What is brown sugar syrup made of?

Brown sugar syrup is a popular sweetener used in baking, cocktails, and more. It has a deep, molasses-like flavor that sets it apart from regular white sugar syrup. But what exactly gives brown sugar its distinctive taste and texture? The main ingredients in brown sugar syrup are brown sugar, water, and sometimes spices. By understanding what goes into making this sweet condiment, you can learn to make your own homemade brown sugar syrup.

Brown Sugar

The key ingredient in brown sugar syrup is obviously brown sugar. Brown sugar contains molasses, which gives it its brown color and rich, caramel-like flavor. There are a few different types of brown sugar that can be used to make syrup:

Light brown sugar – This is the most common type of brown sugar. It’s light brown in color and has a milder molasses taste than dark brown sugar. Light brown sugar contains 3.5% molasses.

Dark brown sugar – Dark brown sugar is darker in color and has a more robust molasses flavor. It contains 6.5% molasses, nearly double the amount in light brown sugar. Dark brown sugar will produce a syrup with a deeper, more pronounced molasses taste.

Muscovado sugar – Sometimes labeled as “raw” brown sugar, muscovado sugar is an unrefined brown sugar that contains natural molasses. It has a very strong molasses flavor. Muscovado makes a rich, intense brown sugar syrup.

Turbinado sugar – This “raw” sugar is made from crystallized sugar cane juice. It has a light golden brown color and subtle molasses flavor. Turbinado makes a lighter flavored brown sugar syrup.

The type of brown sugar used will impact the taste, color, and thickness of the finished syrup. Dark brown sugars like muscovado will make a bolder, thicker syrup, while light brown sugars create a thinner, more delicate syrup.


The second main ingredient in brown sugar syrup is water. Brown sugar is boiled with water to make the syrup. The amount of water determines the thickness and consistency of the end product:

  • Less water makes a thicker, more concentrated syrup.
  • More water makes a thinner, more pourable syrup.

Using equal parts brown sugar and water will create a traditional simple syrup consistency. But the ratio can be adjusted based on personal preference. Just keep in mind that too much water will make the syrup runny, while too little can yield a thick, sticky syrup.

Spices and Flavorings

Spices and other flavorings can be added to brown sugar syrup to put a unique twist on the classic molasses taste:

Cinnamon – This warming spice complements brown sugar’s baked flavor notes. Add a cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon.

Vanilla – Vanilla extract can add sweet aroma and taste to balanced out the molasses.

Ginger – Fresh or ground ginger adds zesty kick and spice.

Nutmeg – A touch of nutmeg enhances the sweetness.

Maple syrup – For a maple brown sugar flavor, mix in a bit of real maple syrup.

Espresso powder – Coffee intensifies the molasses flavor and gives the syrup complexity.

Peppermint extract – This is an unconventional but delicious addition, perfect for holiday drinks.

Spices should be added in small amounts so they don’t overwhelm the brown sugar. Taste as you go until the flavor balance tastes right.

How to Make Brown Sugar Syrup

Now that you know the key ingredients in brown sugar syrup, let’s go over the easy process of how to make it:

1. Combine brown sugar and water in a small saucepan. Use a 1:1 ratio to start. For 4 cups of syrup, use 2 cups brown sugar and 2 cups water.

2. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Bring to a simmer.

3. Once simmering, let the syrup cook for 5-10 minutes so the flavors meld together.

4. Add any extra flavorings like spices, vanilla, or maple syrup at this point.

5. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before bottling. The syrup will thicken more as it cools.

6. Pour the finished syrup into a glass jar or bottle. Store in the fridge for up to 6 months.

You can tweak the brown sugar type and sweetness to your preferences when making homemade brown sugar syrup. It can be substituted 1:1 for plain sugar syrup in recipes.

How to Use Brown Sugar Syrup

Now that you have a batch of delicious homemade brown sugar syrup, how do you actually use it? This versatile syrup lends deep, molasses flavor to all kinds of sweet and savory recipes:

Cocktails – Swap brown sugar syrup for plain simple syrup in classic cocktails like Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. It’s also great in tiki-style tropical drinks.

