Sugar adds a delicious sweetness to recipes. But for some people, sugar has more calories than they want to consume. This article looks at natural sugar substitutes for baking as well as other natural sweeteners.
Are you concerned about the negative health effects of too much sugar? Sugar substitutes are one way to lower your risk.
I've been creating sugar-free recipes for almost 7 years at this point. I've tried many, many sweeteners over the years in all my keto dessert recipes. I am happy to share what I've learned about sugar substitutes for baking with you!
Let's take a look at all the options when using no-calorie sweeteners for baking.
What can you use instead of sugar in baking?
If you love baking cakes, cookies, or other sweets, a sugar substitute for baking can come in handy. Learn which sugar substitutes for baking are recommended here. I've made a list of popular sugar substitutes, including their sweetening power, and tips for using them as sugar substitutes for baking.
Erythritol - Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sugar substitute. It is about 70% as sweet as sucrose and has a caloric content of about ⅓ that of sucrose. Erythritol occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods and is also produced commercially from glucose by fermentation with yeasts. It comes in granular or powdered forms. The powdered variety is best for making icing.
Xylitol - Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is derived from plants. It is found in many fruits and vegetables, as well as in the birch tree. Xylitol has a sweetness that is similar to sucrose, but it does not have the same caloric content. Xylitol is often used as a sugar substitute in food products. Note: Xylitol is toxic to pets.
Monk Fruit - Monk fruit sweetener is a natural sugar substitute that is made from the extract of monk fruit. It is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, so only a small amount is needed to sweeten food and beverages. Monk fruit sweetener does not affect blood sugar levels, making it a good choice for people with diabetes or those who are watching their weight. Some studies have shown that monk fruit sweetener may also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Allulose - Allulose is a monosaccharide that is structurally similar to fructose. Unlike fructose, allulose is not metabolized by the human body and is excreted in the urine unchanged. Allulose has a variety of potential health benefits including reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Additionally, allulose may help to increase satiety and reduce food intake.
Stevia - Stevia is a naturally occurring sweetener that has been used for centuries in South America. The stevia plant is a member of the Asteraceae family and its leaves have been used to sweeten tea and other beverages. The leaves are also used as a sugar substitute in cooking and baking. Stevia is about 200 times sweeter than sugar and does not have the same calories.
Monk Fruit + Erythritol - When many people talk about monk fruit they are referring to the monk fruit and erythritol blends that have become popular, like Lakanto. Pure monk fruit is way to potent to be used much in baking. Most baking need a bit more bulk, that comes from the addition of erythritol.
Joy Filled Eats Sweetener - My favorite sweetener is my own blend of xylitol (or allulose), erythritol, and stevia. By adding stevia to the granular sweeteners they become more concentrated so you use less in total. This makes the cost per recipe less than using a 1:1 sweetener.
What is the healthiest alternative to sugar for baking?
This is a really hard question to answer. What is healthiest for one person may not be healthiest for another. Many people replace sugar with artificial sweeteners to lose weight and improve their health. But there are studies that raise significant health questions about artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, splendas, and aspartame. Artificial sweeteners make food taste sweet without adding calories, but they aren’t considered natural and can do more harm than good.
That is why I only use natural sugar substitutes for baking on my website such as allulose, xylitol, erythritol, stevia, and monk fruit sweetener.
If you are on a low carb, keto, and/or sugar-free diet you will want to choose a sugar-free sweetener when baking. I use a combination of xylitol, erythritol, and stevia to reduce an aftertaste and make keto baking more economical. The three sweeteners erythritol, xylitol, and stevia are all sugar-free. Erythritol is the most common one found in nature, as it is present in fruits like grapes and pears. Xylitol is less common, but can be found in birch trees. Stevia is a plant that is native to South America.
