What Happens If You Make Chocolate Chip Cookies With Just White Sugar?

For many people, the purpose of sugar in a recipe is straightforward. Sugar exists to make things sweeter. That's certainly true, but that's like saying water only exists to make rain. That's just one purpose of a fundamental building block for greater things. Particularly, sugar has a profound effect on how your dough turns out. Different kinds of sugar will give different results for your baked goods. For example, many people wonder what happens when white sugar is used instead of the often used light brown sugar in chocolate chip cookie recipes.

Assuming you've replaced all the brown sugar in your cookies with white sugar, the most visually distinct difference is how thin the dough spreads. As for taste, white sugar is neutral, resulting in a passably bland batch of chocolate chip cookies. Texture-wise, the cookies are crisp and crunchy, which is nice for people who prefer munching. In contrast, brown sugar gives chocolate chip cookies a more complex flavor. 

When you use light brown sugar, the cookie becomes thicker and more compact due to brown sugar allowing for moisture in the dough. Brown sugar results in moist and chewy chocolate chip cookies. Taste-wise, light brown sugar also provides a deeper, almost caramel flavor. Dark brown sugar is much the same, but the extra molasses adds a richness that could potentially overpower the chocolate. If you're out of light brown sugar, opt for these substitutes instead of resorting to just white sugar.

There are other ways to simulate the effects of brown sugar

Sometimes, brown sugar isn't available for whatever reason. In a pinch, there are a few alternatives that can achieve the same results. Making your own brown sugar is easy enough, as all you need is white sugar and molasses. A good starting batch is one cup of granulated white sugar plus two tablespoons of molasses. Scale up these ingredients as needed. If you don't have molasses on hand but happened to have pancakes the other day, then maple syrup is also a solid replacement for molasses in the impromptu brown sugar mix. 

For alternatives you can't make yourself, muscovado sugar is a fantastic substitute. Muscovado is less refined than brown sugar, in addition to having a higher molasses content. This makes it a bit tougher to work with due to its stickiness, but muscovado sugar offers deep and complex flavors as a reward, plus it stays moist. For other sugar types, coconut sugar, turbinado, and demerara also offer a similar taste profile, but are coarser and dryer. 

You'll also need to add some kind of butter or neutral oil to your dough to achieve that iconic moist and chewy texture. Grinding them with a mortar and pestle also helps with better dough integration. Experimenting with different sugar types to see what works is a labor-intensive part of the baking process, but it's worth it for that perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies.