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How Do I Choose the Best Substitute for White Sugar?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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The best substitute for white sugar depends on the dish you are making. You can substitute brown sugar for white sugar in cookies or cakes, but can expect a different texture to the finished baked good. Another option is to use a liquid sweetener, such as maple syrup or agave nectar, as a substitute for white sugar in baking or as a sweetener in beverages. Liquid sweeteners will alter the composition of baked goods and may work best when added to beverages. To reduce calories, use an artificial sweetener as a substitute for white sugar.

Some liquid sweeteners, such as honey or maple syrup, may add small amounts of nutrients to a baked good recipe, because the sweeteners are not refined as much as white sugar. Using a liquid sweetener as a replacement for white sugar may be your best option if you want to add a hint of flavor to a baked good too, as the flavor of the maple syrup or honey will be noticeable in the dish.

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If you do decide to use a liquid sweetener, you'll need to make adjustments to the rest of the recipe, which can be difficult. As you're replacing a dry ingredient with a liquid, you'll need to reduce the amount of liquid in the rest of the recipe by 3 tablespoons (45 ml). Honey and maple syrup are also much sweeter than white sugar, so you will want to use less of each. Reduce the amount of honey you use by 1/8 (0.125) or the amount of maple syrup you use by 1/4 (0.25).

Another substitute for white sugar is dark or light brown sugar. This substitution may be the easiest, because you can use an equal amount of brown sugar as you would white sugar. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup (225 ml) of white sugar, use 1 cup (225 ml) of brown sugar instead. Brown sugar has molasses added to it, so it will alter the taste of the recipe. The finished product may also be softer, darker in color, and have a moister crumb.

If your goal is to reduce the amount of calories in a baked good or beverage, you can use a no-calorie sweetener as a substitute for white sugar. In a beverage such as coffee, add the artificial sweetener to taste. You may find that you need much less of it to get the beverage as sweet as you want. Some no-calorie sweeteners, such as sucralose, are designed for baking and should be used as directed on the package. Other no-calories sweeteners, such as aspartame, may not work well in baked goods and shouldn't be used.

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browncoat
Post 3

@umbra21 - The fact that it's so difficult to avoid in processed foods is why I try not to ever add it to anything in my own cooking. It just seems to be so bad for you and I want to eat as little of it as possible.

The problem is that most of the substitutes aren't much better. The only one that really seems to be genuinely good for you is raw honey and I'm sure that even that isn't great in huge quantities.

I guess the real trick is to try and get to the point where you aren't wanting to eat all that many sweet things, but I just love candy so much I can't imagine being at a point where I wouldn't want to have some at some point during the day.

umbra21
Post 2

@clintflint - Depending on what we're talking about I find that fruit is often enough to substitute for sugar. I used to put brown sugar in my porridge, for example, but I either use raisins or dates now. I try to use bananas and dates in my baking and reduce the amount of sugar (although you have to be careful about this, because bananas are not an exact substitute since they are wet and can change the consistency of the dough) and so forth.

But I will just use a bit of sugar when necessary. It's almost impossible to avoid in processed foods anyway.

clintflint
Post 1

I like to substitute cane sugar or other kinds of natural sugar, just because I think it's healthier and has a better taste. I'm not under any illusions that it's very much healthier than white sugar, but it should be a little bit more nutritious.

I also try to use maple syrup when I can afford it, but genuine maple syrup is fairly expensive and it also gives a very distinctive flavor that isn't always what I'm going for in baking.

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