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What is the closest thing to Starbucks brown sugar syrup?

Starbucks brown sugar syrup is a popular sweetener used in many of the coffee chain’s seasonal drinks. With its deep caramel flavor, this syrup adds delicious complexity and sweetness to coffee, espresso, and tea drinks. But what if you want to recreate that Starbucks experience at home? Is there anything comparable you can buy to use in homemade versions of your favorite Starbucks beverages?

What Makes Starbucks Brown Sugar Syrup Special?

First, let’s examine what sets apart the Starbucks brown sugar syrup:

  • It’s thick and viscous, almost like a light molasses consistency. This allows it to mix in smoothly without thinning out drinks too much.
  • The flavor is rich, deep, and caramelized. It tastes like brown sugar that has been cooked down to concentrate the flavors.
  • It’s very sweet but with complexity, not just flat, one-note sweetness.
  • The overall effect is a warm, nostalgic flavor that enhances coffee, espresso, and milk-based drinks.

These characteristics make the Starbucks brown sugar syrup unique and difficult to perfectly duplicate at home. But there are some products you can buy that come close to the desired flavor profile.

Grocery Store Brown Sugar Syrup

Many grocery stores now carry their own branded brown sugar syrups near the coffee section or with other coffee add-ins like flavored creamers. Popular options include:

  • Torani Brown Sugar Cinnamon Syrup
  • Monin Gourmet Brown Sugar Syrup
  • DaVinci Gourmet Brown Sugar Syrup
  • Jordan’s Skinny Syrups Brown Sugar Bourbon Flavor

These brown sugar syrups are made for adding into coffee drinks, so they have an appropriately thick, viscous consistency. They are also very sweet to stand up to the bitterness of coffee. The flavors tend to be close to Starbucks, with deep caramel and butterscotch notes. However, they may not have quite as much complexity and molasses flavor. But they make an easy, tasty substitute.

Maple Syrup

For a more natural option, you can use real maple syrup in place of brown sugar syrup. Select a Grade B dark amber maple syrup, which will have richer flavor than the light golden grades. The maple flavor comes through, but adds similar sweetness and viscosity to drinks. Use an amount equal to what your drink recipe calls for brown sugar syrup. The only downside is that maple syrup is much more expensive than flavored coffee syrups.


Honey is another alternative to brown sugar syrup that adds natural sweetness. Opt for a robust artisanal honey like chestnut or buckwheat. Honey will thin out drinks more than thick syrup would, so you may want to use slightly less. The flavor will be more directly sweet without deep caramel notes, but honey can lend its own floral, earthy complexity.

Homemade Brown Sugar Syrup

For the closest match to Starbucks brown sugar flavor, you can make your own homemade brown sugar syrup. It requires some effort, but you control the ingredients and flavor to customize it exactly how you like. Here is a basic recipe:

Homemade Brown Sugar Syrup

Ingredient Amount
Brown sugar 2 cups, packed
Water 1/2 cup
Maple syrup 1/4 cup
Molasses 1 tablespoon
Sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
Pure vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar and water. Heat over medium, stirring frequently, until the sugar has fully dissolved. Then stir in the maple syrup, molasses, salt and vanilla. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, continuing to stir often. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before using. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

This homemade syrup gives you control over the brown sugar flavor. Use dark brown sugar or even try mixing light and dark brown sugars. The maple syrup adds complexity while the molasses increases depth. You can adjust the amounts of each to suit your tastes. The key is dissolving the brown sugar fully so the syrup has a smooth, viscous consistency without granules.

Pancake Syrup

An unconventional option is using plain old pancake syrup in place of brown sugar syrup. Pancake syrup is made from corn syrup solids and has a very thick, viscous texture similar to brown sugar syrup. The flavor is not exactly the same, but it has a malted, molasses-like quality with butterscotch notes. Brands like Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth’s work well. Add it to coffee, tea, lattes, frappes or other chilled drinks in equal amounts to regular brown sugar syrup.

Caramel Sauce

Using caramel sauce is another creative substitution for brown sugar flavor. Opt for a store-bought or homemade caramel sauce that pours slowly and has a rich depth of flavor. It may be slightly thinner than syrup, so use a little less if you want a thicker drink consistency. The caramel flavor comes through more strongly than brown sugar, but still adds sweetness and pairs deliciously with coffee and milk.

Other Brown Sugar Syrup Alternatives

A few other potential stand-ins for brown sugar syrup include:

  • Dulce de leche
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Honey combined with molasses
  • Dark corn syrup

Each of these has a thick, syrupy texture and provides sweetness similar to brown sugar. While the flavors vary slightly, they can work well in a pinch. You may need to experiment with amounts to get the right consistency and sweetness level you want.

Tips for Using Brown Sugar Syrup Substitutes

When using a brown sugar syrup alternative in drinks, keep these tips in mind:

  • Start with less sweetener than the recipe calls for, you can always add more.
  • Heat the syrup slightly to make it more fluid if too thick.
  • Add extracts like vanilla, almond or maple for more flavor complexity.
  • Combine sweeteners like honey and molasses for more dimension.
  • Stir drinks extra well to fully incorporate syrup substitutes.
  • Store homemade syrups in the refrigerator to prevent mold growth.


While nothing perfectly replicates the proprietary Starbucks brown sugar syrup, there are many delicious options for DIY versions. Grocery store coffee syrups come close in flavor, texture and sweetness. For all-natural syrups, try real maple syrup, honey, or homemade combinations. You can also get inventive with pancake syrup, caramel sauce, and other viscous sweeteners. With some experimenting, you can mix up syrups to make Starbucks-style fall and winter drinks at home.