How to Make Browning Sauce

Browning sauce is the secret to many Caribbean stews and dishes. It is made by burning sugar before adding liquid to stop the cooking.

Oftentimes, it is made in the pot right before tossing in meat or vegetables to make stews and pelau. But, getting the brown color just right can be daunting for newbies to Caribbean cooking.

To solve this, you can make your own browning sauce beforehand and use it in your favorite Jamaican, Trini and Caribbean food. Or in rum cake!

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What is Caribbean browning sauce

Caribbean browning sauce, also called browning sauce or burnt sugar, is a dark brown liquid made by caramelizing sugar that both flavors and colors a wide range of Caribbean food from soups, stews and even rum cake.

Burning sugar when cooking meat is an old African cooking technique so the sauce and dishes made with it are African inspired.

browning sauce with spoon

What does browning sauce taste like

Browning sauce has a smoky, molasses-like taste. When used in small amounts, there are some hints of sweetness, however, if too much browning is used, it can taste bitter.  

What is browning sauce made of

You only need two ingredients to make browning sauce: brown sugar (2 parts) and boiling water (1 part). White sugar can be used but, most often, brown sugar is the preferred choice. Lukewarm or cold water can also work but it will cause the sugar to clump together and take longer to make the sauce.

How to make browning sauce

To make browning sauce, brown sugar must melt and caramelize until it develops a dark brown color. Once that color is achieved, hot water is added to stop the cooking process and to turn the burnt sugar into a sauce.

Let’s get into the details.

How to burn sugar for browning sauce

Step 1: Place a small pot on low heat and allow to heat up. Once it is nice and hot, add the sugar.

brown sugar added to pot

Step 2: Stir occasionally for about five minutes. You will see the sugar in contact with the pot begin to melt. Stir to ensure even heating.

melting sugar for browning sauce

After another two minutes, all the sugar crystals should fully melt. Look at that caramelized sugar! If you scale up this recipe, it’ll take longer to reach this point.

caramelized sugar for sauce

As more heat is added, the sugar will become frothy and you will see puffs of steam (be careful they can burn).

bubbling caramelized sugar

It is time to stir continuously now – everything moves quickly from this point (in one minute, you’ll be done!). You will notice the color of the sugar turns from light caramel to dark brown. If it begins to smoke, lower the heat or lift the pot off the stove.

Step 3: When the sugar becomes dark brown, remove from the heat and add the boiling water carefully. It will sputter so be cautious. You can add a tablespoon or two of water first before pouring the rest in.

add water to browning sugar sauce

Step 4: Stir a couple more times and set aside to cool. Use immediately or bottle the browning and store in the fridge for later. It can last for weeks in the fridge.

finished browning sauce

What’s a substitute for browning sauce

In T&T, roucou is used as a substitute for browning sauce. Roucou is an red extract made from the pigment of achiote or annatto seeds. It can be added to marinades or poured in while cooking.

How to use browning sauce

Browning sauce is the main coloring ingredient in Trinidad black cake or rum cake. It is also mixed into meat marinades when making brown stew chicken, stew soups, and rice dishes like pelau. For vegetarian pelau, the browning can be added to the sautéed vegetables before the rice is added.

Where to purchase browning sauce

You can skip this recipe and purchase Caribbean browning sauce at your local Caribbean and Asian markets or on Amazon. Here’s a great brand: Grace browning.

Browning sauce recipe

browning sauce featured image

Browning sauce recipe

Print Recipe
Browning sauce is the secret to many Caribbean stews and dishes. It is made by burning sugar before adding liquid to stop the cooking so it is a two-ingredient sauce. It adds this delicious smoky, molasses-like taste.
Course Sauce
Cuisine Caribbean
Keyword browning sauce
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 8
Author We Trini Food


  • ½ cup brown sugar (organic)
  • ¼ cup boiling water


  • Place a small pot on low heat and allow to heat up.
  • Add sugar to the pot.
  • Stir occasionally to ensure even heating.
  • Stir more often when the sugar is fully melted.
  • When the sugar becomes frothy and turns from light brown to dark brown, add water (carefully).
  • Remove from the heat.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • Use immediately or bottle and store in the fridge.

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