Storage Tips

How to Store Brown Sugar

September  4, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Take charge of your ingredients; store your brown sugar without the mess and without the clumps.

How to Store Brown Sugar on Food52

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There are kitchen messes we know we bring upon ourselves: oil splatters in every corner of the stove, drips of batter on the counter. In these cases, the mess, though frustrating, is our own fault.

But there is one ingredient that never fails to make things difficult, entirely of its own accord: brown sugar. No matter how carefully you pour or spoon it from the cardboard box, it spills. Tiny granules sprinkle everywhere, wasted and a pain to clean up.

The packaging is stupid -- that’s the only way to put it. White sugar flows out of its packaging neatly and without a problem. But not brown sugar. It sticks together, and the mouth of the box isn’t big enough to allow you to stick in your hand and break up the clumps. (Some brands of brown sugar come in sealable plastic bags, but they don’t work much better.) Plus, it’s difficult to close cardboard boxes effectively, causing the sugar to harden.

How to Store Brown Sugar on Food52

The solution: First, move your brown sugar to a different and better location where it can be more easily transferred, whether that’s a canister on your counter (along with the more usual suspects of flour, white sugar, and coffee/tea), or in a Tupperware in your pantry. It doesn’t matter. Just make sure the container is airtight.

How to Store Brown Sugar on Food52

Next, put a marshmallow in the container. This will keep the brown sugar soft, owing to the moisture in the marshmallow. (Some people use bread instead.)

Finally, if you happen to find yourself in a situation where you haven’t followed the above advice (or, more likely, a friend hasn’t and calls you in a panic wanting to know what to do), there’s an easy trick to making your hardened brown sugar soft once again. It’s not ideal, but it most certainly works in a pinch: Put the mass of sugar into a microwave-safe bowl. Top it with a damp paper towel and zap it for about 30 seconds, then break it up with a fork. Voilà!

So go ahead and be messy. But do it on your own terms.

Photos by James Ransom

Do you have any other tricks to store brown sugar? Tell us in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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    Glenn Hills
  • Holly-Anne Golightly
    Holly-Anne Golightly
  • Jen Zen
    Jen Zen
  • amysarah
  • Wendy G
    Wendy G
Emma Wartzman

Written by: Emma Wartzman


Glenn H. May 7, 2015
My mother in-law and now me keeps my brown sugar in a double zip ziplock freezer bag in the freezer, ready to use in minuets, just take it out when your getting your other ingerdients ready and it will be ready when you are soft easily measured and off you go.
Holly-Anne G. November 9, 2014
I've used a terra cotta disk for years & it's worked well for me. It needs to be soaked in water for about 15 minutes, then towel dried before putting it in the bag of brown sugar. Keeping it in the original bag with one corner cut open is best and store in a sealed container (i.e., Tupperware type). When it starts to harden again just repeat the terra cotta disk in water step again. Disks are available in kitchen stores or most dept. stores that have an aisle with kitchen items.
Jen Z. September 4, 2013
My BBF show me to just with one slice of apple is great to softener again the brown sugar, I did it and work perfect so I share this with all of you.
amysarah September 4, 2013
I keep it in a well sealed container in the freezer too. I find it stays soft - defrosts within only a few minutes.
Wendy G. September 4, 2013
I store it in the freezer, which keeps it from going hard. Leave on the counter for 15-30 mins and it defrosts enough to use easily.
Savour September 4, 2013
I've found if I store brown sugar in a sealed container (either a mason jar, or currently a metal canister from Ikea) it doesn't dry out - no marshmallow required. The bread or marshmallow is good to revive dry brown sugar.
KirstenS September 4, 2013
I have a terra cotta disk that I soak in water every few months and toss in the jar with the brown sugar and that works great. The neck on my other jar (for light brown sugar) is too small for the disk, but a friend showed me how to cover the surface with a piece of paper towel. That works great too!
Ann K. September 4, 2013
When I was a kid, my Mom would only make brown sugar candy when the sugar was too hard. So I would climb up to cupboard and leave the sugar top wide open.....
vicki C. September 4, 2013
I put a slice of bread.. brown sugar was hard at nite.. by morning it's soft
Lari September 4, 2013
If you squeeze the box prior to purchasing it, you won't have this problem. if the box is soft, buy it. If not, don't.
Slimfender September 4, 2013
I buy brown sugar in a resealable bag and have never had issues. I just throw it in an extra ziploc and don't mess with apples or expensive containers or anything. The ziploc gets rinsed and reused of course.
Kathryn September 4, 2013
I'll try the marshmallow - great tip! If you quarter an apple and put it in with hardened brown sugar overnight it will soften the block fairly well, a trick my Gran showed me.
SuSanFran September 4, 2013
I bought two containers called "brown sugar keepers" on Amazon, and they were worth every penny. They have a terra cotta disk in the lid that you soak in water for 15 minutes every two months, which I use my Outlook calendar to keep track of (lawyering for 30 years will do that to you). One for dark brown sugar, one for light brown sugar, and they even look good in the pantry.
petrini.elisa September 4, 2013
a chunk of apple will soften up an entire box of hardened brown sugar in a day or two
Author Comment
Emma W. September 4, 2013
Great tip! Next time I plan enough ahead I'll try it!
Dana S. September 4, 2013
I'm a very messy cook (with the best of intentions, of course, but nonetheless, messy) so I like this mantra of being messy on my own terms. Brava!
Author Comment
Emma W. September 4, 2013
To messy cooks!!
Kenzi W. September 4, 2013
This is super helpful. Thanks Emma!
Nick R. September 4, 2013
Great tip for Dark Brown Sugar. For Light Brown Sugar you can also buy "Brownulated" sugar, which is light brown sugar that has been dried and then ground up. This prevents it from clumping. You may have to adjust a touch of moisture in your recipe but it should be negligible.