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What is Packed Brown Sugar?

If you’re a new baker, you may have come across the term packed brown sugar in a recipe. If you’ve never done it before, you may be wondering what it means. This post will tell you everything you need to know so keep reading to find out!

A Bowl Of Dark Brown Sugar

Types of brown sugar

When a recipe calls for brown sugar, it helps if the author specifies which kind to use because there are quite a few types! Let’s take a look at them.

  • Demerara sugar. Light brown sugar with a crunchy, coarse texture. It’s regular white sugar with a little molasses added.
  • Soft light brown sugar. This is white sugar with added molasses and glycerol. The glycerol prevents sugar crystallisation and helps to keep it soft and moist. Soft light brown sugar is what I use most often in my baking recipes because it gives a nice a caramel-y flavour without being too rich.
  • Muscovado sugar. This is also granulated sugar but has more molasses than demerara.
  • Soft dark brown sugar. Similar to the light brown sugar but with more molasses added. This has a super deep, rich flavour.

The colour of the sugar depends on how much molasses it contains. The more molasses it has, the darker it will be. See also: Is sugar vegan?

What is packed brown sugar?

When a recipe calls for packed brown sugar, it first means that the author is using measuring cups. If you’re unfamiliar with measuring cups for baking, don’t worry! I have included a cups to grams conversion table further down in the post.

Packed brown sugar is exactly what it sounds like! It means to pack the sugar tightly into the measuring cup. Rather than scooping the sugar up using your cup, you’ll want to use a spoon to transfer the sugar into it so that it’s nice and compact.

Put a spoonful of brown sugar into the cup and press it down as tightly as you can using the back of the spoon. Repeat until you have a full cup. The top of the brown sugar should be neatly in line with the top of the cup. Doing it this way ensures there are no gaps in between.

And that’s what packed brown sugar is!

Where can I buy measuring cups?

In the UK, it’s not very common to use measuring cups for baking, although they are very handy for measuring liquids! I usually recommend using scales for other ingredients like sugar if you can, but if you’re making a recipe that uses measuring cups, you can buy some from the following places:

Packed brown sugar cups to grams conversion

If you prefer to convert the cups into grams, use this handy table.

Cups of packed brown sugarGrams of packed brown sugar
1/8 cup 25g
1/4 cup 50g
1/3 cup 65g
1/2 cup100g
1 cup200g

Brown sugar alternatives

Did you know, you can make your own brown sugar? All you need to do is add 1 tablespoon of molasses per 1 cup of sugar. Mix it together in a bowl then use as per your recipe. This homemade version can be used packed or unpacked. If you don’t have any molasses to hand, you can use one of the following sugars instead:

  • Coconut sugar. This will provide a similar caramel flavour and is a slightly more nutritious sugar. The downside is that it doesn’t hold much moisture so your baked goods will be a tad drier than if you used brown sugar.
  • Granulated sugar. This will do the job but the texture of the end result will be a little different because the molasses in the brown sugar provides moisture and chewiness.
  • Caster sugar. Same as above, this will work in a pinch but the end texture may be a little different. For example, cookies with brown sugar are a lot softer and chewier than those without it.

Baking recipes with brown sugar

Now you know all about brown sugar, let’s do some baking! Try one of these delicious brown sugar recipes below:

Stack Of 3 Iced brown sugar Cookies


Packed brown sugar means to tightly pack the sugar into a measuring cup so that there are no gaps. The top of the brown sugar should be flat in line with the top of the cup.

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