processor and using the chopper blade break it all up. And if you are baking you may already have the processor out already.

  • Reply Terry May 19, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    While it is years later since your original post, I sure do appreciate your helping me with my hardened brown sugar. Thank you so much!