Light Brown Sugar vs Dark Brown Sugar - What’s the Difference?

Organic brown sugar being sprinkled on sliced apples in a metal mixing bowl

Brown sugar is a common ingredient found in baking recipes, but when you walk down the baking aisle at the grocery store, you can choose from several different kinds. First of all, what is brown sugar, and what separates it from regular granulated sugar? Put simply, brown sugar is still sugar that has been combined with molasses, giving it that rich-brown color and subtle caramel flavor.

Getting into the nitty-gritty of brown sugar and discovering what the difference between light and brown sugar is will help you determine what to use when a recipe simply calls for “brown sugar.”

Light Brown Sugar

The process of making brown sugar is relatively straightforward. Refined white sugar is mixed with molasses and processed. When purchased in a store, light brown sugar usually contains 3.5% molasses. This small amount of molasses is what gives light brown sugar its golden color and subtle caramel flavor.

When to Use Light Brown Sugar

As a general rule, when a recipe calls for brown sugar, you will most likely use light brown sugar. Baking recipes are typically sensitive to both moisture and density, so the difference in moisture content will make an impact. This is especially true for desserts like cakes, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, pies, etc. – desserts that have to rise.


Dark Brown Sugar

Just like light brown sugar, dark brown sugar is produced the same way, only with higher contents of molasses – hence the darker color. Adding more molasses also gives it that intensely rich caramel flavor. Most store-bought dark brown sugar products contain double the amount of molasses, usually containing around 6.5%.

When to Use Dark Brown Sugar

When density and moisture are not key elements in the success of a recipe, you can absolutely use dark brown sugar. For instance, a carmelita bar would benefit from dark brown sugar because the added molasses will give it a rich taste. This type of dessert also doesn’t require any rising, so dark brown sugar is an excellent option. Lastly, if a pronounced caramel flavor is what you desire – in any recipe – you ought to use dark brown sugar.
A wooden bowl of organic brown sugar beside an overflowing spoon of organic brown sugar

Difference Between Light and Dark Brown Sugar

As we’ve mentioned, the amount of molasses combined with refined sugar is the main difference between light and dark brown sugar (aside from color). In most recipes, you can interchange the two, but the taste tester will notice differences in the final product.

Again, if you use dark brown sugar, you will find a stronger flavor and the higher acidity will impact the rise, causing a higher rise or wider spread. That being said, if the recipe only calls for a small amount of brown sugar, it may not impact the final product. If a recipe calls for a rich caramel flavor, but you don’t want it to overpower the dessert, you can combine half light and half dark brown sugar for a perfectly balanced mixture.

A woman spoons organic brown sugar into a mixing bowl beside a bag of Big Country organic brown sugar

Why Choose Organic Brown Sugar

Now that we’ve established the difference between light and dark brown sugar, let’s talk organic sugar vs regular sugar. The difference between organic brown sugar and regular is equally vital for anyone getting ready to bake in the kitchen.

Organic brown sugar doesn’t contain any chemicals nor toxins. Additionally, because organic sugar stays unrefined and unprocessed, it maintains its nutritional value. There is no denying the fact that brown sugar vastly improves the taste of baked goods, but if a consumer genuinely wants to take advantage of brown sugar’s nutritional value, an organic light or dark brown sugar is a must.

The cleanest of the clean dark brown sugars do not have any bone char, either, making it a completely vegan product. At Big Country Foods, our organic light brown sugar creates a delicate caramel color and flavor with increased moisture retention, making it ideal for baking. So, have we convinced you to opt for organic brown sugar yet? That’s what we thought. Remember you can use brown sugar for savory recipes, too! Check out our other blogs for fun recipe ideas.

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