When baking cookies, most people tend to reach for refined white sugar, but did you know there are tons of options that can be used alongside white sugar, or replace it all together? While white sugar tends to be more processed, other types lean in the opposite direction. And honestly, it’s nice to have options. So, because we’re always high on sugar (not really!), we’re introducing some alternative kinds, so you can decide for yourself what sweetener you want to use when the baking mood strikes.
Though its name suggests otherwise, coconut sugar doesn’t taste or smell like coconut. This sweetener uses the flowers of coconut palms instead of the fruit itself—the sap is removed from the buds, then boiled until the liquid evaporates. What remains: sweet brown crystals with a slight caramel flavor. It can be swapped out 1:1 with other sugars. Coconut sugar is typically used for baking, so give it a whirl with these almond butter cookies, instead of light brown sugar.
Stevia is a sweetener made from a plant’s leaves (specifically, stevia rebaudiana), which is grown in Central and South America. While historically used to sweeten bitter medicines and tea, it’s now a great alternative to refined white sugar for baking. While stevia is plant-based, it’s much sweeter than sugar, so keep that in mind when swapping. For every one cup of sugar, replace with either 1/3 to ½ teaspoon of undiluted stevia powder or one teaspoon of liquid stevia extract.
While honey is known to add sweetness to tea, it’s a must-try when baking. Honey bees extract flower nectar, pass it on amongst themselves, then store it in a honeycomb once the texture is just right. We love turning to honey instead of white sugar for cookies and breads, but you can’t do an even swap—it’s a liquid and tends to burn quickly. That said, we always follow these tips to make sure the ratio is right.
Our favorite pancake topper comes from the sap of… maple trees. More than for breakfast treats, this syrup be used in place of white or brown sugar for baking, too. It’ll give your cookies a slight maple flavor—you won’t be mad about it. Just keep in mind that it’s not an even 1:1 ratio—for every one cup of sugar, you’ll want to use ¾ cup maple syrup, and reduce other liquids in the recipe by 3 tablespoons.
This is the dark, syrupy goodness made from the juice of sugar cane that’s naturally occurring in most alternative sugars. Once the juice is initially extracted and boiled down, the sugars crystalize, and what’s left is molasses in its purest form. With each boil, there’s is a stronger molasses with distinct textures and flavor profiles: light, dark, and blackstrap. Light molasses is sweeter, and the go-to for baking. Dark molasses has a thicker texture and isn’t as sweet, perfect for gingerbread cookies. And, when it comes to blackstrap, we’re talking a strong, bitter flavor, meant for a savory sauce. Molasses can be used instead of white sugar—for every one cup of sugar, swap in 1 1/3 cups of molasses. Also, make sure to reduce other liquid ingredients by five tablespoons for the right texture.
Turbinado, AKA “sugar in the raw,” is golden brown with flavors that are a sweet combo of molasses, honey, and caramel. Its name comes from how it’s made: juice is extracted from sugar cane at first press, boiled, evaporated, and then spun until the extra moisture is gone (all done in a turbine-like machine). Its coarse crystals give the tops of pies and cookies an undeniable sparkle. That said, you can sub it 1:1 for cookies and cakes—just keep in mind that the raw coarse crystals may result in a dryer texture, as they’re larger and not coated in molasses.
Brown in color and moist to the touch, brown sugar is made by adding molasses to refined white sugar. It’s used in various baking recipes—think cookies and brownies—adding a soft texture thanks to its coated sugar crystals. There are two types: light brown sugar—3.5% molasses—is sweeter and most commonly called for, and dark brown sugar —6.5% molasses—has a richer, more caramel-like flavor. If a recipe doesn’t specify, your best bet is to go with light brown. Just make sure to pack the sugar into the measuring cup for the full effect. Put this shug to the test with the best chocolate chip cookies ever.
While muscovado sugar is similar to brown sugar in texture, it’s a bit darker, stickier, and stronger in flavor. The molasses in muscovado isn’t removed from the sugar crystals while it’s made (like white sugar), so it has that sweet toffee-like flavor engrained in its DNA. It’s a superstar in savory dishes and gingersnap cookies, and can be swapped out with regular brown sugar at a 1:1 ratio.
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