Alternatives to sugar?

Black Books
Posted on 02/19/2013 by gaia_kiari

Hello again, and thankyou all for your awesome input in my last post :)

Now, I've got a tricky question (or at least, tricky for me) - what can you use as an alternative to sugar in your baking/cooking?
I admit I have a serious addiction to sugar, and I'm working on kicking that habit - it's really not helping my weight, and my disabilities (I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome among other things, so my joints are almost always hurting).

I would still, however, love to learn how to bake tasty things without needing sugar (and no artificial sweeteners, please - I'm pretty sensitive to them with other health problems >.>;). I know that will probably restrict the things I can bake a lot, but if anyone has any recipes I'd love to try them out!
I bought myself a hand mixer, and I have a blender (which I'm making smoothies with!) and a couple of bowls so I'm on my way in little steps to getting baking :)

Thanks very much for your advice, oh-bakery-goddesses (and gods!)

rocks_not_dead 19th-Feb-2013 12:09 pm (UTC)
There is this stuff called stevia. It's from a plant and it's a lot more powerful in taste than sugar so you need a lot less. It's something you'd have to try out whether you like it since while it is used for sweetening it doesn't taste exactly like sugar.
cappyhead 19th-Feb-2013 03:27 pm (UTC)
Some stevia brands are better than others. Trader Joe's stevia is terrible. I use NuNaturals in the liquid and powdered form, and Stevia in the Raw. I find that using a blend of stevia and erythritol works better than stevia alone.
phoenixs_reign 19th-Feb-2013 12:22 pm (UTC)
long time lurker, first time poster/commentor... if you could elaborate a little more on what you mean by sugar? are you specifically talking about cane sugar that you want to eliminate from your diet? or sugar in any form from your diet? if you just want to replace sugar cane, you could always try honey or agave nectar. i don't know how those would effect some of the tastes in baking, so if anyone has input on those two items in place of cane sugar, feel free to correct/comment me.
dayari 19th-Feb-2013 12:52 pm (UTC)
I second your suggestion of agave nectar--I use it in baking quite often as a substitute for sugar, and it works really well! Of course honey is great too, but agave nectar actually has less of a unique taste than honey does, it's more of a "neutral" sweetness (at least in my opinion). So if you're aiming for a sweetening effect without a strong added flavor, I'd go for agave nectar. :D
michoverde 19th-Feb-2013 12:44 pm (UTC)
Tasty things can be savoury, too... I love making chive + cheese muffins, for example.

Some recipes that ask for sugar can be flavoured with other things, I always leave out sugar in my carrot cake and sometimes in banana loafs, when the bananas are really ripe and sweet.
gaia_kiari 20th-Feb-2013 01:16 am (UTC)
Ooh, Banana loafs... awesome idea :D I shall have to try them :)
basric 19th-Feb-2013 01:00 pm (UTC)
I use juice. Varies depending on what I am baking, apple adds the least flavor while giving the sweetness.
spillcanvas3685 19th-Feb-2013 01:06 pm (UTC)
I have used really ripe bananas to sweeten baked goods before. It also works to replace some of the fats and oils you might typically put in your baked goods.

I second honey or agave nectar, but I think that agave nectar has more of a distinct taste than honey does. Maple syrup might also be an option for you. Good luck finding one that works well for you!
sayukiakira Natural Sweeteners19th-Feb-2013 01:10 pm (UTC)
Sugar plays a lot of critical functions more than being just a sweetener when it comes to baking. Among its many uses, sugar can prolong the shelf-life of your baked goods and also provides moisture and tenderness. Refined sugar on the other hand helps cookies spread during baking to make the texture crispy.

There are, however, natural sweeteners that you may use in substitute of sugar like honey, molasses, maple syrup, refined fructose, corn syrup, stevia, fruit juice concentrates, and brown rice malt syrup.

My only advice when replacing sugar is be mindful of what you will substitute the sugar with. Be mindful of the individual components each of the natural sweetener have and how would they affect your final product. Take honey for example, it's 25% to 50% sweeter than refined sugar and has a distinct taste to it. Not to mention it's liquefied, so you really have to reduce its amount when substituting. Molasses, on the other hand, is not as sweet as sugar so you'd probably want to 1/3 more for every cup of sugar that you'll use. However, both of those natural sweeteners are quite acidic so I would suggest for you to add a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the acidity.

