How To Soften Brown Sugar That's Hard And Lumpy

Forgot to seal the brown sugar properly? We've got your back.

We’ve all reached for the brown sugar in the middle of a recipe, only to realize it’s turned into a giant, solid rock of sugar. While frustrating, all is not lost: there are two great ways to salvage the situation, depending on how much time you have. The classic 24-hour method, or the (zippier) microwave method will both soften that lump of hard brown sugar, returning it to its former glory.

How To Soften Brown Sugar In The Microwave

1. Place sugar in a microwave-safe bowl

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

Hard brown sugar step 1

2. Add damp paper towels

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

Hard brown sugar step 2: Halfway softened brown sugar

3. Repeat until brown sugar is entirely softened

Go through this whole process again until brown sugar is completely re-hydrated. 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 this test, we had to reheat it ten times.)

Hard brown sugar step 3: soft and ready to use brown sugar

How To Soften Brown Sugar Overnight

This method is less labour-intensive, and gets the job done perfectly. All it takes is a single slice of bread! Simply make space for it in the jar, seal it up and wait 24 hours. The moisture in the bread slice will be absorbed by the sugar, returning it to its original, ready-to-use state.

Originally published 2014. Updated in 2021.

Watch: How to cream butter and sugar

Get Chatelaine in your inbox!

Our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers. Delivered a couple of times a week.