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The 7 BEST Browning Sauce Substitutes – I Test Them All

I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different browning sauce substitutes to find the best one, whatever your reason for needing a substitute is and whatever dish you’re cooking.

Here’s the quick answer.

The best substitutes for browning sauce that work for both savory and sweet dishes are a homemade version (made from brown sugar and water) or molasses. If you’re not making cakes, you can go with soy sauce, Maggi seasoning, or Worcestershire sauce. If you have food sensitivities, try coconut aminos.

Ready? Let’s jump right in.

The Experiment

I made a quick no-drippings gravy to test seven different browning sauce substitutes.

Browning sauce is a liquid used to darken gravies and add color to stews, sauces, and even desserts!

The original recipe has a very mild flavor with smokey notes, but can taste bitter when added in large quantities. Famous brands of browning sauces like Kitchen Bouquet and Gravy Master also contain seasoning so will have more flavor.

If a recipe calls for browning sauce and you don’t have it, don’t run for the store yet – you might already have a substitute sitting in your cupboard.

Here’s what I tested and my verdicts: 

SubstituteSub 1 teaspoon for?Verdict
Homemade browning sauce1 tsp10/10
Dark molasses1 tsp10/10
Soy sauce¼ tsp 8/10
Maggi seasoning.¼ tsp 8/10
Worcestershire sauce¼ tsp 7/10
Coconut aminos1 tsp 6/10
Teriyaki sauce½ tsp 6/10

Homemade browning sauce is easy to make and you can use it as a universal substitiute for any dish your making.

Dark molasses is also very similar to browning sauce.

The rest of the substitutes will add more flavor to your dish than browning sauce, but they’ll do a good job of darkening your dish.

Common dishes that use browning sauce and their substitutes

  • Soups, gravies, stews: homemade browning sauce, soy sauce, Maggi seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, coconut aminos, or dark beer
  • Cakes and homemade cola: homemade browning sauce and molasses

Homemade browning sauce

Browning sauce is actually really easy to make yourself and this homemade version was by far the best substitute I tried.

You only need two ingredients: brown sugar and boiling water. 

You can also add salt or beef broth if you want to use the sauce for a savory dish, but don’t add any extras if you’re using it for a sweet dish.

Check out the full recipe here.

Taste and texture
It has a similar bitter-sweet flavor and the same thick consistency as commercial browning sauces. 
Measurements 
1 teaspoon browning sauce = 1 teaspoon homemade browning sauce

Molasses 

Molasses is very similar to browning sauce, so you can’t really go wrong with this substitute. And you can use it for both savory and sweet dishes.

It’s not a cupboard staple, but you can easily find it in your local store. 

There are three types – light, blackstrap, and dark, with dark molasses being the best option for its color and robust flavor. 

You can also use the other two if you have them. Light molasses is sweeter, while blackstrap molasses has a more pronounced bitterness.

Taste and consistency
It has the same smokey notes you find in browning sauce.
Measurements
1 teaspoon browning sauce = 1 teaspoon molasses

Soy sauce

Soy sauce is an easy swap if you’re using browning sauce for a savory dish. 

This reddish-brown condiment will quickly deepen the color of cream-based sauces and add a salty, umami bite.

Just a heads up, though – its got a much more potent flavor that browning sauce, so don’t add too much.

Start by adding a few drops and add more if needed. 

Taste and texture
It’s much saltier than browning sauce and has a noticeable umami twist.
Measurements
1 teaspoon browning sauce = ¼ teaspoon soy sauce

Maggi seasoning

Maggi seasoning is another potential substitute for browning sauce when it comes to savory dishes. 

It has a dark brown hue that easily tints light-colored sauces and gives them a deeper color. 

It will bring a richer, meatier flavor than browning sauce, which is actually great if your gravy doesn’t have any meat drippings in it.

Taste and texture
Adds a more savory bite to your dish than browning sauce.
Measurements
1 teaspoon browning sauce = ¼ teaspoon Maggi seasoning

Worcestershire sauce

Worcestershire sauce has a hint of sweetness, just like browning sauce, but it also comes with salty and sour notes.

This complex flavor added so much depth to my gravy and it tasted fabulous! 

So Worcestershire sauce gets a thumbs up from me (but it definitely has more flavor than browning sauce).

Taste and consistency
It has a more complex flavor profile than browning sauce. 
Measurements
1 teaspoon browning sauce = ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Coconut aminos

If you have food sensitivities, coconut aminos is a great substitute. It’s gluten, soy, and wheat-free, making it safe for various diets. 

Like most of these options, coconut aminos has a more robust flavor than browning sauce but it’s not as abrasive as the previously mentioned substitutes. 

One downside is this might not always be available in your nearest grocery, but you can always order it online

Taste and consistency
Its sweet-salty flavor is more prominent than browning sauce. 
Measurements
1 teaspoon browning sauce = ½ teaspoon coconut aminos

Teriyaki sauce

Ready-made teriyaki sauce can also work as a substitute for browning sauce in savory dishes.

It’s sweeter than the previously mentioned subs so it’s good for dishes where you don’t mind a sweet undertone.

And if it’s too sweet for you, you can always offset it with a dash of vinegar or more salt.

Taste and consistency
It’s sweeter than browning sauce.
Measurements
1 teaspoon browning sauce = ½ teaspoon teriyaki sauce

Other options

If the above-mentioned substitutes don’t work for you, here are few other options you can consider.

They’ll add color to specific dishes but may not work as an all-around substitute. 

  • Dark roux – this is an easy substitute, especially for gravy. You just have to cook the flour and fat longer until it reaches a rich, chocolatey hue. 
  • Dark beer – it will enhance the color and flavor of your gravies and stews but the distinct flavor won’t go with everything.
  • Instant coffee granules – this works in marinades, gravies, and cakes, but taste as you go!

Best Browning Sauce Substitutes

We test out 8 different browning sauce substitutes to find the best one.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: American
Keyword: browning sauce substitutes, substitutes for browning sauce
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 5kcal

Ingredients

  • Homemade browning sauce
  • Molasses
  • Soy sauce
  • Maggi seasoning
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Coconut aminos
  • Teriyaki sauce

Instructions

  • Cook your meal according to the recipe.
  • Add your chosen browning sauce substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
  • Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.

Nutrition

Serving: 100g | Calories: 5kcal

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