Easy to make brown sugar syrup that’s perfect for boba milk tea! This recipe takes only minutes to prepare and can be used for bubble teas, milk teas, cocktails, coffee and much more. Includes tips & tricks to prevent the syrup from crystallising.
The secret to perfect boba tea rests not only with tapioca pearls, but also with sugar syrup. Almost all milk teas use brown sugar syrup as a base, which adds flavour and sweetness to the drink.
Brown sugar syrup is the main ingredient in Tiger Milk Tea, adding lots of deep caramelised flavour. This recipe is perfect for it and creates beautiful (and yummy) streaks.
This recipe is ideal for all drinks or cocktails and can be used on pancakes or waffles. It only takes minutes to make and requires basic ingredients.
Why this recipe is great
- Basic ingredients: There are only 2 basic ingredients needed for this recipe – brown sugar and water. Corn syrup can also be added to prevent crystallisation, but it’s optional.
- Easy to make: All you need is a saucepan and a stove to make this recipe. It also takes only a few minutes.
- Multitude of uses: You can use this recipe for all types of drinks, coffee, tea, milk tea, or on pancakes, waffles and much more.
- Doesn’t crystallise: This recipe has been tested extensively to ensure it doesn’t crystallise and remains liquid even after it cools down. There are two methods to prevent this syrup from crystallising.
- Can be stored for long: Once the brown sugar syrup cools down, it can be refrigerated for weeks. So, you can always have it whenever you want it, without needing to take time to prepare it again.
Ways to use
I love this recipe because it’s so versatile. Here are some of my favourite uses for this syrup:
- Coffee – add a splash of syrup instead of sugar for a richer, more caramelised flavour.
- Milk Tea – is always made with brown sugar syrup. Here are some bubble tea recipes you can make with this syrup:
- Hot chocolate – this recipe works perfectly with hot cocoa. Simply add it instead of sugar for a richer flavour.
- Cocktails – prepare your own cocktails at home with this sugar syrup. Some of my favourites are Brown Sugar Bourbon, Manhattans, Old Fashioned, Whiskey and much more.
- Mulled wine – sweeten mulled wine with a dash of sugar syrup for an even richer and meltier flavour. Brown sugar works incredibly well with cinnamon and nutmeg, so don’t forget your spices!
- Pancakes & waffles – this sugar syrup can be made on the thicker side by simmering an extra 4-5 minutes. The consistency is similar to thick maple syrup or golden syrup, and it tastes incredible!
Brown sugar syrup is entirely vegan and gluten-free. It does not contain any dairy or wheat, making it great for use even on gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian diets.
Corn syrup is optional in this recipe as it helps prevent the syrup from crystallising. However, most corn syrups are gluten-free and do not contain wheat. Nevertheless, make sure you check the label carefully for accurate information on wheat content or other allergens.
This syrup is almost entirely sugar, so for health reasons I don’t recommend using a lot of it. All you need is 1-2 teaspoons of syrup to sweeten most drinks.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, so please consult your doctor if in doubt.
- Brown sugar – the main ingredient in this recipe. I like using light brown sugar, but you can use whichever variety you like best.
- Water – I recommend using filtered water.
- Optional: Corn syrup – although optional, I strongly recommend using it. Corn syrup ensures the syrup doesn’t crystallise and keeps it liquid and runny.
Types of brown sugar
There are different types of brown sugar you can use for this recipe. Depending on which one you choose, the flavour of your syrup will be different.
- Light brown sugar – gives the lightest flavour, with a hint of caramel. I like using this one the best because it’s not overly malty in taste. This sugar is also the best option for bubble tea, as it does not take away from the tea flavour.
- Dark brown sugar or muscovado – choose this for a deeper, richer flavour. This sugar is made with more molasses, so it has a darker, meltier taste. I recommend using this sugar to make syrup for coffee.
- Demerara or turbinado – although they’re not exactly the same, both have a similar flavour. They’re closer to light brown sugar and can be interchanged.
- Okinawa brown sugar or kokuto – considered to be one of the healthiest types of sugar. Although delicious, this sugar has a deep, malty flavour similar to muscovado. Use it to make sugar syrup for Okinawa Milk Tea or coffee.
The process for making brown sugar syrup is the same regardless of which type of sugar you use.
