10 Ways To Soften Hard Brown Sugar

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It happens to the best of us: rock hard brown sugar. How to soften it? You’ll find ten easy tips below.

Examples*If you need it for immediate use, the last 4 quick tips will help you.

  • Keep it stored in an airtight container with a slice of fresh bread placed on top. Seal and leave overnight. It should be fresh again in the morning, if not just let it sit another day or two.
  • Sprinkle a few drops of water over the chunk, seal in a plastic bag and let sit for a couple days.
  • Place in an open container, then top with a moistened cloth (paper towel works too). Let sit overnight.
  • Seal it in an airtight container with a few apple slices. This should fix it up within the next day or two. Remove apple slices once it’s fixed.
  • Use foil or plastic wrap to cover the top then set a dampened sheet of paper towel (not dripping wet) on top of the foil. Seal in an airtight container and let sit overnight or a few days as needed. Remove foil and paper towel once the towel is dry and the mass is fresh again.
  • Buy a clay disc or if you have a pottery piece on hand (from a broken clay pot, etc.), set it in water for about 30 minutes. Dry the piece so it isn’t dripping wet. Put the clay piece in a container with the sugar and seal. Check after a few days. Keep it in the container for months if you’d like–this will help prevent the problem from happening in the first place.

Title

  • Need it now? Put it in a container and set in the microwave with a small bowl full of water beside it. Microwave for about 1 minute–check. If it’s not ready, try for another 30 seconds. You can keep doing this until it’s nice and soft, but watch that you don’t melt it.
  • Place the chunk in a baking pan and set in oven (temperature at about 250° F). Check after 5 minutes. If still not ready, continue checking every few minutes until it is.
  • Place the mass in a microwave safe plastic bag. Take a square of paper towel and moisten with water (not dripping wet–wring out excess). Arrange the wet paper towel in the bag with the sugar and seal. Heat in the microwave for approximately 20 seconds. If still not ready, microwave for a few seconds more, repeating until it’s ok and ready to use. Be careful it doesn’t get too hot and melt.
  • Stick small pieces in a food processor or blender and chop/pulse until usable.
  • For best results, make sure to keep it stored in a sealed, airtight container. A couple fresh marshmallows or a clay disc kept in the container can help prevent the problem. You can also keep it in the freezer and set it out a few hours before using.

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Published: December 1, 2006
Updated: August 18, 2012

What Readers Are Saying:
104 Comments to “10 Ways To Soften Hard Brown Sugar”
  1. Rebekah says:

    What a terrific blog! Enjoyed it:)

  2. Tipnut says:

    Thank you Rebekah :) :)

  3. Dani says:

    Isn’t it dangerous to microwave plastic wrap / ziploc-type bags? Otherwise, good tips!

  4. TipNut says:

    Yes Dani, microwaveable ziploc bags, plastic bags and plastic wrap for the microwave are safe, here’s a link from the FDA: [removed, no longer online]. Here’s a ziploc link too saying that bag is microwaveable: ziploc

    I’ll add ‘microwaveable bag’ to the above direction to be prudent, I shouldn’t assume someone would only put microwaveable items in the microwave :).

  5. Nancy Gulliver says:

    If you’ll fold the top of the bag down and clip it closed with a clothespin for storage, brown sugar won’t get hard in the first place. Just fold the top as far down as you can, getting the air out of the bag and then clip it shut. It will remain soft and pliable for you.

    • Geri says:

      actually, rolling bag down tight will not prevent bs form hardening, If it has not hardened on you it is because of the environment it is in .. temp and humidity etc make a difference … BS can be in a sealed, unopened box and still get hard. It all depends on the environment.

    • Bonnie says:

      This may be true in a moister environment but here where humidity is about 10% I find the piece of bread to work and keep working.

    • Lila says:

      sorry,have done that lots of times, still gets hard. so why soft at store then sit at home in cupboard unopened for period of time then gets hard as a rock,brfore ever opened. tks for any help

      • laguna says:

        I always take my brown sugar out of the bag that it is packaged in, as there must be small air holes in the plastic. I place sugar in a tupperware, and never have hard brown sugar. A good quality type plastic container, like tupperware.

      • David says:

        Depending on the source (many brands are actually refined and packaged in China/Asia), it is probably because the company used a cellophane type of plastic which is semi-permeable, meaning it can pass moisture (you might remember from High School biology classes…).

  6. Nathalie says:

    What a lifesaver! I’m making candied yams and my brown sugar is a BRICK. Thanks! Going to nuke it soft right now!

