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How can I naturally substitute sugar when baking?


A lot of baking recipes require sugar in order for the baked goods to taste sweet. For my own part, I would like to avoid consuming too much sugar as it's detrimental for your health. I've heard that frozen bananas could be an alternative but am not sure if...

  • ... it's true?
  • ... you consume less sugar in the end?

How can I substitute sugar in baking recipes without loosing a sweet taste? I specifically look for natural substitutes and ones that can be used in high heat settings (ovens).

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1 comment

There is a lot of chemistry going on in baking. The sugar is not there simply to make things taste sweet, unless it is a topping (icing or powdered sugar, etc.). Substitution gets more complicated than you might think. manassehkatz 27 days ago

3 answers


It is often possible to add another sweetener as a replacement for sugar. In most cases, however, the substitution will not be as sweet as pure cane sugar, and will often pick up the flavor of the substitution. In some cases this is okay, but in others will be undesirable (e.g. a sweet bread that has some banana flavor may be more acceptable than a chocolate cake with a banana aftertaste).

Personally, I've had more success with making my baked goods taste good with spices and other savory flavors than I ever have with sweet substitutions. Nonetheless, here are some things I've used and my results (note that some of these are substitutions for pure cane sugar but contain plenty of sugar themselves).

Stevia is a zero-calorie plant-based sweetener that comes either granulated or as a syrup. I was never particularly successful with the granulated form but have had decent results with the syrup, though it does not caramelize. The sweetness relative to sugar varies based on the brand you buy but usually is sweeter - sometimes there is a slight aftertaste as well if you use too much. You will need to decrease other wet ingredients to compensate.

Applesauce / mashed bananas / other fruit purees are very good in breads, muffins or pancakes (add nuts and cinnamon or other spices to bring out the flavor). Note that these all get their sweetness from fruit sugars, and because of all the other things like fiber that come along with them will likely be less sweet overall than if you added sugar (adding too much makes your creations fall apart). When making this substitution I often add extra egg because otherwise the fruit purees make things very dense.

Fruit juice concentrate is better for pastries, cakes, and lighter baking than fruit puree. It still gives a fruity flavor, of course, and contains fruit sugar without the added benefits of any fiber and nutrients you get in a puree.

Honey of course is pretty much just sugar, but is sweeter than regular sugar so you can use less. In particular, it caramelizes nicely (but burns easily when baking at high heat, so be careful).

I've been cooking with low sugar and sugar replacements for years, and have found that in most cases I still end up using some sugar to truly match the the taste I'm trying to get. Like klutt, I recommend retraining your tastes to not require so much sugar - replacing sweet recipes with savory ones and pastries with fruit has been most successful for me. If I don't regularly eat sweets, I don't feel so bad occasionally indulging at a party or something.



Probably not the answer you're looking for, but just to offer an aspect on it.

Solution: Don't. Instead, get used to the taste of less sweetness.

I remember a couple of years ago. I had basically not eaten candy or drank any soda for a year or two. Not by choice or so. For some reason I just did not buy it for a long time. Barely ate any sugar at all.

When I tasted the first soda after that, I got a chock. It was so extremely sweet. Could barely drink it. Imagine syrup with the viscosity of water.



It depends a lot on what rôles the sugar serves other than sweetening.

In cake recipes which "cream" sugar and butter, the sugar has a mechanical rôle. The sharp edges of the crystals cut holes in the butter, softening it. If your frozen banana is frozen enough to have small ice crystals you might be able to reproduce the effect, but it's not easy.

In other recipes the sugar is structural. E.g. in flapjacks, the sugar binds the oats together. I actually use a flapjack recipe without the sugar to make roasted oats for my breakfast, but in that context I don't care that it falls apart. Using banana or stewed apple probably wouldn't work because there's no water in the recipe; at the very least it would be necessary to add some flour or cornflour to compensate for the extra water.

TL;DR: there's no "one size fits all" substitute for sugar.