A healthy substitute for sugar in baking may seem like a contradiction. And it used to be.
But, natural sugar substitute options are now available that actually have health benefits, unlike sugar or artificial sweeteners.
So if you are wondering what to use instead of sugar in baking, you have so many better options than in the past.
Let’s take a closer look.
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Healthy substitute for sugar in baking overview
The following are natural sugar substitutes for diabetics and people who are trying to minimize their processed sugar intake:
- Monk fruit
For people who don’t need to always limit total carbs, some other good sweetener options are:
- Raw honey
- Real maple syrup
Let’s take a closer look at these sweeteners and what to expect from them.
Best sugar substitutes that are natural and have zero sugar
Here are 6 options that can help curb your sugar intake if you love to bake. Keep in mind, that there are some special ways of substituting them in your recipes, so I describe how to do this when needed.
The best substitute for sugar in baking
Inulin (Chicory Root Fiber)
When it comes to healthy sugar alternatives, inulin is top-notch.
Inulin is a type of prebiotic fiber that is extracted from chicory roots. Luckily for us, it also has a naturally sweet flavor as well.
You will often find inulin sweeteners in low-carb protein bars, keto products, and protein shakes, but you can also find inulin in powder form for baking from Nutricost. It makes a great sweetener for coffee and tea too.
Because it is rich in prebiotic fibers, it is also great for gut health. This is because it helps increase the natural probiotics in your gut. For this reason, it is by far the healthiest sugar substitute for baking.
Products will often add inulin, made from chicory root, to help give baked goods the texture of flour. A lot of keto products like keto brownies do this.
I personally find that they make my belly feel great once I get used to them as well.
Tip: start slowly with inulin because its fiber content can be gassy for some people. Once you are accustomed to the fiber, it can be a great substitute for sugar in baking.
Inulin is about a tenth as sweet as sugar, so you may need to increase the amount you would use in baking. You can also mix it with any of the following sweeteners like stevia.
Or, perhaps roll with a less sweet product; you might like it.
Allulose is a natural sweetener extract found in some fruits and foods like maple syrup. Luckily for us, it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes and doesn’t turn into sugar in the body.
Additionally, it has almost no calories, so it works as a nice ingredient for baking for people who have diabetes, are on a keto diet, or are trying to lose weight.
Not only is allulose sugar-free, but it may also help reduce diabetes symptoms.
For example, research shows that allulose may actually reduce blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes.
This makes it a great white sugar alternative for people on low-carb diets, keto diets, and for people with diabetes.
When baking with allulose or adding it to your coffee, you may need to slightly increase the amount you use because it is only 70% as sweet as cane sugar.
For example, if you usually add two teaspoons of sugar, you may need to increase the amount to 1 tablespoon.
Or, if your recipe calls for a cup of sugar you will likely need 1 ⅓ cups of allulose.
Allulose works pretty well as one of the best white sugar substitutes because it also adds bulk as sugar does.
A highly-rated brand of allulose is It’s Just Allulose.
Monk fruit is a delicious natural sweetener that is free of carbs. Because of this, you won’t have blood sugar spikes from it.
While some people think it has a fruity aftertaste, I don’t find this to be a bad thing. It’s less bitter-tasting than most stevia products and artificial sweeteners.
However, some monk fruit sweetener brands add other sweeteners, so be careful to read the labels of monk fruit products.
Combinations of sweeteners can be helpful for baking, however. Monk fruit combines nicely with allulose and erythritol.
Another good way to incorporate monk fruit is to buy a natural sweetener blend like In The Raw Zero Calorie Sweetener Blend.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that often gets mistaken for an artificial sweetener because it is about 300 times as sweet as sugar.
Because of its intense sweetness, a little goes a long way in your coffee or your recipes.
I recommend reading the labels of stevia carefully because stevia powders often contain undesirable fillers. To be sure you can use stevia extract instead of stevia powder.
You should know that if you are making baked goods with stevia, you may need to add bulk to make it act like sugar. You can use low-carb ingredients like psyllium husk, chicory root, or a high-fiber root such as tiger nuts to do this.
Many keto-baked products will already add these natural ingredients to them like Kiss My Keto Brownies.
A good brand of organic stevia powder is Microingredients Organic Stevia Powder.
A natural sweetener that is found in some foods is called erythritol. It falls under the category of sugar alcohol.
With only 0.24 calories per gram in erythritol compared to 4 calories per gram in sugar, it becomes an appealing choice as a sugar substitute.
A perk of erythritol is that it may help reduce blood sugar surges after a meal. Like allulose, it is 70% as sweet as sugar. This makes it a helpful white sugar substitute.
It even acts as an antioxidant in the body.
When looking for a sugar substitute, baking is more challenging than adding it to beverages.
