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Sugar alternative for Baking?

Instead of using the ultra-processed white cane sugar (such as that from C&H) I'd like to use something in my baking that is a little better for you. What do you recommend for replacing the white cane sugar in recipes (cookies, quick breads, etc)? I've heard a little about turbinando and stevia but I haven't used it yet. Will it change the texutre of my baked goods? And, no, I am not interested in fake sugars like Splenda.

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  1. You could try palm sugar or jaggery/gur. Depending on where you are you will be able to find palm sugar in asian grocery stores in two basic varieties. One is blond or honey colored and hard, the other is dark brown with a winey fragrance and is softer. These are basically minimally refined sugars that have more vitamins & minerals (but not by much, I would imagine) and many more flavor notes because more of the plant is present. Jaggery is the Indian version of this. I don't know how you would adjust recipes, nor how these sugars would change the outcome. I've used them in sauces and drinks, but not in baking.

    Then, there's always molasses.

    1. You are going to have to be prepared to play with some recipes because the texture is going to change alot depending on what you decide to substiture. Baking is formulaic, not a recipe. If you start changing things you are going to have to be prepared for some flops.

      When everyone was hot for "raw sugar" a number of years ago, I believe it was Consumer Reports who took a good look at the stuff and found it was full of molds,yeasts, and insect bits and was pretty generally dirty. I just use 100% cane white sugar and brown and dark brown sugars. some recipes are written for a specific sugar and you might be better off looking for some cookbooks using alternative sweetning. I was taught many years ago in college that all sugar is sugar. The carbon liknages may differ slightly but it is all the same thing.

      Splenda is on my shelf and I do use it for somethings, it is real sugar not artifical. It has had one molecule removed and replaced with a chlorine molegule. I find it overly sweet. If you use aspartame which is an invert sugar it cannot be heated without losing its sweetness

      3 Replies
      1. re: Candy

        Ummmm... anytime you start replacing molecules with other compounds, you enter into the realm of artificial sweeteners. Technically, splenda can say it's 'made from sugar,' but this slogan is incredibly misleading because it leads people to believe that it's natural or that it actually resembles sugar. It isn't/it doesn't. Splenda is an artificial sweetener. It's produced in a laboratory, not extracted from a plant or a tree.

        1. re: scott123

          I'm never quite sure what to think about "natural" foods because after all, poison ivy is natural... This doesn't of course make "unnatural" foods any more appetizing. It just seems like being "natural" is not enough to necessarily recommend something. (That said, I find most artificial sweeteners so unpleasant tasting, I'd rather not have the sweetness if I have to have the chemical taste with it. Though I have occasionally used Splenda, and find it somewhat better than the others.)

          1. re: Anne H

            When I read "natural" in regards to food, I hope for unprocessed or minimally processed foods. I do the same for sugars, and I notice flavor differences. Other people have shared that it doesn't make any difference to them.

            There are all sorts of reasons for opting for unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Some of them have different health benefits, especially as a part of a balanced diet.

            However, "natural" on a food label these days is mostly marketing.

      2. Yes, with less refining you will have more "dirt."

        But, you can find extensive recipes using palm sugars or jaggery in the Southeast Asian or Indian sections of your local cookbook shelf. That will save you doing your own conversions.

        I personally enjoy the flavor of palm sugar. The molds, yeasts, and insect bits in it have never harmed me. But then my father told me years ago that I was living on borrowed time!

        1. Agave Nectar is a natural sweetener that has a low glycemic index and a lovely light flavor. It is slightly thinner than honey and possesses a similar color. It can be used in baking, but of course, your ratios will need to change. It is also sweeter than honey, so you need less.

          3 Replies
          1. re: chocolate chick

            Agave nectar is almost pure fructose. Fructose is definitely not a healthy alternative to sugar. It is low GI, but that's about the only thing good about it. Within recent years, it's been tied to health issues such as raised triglycerides and increased insulin resistence

            Here are a few studies that reveal the dangers of fructose:


            1. re: scott123

              Well, I clearly was not aware of that. Thank you for your indepth source of information.

              1. re: scott123

                Thanks, good to know. Some of my diabetic friends have been touting agave nectar as their free pass to all their old desserts... glad to know differently.

            2. Have you tried Brown Rice Malt or Barley Malt Syrup?

              I use this as it is low Glycemic index and way better for you!

