Pantry Goals

The Very Best Way to Keep Your Brown Sugar Soft & Fluffy

A simple hack you'll never forget.

January 17, 2019
Photo by

Welcome to Pantry Goals, your destination for all the practical tips and need-to-know tricks to get your space in tip-top shape (and keep it that way).

If you've clicked into this post, I'm going to guess you've been the victim of brown sugar hardening, too. Always at the most inopportune times, of course. For me, that's usually when a chocolate chip cookie hankering strikes and my batter is already in full swing. Cue crestfallen face. (It's a good lesson for why you should mise out your ingredients before starting any cooking project, but let's save that for another day.)

How can you prevent this scenario from happening again? There are many tips out there (and trust me, I've tried most of them), but the most effective method for me comes down to this incredibly simple, hands-off trick: stick a piece of fresh bread in your brown sugar container once you've opened it.

Shop the Story

I don't usually decant my brown sugar (I just keep it shut with an IKEA chip clip), but I'll go the extra step of storing the sugar in its bag in an airtight (this part is key, as air is the devil when it comes to brown sugar) container in the fridge. I guess I use a two-pronged approach here with the bread and refrigerator, but I'm telling you—it works!

Look closely, you'll see a couple of hunks of bread hiding among the (soft!) brown sugar. Photo by Me

I've used everything from the pre-sliced supermarket variety to fancier boules, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter much what kind of bread you use. A simple little corner from any loaf of bread will do, giving the brown sugar just enough moisture to prevent it from turning into a rock-solid block.

And if you, like me, have already encountered this roadblock mid-recipe (and if you don't have a store nearby), don't despair: There's still hope for you yet. Here are a few last-minute tricks for you to try:

How do you keep your brown sugar from hardening into a brick? Let us know below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • heatshank
  • HalfPint
  • Ling
  • Carolyn
  • witloof
Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


heatshank January 21, 2019
The bread trick is super handy, but be careful if you bake for people with wheat allergy or gluten intolerance. I've had a couple of reactions after loved ones baked treats with gluten-free flour but forgot about the bread in their sugar containers. I've since learned to ask what people use to keep their sugar soft, before trying any treats they offer me...
HalfPint January 19, 2019
Way back in the day, my home ec teacher taught me this trick. For those worried about mold, no need to worry. The bread just gets dried out and hard. Sugar is hygroscopic, loves water so it sucks all the moisture out of the bread. Without that moisture, there’s little chance of mold. The sugar doesn’t get moldy because it binds up the water molecules and even steals it from bacteria, mold, and/or yeast. And these “bugs” need that moisture to survive and quite a bit more to thrive. That’s why sugar (and salt) is such a good preservative.
Ling January 18, 2019
I make brown sugar as needed: when I learned it was simply white sugar with molasses mixed in, I never bought brown sugar again. No more plastic packaging and I always have fresh moist brown sugar :) plus I can make it as light or dark as I need/like! I typically make a 1/2 to 1 cup more than I need so I keep a small amount around for those recipes that need a few tablespoons. Yes, it takes a bit more time getting the molasses mixed in evenly but it's worth it to me to not have to stock a bag of it and worry about it drying out.
Carolyn January 18, 2019
I always wondered why Brown Sugar companies don’t prepackage the sugar in 1/4 cup servings. So a box of brown sugar would have 10 1/4 cup packages. Then if you only need 2 Tbsp you aren’t wasting a whole box of BS (No pun intended). If you need 1/2 cup you use two 1/4 cup packages.
witloof January 18, 2019
I keep it in the freezer. Works great.
Cyndylee1 January 17, 2019
One large marshmallow works great!
eve January 17, 2019
Doesn't the bread get mouldy eventually? I've done that to soften already hardened brown sugar. It took a week (I inherited a few pounds) and I changed the slice every day. Then when it was all softened, I popped it all into a large mason jar with a terracotta bear.
Linda H. January 17, 2019
I use those terra cotta disks that you soak in water and a airtight container. To soften brown sugar place in microwave with a damp paper towel over it
Hana A. January 17, 2019
I've heard great things about those, thanks for your comment, Linda!
Anne January 17, 2019
No bread unless you want moldy bread with mold all over inside of container, all over clipped bag, and brown sugar that smells like mold and you have to throw out the whole soft mess!
I use a small “Brown Sugar Saver” terra-cotta disc that I dampen occasionally. Buy at Walmart or wherever kitchen gadgets are sold.
Hana A. January 17, 2019
I haven't ever had any issues with mold, but I have heard great things about those little terra cotta discs. Thanks for your comment, Anne!
Jami January 17, 2019
I have always used a peel of apple. It actually can work in a short time if your sugar has already hardened. I keep the sugar in its original bag inside a Tupperware or other plastic container with a lid. Great tips! Thanks. 🙏🏻💫🦋
Hana A. January 17, 2019
I'll have to try it, thanks for the tip and for reading, Jami!