Out of Granulated Sugar? Here’s What to Use Instead.

updated Apr 28, 2020
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Container of sugar
Credit: Joe Lingeman

I always, always have granulated sugar in my kitchen — except when I don’t, which is almost always right when a brownie or cookie craving hits and I’ve already had the butter and eggs sitting out at room temperature. Does this happen to you, too? Borrowing a cup of sugar from the neighbor used to be a safe bet, but since neighborly exchanges and grocery trips are limited, you have to make do with what you’ve got.

Luckily, substitutions for granulated sugar are plentiful. You just need to know some basic math. And as a bonus, you might find your favorite banana bread is even better with brown sugar or discover a use for that coconut sugar in the back of your pantry.

Here are the best substitutes for granulated sugar that may already be in your pantry.

Credit: Kelli Foster

1:1 Sugar Substitutes for Granulated Sugar

Brown sugar is the simplest substitute for granulated sugar. You can use light or dark brown sugar as a 1:1 substitute. It makes for darker, denser baked goods with a more caramel or molasses flavor, which is wonderful for classic chocolate chip cookies, but less desirable for delicate cakes.

Demerara or turbinado sugars are two “less refined” cane sugars, although you may also buy the latter under the brand name Sugar in the Raw. You can use either as a cup-for-cup substitute for granulated sugar — and they work particularly well in cookies and candies calling for regular sugar.

Coconut sugar can also be used as a 1:1 swap for granulated sugar — especially in cookies and quick breads. Beware that coconut sugar is drier than brown or granulated sugar, making it excellent for shortbread and snap cookies but less ideal for tender cakes.

How to Substitute Powdered Sugar for Granulated Sugar

You can also use powdered sugar to replace up to 2 cups of granulated sugar, using 1 3/4 cup unsifted powdered sugar for each cup of sugar. This substitution is best for moist quick breads and muffins. Avoid powdered sugar, if possible, for recipes that require creaming together the butter and sugar. Cookies made with powdered sugar won’t bake up as crisp.

Also worth mentioning: If you’re out of powdered sugar, but have granulated sugar on hand, whiz 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a food processor for each cup of powdered sugar you need.

How to Substitute Liquid Sweeteners for Sugar

When all your dry sugar options are used up, you can reach for liquid sweeteners instead. Because they are more expensive and require more recipe adjustments, liquid sweeteners should be the last resort in sugar substitutions.

For maple syrup, honey, agave, and brown rice syrup use 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons for each cup of sugar called for. You’ll also need to add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for each cup and reduce liquid in your recipe by 3 tablespoons. Liquid sweeteners will also alter the browning of baked treats, so lower the oven temperature by 25°F.

Swaps and Substitutions

Even the most well-stocked kitchens run out of pantry staples from time to time. Whether you’re trying to limit your grocery shopping or you need to make a last-minute ingredient swap, we’ve got you covered. This series will walk you through the best substitutions and replacements for common cooking and baking ingredients.