If you want a healthier option, I'd recommend refined fructose or stevia. Fructose is sweeter and normally a good choice, but some say that although products made with fructose are sweet, they also tend to taste a little flat. It also attracts more water than sucrose hence, fructose-based products tend to be more moist. While stevia is a dietary supplement and is approved by FDA.
gaia_kiari Re: Natural Sweeteners20th-Feb-2013 01:17 am (UTC)
Thanks very much! I'll keep all this in mind, I think Stevia is looking like a good option here :D
artkouros 19th-Feb-2013 01:25 pm (UTC)
I also have a sugar addiction - I beat it (and lost 100 pounds) by avoiding sugar entirely. That involves getting past the idea that everything has to be sweet. It does not.

I've had good luck with pies and tarts that have only fruit in them, with no added sugar. If something absolutely has to be sweetened, I use dates, but my preference is to not. Once you eliminate sugar from your diet everything naturally tastes sweeter, and you can access the subtle flavors of food that normally get drowned out by the sugar. Same goes for salt.

If you have carb cravings, another problem food is wheat, you might try limiting yourself to sprouted wheat and gluten free grains. it really has worked for me.

Here are some of my recipes -

Another hint - use half and half or cream instead of milk in your baking. I know it sounds wrong, but ordinary milk has lots of sugar in it, cream and half and half do not.
crassy 19th-Feb-2013 01:28 pm (UTC)
I use Stevia for everything.
mi_er 19th-Feb-2013 04:29 pm (UTC)
Do you use powder or liquid? I have been using raw stevia but am struggling with texture of baked goods due to not having the additional qualities of sugar.

Sorry OP for stealing your thread :)
kireic 19th-Feb-2013 02:44 pm (UTC)
As above posters have mentioned, sugar plays a really crucial role in baking functionality and even just in viscosity and mouthfeel, so it's not usually an easy thing to replace. It can be done, though! Often it just takes some trial and error.

Diabetics sometimes use polyols like maltitol and xylitol to sub in for sugar, and they work fairly well because they have bulk and mouthfeel properties similar to sugar, even though they are a little less sweet. HOWEVER, they can have a laxative effect, depending on the polyol (and how much of it you eat) and your own biology (for instance, I found in using xylitol in a lemon cake that I'm not very sensitive to them, but a few friends I served the cake to definitely are!). So, you may or may not want to give polyols a go if you already have complex health issues.

I second (third? fourth?) using stevia, though - again, it lacks the mouthfeel of cane sugar and other caloric sweeteners, but its intense, mild sweetness are really nice, and it's not an artificial sweetener, but rather extracted from a plant.
artkouros 19th-Feb-2013 03:37 pm (UTC)
A word of caution - xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs, as little as 3 grams can kill a 65 pound dog. It's common in sugar free gum and candies.
dresagne 19th-Feb-2013 03:20 pm (UTC)
I'd be very interested in hearing what ends up working out best for you. (I'm also a sugar junkie and trying to cut back.) Also LOVE your icon! Black Books is awesome.

Edited at 2013-02-19 03:20 pm (UTC)
presstud 19th-Feb-2013 03:59 pm (UTC)
pureed dates work really well, especially in the place of molasses or brown sugar! if you decide to completely leave out refined carbs (which will help massively with sugar cravings), try almond flour or coconut flour (super absorbent so use less + more eggs/liquid) as some alternatives to wheat flour :)

(from one sugar junkie to another: google search 'sugar more addictive than cocaine'.. not even kidding. ridiculous!)
mi_er 19th-Feb-2013 04:31 pm (UTC)
Not the OP but that sounds interesting, do you use dried dates? How do you puree them?
doc__holliday 19th-Feb-2013 05:34 pm (UTC)
Stevia tastes like shit to me. So does any artificial sweetner.
I mostly use xylitol (natural compound that comes from the xylem of plants--it doesn't melt very well if you're making something like a ganache, but it's great and has no aftertaste. It's also REALLY good for your teeth!), pureed dates if I want that flavour, or good quality maple syrup, but that's still a sugar.

Dates are the best for keeping your insulin levels in check.

I never bake with sugar, since I'm also a huge addict.
clvhitter 19th-Feb-2013 05:45 pm (UTC)
For alternatives to sugar, I like to use flavored syrups like the ones used in coffee shops and there tones of different flavors out there. I still use sugar but I don't use even half of the amount required for the recipe.
cappyhead 19th-Feb-2013 06:08 pm (UTC)
The Torani sugar-free syrups are sweetened with Splenda, which is an artificial sweetener, which some people (like the original poster) have an aversion to.

