Sugar is one of those ingredients in cooking that virtually every recipe seems to ask for.
If it needs to be sweet or is going in the oven to bake, you’re probably going to find yourself using at least a little sugar during the preparation and cooking process.
However, when it comes to modern diets, it is widely accepted that many of us often eat too much sugar.
So, while it is a delicious treat that is perfectly fine to use in food in small quantities if you find that you are using a lot of sugar in your baking, you should probably start looking for alternatives for your cooking.
Alternatively, you may have realized that you’re low on sugar for your recipe, and are going to have to find your sweetener ingredient elsewhere!
There are plenty of reasons that you may need to use something other than this classic crystalline ingredient. And, without knowing where to look, it can be very difficult to find a substitute that works for you.
Fortunately, we are here to help deal with this little culinary problem!
In this guide, we have included 10 substitutes for sugar that you can use instead of sugar for your recipes.
Starting off our recipe with an old classic, we have a substitute that is just as old, if not older, than sugar itself!
Honey has been used for thousands of years as a food and energy source for humans, since at least 6,000 B., although it is likely that we have been eating it for longer!
It’s not hard to see why. Even wild honey is an incredibly sweet food and even has some anti-inflammatory effects.
In terms of cooking and baking, honey is a very simple replacement, and won’t change the texture or taste of your food when used instead.
It is also an ingredient that most people will already have, or be relatively easy to source at least, making it a very popular alternative.
The only thing you should keep in mind is that it generally has a high amount of calories in it, so you should only use ¾ of a cup in place of a cup of sugar.
However, honey is not the only sugar replacement that the natural world provides. There are others too, including stevia, a sweetener derived from the stevia shrub in South America.
Stevia is generally considered a much sweeter substance than sugar and doesn’t contain nearly as many calories as refined sugars do.
Not only that, but research has also suggested that it could help stop weight gain, as well as reduce blood sugar levels (perhaps unsurprisingly).
However, it may have an effect on the flavor of your food, and may not be great at promoting good gut health, so keep this in mind.
Erythritol is the first type of sugar alcohol that we will discuss in this guide and is a substance normally found in fruits.
However, it is possible to find powdered versions of this sweetener to buy and tastes very similar to sugar.
Erythritol won’t spike your sugar levels once you’ve consumed it, making it great for people with diabetes to use.
However, it should be noted that whilst it won’t affect your cholesterol and blood fats negatively, it can cause changes to your gut health, such as causing gas or diarrhea, as well as having a distinct aftertaste.
4. Cane Sugar
Okay, this may sound a little strange. Replacing sugar with… sugar?
However, cane sugar is a pretty different ingredient to the refined granulated sugar that we are used to, coming solely from sugar cane, as opposed to the sugar beets that normal sugar comes from.
Whilst they are pretty similar in terms of structure, cane sugars, such as brown sugars, will generally have slightly more minerals and nutrients than standard sugar.
Plus, there is no difference in ratios needed!
These may be a little harder to source, however, so keep this in mind.
Another sugar alcohol, Xylitol is also sourced from many fruits, and can also be turned into a powdered form.
Interestingly, Xylitol can help present cavities and some types of dental decay, and help improve bone density (at least in animals).
However, it can still cause gut issues in large quantities and is highly toxic to dogs when consumed, so be careful when owning this.
6. Yacon Syrup
Harvested from the Yacon plant in South America, this sweetener, as the name suggests, comes in a syrup form.
Unlike many other substitutes, Yacon syrup contains fibers in them, making them great for gut health, as well as treating constipation in some people,
Overall, despite some digestive issues when consumed in excess, this is a very good alternative.
7. Agave Nectar
A sugar substitute that has become increasingly popular over the last few years, agave nectar is a sugar substitute that usually contains noticeably less glucose than its refined sugar counterparts, making it a very popular option for people who are a little more health-conscious.
However, it should be noted that when it comes to fructose, agave nectar tends to be higher than sugar, meaning that it can have some negative health effects when consumed in excess, such as obesity.
You should only be using about ⅔ of a cup for every cup of sugar you would use (as well as slightly less liquid in general).
We’ve mentioned a few examples of sugar alcohols that come from fruits.
So, if fruits are full of these individual sugars, why not simply go for the fruits instead?
Many people are often surprised when you suggest to them that they can replace their sugar with fruits instead.
However, given that fruits tend to have large amounts of sugar in them, as well as plenty of antioxidants, they are a great substitute for sugar in a recipe.
They can change the flavor of the food you are cooking, however, so keep that in mind.
Molasses might not be the first thought when it comes to sugar substitutes, but it shouldn’t be!
You will usually get a much richer flavor when using molasses, as well as having a darker color to it.
However, it is worth noting that molasses is generally a runnier ingredient, as well as being less sweet overall.
You’ll have to use more of this ingredient, as well as cut back on other liquids in your recipe.
10. Applesauce (Or Other Purées)
Like using fruit instead of sugar, using fruit purées such as applesauce is a great way to add sweetness without using sugar, with all their prose too.
Just make sure to buy the unsweetened version.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Health Effects Of Eating Sugar?
So, as we mentioned briefly in the introduction, one of the reasons that many people will often turn to sugar alternatives is because of the negative health benefits that it can have on your body.
So, what exactly are those effects that it can have?
Well, one of the most obvious ways that many health professionals point to is that consuming too much sugar in your diet leads to weight gain.
Most refined sugars are a type of carbohydrate that is high in calories, but low in actual nutrition that your body needs, a fact that has led some people and health professionals to describe sugar as having ‘empty calories.
This means that when eating too much sugar, not only is your body not receiving enough nutrients to function at its best, but you will often find yourself eating more sugar, as a result, to try and counteract that lack of nutrients.
This can lead to weight gain, fatty liver disease, and even diabetes if a person’s diet does not change.
Are All Sugar Substitutes Healthier?
So, with those health scares that sugar is known for covering, many people will often turn to other alternatives to get their sweet flavors.
However, although there are many great substitutes that you can use instead of sugar for your cooking, not all sugar replacements are created equal. Some can also have detrimental side effects on a person’s health.
Generally speaking, the worst sugar substitutes to use instead of sugar are sweetening agents such as aspartame, which is used in sweetener brands such as NutraSweet and Equal.
Sucralose, a very popular sugar substitute, is also considered quite an unhealthy substitute and is found in many brands of sweeteners, such as Splenda.
Sweeteners such as these can be quite addictive, which can lead to consuming more than their recommended amount, which can lead to the same health effects as sugar, such as weight gain, as well as other symptoms, such as depression, headaches, and migraines, and even IBS!
This is why we have not included any of these substitutes in this list.
As you can see, there are plenty of options for you to try out for your recipe instead of refined sugar.
Simply pick one, and try it out for yourself!