              Also, if you are looking for a sweetener replacement altogether you should experiment with using mashed fruits. Bananas are great since they are very sweet but will obviously lend a distinct flavour.

              Alternatively, use macerated dried fruits such as apricots, apples, mangoes, pears, and prunes (dates are particularly high on the GI). Soak the dried fruits in apple juice, alcoholic or noalcohol cider, rum, tea, or any other liquid, puree and add as you would butter or margarine and reduce the sugar.

              The best way to start venturing into this is to learn what eachof the ingrediants does in the recipe so I would google this for more info but basicallly sugar lends sweetness as well as structure to the finished product.


              1. The idea that less refined sugar is any healthier than white sugar pretty much went out with the hoop skirt. Less refined sugars generally are almost pure sugar with a few trace minerals. Regardless of the quantities of minerals involved, the negative health impact from the sugar (empty calories/glycemic impact) far outweighs whatever positive benefits one might get from the minerals.

                Sugar is sugar. If you like the taste of natural sugar, by all means, go for it, but don't think for a second that your body somehow discerns between natural and processed sugars. Any one that tells you differently is lying to you.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: scott123

                    Sugar is not intrinsically unhealthy. It all depends on how much you consume. Yeah, they're "empty" calories, but since nutrients such as vitamins and minerals don't have any calories, sugar (in the form of carbohydrates) makes up the actual caloric content of a lot of foods that people consider "nutritious." And most people need more calories per day than contained in the amount of food that would provide all those healthy nutrients (well, most people don't eat foods that have any healthy nutrients at all, but that's a matter of choice, not quantity!).

                    Everything in moderation!

                    1. re: scott123

                      Yes, sugars are carbohydrates and gram for gram, not matter if is is bread, rice, barley, or agave, there is 4 calories per gram. While the metabolisation of sugar happens in the same place in the body (mouth then intestine) some do have a higher glycemic index and some are lower.

                      While the glycemic index is not as simplistic as that, generally there are differences in white refined sugar and other types of sweeteners like brown rice malt.


                    2. Don't let the marketing fool you-"raw" or "turbinado" sugar is almost as refined as white sugar. It just skips the very last part of the sugar refining process, and is no better for you than white sugar.
                      I use to bake for a natural foods cafe. We made baked goods out of brown rice syrup, fruit juice concentrate, and other alternative sweeteners (but not stevia-that never worked). There are loads of "healthy" cookbooks that have recipes. They can be very cloying and sickeningly sweet-people do get used to the way they taste, though, and if you avoid sugar for these products, you might come to like them. I even did for a short time (what can I say, I was young), until I fell off the bandwagon, had the real thing, and realized what I was missing. Now I just eat sugar in moderation. Warning-if you do start using other sweeteners and get used to the taste, don't use them on friends/co-workers that aren't used to them. They will taste the difference immediately and have trouble getting your cookies (or whatever) down.
                      There was an interesting article about the development of Splenda in a May issue of the New Yorker. It is FAR from a natural product.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: christy319

                        The only sugar that comes somewhat close to less refined is Rapadura. So called "raw" sugar is far from it. Plenty of old threads on this

                      2. Candy wrote that Consumer Rpt. did a piece on raw sugar, stating its flaws, etc. I have tried to find this on line without success (by searching CR's website). There are myriad articles on raw sugar but mostly in regard to soft drinks, nutrition, etc. Nothing much about insect wings, pesticides, etc.

                        1. Yes, I have used turbinado sugar in baking. I gave it a good whirl in the food processor till the texture became less coarse and used it as I would sugar. I usually cut back on sugar for most of my baking needs so I probably used about 1/8 -1/4 less than the recommended amount of sugar. I use turbinado sugar much like fleur de sel, I like to finish the tops of fruit crisps and cookies with it. It adds a nice crunchy sweetness. Overall, I think it is fine for baking recipes. Once you cream it together with eggs or butter and add it to a batter the texture breaks down. Also, the heat from baking will change the texture (where's Alton Brown when you need him?). Have you thought of using a combination of honey and sugar in a recipe? I have a lot of honey and have been doing this for awhile, most people can't tell there's honey my baked goods. Lastly, I have tried Whole Foods sugar made from cane juice, it worked really for baking and I subbed it one for one in several recipes.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                            Turbinado sugar and regular sugar are almost the same thing and create identical results in baked goods. Trust me, the trace minerals in turbinado won't have any textural impact.

