A Simple Way to Soften Hard Brown Sugar in a Hurry

updated May 1, 2020
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(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

What do you do when you pull out the container of brown sugar and it’s a perfectly formed, rock-hard brick? This happened to me the other day, which sent me on the hunt for some effective solutions. Here’s one that worked in a matter of minutes.

If you have time to spare, putting a slice of bread or some apple slices on top of the sugar, sealing it up, and letting it sit for a day are a couple hands-off ways to soften brown sugar. That’s all fine and good if you have a day or two, but what if you need the sugar right away?

A quicker way to soften brown sugar is to put a moist paper towel in a plastic bag with the sugar and microwave it for 20 seconds. If you are leery about microwaving plastic, you could also put the sugar in a glass or ceramic bowl with a moist paper towel and cover it with a lid or plate.

This method works like a charm, though you may need to microwave really rock-hard sugar for several additional 20-second bursts, and break up any big lumps as you go. Eventually you’ll be left with a soft, pliable pile of ready-to-use sugar. Keep it that way by following some of the storage tips below.

(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

Tips for Storing Brown Sugar

(Updated from a post originally published on August 5, 2008.)