How To Soften Brown Sugar Without a Microwave

We’ve all been there. It’s 9 o’clock at night, dinner is over, and suddenly you and your loved ones are craving cookies. All eyes turn to you and you stand up–ready to do the dirty deed–and as you march into the kitchen, confident that you can churn out cookies lickety split, you grab a box of brown sugar only to discover…


…that you can’t make cookies with it, but you can build a house with it. It’s as hard as a brick.

Many of you who have microwaves (I don’t have one (see here)) know the simple solution: you can nuke it next to a dish of water, or with a damp paper towel on it, 30 seconds at a time until it’s soft. That wasn’t an option for me.

So I turned to Twitter: I polled the Twitterverse, “How do I soften brown sugar without a microwave?”

The first suggestion, which I tried, was to put the brown sugar in a food processor:


The sound that this made was deeply unpleasant, to say the least. And while it sanded a little of the sugar at the bottom, the brick remained almost entirely intact. I decided to add a splash of hot water to see if that’d help things along….


But that just created a pool of brown water at the bottom of my food processor.

I was ready for more suggestions, but most of them were suggestions for how to soften the sugar overnight: “put it in a container with a slice of bread” was a popular one. But I needed softened sugar right now!

Finally, I took it upon myself to heat the regular old oven (350 degrees) and to lay a damp paper on the brown sugar before it went in:


I monitored things carefully through the oven window and then got nervous about having a paper product in a hot oven; so I removed the paper towel and added a splash of hot water to the bottom of the pan.

This did the trick:


As you can see, the sugar softened to the point where I could mash it easily with a fork. (It took just a few minutes.)

So the answer to the question “how do you soften brown sugar without a microwave?” is: in the oven with a splash of hot water.

You’re welcome!

4 thoughts on “How To Soften Brown Sugar Without a Microwave”

  1. hmm, just tried it…kinda a fail! It was melting after 2 min..still rock hard on top. I took the pan out of the oven and covered it, maybe that will help!

    1. covering it out of the oven helped. I think next time I will try putting the sugar in a bowl with a separate smaller bowl in it with boiling water and covering. Maybe that will avoid the liquefied sugar.

  2. Bonnie J. Williams

    Dag! So easy! A note: moist paper (like a towel, parchment) should also work. As a rule, paper used in cooking (there are lots of ways and recipes) is not a danger in an oven. Microwaves I am clueless…but standard ovens, not a problem.

  3. Stephanie Stumpf

    My brown sugar is stuck in my plastic container and wont come out because it is solid how do i fix it

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