                          2. As an alternative, that is not lower calorie, but at least has more merits, particularly if homemade, is fruit juice, fresh squeezed orange or unsweetened apple frozen concentrate both work...

                            1. Pls remember that turbinado IS cane sugar, it is simply a grade of refined sugar...turbinado, muscovado, demerara, and other terms refer to the amount of molasses remaining in the crystalline sugar. I personally prefer cane sugar to beet sugar for taste reasons, but mostly because I can almost see sugarcane growing from my kitchen window, and my office is about two blocks from the very site where cane sugar was first granulated. So I don't really view it as an "evil industrial product" as some do...a bag of granulated Domino pure cane is almost local enough to be sold at my farmer's market! (Except that their raw materials are globally sourced and locally refined.)

                              1. I don't know if honey is any better for you than sugar, but I do recall seeing an episode on Alton Brown's Good Eats where discuss substituting honey for sugar for baking (and in general). This episode was probably a honey episode. I don't recall the particulars of the episode, so you may want to keep tabs on Good Eats to see if the honey episode comes up again.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: rcheng

                                  Honey has a lot more moisture than sugar, so you have to adjust the amount of liquid in your recipe. Depending on what kind of baked goods you're making, it may or may not work. For example, I think it would be very hard to use honey in a "short" pastry/cookie dough that didn't have much liquid to begin with.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Yup, that's what Alton said as well, so you have to adjust your measurements accordingly.

                                  2. re: rcheng

                                    I remember that episode.
                                    If I'm not mistaken, both honey and maple syrup can be replaced in a recipe 1 for 1 with sugar. Obviously you'd have to change the moisture level and it would create a bit different taste. That may not be a bad thing though.


                                  3. After all of this debate, I ended up going back to using normal, granulated sugar for my cookies. I figured that if everything is bad for you, a cookie or two wouldn't kill me and better to have it at least taste and look good. :)

                                    3 Replies
                                      1. re: peachblossom

                                        And American sugarcane farmers like my neighbors thank you for your choice! Only 16 calories a teaspoon, and clearly superior in taste.

                                        1. re: peachblossom

                                          Julia Child, who lived a long life, said she'd rather have the real thing once in a while as opposed to artificial foods/sweetners/etc. That went for butter substitutes, too. So a sugar, real sugar, cookie won't kill you or make you unhealthy. A lot of them will add unnecessary calories and may even make you fat; but one or two aren't bad and may satisfy that craving.

                                        2. How about evaporated cane juice? This seems as though it is truely less refined, yet comes from sugar cane. I am not sure why I lean toward the less refined alternative, but I am more comfortable feeding my family and myself foods which have gone through fewer processes, especially when they have a "laborabory" sound to them.

                                          1. I know some recipes you can subsitute applesauce. Also there is a natural sweetner called Stevia- but it is used sparingly and has a different taste than sugar- sort of like licorice- but it is natural. The FDA banned it as being sold as a sugar substitute(probably because of the food giants who produce sugar substitutes having clout in Congress) but it is sold as a nurtitive food additive (talk about semantics) It is sold in some groceries and in health food stores. You can also grow the plant legally in your own backyard. Several year ago it was even illegal to grow this- (you cannot get high from it)

                                            1. Sugar is sugar is sugar.

                                              The so called "natural sugars" have the same amount of calories, lack of nutrients, and pure carbohydrate as granulated sugar. The only thing they will do is alter the taste, texture and quality of your baked goods.

                                              BTW Stevia has a weird offtaste. Like licorice.

                                              Substituting part of the cane sugar with Sucralose is an effective way to lower the actual sugar content without changing the taste or texture.

                                              1. Xylitol is a true alternative. It is a birch sugar,anti-cavity and low glycemic. Children and the sensitive might have diarrhea from an excess amount. The gum is issued after snack and lunch in Finland,and 90% of Finnish children are cavity free at 18.

                                                1. Oops, just posted another thread altogether about alternatives. Someone mentioned vegetable glycerin as an option. I haven't tried it, but it's supposed to be a pretty good substitute.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. I have read many of the posting and found them to be interesting. :-) There are things to remember when changing from sugar to some other type of sweentener. One of sugars jobs is not only sweeting,also to keep baked good moist,fresh and gives structure. I kinda go by this idea 'everything in moderation.' Just a thought...