Healthy Baking, Informational Articles

Baking Without Sugar & Baking With Sugar Substitutes

Use my guide to Sugar Substitutes and Baking Without Sugar to help you on your alternative baking journey!
Baking With Sugar Substitutes

Hi Bold Bakers!

As Bigger Bolder Baking‘s resident alternative baker, I love creating recipes that challenge the traditional ways of baking. From experimenting with wheat-free flours to baking and cooking with non-dairy milks, there are tons of ways to update your favorite sweet treats and improve the value of their overall nutrition without losing out on any of the flavors.

One of the most common questions we’re asked here at Bigger Bolder Baking is how to cut down on the sugar, and which sugar substitutes to use. Well, baking without sugar is my specialty, and I would say it’s a great place to start when adjusting your style of cooking and baking. That’s right, I suggest cutting the sugar first, over going gluten-free or even skipping dairy (unless you have allergies and medical sensitivities).

Why? Because the sugar substitutes I have come to love to work with can be swapped 1:1 for sugar. That means with no adjustment to all of your favorite recipes, you can be baking sugar-free! Below are my list of alternative sweeteners and a bit about them, and I highly encourage you all to give them a go next time you decide to whip up something sweet!

How To Bake With Lakanto Sugar Substitutes

Lakanto Sugar/Sweetener is derived from monkfruit, which looks like a small green gourd. The monkfruit is picked and dried, then the sweetness is extracted from the dried fruit. This means Lakanto is 100% naturally derived, vegan, and no-GMO.

While Lakanto brand monkfruit sweeter provides a lovely sweetness, it’s zero glycemic — in other words, it’s a zero calorie alternative sugar making it great to use if you are diabetic. Lakanto makes a brown sugar, a white sugar, and even a powdered sugar that can be used 1:1 for sugar. I love the ease of baking and cooking with this as it works like a charm and has no bitter aftertaste like Stevia.

[ Here’s an easy chart with other common Sugar Substitute ideas, like Honey, Agave, and More ]

In addition to 3 different kinds of powder sweetener, Lakanto also makes a Maple Syrup alternative that I also love to cook with, bake with, and add to raw desserts. The only downfall of this sugar replacement is that after being heated, then cooled, the sugar can crystallize and have a slightly gritty texture. To avoid this, I suggest desserts that are baked with Lakanto that are then cooled should be reheated before enjoying to ensure they have the correct texture!

How To Bake With Swerve

Swerve is a somewhat natural sweetener that measures cup-for-cup just like sugar. Swerve, similar to Lakanto, is made from ingredients found in select fruits and starchy root vegetables, and it contains no preservatives or flavors and is also a zero-calorie option — so this is also great for those who are medically avoiding sugar.

That said, Swerve is made of a combination of erythritol, oligosaccharides, and natural flavors. While this bakes very similarly to sugar, it CAN have an aftertaste to some people because of the erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol. That’s why it’s my second favorite sugar substitute. You will see that I do use this, but not quite as often as monkfruit-based sweeteners.

How To Bake With Stevia

If used in the right recipe, liquid Stevia can be the best substitute for the job — the trick is to know what kinds of recipes.

The Stevia plant is part of the Asteraceae family, related to the daisy and ragweed. Stevia has no calories and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. In other words, Stevia really should be used sparingly. In my early days of alternative baking, I would bake an entire pan of brownies with just 5 drops of Stevia!

While this did add sweetness, I could always tell the recipe was missing the “oomph” it had when baked with sugar, though. I really do like to use liquid Stevia when making raw or liquid desserts. This is great for sweetening up drinks, smoothies, puddings, mousse, raw food, nut butter… The list goes on, but what all these things have in common is that they are all cold — not baked — desserts.

Baking With Coconut Sugar (My Favorite Naturally Occurring Sugar)

Coconut sugar, also called coconut palm sugar, is a natural sugar made from coconut palm sap, which is the sugary fluid of the coconut plant. Think of it as the maple syrup of the coconut palm.

Regular table sugar, and other processed sugars like high fructose corn syrup, don’t contain any vital nutrients and therefore supply “empty” calories. The reason I like to bake with coconut sugar is it is lower glycemic and does retain quite a bit of the nutrient found in the coconut palm. If I do not want to use a sugar substitute, I always reach for this before regular processed sugar.

Coconut sugar has a malty brown sugar-like flavor naturally and can be used in place for sugar 1:1 like the other substitutes.

