Gaining the confidence to make substitutions is a landmark moment for any baker, because even the smallest changes can transform a recipe. For example, simply swapping brown sugar for some or all of the white sugar in baked goods creates a deeper flavor with aromatic butterscotch overtones. Because brown and white sugar are essentially the same ingredient, it’s an easy substitution to make.

The Trick to Swapping Brown Sugar for White Sugar

One cup of brown sugar is a direct replacement for 1 cup of white sugar, but there’s a catch. Granulated white sugar is dry and fills a cup densely on its own. Brown sugar is moist and slightly sticky, so when mounded loosely, it can clump and leave pockets of air inside a measuring cup. To get the equivalent quantity of brown sugar, it needs to be packed firmly into the measuring cup, which is indicated in most recipes. (If you use a recipe with measurements by weight, you won’t need to pack the sugar.)

A Few Differences

Dark brown sugar contains more molasses than light brown sugar, so the resulting flavor will be a bit deeper. The molasses is also slightly acidic and reacts with baking soda to help with leavening.

White sugar tends to make cookies crisp, while brown sugar’s higher moisture content makes them chewy. To fine-tune cookie recipes to your preferred texture, experiment with adjusting the proportion of the two sweeteners.