The following alternative sugars can be substituted for white sugar in recipes.
When white sugar is processed, the more nutritious molasses is removed from it. Sugars marketed as light brown or dark brown are typically made by returning some molasses to white sugar, which adds trace amounts of beneficial nutrients such as calcium and iron. Brown sugar has a richer, slightly caramel flavor that is particularly nice in cookies, muffins, quick breads, and darker or denser cakes.
Muscovado Sugar and Organic Whole Cane Sugar
These are whole, unrefined sugar products. Because they are less processed, they retain their health-promoting molasses, which gives these sugars a brown tint. Their coarse texture makes them particularly nice as toppings for cookies and other baked goods. Note: sugar cane is also available as a liquid sweetener in the form of sugar cane juice.
Turbinado and Demerara Sugar
These sugars are somewhere between white processed sugar and whole cane sugar in terms of processing and nutritious molasses content. They also have a nice crunchy texture.
This product is much like cane sugar but is derived from sugar beets rather than the sugarcane plant.
This date-derived lower-calorie option is rich in calcium, fiber, potassium, iron, and antioxidants. It works particularly well in bar cookies and banana bread. Note: Some sources recommend substituting date sugar 1 for 1; others say that it should be 2/3 cup of date sugar per cup of white sugar because date sugar is sweeter. Experiment to see what works best with your recipes.
Sugar derived from coconuts has a light nutty flavour, though it doesn’t actually taste like coconut. It has become popular in recent years because it’s relatively low on the glycemic index. I’ve found that it works well in cookies and muffins as a replacement for white sugar.
Maple sugar is delicious, and you can use it in baking, but replacing all the white sugar in a recipe with maple sugar is not recommended because maple sugar has a strong flavor and it’s very expensive. If a recipe calls for maple sugar and you don’t have any on hand, you can replace 1/2 cup of maple sugar with 1 cup of maple syrup and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup OR substitute 3/4 cup white sugar + 1 teaspoon of pure maple extract (these substitutions will change the texture of most baked goods).
If you’re interested in substituting a liquid sweetener such as honey or agave, see Liquid Sweeteners for information on how to modify your recipes.
- D’Agrosa, L., RD. (n.d.). “Buyer’s Guide to Natural Sweeteners.” Eating Well, EatingWell.com. http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_techniques/buyers_guide_to_natural_sweeteners
- PCC Natural Markets. (n.d.). “A Guide to Natural Sweeteners.” PCCNaturalMarkets.com. http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/guides/tips_sweeteners.html
- Urban, S.. (2010). “Guide to 10 Natural Sweeteners.” Organic Authority, OrganicAuthority.com. http://www.organicauthority.com/eco-chic-table/guide-to-10-natural-sweeteners.html#s.abqn3lhyabaaa
- Vankoughnet, K.. (n.d.). “A Beginner’s Guide to Sugars and Natural Sweeteners.” Canadian Living. CanadianLiving.com. http://www.canadianliving.com/health/nutrition/a_beginners_guide_to_sugars_and_natural_sweeteners.php