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Baking with Date Sugar and Dates

Dates are one of my most favorite dried fruits. For those who don’t know, dates are the dried fruits that hang off of the date palm trees. Whole dates have become a very popular way to sweeten both raw and baked desserts because they’re a naturally sticky, moist, full of fiber, and most importantly, they are a “whole food” — in other words, they have undergone no manipulation or processing.

Dates and date sugar are versatile and easy to use, as they’re often used in placed of coconut sugar or used in their whole dried form.

Baking with Barley and Rice Malt Syrup

Barley malt and rice syrup are great to use in place of liquid sweeteners like maple syrup, honey or Lakanto maple syrup.  Both are completely unrefined liquid sweeteners made from soaked, sprouted barley and rice. They differ slightly in flavor but both have a consistency that is similar to molasses and golden syrup.

These can be used 1:1 for other liquid sweeteners.

Baking With Xylitol or Erythritol

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol used as a low-calorie sweetener. Erythritol belongs to a class of compounds called sugar alcohols including xylitol, sorbitol, and maltitol. Most of them function as low-calorie sweeteners in sugar-free or low-sugar products.

Most sugar alcohols are found in small amounts in nature, especially in fruits and vegetables. The way these molecules are structured gives them the ability to stimulate the sweet taste receptors on your tongue without actually containing any refined sugar. Erythritol is the most natural of all the other sugar alcohols, and in small amounts, I do like to use this with things that are not going to be baked, such as no-bake or “raw” desserts. When baked, I find this has a bit of an aftertaste and unusual feel in your mouth, which is why I prefer to use one of the above sweeteners when baking.

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Does Humidity Affect Sugar Substitutes in the Same Way? Altitude?

Seeing as the constitution of these sugar substitutes is very different than refined white or brown sugar, they can become drier and harder over time. I suggest storing all powder sugar substitutes in an extra airtight container at room temperature in a cool, dry place.

If not used within around 6 months, these sugar can age and harden or become stale in texture. If this happens, they can be broken up and used as normal in your recipe. In other words, don’t be alarmed if you see any lumps in your sugar subs.

Try Some Of These Out In Some Recipes!

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71 thoughts on “Baking Without Sugar & Baking With Sugar Substitutes

  1. I am looking everywhere for a sugar substitute that allows for the same textures only… no sweetener. Everything you suggest is still some form of SUGAR. Will clean coconut milk in a can or coconut creme do the same thing? My tolerance and sensitivities have me on a strict Paleo whole foods dietary lifestyle so something not berries over coconut creme for dessert or a piece of fruit, on occasion would be a decadent treat. THANK YOU for all you do to promote health.

  2. I recently made keto pumpkin bars with cream cheese icing. I used lakanto golden in the bars and swerve confectioners in the icing. Upon cooling, and even more so a day or two later, both parts had a gritty texture. Can you advise how to avoid this in the future?

    1. Hi Shana,
      These sugars are different than regular sugar in the way they behave in a bake – they do not caramelize – though at a high temperature they should melt/dissolve, particularly in the presence of wet ingredients. You may have found that it crystalized as the bake cooled, and this may be resolved by using powdered erythritol/swerve/Lakanto, etc. You can powder it yourself too if you have a way to grind it.
      I hope this is of help,
      Gemma 🙂

  3. Hi Gemma! What can we use in place of sugar in your chocolate oat cookies. I have stevia(powdered form), jaggery, honey and brown sugar. Please help!

  4. THANK YOU! I didn’t find this article when I was snooping around yesterday. So glad I did today. My husband is diabetic and I don’t want to make anything he can’t have too.

    When making cakes like sponge, pound or cheesecake, do you use different types of sugar substitute or does it matter? I have stevia in my kitchen but just read that’ll leave an aftertaste. 😝

    Can you tell I’m new at this? LOL

    1. Hi Christine, good question! Unfortunately, stevia does not work well in all recipes. Especially that it apparently does not caramelize. We’ve had best results with monk fruit sugar. Some Bold Bakers have said that erythritol worked well for them. Hope this answers your question and helps, Gemma

    2. my father is diabetic and we have found that the monk fruit with erythritol works great for flavor and has little effect on his blood sugar levels. unfortunately like others have said there,s no guarantee it is organic but then again the only items one can do that with are ones you grow yourself. before i started using monk fruit i used an equal mix of stevia in the raw and splenda.