  7. Curly Sue says:

    THANKS for providing the solution-in-a-few-days and the right-now-solution… and several of each! I thought I was doomed to have to buy more but apparently the answer is as simple as my microwave!

    Keep the tips coming :)

  8. shirley tackett says:

    I have used several of your way to soften brown sugar and they are great. I have a 10 bag of HARD white sugar, what is the best way to soften it? Thanks

  9. norma's bath and body says:

    oh this is wonderful! I’ve had a very hard time dealing with my hard brown sugar. I will definitely be trying the bread thing with this:)

    • Ash says:

      I throw a couple of grapes (red or green…doesn’t matter) in my sealed container. The sugar stays soft for months. When the grapes start to look like raisins after a couple of months it’s time to throw them out and put some fresh ones in. Needless to say I don’t bake often so my sugar stays around for a long time and this method works better than everything else I’ve tried including the clay disks.

      • Joe says:

        Ash, yesterday I found my brown sugar to be so hard I couldn’t force a spoon through it. I had just peeled an orange to eat, so I tossed a few pieces of the orange peel into the jar with the brown sugar, and by the next morning it was perfectly soft again.

  10. Barbara says:

    When I buy a new box, I place the sugar in a plastic bag (no particular seal) and save a piece of the cardboard from the box, soak it in water, and put it in the bag with the sugar. Works if you don’t have a piece of pottery on hand. I’m in high desert climate–very dry–even wet bath towels dry in short time.

  11. Sameer says:

    great tips thank you. However the microwave w/bowl of water technique took me about 5 minutes.

  12. Rainer says:

    I keep my brown sugar sealed in a glass jar and it keeps very well.

    Any concerns with this ???

  13. Maree says:

    Another way to let the sugar NEVER get hard is to use a vacuum sealer. Do it in a canister though, because if you seal it in a vacuum seal bag, the sugar will be a BRICK.

    • Kolleen says:

      Someone said not to vacuum seal brown sugar in the plastic bags but use a canister or it will be brick. Those get a little expensive if you are storing very much. Can you seal it in a glass jar and keep it soft long-term?

      • Wendy says:

        I vacuum seal my bs in bags all the time. It only seems like a brick because all the air is sucked out. When you open it up again, it is completely soft. Using a canister is not necessary.

      • Jeanie says:

        I have always kept mine in Tupperware. Never a problem! But I have a bag that dried hard as a brick before i could get it into a container so I have to use something to soften it. Great tips here!

  14. mitchellmom says:

    When using the clay disk or pottery shard, be sure that the clay does not contain lead, as the lead can leech into the sugar and cause lead poisoning!

  15. renokid says:

    You are awesome! What a great life saver. I have put a piece of bread in with my cookies for years and now I have a new “trick” for brown sugar.
    Thanks!

  16. Shell says:

    I needed a sprinking of brown sugar for a dry rub marinade. I used a simple wooden handle grater and grated my chunk of rock hard brown sugar right over the meat. Worked perfectly, easily, and quickly.

  17. Michelle says:

    I always keep my brown sugar in the freezer for storage. It never gets hard and once thawed is ready to go. Never hard or clumpy. I have done it for years and it has never failed me.

  18. Christense Andersen says:

    I think I have magical powers. I’ve been baking since I was a child and never once have I had hard brown sugar. My mom keeps it in a glass jar, and I usually keep mine in a jar or a plastic container, since it gets messy in the bag. I think if you keep it sealed up it won’t get hard.

  19. Cristina says:

    Excellent tip! Just placed the brown sugar w/ a damp paper towel in the microwave and it really was ready to use in just seconds!

  20. Jill says:

    Thank goodness for some good old fashion tips for making life simpler. I was ready to get out my chain saw!

  21. Andrea says:

    I don’t know where Nancy Gulliver lives, but where I live, no matter what you do to keep brown sugar soft, from getting out all the air from the original package and clipping it closed, to putting it in an air tight container, everyone who lives around me eventually gets the hard-as-a-rock brown sugar. I have used some of these tips and they really do work.

    • Geri says:

      I agree … only way to keep bs from getting hard is with a clay disk or keeping it in the freezer. Freezer means thawing though, so clay disc in a glass or clay jar is the best way I can think of.

    • Jeanie says:

      I live in Reno, Nv. and it is unbelievably dry here! But as long as I keep my bs in Tupperware it is always soft.

