Is there gluten-free brown sugar?

Brown sugar is a very common baking ingredient used to add moisture and flavor to baked goods like cookies, cakes, muffins, and more. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it’s important to use ingredients that are certified gluten-free to avoid adverse reactions. So an important question arises – is regular brown sugar gluten-free? Let’s take a closer look.

What is brown sugar?

Brown sugar is a granulated sugar that gets its distinctive brown color from the presence of molasses. During the sugar making process, sugarcane or sugar beets are crushed to extract their natural juices. These juices are boiled down into a syrup, which is then spun in a centrifuge to separate the crystallized sugar granules from the molasses.

To make brown sugar, some of this molasses is added back into fully refined white sugar. The amount of molasses determines whether the resulting brown sugar is light or dark brown. Light brown sugar contains 3.5% molasses, while dark brown sugar contains 6.5% molasses.

The molasses gives brown sugar its characteristic brown color, moist texture, and rich caramel-like flavor. The minerals from the molasses also make brown sugar more acidic with a slightly lower pH than white sugar.

Does brown sugar contain gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten and experience digestive issues when they eat it.

Since brown sugar is simply white sugar with added molasses, it does not naturally contain any gluten. The sugar is made from sugarcane or sugar beets, both of which are gluten-free plants. The molasses is produced during the sugar making process, so it does not introduce any external gluten either.

Therefore, pure brown sugar that doesn’t have any additives should be gluten-free. However, some commercial brown sugar brands may contain barley malt or wheat starch added to prevent clumping. These grain-derived ingredients would introduce gluten into the brown sugar. It’s important to check the label or contact the manufacturer to confirm the brown sugar you’re buying is gluten-free.

Is there such a thing as gluten-free brown sugar?

Yes, you can absolutely find brown sugar that is certified gluten-free. Reputable gluten-free brands ensure their sugar production facilities are free of gluten cross-contamination and don’t add any potentially glutenous ingredients.

Here are some well-known gluten-free brown sugar options:

  • Domino Light and Dark Brown Sugar
  • C&H Light and Dark Brown Sugar
  • Dixie Crystals Light and Dark Brown Sugar
  • Florida Crystals Natural Brown Sugar
  • Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Brown Sugar
  • Smucker’s Natural Brown Sugar

These brands of brown sugar contain no barley, rye, wheat, or malt ingredients. They are produced in facilities free from gluten and are verified gluten-free through third-party certification programs like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO).

You can confirm the gluten-free status by looking for certification symbols or statements on the packaging, or contacting the manufacturer directly if it’s unclear. This provides assurance for gluten-sensitive consumers.

What to look for when buying gluten-free brown sugar

When purchasing brown sugar labeled as gluten-free, here are some key things to look for:

  • Reputable gluten-free brand with dedicated production facilities
  • No ingredients containing wheat, barley, rye, malt, or starch
  • Verified by a third-party certification program like GFCO
  • Gluten-free statement on packaging
  • No cross-contamination risks stated

You can also call or email the manufacturer and ask:

  • Are all your brown sugar varieties gluten-free?
  • Is gluten present anywhere in your facilities or equipment?
  • What processes do you have in place to avoid cross-contamination?
  • Do you perform gluten testing on finished products?

Reputable brands should be transparent about their production practices and testing procedures to accommodate gluten-free consumers. Doing your due diligence helps minimize your risk.

Homemade gluten-free brown sugar

While specialty stores carry gluten-free brown sugar, it can also be easily made at home:


  • 1 cup white granulated sugar (use gluten-free brands)
  • 1-2 tablespoons molasses


  1. Add the granulated sugar to a jar or sealable container.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon molasses for light brown sugar, or 2 tablespoons for dark brown sugar.
  3. Seal the container and shake vigorously until fully mixed.
  4. Use as you would regular brown sugar.
  5. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Since you control the ingredients, this homemade version ensures there is no risk of gluten. Use gluten-free white sugar and molasses for the safest results.

Tips for using gluten-free brown sugar

Here are some useful tips for using gluten-free brown sugar in your baking:

  • Substitute 1:1 for regular brown sugar in recipes.
  • Pack brown sugar firmly into measuring cups for accurate measurement.
  • Store in an airtight container to prevent hardening.
  • To soften, place a piece of bread or apple slice in the container.
  • Sift or break up any lumps prior to use.
  • Reduce oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning.
  • Mix with granulated sugar for lighter color baked goods.

Gluten-free brown sugar works the same way as traditional brown sugar in recipes. The only extra consideration is being more careful about potential cross-contamination when measuring, storing, and using your specialty sugar.

Common questions about gluten and brown sugar

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Is brown sugar processed near wheat?

Some sugar companies also handle wheat-based products, so there is a chance for gluten cross-contamination. That’s why it’s important to look for dedicated gluten-free brands.

Does molasses contain gluten?

No, molasses is naturally gluten-free. It’s made from sugarcane juice like regular sugar. Make sure to select pure molasses rather than blended syrups.

Is brown sugar better than white sugar for gluten intolerance?

There is no difference – both white and brown sugar are gluten-free as pure ingredients. But brown sugar has more moisture which can help offset dryness in gluten-free baked goods.

Is brown sugar considered whole grain?

No, brown sugar is not a whole grain, so it does not provide the nutritional benefits. It’s purely sucrose with added molasses.

Does the brown sugar production process introduce gluten?

Not if proper equipment sanitation and employee training procedures are followed. Reputable gluten-free brands ensure no cross-contamination occurs during production.

The bottom line

Brown sugar made from sugarcane or sugar beets is inherently gluten-free. But some less reputable brands may add questionable ingredients or fail to prevent cross-contamination in facilities.

To be safe, look for well-known gluten-free brands of light or dark brown sugar that are third-party certified. Or make your own homemade gluten-free brown sugar from granulated sugar and molasses. With the proper selection and precautions, people avoiding gluten can still enjoy their favorite brown sugar-sweetened treats.

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