    1. Hi Sofia,
      do you mean using honey in a specific recipe?
      honey is sugar, to a point. It is high in fructose, though it is lower on the glycemic index than sugar, it is still a natural sugar. Maple syrup too, high in fructose as is agave. Stevia is not so much a sugar and neither is monk fruit.
      The real issue is the recipe you wish to use these alternatives in. These alternative sugars have different applications in baking. The alcohol sugars and stevia and mink sugar will not caramelize, neither will Splenda. This matters a lot in baking.
      The high fructose alternatives will caramelize, so for things like cookies, browning a bake, and caramel these will be best. It is, as we say in Ireland, horses for courses!
      Gemma 🙂

  5. Hello, Thank you for your well written article. There is one problem though, I keep seeing everywhere and that’s about Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetner.

    If one reads the Ingredients panel on the package…you’ll see that it’s Erythiol with monkfruit FLAVORING! So LAKANTO is really telling a big lie and folks are buying it because they’re not taking the time to READ LABELS!

    So please urge your readers to pay attention to the labels. It’s all alternative facts now and the FDA now allows label GMO items Organic…if the item is grown in an organic manner…

    It’s a little sad that we have to be so vigilent.
    Thank you for your kind attention

    1. Yes you can substitute brown sugar with jaggery sugar 1:1. Let me know how it turns out. Thanks for being here. But it will not make the brownies sugar-free since it is often made with sugar cane. However, jaggery made from date palm is also common in several countries. Bottom Line: Jaggery is a type of unrefined sugar made from sugar cane or palm, just less sweet.

    2. I learned the hard way that jaggery is no better than sugar. A friend gave me the jaggery saying it is good for my sugar since it is not processed. My sugar did go up after I used it in my tea for a few months. My dr told me jaggery is nothing more than unprocessed sugar. So be careful when you use it. Hope this helps

    1. I will look into it to see if we can have one. Whole dates have become a very popular way to sweeten both raw and baked desserts because they’re a naturally sticky, moist, full of fiber, and most importantly, they are a “whole food” — in other words, they have undergone no manipulation or processing.
      Dates and date sugar are versatile and easy to use, as they’re often used in placed of coconut sugar or used in their whole dried form.

  6. Hi,
    I want to make the crazy cookie dough but replace the sugar with Honey. As this recipe has white sugar and brown sugar do I just replace the white sugar with honey or do I replace both sugars?
    Thankyou

    1. Hi Toni,
      good question and a bit of an experiment.
      Honey is a liquid ingredient, though it will behave like sugar in a recipe, I think you will use less honey than you will sugar.
      I think you can cut back both the brown and white and reduce the overall by about 30g/2ozs. This is to account for the liquid sugar, and also for the change in taste. This will be a bit of an experiment but it should work well for you. Do refrigerate it before baking to set it up.
      I hope this is of help to you,
      Gemma 🙂

  7. Hi Gemma,
    I want to bake sugar free bread loaf so if i want to use honey or jaggery as it is avaliable in India than how can i use it as bread needs yeast and can honey or jaggery works as activating agents for yeast… Please help me…

    1. Hi there,
      Jaggery is a lovely thing and you are lucky to have it. It is raw sugar which still contains the molasses, so it also has a little flavor. Break it down and dissolve it to use it to activate the yeast.
      Honey is also a natural sugar as it were, it is high in fructose, and so it behaves like cane/beet sugar in a recipe. You can use this too. This is less likely to add color or flavor to the bread.
      Happy baking, you have great ingredients,
      Gemma 🙂

  8. What do I use if I want to keep the chemical effects of sugar (moisture, binding with water & eggs, etc), without the sweet taste? Some kind of starch??

    1. Hi there,
      many ingredients are recipe specific, and this will be one of them.
      The new age sugar alternatives will do this for you. Erythritol/xylitol, for instance, are alcohol sugars, made from fruit and vegetable sources, and work really well in many recipes. They are not so sweet but they have th4 bulk of granulated sugar, unlike stevia for instance which is super sweet and needs to be combined with an alcohol sugar to get the bulk/weight of sugar in a recipe.
      Sugar has more than one purpose in a recipe. The caramelizing of the sugar makes for the flavor and the texture of many bakes. Think a crisp cookie, meringue too. This is the issue with alcohol sugars, they do not tend to caramelize in the same way, it is more complex than it sounds.
      We could write a thesis on this subject Sylphie!
      If you take a moment to research the alcohol sugars then that will be a good start for you. The products associated with these, with the added sweetness of either stevia or monk fruit, are Lakanto, Swerve, Truvia and some more, research these too, then you will be right up to speed.
      I hope this is of help,
      Gemma 🙂

  9. do you post alternative versions of your recipes for these sugar alternatives.