  22. Heather says:

    I tried the microwave with water as I needed to sofen my brown sugar immediately. It worked great! HOWEVER; Most of us have probably received the email forward talking about how water can become superheated and explode. This is true, it happened to me while trying to soften the brown sugar. Fortunately this happened while in the microwave and the door was closed. I heard a pop and opened the microwave to find an empty bowl and water everywhere inside the microwave. Thank God I was not burned!!! Take care and throw a few toothpicks in your water to break the surface and allow the water to boil properly. This should be done anytime you microwave a cup or bowl of water.

    • Gloria Makey says:

      Wow! This information was terrific. I haven’t tried it yet but I will because I need the softened brown sugar now. Thanks for the tip re: the toothpicks.

    • Eami says:

      Thanks for the info about water getting superheated. I did not know this. Years ago when I took my microwave cooking class, heating liquid in the measuring cup or mixing bowl was recommended. Thanks for the “updated” tip. Also, you can’t beat glass for storage – it doesn’t break down.

  23. itmetoo says:

    Quick tip 1 worked like a miracle! Thanks!

  24. Saturnyne says:

    This isn’t really a baking tip, but in reference to the top two comments, I’ve seen a number of news articles citing studies that agree that microwaving any sort of plastic or styrofoam, “microwaveable” or not, gives off carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals. Even if it’s being overblown in the media, I still try to curb cancer where I can…

    • Geri says:

      Saturnyn, I agree … plastics in general are more harmful then people think or then the FDA claims. Chemicals do leach into foods, it is a matter of what amount the FDA deams safe. I would rather avoid all together, but then I have never had a microwave either because of health concerns.

      • Jeanie says:

        I too am moving away from as much carcinogenic stuff as possible. I used to sell Tupperware so I still have a lot of it but am replacing it with glass. I am recycling a lot of the glass containers/jars that come into my house with pickles, mayo etc. Although now a lot of those are plastic! I also use my empty canning jars to hold beans, macaroni, rice, etc! And I even put leftovers in the fridge in them.

  25. Tammy says:

    Fantastic! By brown sugar in the oven for a few minutes worked. Thanks!!!

  26. Lisa says:

    I just used the microwave version and it worked great. I’ve bookmarked this site now. Thanks!

    • David says:

      All of these tips were great!!! I ended up putting the hard 5 lb. rock in a large pan inside a larger pan with a lid. I added about 1 qt of water and placed the whole thing in a microwave on 40% for 10 min. and let set for another 10-15 min and when I opened the lit the rock was as soft and good as fresh bought. Thanks everyone for your great suggestions.

  27. Lisa says:

    I didn’t have to go past tip #1! The bread worked for me right away, thanks!

    • Virginia says:

      @ cups of BS, 1 cup water for 2 minutes…perfect! Warm and soft..will do it even when its not hard for a few seconds…great texture. Thank you.

  28. ARetardSquirl says:

    Good tips, but I found while reading them that breaking off chunks and eating conglomerates of sugar was great fun! I’ll have to remember this experience. Thanks a lot.

  29. Tamrah says:

    I use another method to soften my brown sugar. Place a whole, unpeeled apple in the bag. Usually I’ll place the brown sugar into a sealable plastic bag first then add apple. Believe it or not, the apple just shrivels and you have soft brown sugar again in a day.

  30. Marlies says:

    Whenever my brown sugar get hard again I put a piece of bread in the container and it is soft the next day. When the bread is dried out and hard, repeat.

  31. Keri says:

    The apple slice has worked for me just fine in the past. What I have done to prevent the whole hardening issue lately is I keep the sugar in the bag, place it in a plastic storage type container, twist the bag shut & close the container lid. I have done this with my last two packages and haven’t had any problems! Previously, I would just expect my brown sugar to be hard, now I can just scoop, measure & continue making goodies without delay!

  32. Jessica says:

    I grew up in Florida and never had to worry about hard brown sugar when cooking w/ my mom’s supply. But then I grew up, got married and moved to Utah and Idaho. This was my introduction to brick brown sugar, and no one in my family has any idea how to fix it because they’re all in the humid south. Thanks SO much for these tips! I’ve printed them out and hung them in my pantry by my brown sugar supply.

  33. caveat bettor says:

    I would avoid #10–I bent my Kitchen Aid blade that way, and it doesn’t work as well now.

  34. Twister says:

    I keep my brown sugar in the bottom vegetable bin inside the refrigerator. Have done this for years and it never gets hard; always ready for use.

