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Baking Without Sugar & Baking With Sugar Substitutes

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


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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Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I’m passionate about sharing my years of experience to show you how to make game-changing baking recipes with over-the-top results! Join more than 1 Million other Bold Bakers in the community for new video recipes every week!

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34 Comments

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  1. ChristyT on March 5, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Is there a way to make royal icing & frostings with a sugar substitute?

    • Gemma Stafford on March 7, 2019 at 2:34 am

      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 🙂

  2. Jass53 on March 2, 2019 at 7:01 am

    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

    • Gemma Stafford on March 4, 2019 at 2:17 am

      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 🙂

  3. Sally Randolph on February 28, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    Great post on alternative sugars. Wondering what your thought is on using Monk Fruit?

    • Gemma Stafford on March 1, 2019 at 1:31 pm

      Monkfruit by Lakanto is my favorite to use, i highly suggest you give it a try 😀

  4. Fransisca Effendi on February 26, 2019 at 4:26 am

    When I use less sugar in a recipe, do i have to lessen the dry ingridients too?

    • Gemma Stafford on February 26, 2019 at 10:19 am

      Hi, you dont need to change any of the other ratios, i would suggest subbing in Lakanto sugar or Swerve for the amount of sugar you remove.

  5. Donna on February 11, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    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

    • Gemma Stafford on February 12, 2019 at 10:06 am

      Hi, i would suggest trying to use the Lakanto sugar sub in your recipes. Enjoy!

  6. Cindy on February 11, 2019 at 1:58 am

    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. 🙂

    • Gemma Stafford on February 11, 2019 at 3:29 am

      Hi Cindy,
      Great! This type of new age sweetener is getting out there, delighted you can get this in South Africa.
      Thank you for telling us about it,
      Gemma 🙂

  7. Sandra on February 10, 2019 at 11:31 am

    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

    • Gemma Stafford on February 11, 2019 at 3:40 am

      Hi Sandra,
      Yes, we will be adding to this general information over the coming months. Thank you for being here with us. What a beautiful place to live!
      Gemma 😉

      • Sandra on February 11, 2019 at 6:37 am

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

        • Gemma Stafford on February 12, 2019 at 9:49 am

          It’s my pleasure!

  8. Lori on February 10, 2019 at 9:09 am

    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

    • Gemma Stafford on February 11, 2019 at 1:31 am

      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 😉

  9. Vatsal Narang on February 9, 2019 at 10:52 pm

    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😊

    • Gemma Stafford on February 10, 2019 at 3:02 am

      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 🙂

      • Vatsal Narang on February 10, 2019 at 8:15 am

        Thanks so much for your reply Gemma😊 And I’m eagerly waiting for the fat substitutes and flour substitutes post😀😀

        • Gemma Stafford on February 11, 2019 at 1:23 am

          Hi Vatsal,
          Do also check out Olivia’s recipes. These already use subs for various ingredients.
          Applesauce is a great thing to have in the fridge too as it is used in place of oil, and to sweeten too, check out the applesauce recipe too. (https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/category/recipes/dietary-preferences/).
          Gemma 🙂

          • Vatsal Narang on February 11, 2019 at 8:56 am

            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!😊😊

            • Gemma Stafford on February 12, 2019 at 9:52 am

              It’s my pleasure!



  10. BLee on February 9, 2019 at 1:24 am

    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.

    • Gemma Stafford on February 9, 2019 at 4:13 am

      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 🙂

      • BLee on February 9, 2019 at 12:23 pm

        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.

        • Gemma Stafford on February 10, 2019 at 2:05 am

          It is kind of you to want to look after your friend, thank you for being here with us,
          Gemma 🙂

  11. Shweta on February 8, 2019 at 11:05 pm

    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..

    • Gemma Stafford on February 9, 2019 at 4:01 am

      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 🙂

  12. Vivian Corey on February 7, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    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.

    • Gemma Stafford on February 7, 2019 at 9:35 pm

      Yes that can be used too, but the weight conversion is different than dry sugar.

      • Deborah on February 17, 2019 at 10:10 am

        I think if you use a liquid sweetener, you’d cut down on other liquids. Just my opinion.

        • Gemma Stafford on February 18, 2019 at 1:38 am

          Hi Deborah,
          You are not wrong, but it depends on the other ingredients, and how much liquid sugar you are using. Your eye will tell you a lot.
          Gemma 🙂

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