    I imagine different recipes do better with different sugar alternatives, and if you use a particular non-sugar, the other ingredients might be adjusted a bit to even things out, or bring out the strengths of the specific sugar.

    I’m just curious, because i didn’t see any menus in your blog that are focused on non-sugar recipes, and my whole purpose right now is finding those sorts of things. Which led me to this post (from google).

    1. Hi Brent,
      Liv is our alternative baker here. She focuses on low carb recipes, so she is using a mix of alcohol sugar, and monk sugar, or stevia in some of her recipes. Other than that you need to remember that brown sugar holds a level of molasses, depending on the one you use. Generally, these can be used 1:1 for regular sugars, provided you consider the moisture content, and that is recipe dependent.
      (https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/category/recipes/dietary-preferences/low-sugarlow-carbs/) take a look at these here. Do a little research too into alcohol sugars such as erythritol/maltitol/xylitol, and the sweeter herbal sugars like stevia, very useful in many recipes.
      I hope this is of help,
      Gemma 🙂

  10. love your recipies..
    do you know how to substitute liquid monkfruit sweetener for sugar? what the ratio would be etc

  11. Hi Gemma,
    I am a big big fan of your recepies. Tried birthday Vanilla cake which turned out awesome!!! I just want to know if there is any substitute for oil as flavourless oil is not always available. Can unsalted butter be used in that case? I want to make your best ever red velvet cake next, that is why the question.
    Love????

    1. Hi there,
      thank you for your kind words and review of the Vanilla Cake recipe.
      When you replace oil with butter you have to remember that oil is a liquid ingredient, and therefore the butter should be melted and cooled.
      Flavorless oil can be vegetable oil/flaxseed oil/sunflower seed oil etc. Usually when these are light in color they are also light in flavor.
      I hope this is of help,
      Gemma 🙂

  12. How does jaggery work as a sugar substitute? It’s very easily available in India as the raw sugar which is produced from sugar cane, it comes in solid form which can then be crumbled and powdered.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Jaggery is sugar and is as good as it gets! A real, generally natural sugar with a lot of the molasses remaining in it. This will be brilliant for cookies, for some cakes, really anywhere brown sugar is required. Where a recipe calls for molasses you often will have sufficient in the jaggery already too, so win-win.
      Try it in your recipes, grind it down for finer things, it will be moister than white granulated sugar so you need to take account of that too.
      I hope this is of help,
      Gemma 🙂

    1. Hi Christy,
      This is a question of choosing the right substitute. You can make Royal icing with erythritol for instance. This has the bulk of sugar, and it can be powdered too. This is not terribly sweet, a commercial one like Lakanto for instance will be sweetened further with monk fruit extract, other brands with stevia. If you cannot get it powdered then you can do it in your food processor. (https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/how-to-make-powdered-sugar/).
      I hope this is of help, do a little research around alcohol sugars, they will be your friend!
      Gemma 🙂

  13. Hi Gemma

    A friend that had a restaurant showed me many years ago how to make whipped cream using just eggs and sugar, but I never tried it & now I want to. I have dry Stevia, but I can’t even find what the ratio is using regular sugar to eggs, much less a sugar substitute. Any suggestions?
    Jass

    1. Hi there,
      I have no idea what this is!
      The cream which I use for most of my recipes is fresh dairy cream. This needs to be at least 35% fat content to whip well. This is from cows milk. It is a liquid product found in the chill cabinet in your store. It will spoil in a few days, even when refrigerated. It has no additives, it is just natural cream, skimmed from milk.
      In some places, where there is no dairy industry, there are manufactured products, usually made with milk powders and fats. These are good for some applications, but they are not fresh cream. I am sorry, it cannot be actually made!
      I have heard of ice cream being made from this type of thing, but it is raw egg, and really not always safe in every place.
      A foam, using eggs and sugar, relies on the sugar too, stevia on its own will not do it for you.You would need to use an alcohol sugar, such as erythritol, to give you the volume.
      I hope this will help,
      Gemma 🙂

  14. Hi Gemma I love to bake cakes and biscuits for my 5 boys although there all grown up now my youngest is 23this year and the oldest is 33 but still love me to makes cakes and biscuits and I love doing it it’s just that I ve been told I’m dieabtic so sugar is a no no how can I still bake but with out sugar please help thanks Donna x

  15. Hi Gemma,

    Thank you for the info. It’s appreciated. In South Africa, we have product called Simply Delish SuKi Sweetener. It’s fabulous, I love it to bits, it’s a mix of Stevia and Xylitol. We haven’t found it has an after taste at all. I must say I have been too scared to use in my baking though (just used it with cooking dinners, coffees and cereals) but I think after your above email I will give it a try. Thanks again. Oh, and I love your recipes. 🙂

  16. Hi Gemma,
    This post I really enjoyed reading it as it is very interesting. Can please do a similar post what can we use instead of butter and other fattenings?
    Thanks & kind regards
    Sandra Conti
    Malta

      1. Thanks you’re so sweet
        Thank you for teaching us. I always follow you I really enjoy seeing you cooking making our lives easier.