But, erythritol has more benefits than drawbacks, so it’s definitely worth a try if you are missing out on tasty baked items.
As far as substitutes for granulated sugar go, erythritol is a good bet. Just keep in mind that you may need to use about ⅓ more than you would use regular sugar. But, you can always just opt for a less sweet baked product too by using equal amounts of sugar.
It makes a great substitute for white sugar in cookies and cakes as well as brownies.
Erythritol is a safe sweetener, but because it is a sugar alcohol, some people may get gas and bloat from it. But, unlike other sugar alcohols like sorbitol or maltitol, it is much less likely to cause side effects like these.
Also, people who are on a low FODMAP diet may need to limit their intake of erythritol.
Cinnamon naturally gives foods a sweet and spicy taste without sugar. So, it can be easily added to sweeten up teas, coffees, and some baked items.
Of course, it usually can’t take the place of all the sugar that your recipe calls for.
But it can help cut back the amount of sugar or sweetener that you need to add.
Typically, cassia cinnamon is sweeter than Ceylon cinnamon. But, as with anything, you can overdo cinnamon too.
It is meant to be used like a spice to accent flavor and sweetness. So, don’t go adding a cup of it to your recipes. That just won’t work.
Instead, you can use cinnamon to decrease the sugar content of your recipes. It works nicely with any of the other sweeteners mentioned here too.
Best overall baking sugar substitute
Often, using a blend of natural sweeteners for baking results in the best-baked goods.
Using granulated sugar substitutes like All-Purpose In The Raw Zero Calorie Sweetener Blend can be substituted 1:1 for sugar.
It contains erythritol, allulose, and monk fruit extract. The only downside is that it doesn’t contain inulin or chicory fiber like Kiss My Keto Brownies.
Natural sweeteners to use in moderation
The following healthy substitutes for sugar in baking aren’t low in sugar, but they do have some health benefits.
So, bear in mind, that you may want to stick to the zero-calorie sweeteners if you have diabetes or need to limit carbohydrates for other reasons.
As far as substitutes for white sugar go, raw honey is one of my favorites.
I love using raw wildflower honey for making homemade lemonade.
It also works great in recipes as a healthy substitute for sugar in baking.
Because honey is sweeter than sugar, you can use about ⅓ less than you would if you used white or brown sugar. So 1 cup of honey is about equal to 1 ⅓ cups of brown sugar or white sugar.
Raw honey has numerous health benefits. It is great for digestive problems because it contains digestive enzymes, antioxidants, prebiotic fibers, and immune benefits.
Just keep in mind that honey does have natural sugar in it, so it will raise your blood sugar levels.
Real maple syrup
Real maple syrup is a great brown sugar alternative, especially for people who are just trying to cut out processed sugars.
It can even replace the sugar in your morning coffee and tastes delicious. Not surprisingly, it is useful as a baking substitute for sugar too. It is a great sugar substitute for baking bread. This is especially true for quick breads like banana bread.
Keep in mind, that you may want to increase the baking time if you are cooking with maple syrup because it adds more liquid to a recipe. And it will make cookies soft instead of crunchy.
While some people argue that real maple syrup still has a lot of sugar, which is true, it has its own set of health benefits.
For example, maple syrup has a lower glycemic index than white sugar or brown sugar. It also is rich in many antioxidants that can help protect cells from the damage of oxidative stress.
Not only that, maple syrup has prebiotic fibers in the form of inulin too.
While dates aren’t the best substitute for sugar in baking for diabetics, they can work really well for people who are just trying to live a more natural lifestyle.
Not only are they one of the best sugar substitutes for baking, but they also contain prebiotic fibers which are healthy for the gut.
Dates also are rich in essential minerals like potassium and have a lot of antioxidants too.
A date paste substitutes sugar in a 1:1 ratio, so your recipe doesn’t need to be adjusted. Simply buy date puree or process dates in your food processor at home.
You can also puree raisins or use applesauce and use them as a baking substitute for sugar.
While molasses may not be the first sweetener to come to mind, it is a much healthier option than brown sugar or white sugar.
It is rich in several minerals, including magnesium and copper. Unlike regular sugar, it also contains a natural source of iron and selenium and has a small amount of potassium.
Molasses may even help dampen the post-meal sugar spike in healthy people.
And this may surprise you; dark molasses has more antioxidants than maple syrup or honey. It has about as many antioxidants as you would get in a serving of nuts or berries too.
The flavor is distinctive and strong when using molasses, so your taste buds may take some time to get used to it.
And if you have diabetes, remember that it does still have sugar in it, so allulose, stevia, inulin, or monk fruit would be better choices if you have this condition.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. While The Healthy RD’s posts are backed by research, you are unique. So you must seek care from your own dietitian or healthcare provider. This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.