How to soften hard brown sugar

Even the cooks in the Chatelaine Kitchen can forget to seal the sugar properly, find out how they rehydrated a tin of hard sugar.

Brown sugar

Brown sugar.
Photo, Erik Putz.

Even in the Chatelaine Kitchen, accidents happen. On one fateful day of testing recipes, I reached for the brown sugar only to realize that it had not been properly sealed and was now a giant, solid rock of sugar. The silver lining? In a test kitchen, accidents such as these are experiments waiting to happen. So one of the associate food editors and I put our noggins together to see if we could rehydrate this tin of dried-out brown sugar.

After a few rounds without success, we figured out a solution that worked. (And definitely a tip worth sharing!)

Here’s what to do:

1. Put your solid lump of dried brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl.

2. Lay two pieces of paper towel on top of each other. Fold them in half, and then in half again. You should end up with a square of 8 layers.

3. Wet the paper towel square under a gently running tap until it is completely wet through, but not soaked (dripping wet is too wet).

4. Lay the wet paper towel over the lump of brown sugar so it is fully covered. Microwave for 45 seconds on med-low heat. Remove from microwave, flip over and repeat. Remove from microwave and use a fork to scrape off the softened brown sugar that will be on the outer edges.

5. Repeat this whole process until you end up with re-hydrated brown sugar.

Note: The size of your brown sugar determines how many times you’ll have to heat it. The minimum will be approximately five to six times. In our kitchen test (see images below) we had to reheat it ten times.

Check out how we revived our rock hard brown sugar:

Brown sugar step 1

Step 1

brown sugar step 2

Step 4

brown sugar step 3

Step 5

Recipes with brown sugar: So if you’re looking to make our delicious sticky caramel buns or our brown sugar shortbread cookies, no worries if your brown sugar is dried out…now you can fix it!

8 comments on “How to soften hard brown sugar

  1. Another trick, if you don’t need the sugar right away…put a piece of bread in the container with the sugar. Just throw out the bread when it dries out.


    • Have used this method for years and it actually works. I empty the bag of brown sugar into a sealable container and put a slice of bread in with it when I first buy the sugar. Replace the bread when the slice dries out and you will always have fresh and soft brown sugar.


  2. Two good comments! Good to know. Dried out brown sugar is such a letdown.


  3. When you buy the brown sugar empty the bag in a tight seal container with a slice of apple.that will keep the brown sugar always moist. It works.


  4. You don’t really need the paper towel for this, it will soften up anyway. If you have time I fill a jigger (or any glass container) half full of water and put into your Brown sugar container with the brown sugar,and the brown sugar will absorb the water.


  5. I put a couple of marshmallows in the container and it keeps the sugar soft.


  6. a trick I learned from my mother over 50 years ago (probably fro m her mother) Store a piece3 of bread in tightly sealed container. Sugar never goes dry and I have had 1 piece of bread with mine for over 2 years- it never molds but the sugar is always soft! Cheaper and faster than all that microwaving!


  7. TAKE A slice of Bread put it in the Bag …


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