But they are super delicious. :)
smittenlilly 19th-Feb-2013 07:02 pm (UTC)
I think, it's all been mentioned before, but here we go ;)

Honey, agave, ripe bananas, caramel sirup, other 'sweet' fruits
Or just reduce/toss it entirely. The recipe might taste just as delicious and/or you don't really taste a difference ;)
futurenurselady 19th-Feb-2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
Unsweetened apple sauce is a good substitute for sugar in muffins and quick breads.

Stevia is a natural sweetener, and is the only thing I have seen that comes granulated but isn't artificial.

Like another poster mentioned, there are many recipes that don't need sugar, such as pies and pastries that use fruit.

I make apple pies and pastry with no sweetener at all, I just make sure not to use tart apples. All you do is make a savory pie crust or pastry as usual, cut the apples and put them in, and then brush egg over the top.
lollie2e 19th-Feb-2013 11:27 pm (UTC)
I haven't tried it yet but the korean ladies at the market were stocking up on this thing called 'cactus honey powder' or something and they said it was sweet and like sugar but healthier.

I've been meaning to use it in replacement of sugar but haven't got around to it yet. As a note I only opened the bag to try some. It has a smell and tastes pretty good. But I wouldn't call it 'honey'.
doubletake 25th-Feb-2013 05:27 pm (UTC)
I believe (although I am not 100% sure) that 'cactus honey powder' is a form of agave sweetener, refined and crystallized with the addition of maltodextrin, which is an ogliosaccharide (sugar) derived from starch. This would explain the 'healthier than' claim you heard--although in some sense, sugar is sugar is sugar, agave doesn't cause as much of a insulin reaction as sucrose (table sugar).
I find it really confusing that the ingredients label on my bag says 'honey, maltodextrin', but some research online points me to the agave hypothesis.

I have not tried to bake with mine much in the way of a functional ingredient (like in a cake), but I like the flavor and have used it as a sweetener with success (to tame some screamingly tart crabapples in a crumble, in my tea, in Dutch Babies and banana pancakes to lend a slight sweetness).
gunma_gal coconut palm sugar20th-Feb-2013 12:37 am (UTC)
I'm surprised no one has mentioned this yet. Coconut palm sugar is unrefined, unlike the usual sugar cane that most people use. It can be replaced in a 1:1 ratio, and it tastes great.
uniwolftav 20th-Feb-2013 08:44 am (UTC)
I haven't read through all the comments, so I'm sorry if I repeat sth. that has already been said. But since I'm currently living on a no-sugar diet, I thought I could as well put in my two cents :D.

I tried stevia, and some truly are disgusting. But I'm currently using one for baking which is good if you learn to dose it right. I don't know if you can obtain it where you live, but here's the link to the german homepage: It's called "stevia crystal", the sort specifically for baking.

And a co-worker of mine, who goes to an american supermarket chain regularly, recommended Splenda to me. That stuff is awesome! Tastes exactly like sugar and I'll definately get my colleague to buy more of it for me xD.
jonahjournal Baking and cooking20th-Feb-2013 10:31 am (UTC)
Hello everyone... Well, all i can say is that i spend most of my time in the kitchen. I love to bake and cook, so basically what i do is search and look for different countries, check their native delicacies.. Some are really interesting and easy to make. Its fun too..

One day, i will roll on the house coz i pick-up weight pretty easy...
snowboarding111 20th-Feb-2013 10:07 pm (UTC)

check out this site. This author is all about paleo diet. She uses no sugar, sweetners, dairy, or any processed ingredients. Pretty neat if you ask me! I haven't tried it out, but its worth looking into!
barrelofrain 21st-Feb-2013 12:18 am (UTC)
I don't have any suggestions, but I have EDS, too. <3
feversugar 23rd-Feb-2013 07:31 pm (UTC)
i like to use brown rice syrup :)

i think it is a great replacement as it's not too sweet, so you can start to ween yourself off of super sugary foods. i have a serious sugar addiction also! it's a misnomer because it is made from white rice but it is also made of complex carbs that take a lot longer to break down! which means less of a spike in your blood sugar levels when you eat it! combine that with maybe half your flour as whole wheat down the line also. whole wheat also takes longer to break down compared to enriched white flour.
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