How to make at home
- Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, without mixing. Start cooking over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid starts bubbling.
- Once bubbling, reduce heat to low and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency. The sugar syrup will thicken further once cooled, so don’t over-simmer.
Pro tip: Do not mix the ingredients before the sugar dissolves while cooking. If any sugar crystals are left on the sides of the saucepan, it can make the entire syrup crystallise once cooled. Only mix after the sugar is completely dissolved
Brown sugar syrup needs to be a little sticky, but still runny and liquid even after cooling down. If prepared incorrectly, the syrup can crystallise and become hard and too tacky to pour. Here are my tried and tested methods to prevent crystallisation:
Method 1 – No mixing + Cover with lid
Crystallisation occurs when undissolved sugar crystals remain stuck to the sides of the saucepan. To prevent this, let the sugar dissolve by itself while cooking, without any mixing. I also recommend covering the saucepan with a lid whilst simmering. Condensation will drip on the edges, preventing crystals from sticking to the sides of the saucepan.
Method 2 – Corn syrup or Lemon juice
You can also prevent crystallisation by adding corn syrup or a squeeze of lemon juice. Simply pour it into the saucepan and cook as instructed.
Corn syrup works very well and does not change the flavour profile of the sugar syrup. Lemon juice also works, but it adds a little tangy zing to the syrup.
I like to use a combination of the two methods, to made double sure the syrup won’t crystallise. For the combined method, refrain from mixing the syrup whilst cooking, add corn syrup and cover with a lid whilst simmering.
Success Tips & Tricks
- Choose the right type of sugar – the type of sugar you use will affect the flavour of your syrup. See notes above on how to choose the right brown sugar.
- Prevent crystallisation – If prepared incorrectly, the sugar syrup can crystallise and become too tacky to pour. See my trusted methods in the section above on how to avoid crystallisation.
- Don’t boil – Once the mixture starts bubbling, reduce the heat to low. You do not want to boil the mixture, as it can make the syrup too thick. Cooking on high heat can also make it taste bitter, as it can burn the sugar.
- Perfect consistency – For the perfect consistency, gently simmer the syrup over low heat. The syrup will thicken up further once cooled, so it’s important you don’t over-cook it.
- Cleaning the saucepan – If the syrup hardens to your cookware, simply soak it in hot water for a few minutes. This will magically melt the syrup away for hassle-free cleaning.
How to store
This sugar syrup is ideal for making ahead and storing in the fridge. Pour it into an airtight bottle or jar and refrigerate for up to 2-3 weeks. Always inspect the liquid before consuming it for any odd smells.
Frequently asked questions
This recipe is very similar to the one they use in Starbucks. Use this sugar syrup for all your favourite coffees and other Starbucks drinks.
Place the syrup back on the stove over medium heat until bubbling (not fully boiling). Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the syrup reaches a thicker consistency.
Return the crystallised syrup to the stove over low heat to melt the sugar. Add 1-2 teaspoons of water and 1-2 teaspoons of corn syrup. Cover with a lid and simmer for a few minutes until fully dissolved. If it’s too thick, add more water. See my notes above on how to prevent syrup from crystallising.
No, they are different. Simple syrup is much more liquid than regular syrup. You can still use this recipe, but only simmer for 1-2 minutes until the sugar is fully dissolved. The finished simple syrup will be much runnier in consistency.
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Brown Sugar Syrup for Boba Tea
- ½ cup brown sugar (100 grams)
- ¼ cup water, filtered (50 grams)
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- Place the sugar and corn syrup (optional) into a saucepan, then pour the water on top. Without mixing the sugar, cook over medium-high heat until the mixture starts bubbling. Do not bring to a boil.
- As soon as the liquid starts bubbling, reduce heat to low and cover with a lid.
- Simmer for 7-10 minutes until the syrup starts thickening up.
- Remove from heat at use immediately for bubble tea.
- For longer storage, pour into an airtight bottle and let it cool down completely without a lid on. Once cool, seal with lid and refrigerate for 2-3 weeks.
- Nutritional value is estimative and is calculated per serving. This recipe makes 2 large servings, enough for 2 large boba tea drinks.
- For a thicker pancake syrup, simmer for an extra 3-5 minutes.