Sugar substitutes are a good alternative for those who do not want the empty calories or adverse health effects of white or brown sugars. Natural sugar substitutes — though calorically similar to sugar — are not processed nearly as much, and can have other nutritional benefits not found in sugar itself. But what are the best sugar substitutes for baking? This article will explore baking substitutes for sugar as well as their baking compatibility and nutritional benefits.
Different fruits such as bananas, dates, and figs can be used to replace sugar in baking. Bananas are high in potassium, vitamin C, and fiber, while figs are high in calcium, iron, and magnesium. Dates are high in magnesium, manganese, and vitamin B6 — excellent reasons to use these fruits over sugar.
1 cup of mashed bananas (mixed with a bit of water) is equal to 1 cup of sugar in baking. 1 cup of pitted dates, when processed with roughly 3/4 cup of water in a food processor, is equal to 1 cup of sugar as well. Eight ounces of figs processed with a third of a cup of water equals one cup of sugar.
Applesauce, of course, is derived from apples, but it stands alone as an excellent baking sugar substitute. It contains relatively high amounts of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6. Make sure you use applesauce in higher-density baked goods like cakes, muffins, and brownies (not cookies).
Applesauce generally has a one-to-one ratio to sugar in baking. That said, you may want to add slightly smaller amounts of “wet” ingredients (milk, eggs, oil, water, etc.) to your baked goods to compensate for the high water content of applesauce.
Stevia is a processed sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Stevia products have been known to lower insulin and glucose levels in diabetics. In baking, it is recommended to use stevia relatively sparingly.
Use 1 packet of stevia for two teaspoons of sugar, or 1/3 cup and one-and-a-half tablespoons of stevia per 1 cup of sugar. Use stevia in crisp cookies (shortbreads) and replace half of the sugar for yeast rises with stevia (the other half with baking powder or baking soda).
Honey consumption has been linked to increased blood antioxidants, wound healing, and better heart health. Honey, like sugar, is calorically dense, so it is best eaten in moderation.
To use honey in baking, 3/4ths of a cup of honey is equal to a cup of sugar. For recipes with more than one cup of sugar, reduce your liquid ingredients (by 1/4 of a cup for each cup of honey used).
Maple syrup is a viscous alternative to sugar that contains decent amounts of riboflavin, calcium, and zinc. It can be used as a great substitute for sugar in cakes, muffins, or cookies.
To use maple sugar in baking, use 3/4ths of a cup of maple syrup for every 1 cup of sugar. Remember to reduce other liquid ingredients by 3 tablespoons.