Sugar Substitutes in Baking

Updated on October 25, 2017
J Schatzel profile image

J. Schatzel works in agricultural/occupational medicine in rural upstate NY and has a Masters degree in history.

Substituting for Sugar

When substituting brown rice syrup for sugar, cookies turn out more crisp than when using typical granulated sugar.
When substituting brown rice syrup for sugar, cookies turn out more crisp than when using typical granulated sugar.

The Key Players

Agave Nectar: Use 2/3 cup of agave nectar for every one cup of sugar called for in the recipe, and reduce the amount of liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup. Also, it browns more quickly than sugar so it helps to lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning and sticking to the pan.

Dates: For a higher fiber, iron, potassium, calcium, and B-vitamin sugar substitute, finely chop dried pitted dates in the food processor, and use two-thirds of a cup of dates for one cup of regular sugar called for. This method works especially well in brownie batter!

Honey: Use 3/4 cup of honey for every one cup of sugar called for in the recipe for some added Potassium, Vitamin C and B Vitamins. Decrease the other liquids in the recipe by 1/5, and similar to using agave nectar, lower the baking temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning and sticking to the pan. I've used this in winter when the roads were too slick to venture to the grocery store for sugar, and it worked well for muffins, so I've since tried it in cakes, pies, and cookies with success!

Maple Syrup: use 3/4 cup of syrup for every one cup of sugar called for in the recipe for some added calcium, iron, and zinc (Use the real thing, not imitation maple syrup!). Reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 3 tbsp for every cup of syrup used. Similar to Honey and Agave Nectar, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning and sticking to the pan. (Disclaimer, depending on the darkness of the maple syrup you are using, the item you are baking may appear darker than it would if you were using sugar anyways!)

Raisins: Finely chopped in food processor, raisins can be used as a higher fiber alternative to sugar by using 25 percent more raisins than the recipe called for sugar. The same can be done with dried cranberries, however doing so may change the color of the dish as well as add a more noticeable fruity flavor.

Applesauce: You can use unsweetened applesauce instead of sugar in baking recipes, using the same amount of applesauce as sugar called for in a recipe, and reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe by about 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup (might take some trial and error, I have found no exact ratio to be correct in all circumstances, it just depends on the recipe). Luckily, I’ve found that if there is no added liquid, there is no need to adjust anything else in the recipe; the consistency stays just fine!

Orange Juice: Use ¾ cup of juice per cup of sugar called for, and reduce the other liquids in the recipe by 3 tbsp. You could also use white grape juice or apple juice if you prefer. I’ve found this method to work best with bread recipes, with orange juice as the least noticeable in the finished product. You could also use ¾ cup of (thawed) frozen juice concentrate, and not reduce the other liquids in the recipe. This worked well for me when making pound cake using orange juice concentrate, but I have not tried it yet with other juices/recipes.

Barley Malt Syrup: Use ½ cup of barley malt syrup per cup of sugar called for, and decrease other liquids in the recipe by 3 tbsp. Because of it’s stronger flavor, I’ve found this method to work best in recipes like pumpkin/sweet potato pie, or pumpkin muffins.

Pureed Banana: I add an extra pureed (overripe) banana when making banana bread, instead of adding any sugar to the recipe. The bread is moist, and still sweet. I have not yet tried this with other recipes with concerns of there being a noticeable taste change, but look forward to trying it soon with a batch of apple muffins.

Brown Rice Syrup: For a higher fiber sweetener, use 1¼ cup of brown rice syrup for one cup sugar called for in a recipe, using ¼ cup less of another liquid in the recipe also to prevent changes to the texture of the finished product. I’ve found this method to work well with breads, oatmeal cookies, and granola bars. Cookies made using this substitute were more crisp than when using granulated sugar, so be aware of this if baking cookies you prefer to be of a more soft / cake-like consistency, such as sugar cookies.

Blackstrap Molasses: You can use 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses for every 1/2 cup sugar called for in a recipe. Keep in mind, similar to the syrups above, molasses is a more concentrated sugar product so you are not saving much in actual sugar consumption, even though you are using a smaller volume of product. This is however a delicious substitution for baking items you desire to have a stronger flavor, such as rum-raisin cookies, apple spice muffins, or gingerbread loaf.

Grapes: When making apple pie, you can simmer 1/2 cup of peeled diced apples, with one cup of green grapes until softened. Puree the apple/grape mixture in the food processor until smooth, and toss with the amount of sliced apples and cinnamon your recipe calls for, and bake as directed. The grapes will add a sweet touch, and the natural pectin in apples will help thicken the pie, without adding any actual sugar. "But there is natural sugar in grapes!" you might be thinking. True. However there are only about 15 grams of sugar per cup of grapes, versus the 200 grams per cup of crystallized cane sugar. A similar method of boiling raisins has appeared in recipes dating from the Civil War, WWI, and Great Depression, being used as an alternative to sugar in baking, historically in times of economic depression and war-time rationing of ingredients such as sugar. I haven't yet had the opportunity to make a boiled raisin concoction yet, but will be sure to update with the outcome once I have!

Sugar Substitutions Quick Reference

Substitute
Ratio
Notes
Agave Nectar
1 cup sugar: 2/3 cup agave nectar
Lower baking temperature by 25 degrees, and reduce other liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup.
Dates
1 cup sugar: 2/3 cup finely chopped dates
 
Honey
1 cup sugar: ¾ cup Honey
Decrease other liquids in recipe by 1/5, and decrease baking temperature by 25 degrees.
Maple Syrup
1 cup sugar: ¾ cup Maple Syrup
Decrease other liquids in recipe by 1/5, and decrease baking temperature by 25 degrees.
Raisins
1 cup sugar: 1 ¼ cup finely chopped raisins
 
Orange Juice
1 cup sugar: ¾ cup orange juice
Reduce other liquids in the recipe by 3 tbsp.
Barley Malt Syrup
1 cup sugar: ½ cup barley malt syrup
Reduce other liquids in the recipe by 3 tbsp.
Pureed Banana
1 cup sugar: 2 pureed bananas
Reduce other liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup.
Brown Rice Syrup
1 cup sugar: 1 ¼ cup brown rice syrup
Reduce other liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup.
Blackstrap Molasses
1 cup sugar: 4 tbsp blackstrap molasses
 
Green Grapes
1 cup sugar: 1 cup green grapes
Simmer in place of sugar in fruit pies

Your Experience

If substituting for sugar in a recipe, what is your reason?

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Sugar Subtitutes

Which substitutes have you used for sugar in baking with success? Let us know in the comments below!
Which substitutes have you used for sugar in baking with success? Let us know in the comments below!

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Swati Bhardwaj 

        5 months ago

        Thank you very much for sharing such great ideas. My father is suffering from lung cancer 4th stage we have totally changed his diet and I'm desperately searching different recipes for him so that he can feel good with this dietary change. God bless you. I'm gonna try so many things in my cooking. Love from India.

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