Baked goods – Use brown sugar syrup to sweeten and add moisture to cakes, muffins, quick breads, and cookies.

Glazes and sauces – Brown sugar syrup makes a fantastic base for barbecue sauces, ham glazes, dessert sauces, and more.

Coffee and tea – Add a dollop of syrup to sweeten coffees, lattes, and teas with brown sugar flavor.

Yogurt and oatmeal – Stir brown sugar syrup into plain yogurt, overnight oats, porridge, and breakfast bowls.

Fruit desserts – Drizzle over poached pears, baked apples, grilled pineapple, or fresh berries.

Meats – Brush brown sugar syrup onto ham, pork chops, chicken, and salmon before roasting or grilling.

The options are endless! Anywhere you’d normally use regular brown sugar or simple syrup is a prime opportunity to sub in homemade brown sugar syrup. Get creative with unique ways to incorporate its signature molasses richness into your cooking and baking.

Nutrition Facts of Brown Sugar Syrup

Like most sugars, brown sugar syrup is high in calories and carbohydrates with little protein, fat, or micronutrients:

Calories: About 45 calories per tablespoon

Carbohydrates: Around 11g of sugar per tablespoon

Fat, protein, fiber: Minimal amounts

However, brown sugar does contain some minerals from the molasses:

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Potassium

It also contains traces of vitamins and antioxidants.

So while brown sugar syrup should still be enjoyed in moderation, it does edge out plain white sugar when it comes to nutritional value. The minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants found in molasses make brown sugar a slightly healthier option when you want to add sweetness.

Storing Brown Sugar Syrup

To retain the best flavor and texture, proper storage of brown sugar syrup is important:

Refrigerate – Keep brown sugar syrup stored in the fridge to prevent mold growth and maintain freshness. The cool temperature will also help keep the syrup viscous.

Airtight container – Store in a jar or bottle with an airtight lid. This prevents outside aromas from seeping in and flavor compounds in the syrup from escaping.

Shelf life – 1-3 months – Brown sugar syrup will keep well in the fridge for 1-3 months. Over time, the syrup may crystallize or the color and flavor can start to fade.

Freeze for longer storage – For long term storage of 6 months up to 1 year, brown sugar syrup can be frozen. Thaw in the fridge before using.

Watch for mold – Discard any syrup that develops mold. Always use clean utensils when removing syrup from the storage container.

Follow these storage guidelines and your homemade brown sugar syrup will stay delicious for batches to come!

Common Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about brown sugar syrup:

Does it have to be refrigerated?

Yes, proper storage is refrigerating the syrup. The cool temperature prevents microbial growth and deterioration in quality over time.

How long does it last?

Refrigerated, brown sugar syrup will stay good for 1-3 months. You can also freeze it for longer term storage.

Is brown sugar syrup the same as molasses?

No. Molasses is a byproduct from refining sugar cane into sugar. Brown sugar syrup is made by simply boiling brown sugar in water. The syrup takes on molasses notes from the brown sugar.

Is brown sugar syrup healthier than white sugar?

It can be slightly healthier due to some vitamins and minerals from the molasses. But all sugar syrups should still be used in moderation.

What’s the difference between light and dark brown sugar syrup?

Dark brown sugar syrup has a more robust molasses flavor and thicker texture. Light brown sugar makes a milder flavored, thinner syrup.

Can it be used in cocktails?

Yes! Brown sugar syrup adds great molasses flavor when swapped 1:1 for simple syrup in cocktails.


Brown sugar syrup is an easy homemade condiment that adds sweet molasses flavor to drinks, baked goods, glazes, desserts, and more. It’s made by simply boiling brown sugar in water, allowing the brown sugar’s natural molasses notes to infuse the syrup. Dark brown sugars make a bolder, more intense syrup, while light brown sugars create a more delicate flavor. Brown sugar syrup keeps for 1-3 months refrigerated, or up to 1 year frozen. With its versatility to enhance so many recipes, homemade brown sugar syrup is a handy staple for any well-stocked pantry.

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