  17. Loved this, I never really looked at sugar Substitutes before but you have made this easy to convert. I avoid baking since it contains so much sugar, now I see I can have the best of both worlds. In moderation of course. Thanks again

    1. Hi Lori,
      Yes! moderation is the key, to almost everything in life! It is also difficult when we are sweet toothed!
      Thank you for your kind words and for being in touch,
      Gemma 😉

  18. Hi Olivia and Gemma,
    Thank you so so much for this post Olivia, I bake very often so I look for low calorie sugar substitutes,fat substitutes and flour substitutes to make healthy desserts..This post is so helpful for me..At first, I’d thought that it was such a long post(bcz I’m a lazy reader????), but then when I started reading it, I ended up reading it twice????????…I had a little doubt,can you throw some information on substituting with honey, as its always there in my house, and have previously used it to sweeten a chocolate cake..And also, please please do a similar post on fat substitutes and flour substitutes as well????

    1. Hi there,
      I will make sure Olivia sees this comment, thank you for your kind input.
      At any point in a recipe where any liquid sugar is called for, you can use honey. If your honey is solid, gently warm it to soften it. Remember it is liquid, so it may mean that you need to adjust the other liquid ingredients, but it depends on the recipe.
      It is good to have you with us. Olivia will be adding to the low sugar/low fat/alternative flours etc recipes over the coming months. Do check out her current recipes here (https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/category/recipes/dietary-preferences/).
      Thank you for being in touch,
      Gemma 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for your reply Gemma???? And I’m eagerly waiting for the fat substitutes and flour substitutes post????????

          1. Thanks !! Yes I have seen them and loved them and have planned to make them in the future.. and thanks for the applesauce tip! using it soon!????????

  19. Hi Gemma,

    Tks for such a informative post. Would like to clarify a few points for better understanding. Hope u can help me out here.
    1) From the post, it seems like only Lakanto, Swerve and Stevia are good for those suffering from diabetics?

    2) What abt coconut sugar and dates? Are they diabetic safe?

    3) The use of all the sugar named in my question 1 & 2 are 1:1?

    Thank u once again. Love from Singapore.

    1. Hi Blee,
      I suppose the best thing for people who suffer from diabetes, either type, is to understand their condition, and how various sugars spike their blood sugar. Sugars are ascribed a number on the glycemic index. The glycemic index for sweeteners is a function of three things:
      1. The amount of carbohydrate present.
      2. The type of carbohydrate present and additional ingredients.This is a big subject for me here and I hesitate to give advice on this really important health matter.
      However, having said that, if sucrose (white sugar) is 100 on the GI, then coconut sugar is 35, xylitol is 12 and erythritol is 1.
      I suggest if this is an issue for you and your health then you research it, it is an interesting subject. I would not be in a position to give advice on the safety of any sugar for anybody!
      I hope this is of help to you,
      Gemma 🙂

      1. Hi Gemma
        Thank u very much. The reason I’m asking is because I’ve got a friend who love sweets but is avoiding it now due to diabetics. Hence I’m trying to figure out what is a good alternative to sugar.

        I shall stick to lakanto, swerve or Stevia if I make her an occasional treat from ur yummy recipes.

        Thanks again.

  20. What about jaggery? Its the natural non refined form of cane sugar .. widely used in India.. i dont know much about calories it contains.. but they say it’s healthy..

    1. Hi Shweta,
      Jaggery, also known as Gur, is not widely available around the world, but it is a perfect sugar. It has all the bits, high in sucrose the molasses too. The calories will not be any different to any sugar, but it is more nutritious. A little goes a long way, but there are many health benefits ascribed to this, though you would need to research this!
      Gemma 🙂

  21. what about maple syrup and honey? I tried baking my brownies with maple syrup and its still challenging. It tastes amazing though its not firm enough.

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About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere! No matter your skills, I have you covered. Sign up for my FREE weekly emails and join millions of other Bold Bakers in the community for new recipes, baking techniques, and more every week!

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