  35. Becky says:

    Yep, keep brown sugar in the bottom vegetable bin – I’ve done this for 40 years – never gets hard. Twister is absolutely on it!

  36. vickie b says:

    thanks. the quik tip helped soften my hard problem in a snap.

  37. Cindy H says:

    These are great tips all in one place. I personally like #6, because they last so long. I think many people here who have no problem with hard brown sugar either bake often enough so it never gets hard, or they live in a humid environment. If I don’t use a clay disk, my brown sugar gets hard very quickly [so frustrating] because I live in such a dry climate. It was enjoyable reading everyone’s thoughts and ideas!

  38. Lynn J says:

    Quick tip #1 worked!!! Thank you so much for the great tip :)

  39. Awsomeal6 says:

    The Quick tip #! worked great it took us 2 minutes (1 minute, and 2, 30 second tries) congrats!

  40. Becca says:

    I wished i read this b4. I just crushed it. Took forvever to get it into perfect little grains. Dx
    next time i will try these ideas.
    They sound Wonderful
    :D

  41. Debbie Nieman says:

    Thank you so much for the imput! I tried the damp paper towel and was amazed how quickly it worked! It just took about 30 minutes and my half bag of hard brown sugar was as soft as the day I bought it!!! Thank you! This is a great tip!

  42. Linda says:

    I bought one of those clay disk. Unfortunitly it didn’t work for me. I am excited to try some of your tips, as I have 4 bags, or should I say bricks, of brown sugar.Thanks for the help.

  43. Lisa says:

    Whew! U saved our holiday meal when I pulled out the brown sugar to make a ham glaze and discovered it was rock hard!!! A quick zap in the microwave just like you advised did the trick and the sugar was soft again. THANK U SO MUCH!

  44. Shahara says:

    Thanks! I ended up putting a cup of water in my microwave for 2 minutes and as I put my open plastic container of brown sugar in with the cup of water preparing to start the 30-second intervals, the phone rang. So I closed the door and answered the phone call. When I got back to it (approximately 30 min. later) the top 2 cups had already softened to the perfect consistency. I took out the softened part and reheated the water then put the container back in to sit and when I checked on it 5 minutes later it was done and I didn’t have to worry about burning the center of ‘my hardened 4 cup cube’. :)

  45. Mom & Liz says:

    Oh my goodness Thank You! The paper towel technique worked perfectly! Thanks now we can make chocolate chip cookies!

  46. Trent says:

    I needed to soften it fast so I just zapped it in the microwave like ur tip said to and it worked just like you said!

  47. Rosemary says:

    Does anyone know whether these tips will work with onion powder and garlic powder? These get hard and clumped in short order and cannot be sprinkled or even carved out of the jar!

    • Jeanie says:

      I’ve never had hard onion or garlic powder since I was a young wife (married 43 years now) but always measure your herbs and spices away from the boiling pot. The steam getting into the container is what makes it get hard. I think when I was young I did have to throw away a container that had hardened and I couldn’t get it out.

    • Toni Jo says:

      Some times a small hand full o rice or broken up saltine crackers works. You could try that. we always put rice in out salt at summer camp.

  48. Debbie says:

    Thanks, this really helped me make cookies.

  49. Cindy says:

    The microwave with water trick helped! Thanks for the tip!

  50. Carol B says:

    Just started a peach cobbler for our ladies card club and I read the directions for the zip lock bag followed instructions. Yea! it works and on with the dessert. Great tip!

  51. Catherine says:

    This blog is so helpful! Me and my friend were making cookies and our brown sugar was as hard as a rock! We used Quick Tip #1 and it was an instant sucesss! Thank you!

  52. Frank says:

    I have heard that when you put a slice of bread in brown sugar that the sugar dries and the bread turns hard my question is what makes the bread hard?

    • Bonnie says:

      What happens is the brown sugar absorbs all the moisture from the bread (like a sponge). That moisture is what makes the brown sugar soft again. It was also what made the bread soft in the first place. Having all the moisture removed is what makes the bread hard. Hope this clears it up for you!

  53. omesh says:

    good helped alot

  54. Dana Rae says:

    Quick Tip #1 was awesome! Worked like a charm! Thanks!

  55. judbab says:

    Yea – The bowl of water in the microwave worked!!!! Thanks!

  56. Julia says:

    Thanks!! I put it in a bowl in the microwave with a bowl of water right next to it and it worked great!! only took me 2 min.

  57. Nicci says:

    5 minutes on 250 in the oven… Worked like a charm. Thanks!

