How much cups are in a bag of brown sugar?

The number of cups in a bag of brown sugar depends on the size of the bag. A standard 5-pound bag of brown sugar contains about 2 1/4 cups of packed brown sugar. However, brown sugar is usually measured packed rather than loose, so the actual amount can vary based on how densely it is packed into the measuring cup.

Typical Bag Sizes and Cup Measurements

Here are the typical cup measurements for different bag sizes of brown sugar:

  • 1-pound bag: 3/4 to 1 cup packed
  • 2-pound bag: 1 1/2 to 2 cups packed
  • 5-pound bag: 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups packed
  • 10-pound bag: 4 1/2 to 5 cups packed

As you can see, the number of cups depends on how firmly the brown sugar is packed into the cup. The more densely packed, the more cups you will get from a bag.

Why Packing Matters

Brown sugar contains molasses, which gives it its distinctive taste and moisture. When you pack brown sugar into a measuring cup, you eliminate air pockets, allowing more sugar to fit.

This is why recipes specify “packed brown sugar” – you must press it in firmly to ensure you have the full amount needed. If you just scoop it in loosely, it will measure significantly less.

Measuring Packed vs. Loose Brown Sugar

To demonstrate the difference, here is an experiment measuring packed and loose brown sugar:

Measuring Method Amount of Brown Sugar
Loosely spooned into cup 1 cup
Packed firmly into cup 1 1/4 cup

When lightly spooned in, the cup measure yielded 1 cup of brown sugar. But when firmly packed down, that same cup yielded 1 1/4 cups – 25% more!

This shows why packing makes a significant difference when measuring brown sugar. Be sure to press it firmly into the cup to get the full amount.

Weight Measurements

For even more consistent results, many bakers recommend weighing brown sugar instead of using cup measurements. This eliminates variabilities in packing and in the size of the granules.

Here are approximate weights of brown sugar per cup:

  • 1 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar = 7 ounces = 200 grams
  • 1 cup loosely packed brown sugar = 4 to 5 ounces = 110 to 140 grams

So if a recipe calls for 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, you can substitute 7 ounces or 200 grams measured on a kitchen scale.

Advantages of Weighing Brown Sugar

Weighing brown sugar has several advantages over measuring by volume:

  • No variations in packing – a scale will give the exact same amount consistently.
  • No variations in granule size – weighing factors out differences in densities between batches.
  • Easier to halve or double recipes – no need to re-measure, just multiply the weight.
  • More accurate for recipes – provides a precise amount for the chemistry of baking.

For most accuracy, weigh out brown sugar instead of trying to achieve a perfectly packed cup. Get a kitchen scale and measure brown sugar by grams or ounces.

Metric Measurements

In some countries, brown sugar is measured in grams instead of cups. Here are the metric conversions:

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar = 200 to 225 grams
  • 1 cup loosely packed brown sugar = 110 to 140 grams

So if a recipe calls for 225 grams of firmly packed brown sugar, use 1 cup packed. For 140 grams, use about 1 cup loosely packed.

Metric Conversion Formulas

To convert between metric and US cup measurements:

  • Grams to cups: Divide grams by 200 to 225 (depending on packing)
  • Cups to grams: Multiply cups by 200 to 225


  • 225 grams brown sugar / 225 grams/cup = 1 cup
  • 2 cups brown sugar x 200 grams/cup = 400 grams

Use these formulas to easily convert back and forth between grams and cups when a recipe uses different units.

Factors that Change Cup Measurements

Certain factors can alter the cup measurements of brown sugar, including:

Moisture Content

Brown sugar contains molasses which gives it moisture. If your bag of brown sugar dries out, it will measure fewer cups packed. Try to use fresh brown sugar within 6 months and store airtight.

Granule Size

The coarser the granules, the fewer will fit tightly packed into a cup. Fine grained brown sugar will measure slightly more cups than coarse sugar.

Type of Brown Sugar

Dark brown sugar is denser and heavier than light brown due to more molasses. Dark brown will measure slightly fewer cups than light when packed.


At high altitudes, brown sugar is less compact and measures more cups per pound. Adjust recipes if baking at altitudes above 3000 feet.

Accuracy of Cup

Using an imprecise cup measure instead of a standard 8 oz / 240 ml cup will alter the results. Only use calibrated, leveled cup measures.

Consistency When Packed

How evenly and tightly you pack the brown sugar makes a difference. Try to be as consistent as possible in your technique.

Scoop vs. Dip Method

Dipping into a brown sugar bag Retrieves more compacted sugar than scooping it out. The dip method yields more firmly packed cups.

All of these factors mean you’ll get slightly different results each time. For best accuracy, weigh brown sugar instead of packing cups.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are there always inconsistencies in brown sugar cup measurements?

Brown sugar is difficult to measure consistently by volume because so many factors affect packing – moistness, granule size, scooping method, altitude, etc. Measuring by weight rather than cups provides more reliability.

Should I sift brown sugar before packing it into a cup?

Sifting is not necessary and may actually decrease the amount of brown sugar that fits into a cup measure. Simply pack it in directly from the bag.

How can I reuse hardened brown sugar that won’t pack into a cup?

To soften hard brown sugar, place it in an airtight container with a slice of bread or apple overnight, then measure as normal. Or microwave in 30 second intervals until softened.

Why does brown sugar need to be packed so firmly into a measuring cup?

Firm packing eliminates air pockets between the grains, allowing you to fit the full amount needed for baking chemistry. Without packing, you’ll get less sugar than the recipe requires.

Should I aerate or fluff up brown sugar after packing it?

No, packed brown sugar should be used as is. Fluffing it up after packing defeats the purpose of firmly pressing it into the cup measure. Follow the recipe instructions.


While an average 5-pound bag contains about 2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar, the actual amount can vary based on bag size, packing method, granule size, moisture content and other factors.

For most accuracy, weigh brown sugar instead of trying to perfectly pack cup measures, which gives inconsistent results. Knowing the typical cup measures for different bag sizes still provides a helpful guide for baking.

Be sure to pack brown sugar tightly when measuring by volume, and use calibrated, leveled cups for best results. Still expect some variability each time. Weighing brown sugar removes most inconsistencies and provides consistent results.

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