How do u keep brown sugar from going hard?

Brown sugar is a very common baking ingredient that tends to harden and form clumps if not stored properly. This can make it difficult to measure out the correct amount for recipes and impact the texture of baked goods. Thankfully, there are several effective ways to keep brown sugar soft so it’s always ready to use!

In this article, we will cover the reasons brown sugar hardens, signs to look out for, and actionable tips to keep it soft. We’ll also provide answers to frequently asked questions about storing brown sugar. With the right techniques, you can have moist, scoopable brown sugar anytime you need it.

Why Does Brown Sugar Get Hard?

Brown sugar contains molasses, which gives it its distinctive taste and appearance. The molasses also makes brown sugar more prone to hardening compared to regular white sugar. There are two main reasons brown sugar can turn rock solid:

Loss of Moisture

Exposure to air causes brown sugar to lose moisture over time. Without enough moisture, the molasses evaporates, leaving behind hard sugar crystals. The small amount of moisture in brown sugar makes it especially vulnerable.


When brown sugar loses moisture, the sugar crystals start to recrystallize and form rigid clumps. This process happens faster in dry environments. The molasses acts as a binder that holds the solid crystals together, creating a brick-like texture.

Signs Your Brown Sugar is Drying Out

Look out for these signs that your brown sugar is starting to dry and harden:

  • Hard, solid clumps
  • Dry, grainy texture
  • Sugar no longer clumps together when squeezed
  • Difficult to scoop out of the storage container
  • Appears darker and drier in spots

Catching the signs early allows you to take action before the sugar fully hardens.

How to Soften Hard Brown Sugar

If your brown sugar has already hardened, don’t worry. You can soften it again using a few different methods:

Expose to Air

Removing the lid from your brown sugar allows moisture in the air to be absorbed. Let it sit uncovered overnight, or up to 24 hours, to soften up. Stir periodically to expose all the clumps to air.

Use a Slice of Bread

Place a slice of fresh bread on top of the hardened brown sugar and seal the container. Over several hours, the bread releases moisture that softens the sugar.

Bake in the Oven

Heat softens the molasses and breaks up the sugar crystals. Place your hardened brown sugar in an oven-safe dish. Bake at 300°F for 5 minutes. Stir well and continue baking in 1-minute intervals until softened.


Microwaves provide targeted, fast heating. Place the sugar in a microwave-safe bowl with a damp paper towel on top. Microwave in 10-second bursts, stirring in between, until soft again. Take care not to overheat.

Grate by Hand

For small amounts, rub chunks of hardened brown sugar against a grater. The grated sugar is easier to incorporate into what you’re baking.

Tips to Keep Brown Sugar Soft

Once you’ve got your brown sugar back to its soft, fluffy state, use these tips to prevent it from hardening again:

Use an Airtight Container

Moisture loss is the main culprit for hardening. An airtight container prevents air exposure. Glass, plastic, or ceramic work best. Make sure to seal it tightly every time.

Try a Terra Cotta Sugar Bear

These cute bear-shaped terra cotta pots are designed to keep brown sugar soft. Place one in your sugar container and soak it in water before capping. The clay absorbs and releases moisture.

Add a Marshmallow

Placing a large marshmallow in the sugar helps maintain moisture. The sugar may take on hints of marshmallow flavor over time. Switch it out monthly for best results.

Use Fresh Sugar

Older brown sugar hardens faster. Use within 4-6 months and re-stock frequently for freshness. Date your container so you know when it was first opened.

Bag It Up

Storing brown sugar in an airtight plastic bag removes air contact and retains moisture. Squeeze out excess air before sealing the bag.


The cold environment of the fridge slows moisture loss. Use an airtight container and keep away from fridge odors. Let the sugar come to room temp before using.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does brown sugar expire?

Properly stored, brown sugar lasts 6-8 months before drying out. It won’t make you sick if used beyond that time, but will become rock hard and difficult to use. Always check for clumping, dryness, and mold if storing for long periods.

Why put brown sugar in the fridge?

The cold environment of the refrigerator slows down moisture loss. Just make sure to bring the brown sugar to room temperature before using so it dissolves properly.

Should you refrigerate brown sugar short term or long term?

Refrigeration works well for both short and long term storage. For short term, it buys you more time before the sugar dries out. For long term, it keeps the sugar fresher for when you’re ready to use it.

Does freezing brown sugar keep it soft?

Freezing is not recommended. Moisture can separate from the sugar and freeze into ice crystals. It also risks crystallization. Refrigeration works better to extend shelf life.

What is the best container for brown sugar storage?

Look for an airtight glass, plastic, or ceramic container. Metal can interact with the brown sugar and impact the taste. Make sure to seal the container completely after every use.


With its distinctive flavor and texture, brown sugar is a treasured baking ingredient. Keeping it soft and scoopable is simple with a few moisture-locking tricks. Use an airtight container, add a sugar bear or marshmallow, refrigerate, and replenish frequently. With proper storage, you can enjoy delicious, moist brown sugar for months.

Now you can confidently incorporate brown sugar into your favorite recipes, knowing it will retain its signature sandy texture. No more chipping away at rock-hard sugar! Just remember to take preventive steps and you’ll never have to deal with brown sugar bricks again.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Brown sugar hardens from moisture loss and sugar crystals recombining.
  • Look for clumping, dryness, and changed texture.
  • Expose to air, use bread, bake, microwave, or grate to soften.
  • Store in an airtight container with a sugar bear or marshmallow.
  • Refrigerate or freeze for long-term storage.
  • Use within 6-8 months for best freshness.

With the right storage methods, you can keep brown sugar soft for all your baking needs! Now go create some sweet treats.

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