  58. charmaine says:

    Quick Tip # 1 worked in exactly one minute with about 2 tbl of water in the little bowl – Fantastic, thanks so much

  59. carolyn says:

    perhaps those of you who claim not to ever have brown sugar go hard are using it up a lot faster than someone like me who only bakes and makes candy at Christmas. I always have some left over, and every year out come the apple slices, and now after reading some of your solutions I will defenitely be using the m/w Thanks a bunch

  60. rainy says:

    just put mine back in the bag inside the box, make sure it’s tight and put it in the refrigerator. use it every morning with my coffee and it’s soft every time. i mean, like, the sugar is not refined/loose like white sugar, but it is soft enough to use, really it is, likeyou can mash it together, it’s just that soft. don’t like the microwave method/ not trying to use that thing everyday, ooooh, noooooo!!!!

  61. Lisa says:

    Thank you thank you! Your tips saved our Christmas! Nothing like a last minute surprise finding a cement hard block of brown sugar in the cupboard doh!

  62. Becca says:

    The microwave tip worked for me perfectly, thanks for saving the day!

  63. Leah says:

    This was fantastic! I put my hardened block of brown sugar in the microwave with a bowl of water and it did the trick :) Thank you! Off to bake some carrot muffins now….

  64. Kinder says:

    Thanks! These tips are great! I was about to go out to buy some more brown sugar for baking, but now I’m heading back to the kitchen to try the “bowl of water” method… :))

  65. Lotto says:

    I wouldn’t use the food processor (hint # 10), but, have successfully used a box grater to do the trick. Easy to measure, although grainy like raw sugar. I’ve used in cookies and as a meat rub without any problem. You may still want to soften it up for some recipes.

  66. Caela says:

    A friend of mine did not have a piece of bread so she put an English Muffin in her Brown Sugar. Well when she went to use it today the sugar was white and the English Muffin still looked the same. Is there some kind of chemical reaction that took place to do this….. Thanks Caela

  67. Grumpa says:

    Going a different direction, I broke up my block and put it in a coffee grinder, and made a very unique tasting powdered brown sugar. It is great on rosettes for something a little different.

  68. Happy girl says:

    Thanks for the tips I will go make cookies now:)

  69. Amy says:

    This was great info..very helpful. I always appreciate being able to obtain quick and effective help when I am baking!

  70. Foodie4lyf says:

    Learned from the restaurant biz, that is you put a couple of Twizzlers in the container, brown sugar stays soft. We have been doing this for years.

  71. John Licwinko says:

    Thanks much!

  72. Mary says:

    I tried putting it in the oven at 250, checked every
    5 mins, after about 15 mins the chunks were a little
    but softer to break up, but as it was cooling it became
    Even harder! So now gonna try the fresh bread!
    Thanks for the tips!! Awesome Blog

  73. Mary Ellen harris says:

    Now that it is warm weather here I love to have lemonade on hand for a refreshing pick-me-up. I normally use the mix that comes in a canister and the lid is also the measuring tool. However, it gets caked up after being opened and hard to get out of the canister. What can I do to prevent this problem?

  74. gini says:

    My husband came home from the store and the box of sugar is as hard as a brick. If it was sealed properly, could it still get hard? I will keep it in a container now that I read the tips but to be hard from the store suggests something is wrong with the packaging.

  75. Pat says:

    I can relate to Jill, where is my chain saw? I just tried the
    apple slice tip, will keep you posted. thank you all for the
    great tips:):)

  76. Sharon says:

    You can use a microwave safe bag. Ziplock makes one you can use in the microwave.

  77. Dianne says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I no longer have to use a hammer to break up the brown sugar brick! :)

    I have placed chunks of the brown sugar in tiny bit of water to soften, adding more chunks as they dissolve until I got the measurement I needed for recipes. Also for making candy yams, I dissolved the chunks of brown sugar in butter in the microwave.

  78. Sue says:

    Thanks so much. I found one of those mason jar cookie mixes in my cabinet that must have been there several years and decided to make the cookies and had the butter, egg and vanilla and when I dumped everything out the brown sugar was hard as a rock. I put the damp paper towel in the jar and put saran wrap on top of jar and microwaved for 20 seconds, checked and still hard and repeated again and worked very well. Otherwise I would have been wasting the other ingredients. Cookies were great.

  79. Samantha says:

    I did this and it totally worked! I needed it right away so I did the microwave with the bowl of water and it actually worked. I needed longer than a minute, about a minute 40 sec.
    You saved me thank you!


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