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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

How To Prevent Brown Sugar From Getting Hard



Is the brown sugar hard when you want to make cinnamon rolls? Not any more!
Is the brown sugar hard when you want to make cinnamon rolls? Not any more!

Brown sugar is great for baking treats or adding a smoky-sweet maple flavor to your cooking. The formula is basically regular sugar mixed with molasses, but what really separates it from regular sugar is its tendency to turn rock solid if it is left in improper storage for too long.

Luckily, we’ve rounded up the best storage tips and solutions to keep your brown sugar soft, sweet, and ready for baking!


This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Storing your brown sugar with a piece of bread will easily keep it from hardening. Instead of coagulating and losing moisture, the sugar absorbs moisture from the bread.

The bread dehydrates and becomes inedible, but it actually doesn’t get moldy. It just saves your brown sugar in a very simple way. You’ll need to keep the bread in the brown sugar for at least a few hours before you see results, though.

The humble bread slice. Great for de-hardening brown sugar!
The humble bread slice. Great for de-hardening brown sugar!

Check out this vintage bread box at Amazon.

Apple Slices

This is a great gluten-free alternative to the bread slice solution for anyone with potential food food allergy concerns. The moisture from the apple slices gets absorbed by the sugar, loosening it up and preventing it from hardening. Just like the bread, the apple doesn’t go rancid. It just dries out and becomes inedible.

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Throwing a few jumbo-sized marshmallows into your brown sugar container can also keep the sugar soft and moisturized. While this trick isn’t as time-tested as the other two food solutions mentioned above, it is definitely worth a try! Marshmallows hold a good amount of moisture, so they should have similar effects as the bread or apple slices.

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Terracotta Plate

If you don’t feel like using food to keep your brown sugar from hardening, there are specific products called terracotta clay disks designed specifically for this purpose. These mini terracotta plates can be found in your local kitchen shop or possibly even your grocery store. You can also find them at Amazon for a reasonable price. They come in all sorts of unique designs to boot!

But before you put the disk into your brown sugar container, be sure to let it sit in water for about 15 minutes and dry it off. Leaving it in your brown sugar for about 8 hours (or overnight) should do the trick.

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Air-Tight Packaging

On the other hand, if you don’t want to use an outside product or food, you can switch up the way you store your brown sugar. Brown sugar often comes in a simple plastic bag. Sometimes this bag is resealable, which is better than nothing, but still not quite enough for proper storage.

To really keep your sugar fresh and soft, you’ll need to store it in an airtight container. When air gets into the sugar, it sucks the moisture out of the molasses leaving it hard as a rock. Airtight containers remedy this issue by keeping all air out at all times.

You can find these in a wide range of sizes and prices. Some even have a built in terra cotta disk (Amazon) for extra protection!

One More Simple Solution

If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to fix your hardened brown sugar with any one of the solutions described above, there’s also a simple, quick solution to get softened brown sugar fast.

Ration out how much you need in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave the hardened sugar in 30 second increments until it’s malleable and mixable. This shouldn’t take more than a minute or two, but make sure not to overheat it since the sugar could easily melt. Also, be sure to use this newly softened sugar ASAP, since its softness won’t last for long.

These Nordic Ware bowls from Amazon are microwave safe—and look good too.


Brown sugar is a baking staple. Don’t delay your baking projects any longer due to hardened brown sugar. Store it the right way and save yourself the pain of trying to hammer down a block of brown sugar. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be baking away in no time.

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