Have you ever pulled out a recipe and wanted to make it but weren’t quite sure how to swap out the refined sugar for unrefined sugar and still have a successful dish? I’ve been baking refined sugar-free for almost 12 years and want to share how I think through my recipe and use alternatives to refined white sugar.
I’m going to share my 4 go-to substitutes and how I use them in any recipe.
I like to think of this as the healthy brown sugar. It’s low glyemic, around 35, and measures like white sugar. The flavor profile is more like brown sugar with rich, caramel-like notes. When you’re baking you can use this as a one-to-one substitution if you choose.
- Try reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe by 25% when subbing for white sugar. Coconut sugar has more flavor than white sugar and it can be overpowering in certain, lighter flavored dishes.
- When baking anything light and airy, like a cake, measure your coconut sugar and then drop it in the blender. This will ‘powder’ the sugar and make it dissolve easier and create a lighter product.
- Break up the clumps before measuring. I usually run my coconut sugar through a flour sifter.
- Coconut sugar is naturally brown, so it will make your cookies, cakes and frostings darker as well. Keep this in mind for white cakes and frostings.
- Coconut sugar works great in cookies – I use it almost exclusively. It gives cookies a crispy edge and a soft middle, which is how a cookie should be.
My favorite brand of coconut sugar is Madagava.
Some of my favorite recipes with coconut sugar:
You can use honey as a one-to-one substitute in place of any liquid sweetener. I like honey in just about anything but chocolate dishes – not a huge fan of honey and chocolate. That’s in individual preference, though. It does work in some cases – so while it’s my preference it’s not a hard and fast rule.
- When substituting honey for a granulated sugar, like white or brown sugar, you need to reduce the liquid in the recipe somewhere else by an equal, or nearly equal, amount.
- Adding honey to most cookies will make them softer than if you used coconut sugar, which is an unrefined granulated product.
- When using honey instead of powdered sugar in a frosting recipe, you’ll need to add something else to tighten up the frosting such as tapioca flour or arrowroot.
I grab organic honey from Costco – I don’t find it necessary to spend more money on local, raw honey for my baking recipes because once you bake it the raw benefits disappear. I prefer my honey in smaller containers as I find it doesn’t crystallize.
Some of my favorite recipes using honey:
- Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
- Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping
- Grain Free Chocolate Cake with Honeyed Ricotta
I’m talking about pure maple syrup here, not the stuff Aunt Jemima makes. I love using maple syrup in my chocolate recipes and in many frosting recipes because it ends up being more neutral than honey. Of course, if you’re making a white cake and white frosting you might reach for the honey because of the darker color of maple syrup will impact your final product’s color.
- As with honey, if you’re swapping maple syrup for a granulated sugar you’ll need to reduce the liquid in the recipe somewhere else by an equal, or nearly equal amount.
- Using maple syrup in cookies will make them softer than using a granulated product.
- When swapping out refined sugar for maple syrup in frostings, you’ll need something to tighten up the recipe such as tapioca flour or arrowroot. You’ll also want to use far less liquid sweetener than refined sugar.
- If you’re making vegan dishes, maple syrup is the way to go! Many vegans also use agave in their recipes because it’s plant based.
My favorite recipes with maple syrup:
- Chocolate Cake with Maple Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache
- Orange and Date Dessert Quinoa
- Pumpkin Cake with Maple Frosting
For all of you stevia haters, don’t stop reading yet. I love stevia but first I had to learn how to use it. It’s potent so if you use too much you’re gonna’ have funky tasting food. And, not all brands of stevia are created equal. Some have a legit aftertase. I prefer NuNaturals alcohol free liquid stevia because it’s not bitter. It works great in my baking and drinks.
- Baking exclusively with stevia is a challenge because it doesn’t have the properties that sugar has. Instead, I use a small amount of stevia to enhance the sweetness of my baked goods. For example, I might reduce the sugar by 25 – 40% and then add 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon liquid stevia to my recipe to bump up the sweetness.
- Liquid vanilla stevia has the most neutral flavor in baked goods.
- Double the vanilla extract when you’re using stevia to help mask any unwanted flavors.
Some of my favorite recipes with stevia:
There are so many other unrefined sugar subs you can reach for – sorghum, brown rice syrup, FruitSweet, blackstrap molasses, medjool dates, bananas, sweet potatoes and pure fruit jam to name some more common products. Feel free to experiment with any or all of these in your kitchen.
What are the products you find yourself reaching for the most? What roadblocks do you need help with in the kitchen?
Jump over to our AmyGreen.me Facebook community and share your favorite sugar substitute ideas and questions – we’ll be chatting all about that today!
If you are looking for a handy substitutions cheat sheet, I made one here: AmysBakingSubs.com !