How To Soften Granulated Sugar

How to Soften Granulated Sugar: Quick Methods

Last Updated on June 22, 2024 by Lori Walker

Ever baked tasty cookies and found your granulated sugar got hard as a rock? Experienced that headache not too long ago myself.

I was all set to bake some chocolate chip cookies. But when I reached for the sugar, I discovered it had become a solid lump. 

So, I researched and learned how to soften granulated sugar. And, now, I’ll share those tricks with you, so you’ll never have to deal with rock-hard sugar again.

5 Easy Methods To Soften Granulated Sugar

Pouring Sugar on a Bowl

1. Use A Microwave

If you’ve found yourself with a stubborn, rock-hard lump of granulated sugar [1], the microwave method comes to the rescue. Begin by placing the hardened sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. 

Microwave it for about 20 seconds at a time, making sure not to overheat it. Repeat this process until the sugar softens to your desired texture.

2. Damp Tea Towel Method

For a more gradual approach, try the damp tea towel method. Put the complex sugar in a bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel. Leave it like this overnight. 

The moisture from the towel will slowly seep into the sugar, softening it over time.

3. Steaming Method

For a gentle and controlled softening process, you can opt for steaming. Add 2 cups of water to a sizable pot and put your solidified sugar in a heat-resistant bowl.

“Sugar brings happiness. Eating it once or twice a week in a dessert that’s what life is about. There is nothing wrong with it.” 

Adriano Zumbo, Australian Television Presenter

Ensure that the water only covers less than half the bowl’s height. Put a lid on the pot and bring the water to a boil. Let it boil for 5-7 minutes, adding more water if necessary. 

Once the sugar can be broken easily with a spoon, take it off the heat, crush it, and allow it to cool entirely.

4. Coffee Grinder Or Food Processor

This method works as if you have a handy coffee grinder or food processor [2]. Fill your food processor or grinder halfway with the hardened sugar. 

Switch it on and pulse a couple of times to break up the large chunks. You’ll have finely granulated sugar ready for your recipes in no time.

Check out these steps to make vanilla sugar with extract here.

5. Use A Container With Bread

This method combines sugar with bread to restore its softness. Place the hard sugar in a container and add a crust of bread on top of it. 

Seal the container and let it sit for a couple of days. The moisture from the bread will gradually soften the sugar, leaving it ready for your baking needs.

What Causes Sugar To Harden?

Granulated sugar can become hard when it comes into contact with moisture. This moisture could be in the form of humidity in the air or any liquid, even just a tiny drop. 

Sugar particles tend to absorb moisture, causing them to stick together and form clumps. These clumps can quickly turn your sugar from a soft, free-flowing state into a solid mass. 

Storing sugar in a dry place or in a container is essential to prevent this. But how can you make frosting using granulated sugar?

Can You Still Use Hard Granulated Sugar?

You can still use hard granulated sugar, even if it has become lumpy or formed crystals. It’s safe to consume, and you don’t need to throw it away. 

However, it is more convenient to soften it before use. 

To do this, transfer the sugar from its original packaging into an oven-safe container and then heat it at a gentle temperature of around 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius). 

This will help break down the lumps and crystals, returning your sugar to a more usable, free-flowing state.

Check out these tips to dissolve granulated sugar in frosting here.

What Are The Signs That Sugar Has Gone Bad?

Granulated Sugar

Sugar doesn’t spoil or go bad in the traditional sense. However, it can change; the most common sign is the formation of hard lumps and clumps.

These lumps can be challenging to break apart and might affect your recipes. While sugar in this condition is still safe to consume, you may not find it appealing due to its altered texture. 

How Long Is Sugar Good For Before You Should Toss It?

Food safety guidelines often recommend discarding sugar after two years. However, sugar is unique because it traditionally doesn’t spoil or go bad. 

“When life gives you hard sugar, don’t throw it away; soften it, and keep the sweetness alive in your kitchen.”

Leonelli Bakery

Even if it’s past the two-year mark if you don’t notice any changes in its odor or quality, your old sugar will work just as well as a new bag. 

Sugar is a long-lasting pantry staple that can be safe for extended periods, provided it’s stored properly.

Also Read: Is Sugar A Dry Or Wet Ingredient?


Will sugar spoil if it gets wet?

No, sugar won’t spoil if it gets wet, but its quality can deteriorate if not stored properly. So, store the sugar properly to prevent clumping and maintain its usability.

But what makes sugar considered to be a wet ingredient?

What should you do with old sugar?

Old sugar can still be put to good use. You can use it as a hand cleaner by wetting your hands and scrubbing with about a tablespoon of sugar with your regular soap. 

Additionally, you can keep food fresh by placing a few sugar lumps in storage tins to help maintain their moisture levels and extend their freshness.

On A Final Note

Softening granulated sugar is a simple task that can rescue your baking adventures. 

As I recently faced the frustrating challenge of dealing with hardened granulated sugar while trying to bake chocolate chip cookies, I’ve learned several effective methods to soften it.

The microwave method quickly became my go-to solution when I needed to soften sugar quickly. 

The damp tea towel method provided a convenient overnight solution, while the coffee grinder or food processor came in handy for breaking down larger sugar chunks. 

Using a container with bread was a simple yet effective long-term option. Finally, the steaming method offered another reliable way to rescue hardened sugar. 

With these techniques, you can ensure your sugar is always ready for your sweetest recipes.


Lori Walker

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