One of the hallmarks of dieting is finding food substitutions. All diets come with specific guidelines, restrictions, or eliminations. Unfortunately, most recipes or meals you cook aren’t going to follow the exact diet you’re on, which is where the art of substituting ingredients and foods comes into play.
Sugars and sweeteners can be some of the most straightforward ingredients to substitute, fortunately. When it comes to adding sweetness to any food or recipe, there’s usually an array of options you can choose from. That being said, brown sugar can be a little trickier to replace as an ingredient. Brown sugar is comprised of a soft sugar base that is mixed with molasses. Because brown sugar not only adds a specific flavor to the recipes it’s used in, but also adds an element of texture, it’s essential to be careful when substituting this ingredient – especially when baking.
So what are the best and healthiest substitutions for brown sugar? The answer to this question really depends on the diet you’re following. But whether you’re on a mission to lower your fat intake or currently avoiding carbs, we’ve got you covered. We’ve procured eight sweet ingredient swaps that can be used the next time you’re in a pinch. Take a look.
Coconut sugars and oils are two of the most popular methods for baking and cooking substitutions; this is because coconut products often contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals. When you’re using coconut sugar as a substitute for brown sugar, be careful to watch the dryness factor. Coconut sugar doesn’t carry as much moisture as regular brown sugar does; therefore, you will most likely need to add in just a tad extra oil or fat to compensate for the dryness.
Certain companies have sought to make the brown sugar substitution process even easier for consumers by creating their own alternatives. Be sure to pay attention to the ingredients in these store-bought alternatives, however, as many of them contain sugar substitutes or other ingredients that you may not be comfortable with. Here are some of the most popular store-bought versions of brown sugar alternatives:
- Truvia Brown Sugar Blend (made with Stevia and other ingredients)
- Swerve Brown Sugar Replacement (Contains multiple alternative ingredients and fruit juices)
- Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener (made with monkfruit and other natural sweeteners)
- Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (contains Splenda sweetener and brown sugar)
- Sukrin Gold (contains Stevia, erythritol, tagatose, malt extract, and other flavorings)
Sugar-Free and Low-Carb Brown Sugar Substitute
If you’re looking for low-carb and low-sugar substitutes, you can make a healthier brown sugar alternative right in your own kitchen. You’ll need to procure these ingredients to get started, which you can purchase online:
- Maple extract
- Stevia glycerite
Mix one cup of erythritol, 3/4 teaspoon stevia glycerite, and 3/4 teaspoon maple extract together. Store and use this substitute just as you would regular brown sugar.
Brown Sugar and Agave
If you’re looking to reduce the sugar quantity in your recipe but still want to have a touch of real brown sugar, consider reaching for the agave syrup. While agave does still have sugar in it, it is considered lower on the glycemic index, which can be better for those who are on diabetic-friendly diets. If this mixture sounds appealing, the next time you need brown sugar, substitute half of what the recipe calls for with agave syrup.
Date sugar is a bit thicker and sweeter in taste than brown sugar, but you can substitute 2/3 cup for every one cup of brown sugar to accommodate for this. While date sugar definitely contains regular sugar in it, it is generally less so than brown sugar and also contains some fiber and antioxidants.
Honey or Light Maple Syrup
Often, you can just skip the sugar altogether and replace it with honey or light maple syrup. These ingredient substitutions can make for excellent brown sugar alternatives. However, you’ll want to watch that you aren’t adding too much moisture into the recipe you’re making. To accommodate for the extra liquid being added, try reducing other liquids in the recipe by 1/4 cup to every 2/3 cup of honey or maple syrup being used. You can also try using 2/3 cup of honey or light maple syrup to every cup of brown sugar called for in your recipe.
For those looking to reduce processed ingredients and foods in their diet, raw sugar can help create a great brown sugar alternative. Because raw sugar is a hard and dry crystallized version of sugar, as compared with brown sugar, this texture difference can affect your recipes. Try dissolving your brown sugar into a small amount of warm water before using, or you can try to grind the crystals into a finer powder.
Muscovado sugar contains molasses similar to brown sugar; however, it is less refined. While you can usually use muscovado sugar just as you would brown sugar in any recipe, you’ll want to keep in mind that this substitute option is a bit thicker and stickier. Because of this texture difference, muscovado does have a tendency to clump together, but you can remedy this usually by sifting the sugar or doing a little extra mixing.
All these sweet brown sugar substitutes have us craving a dessert that can be easily made with one of the options above. Take a look at the deliciously sweet recipe below:
Sweet and Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies
- One large egg
- One teaspoon baking soda
- Two cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- One teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar for outside of cookies
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups brown sugar (or substitute)
- Two teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup melted unsalted butter
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Combine cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl.
- In a medium bowl, mix your brown sugar substitute, melted butter, egg, and vanilla. Whisk all ingredients together well. Pour into bowl with the dry ingredient mixture.
- Mix all ingredients together well with a spatula, and then cover and chill for two hours.
- Pull two-inch pieces off of cookie mixture and roll into a ball shape. Toss dough balls in sugar and place onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Be sure that all dough balls are at least three inches apart.
- Bake for nine minutes and then remove cookies and press gently down on each one with a fork.
- Bake cookies for another four minutes, and then allow to cool for ten minutes.