Types of Natural Sugar
If you don't need your baked goods to be sugar-free other good alternatives to refined granulated sugar are the following:
Coconut sugar - Coconut sugar, also known as coco sugar, is a type of unrefined sugar made from the sap of coconut palm trees. It is less processed than white sugar and has a lower glycemic index, making it a healthier alternative for some people. Coconut sugar can be used in place of white sugar in many recipes.
Turbinado sugar - Turbinado sugar is a type of raw sugar that has been processed using a centrifugal force. The sugar is then placed in a turbine, which spins the sugar at a high speed. This process separates the molasses from the sugar crystals, resulting in a product that is less refined than traditional white sugar.
Muscovado sugar - Muscovado sugar is a type of unrefined sugar that is made from sugar cane. It is dark brown in color and has a molasses-like flavor. Muscovado sugar is not as sweet as refined sugars, but it does have a higher molasses content. This sugar is often used in baking and can be found in specialty stores.
Demerara sugar - Demerara sugar is a type of raw sugar that is produced in Guyana. It is named after the Demerara River, which flows through the country. The sugar cane plants that are used to produce Demerara sugar are grown in the coastal areas near the river. The sugar cane is harvested and then transported to mills where it is crushed and processed into raw sugar. Demerara sugar has a large, golden-brown grain and a slightly molasses-like flavor.
Palm sugar - Palm sugar is a type of sugar that is derived from the sap of palm trees. It has a distinctive sweetness that is often used in Southeast Asian cuisine. Palm sugar is typically sold in a solid form, but it can also be found in a liquid form.
Can I use maple syrup or agave as a sugar substitute for baking?
If a recipe calls for corn syrup using another more natural liquid sugar can be a good choice but neither maple syrup, agave, nor honey is sugar-free. When using any liquid sugar if the dough or batter seems to be too moist you may need to compensate for the added liquid.
Maple Syrup - Maple syrup is often used as a sweetener in baking recipes. It can be used in place of sugar to add sweetness, or it can be used in addition to sugar for a more complex flavor. Maple syrup can also be used to add moisture to baked goods. When substituting maple syrup for sugar in a recipe, use a 1:1 ratio.
Agave Nectar - Agave nectar is a natural sweetener derived from the agave plant. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar, making it a healthier option for those with diabetes or blood sugar issues. When baking with agave nectar, it is important to remember that it is sweeter than sugar, so you may need to use less of it. Additionally, because it has a lower melting point than sugar, your baked goods may not brown as much.
Honey - When it comes to baking, honey is often used as a sweetener. In addition to its sweetness, honey also has other properties that make it ideal for baking. For example, honey is a natural humectant, which means it helps to keep baked goods moist. Honey is also acidic, which can help to activate baking soda and produce a lighter, fluffier texture in baked goods.
If using a sugar-free option is important to you there are a few companies making sugar-free liquid sweeteners or you can make your own.
Sugar-Free Syrup - There are several brands that make these such as ChocZero, Lakanto, and Wholesome Yum. Just make sure to always read the ingredients.
What are the best substitutes for brown sugar in baking?
Homemade - You can make your own brown sugar substitute by adding a bit of molasses to a standard white sugar sweetener.
Swerve Brown - I tend to use this sweetener most often in place of brown sugar because it has a nice flavor and is readily available.
Lakanto Brown - Lakanto also has a product called Lakanto Golden that has a brown sugar flavor but not texture.
Besti Brown - This one has the closest texture to real brown sugar.
Truvia Sweet Complete Brown - Be careful when shopping for a Truvia brown sweetener because they also make one that has regular brown sugar in it.
Natural Sweetener for Baking
- 2 teaspoon molasses added to one of the above recipes
- Process the ingredients in the food processor for a few minutes if you are planning on using it in chocolate, beverages, or icing.
- For baking and candy making, you can just mix the ingredients together by hand.
- Add 2 teaspoons of molasses to the granular sweetener recipe. Mix well. You may need to mix it in a food processor to thoroughly incorporate the molasses.
If you liked this article make sure to get my Free Keto Baking Guide!