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Helpful Tips For Reducing Sugar in Recipes

Learn how (and when) to reduce the sugar in your recipes without sacrificing flavor, texture or that pinch of happiness.

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Woman cafe worker adding sugar to bowl with dessert ingredients.Daniel Jedzura/Shutterstock

Let’s make this clear from the get-go. Not every recipe, sad to say, is a good candidate for reducing sugar. Whether you’re using granulated sugar, confectioner’s sugar or turbinado, this ingredient can play an essential role in the composition of many recipes. Let’s face it, a creme brulee would be pretty sad without it. But that being said, there’s a little wiggle room when it comes to cutting the amount of sugar in a recipe without compromising flavor or texture. Follow along as we share how.

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Separating egg white and yolk on wooden table and broken egg shells are at background; Shutterstock ID 1120967897; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeMrsRabbit/Shutterstock

Ditch a White, Add a Yolk

Sugar not only adds sweetness but provides essential moisture to baked goods like quick bread and cake. This is because the chemistry of sugar actually attracts water molecules. (As evident in our Moist Chocolate Cake.) Be extra careful if you’re cutting down sugar in baked goods or else you’ll end up with something that’s tough and dry. If you find that’s the case, try eliminating an egg white and adding an extra egg yolk.

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Cape Cod Blueberry PieTaste of Home

Cut It Down

Recipes like fruit-filled pies, custards or compotes usually use sugar solely for its sweetness, rather than to add moisture or texture. For a recipe like this Cape Cod Blueberry Pie, you could get away with eliminating about 1/4 cup of sugar without a drastic change in the recipe’s integrity.

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Fruit of the month clubAvdeyukphoto/Shutterstock

Go For Fruit

Take advantage of fruit’s homegrown sweetness and be liberal with it when preparing pie, galette or any other dessert that calls for fruit. Sweet cherries, mango, kiwi and bananas are just a few fruits that are high in natural sugar. Rely on fruit and your dessert will taste satisfyingly sweet. Try cutting down the sugar in our Frozen Pineapple-Kiwi Pops or add some mango slices to your plain yogurt instead of buying the sugary kind.

Speaking of yogurt: Discover which foods you might think are healthy, but really aren’t.

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Whole nutmegBesjunior/Shutterstock

Get Spicy

Spices carry a variety of nutritional benefits, and naturally sweet ones are a great way to mask the lack of sugar. Try adding in cinnamon or nutmeg, especially in conjunction with sugar substitutes, dried fruits or nuts.

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sugar; Shutterstock ID 548149948; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHmargouillat photo/Shutterstock

Switch the Sweetener

When it comes to wanting to reduce added sugar in recipes, you’re in good company. With more people seeking alternatives to replace refined sugar and reduce their total sugar intake, there’s a wide range of ingredient options to meet all your recipe needs. Follow along for our favorites.

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Raw Organic Sweet Light Agave Syrup in a BowlBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Agave

Yes, agave is made from the same plant as tequila, but that’s where the similarities end. Agave syrup is extracted from the pina, or the heart of the plant, and just 2/3 cup of it can be substituted for every cup of sugar. When using it, combine it with wet ingredients before adding dry ingredients.

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bottles of maple syrup in leaf-shaped bottlesCindy Creighton/Shutterstock

Maple syrup

The breakfast staple is back to the rescue. With 3/4 cup replacing every cup of sugar, maple syrup yields baked goods that brown faster with less sugar. For the most delicious results, reduce all liquids used by 3 tablespoons per cup of maple syrup, and make sure you’re using the real stuff. Pancake syrup brimming with highly processed sugar won’t cut it. Want to start cooking with maple syrup? Check out our Morning Maple Muffins.

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SteviaHandmadePictures/Shutterstock

Stevia

The health world’s sweetheart, stevia (an herbal plant) has zero calories and is naturally sweet. When swapping it into recipes, follow package directions. Some products use 1/2 cup of stevia for every cup of sugar while others replace sugar cup for cup, and know that you might have to reduce baking temperature by about 25 percent to keep your baked goods from drying.

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Spiced applesauceTaste of Home

Applesauce

Unlike most other sweetener substitutes, unsweetened applesauce has a one-to-one ratio with sugar, making swapping it as easy as it is delicious. Here’s how to make it at home. Start by substituting just half the sugar with applesauce, leaving half the sugar in the recipe for the best texture and browning. If you like the texture, try using more applesauce and less sugar the next time. Experimentation is the key.

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Pouring aromatic honey into jar, closeup; Shutterstock ID 764193367Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Honey

One of the most natural sweeteners on this list, honey is a friend to bees and your baking repertoire. Sub 3/4 for every cup of sugar you would have used, while decreasing the liquid in your recipe and lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees. Did you know honey can last you a lifetime?

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Mix of dried fruits and nutsCraevschii Family/Shutterstock

Unsweetened dried fruit

While not an option for every recipe, you can reduce the added sugar in certain desserts and keep them sweet by adding unsweetened dried fruit. Toss in some dried blueberries, cherries or fruit of your choice — they can be a great replacement for something like chocolate chips, or just a tasty addition. Don’t believe me? Add unsweetened dried fruit in lieu of chocolate chips in your favorite cookie recipe and see if you miss the sugar.

Reducing added sugar in recipes can yield dishes just as delicious as those packed with the sweet stuff, while giving you the opportunity to be more creative in the kitchen. That everything you whip up will be healthier is just an added bonus — and a perfect excuse to go back for seconds. Looking to go sugar-free? Try our 7-day meal plan.

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