How to Substitute White Sugar in Baking

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Are you overwhelmed by all the different sweeteners out there? Do you want to substitute white sugar for something else “natural” but don’ t know where to begin?

natural white sugar substitutes -

As a mom, making food choices for your family can be an overwhelming mission, especially when it comes to sugar. There are so many choices…turbinado, honey, muscavado.  What’s the right choice for your recipes, when you want to make a natural substitution for processed white sugar?

To make the task a little easier, we’ve put together a simple, short and sweet guide to a few of the more common natural sweeteners found in recipes and on your grocery store shelves.  We haven’t included all the natural sweeteners available out there, but it’s a good start.

Maple Syrup–is a natural sweetener that can be used as a substitute for refined sugar and is high in minerals like zinc and manganese.  The only drawback may be it’s high glycemic index, meaning it can cause a spike in blood sugar.  It’s familiar flavor becomes less pronounced when used in baking.  There are two common grades of maple syrup that you will likely see on your grocery shelf; Grade A has a mild flavor and light color, Grade B is darker in color with a stronger maple flavor.

To use pure maple syrup in place of sugar in a baked recipe, use 3/4 cup pure maple syrup for 1 cup of granulated sugar and reduce the dominant liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons for each cup of maple syrup used. Using maple syrup in baked goods may cause them to brown more quickly, due to the high sugar content.

Honey–There are two types of honey that you are likely to see most often, pasteurized (clear, golden in color, thinner consistency) and raw (thick, cloudy, granular consistency).  Raw honey has not been processed/heated, leaving more of the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals intact. It is actually sweeter than white sugar, but very versatile and great for baking.  Honey should not be given to children younger than two to protect against infant botulism.

To substitute honey for white sugar in baked goods use 3/4 cup honey for every 1 cup of sugar.  Honey adds a lot of moisture to a recipe, so reduce other liquids in the recipe by ½ cup for every 1 cup of honey added.  Also, decrease oven temperature by 25 degrees to ensure your baked goods don’t brown too much.

Brown Rice Syrup— is made with brown rice that’s cooked with cultures and enzymes to break down the starches.  The resulting liquid is then drained off and cooked further to it’s desired, syrupy consistency. Half as sweet as white sugar, it has a mild flavor. It’s very good for cooking and baking. Be sure to read labels because some brands include barley malt and corn syrup.  Brown rice syrup can be substituted on a 1:1 ratio for other liquid sweeteners in baking.

Muscavado–different from the brown sugar (white sugar processed with molasses) that we are used to, is an unrefined brown sugar that is available in both light and dark varieties.  It’s flavor is similar to brown sugar, due to retaining it’s dark sugarcane juice.  Just like brown sugar, it is moist and can be used as a substitute for brown sugar in recipes.

Sucanat, Turbinado and Demara sugars–are very similiar and made by heating sugar cane juice, then spinning it in a centrifuge to extract moisture and molasses for large, golden crystals. It’s closer to refined sugar than raw sugar.  You may see them labeled as ‘organic cane sugar’, ‘natural cane sugar’ or ‘evaporated cane juice’.  They will retain their golden color as they are less processed than white sugar.  It can be substituted on a 1:1 ratio for white sugar in recipes.

Less common, but just as delicious, are maple sugar and more recently, coconut sugar.  These sweeteners can be substituted on a 1:1 ratio in recipes calling for granulated sugar.  They are more expensive, but deals can be found on Amazon and bulk food sites.



  1. tom says

    I keep bees and I can assure you that raw honey is “clear, golden [to dark-brown] in color, thin [to thick] consistency”… not “cloudy, granular consistency”.

    I have seen this “raw” honey in the store and I laugh at the people who buy it… Because it is NOT raw, unprocessed honey… I don’t know what they do to it. By it is certainly NOT “unprocessed”.

  2. Amanda says

    Maple syrup actually has a low glycemic index and is great for diabetes. :) food for thought; Agave syrup has a low glycemic index but it has the same effect on blood sugar that HFCS does. So just because something has a low GI doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be good for you.

  3. Cass says

    Thanks for the info about sweeteners. It can be very confusing to consider all the choices. I didn’t know maple syrup was higher on the glycemic index. I keep trying other sweeteners for my tea/coffee and I always come back to sugar. I find stevia has an aftertaste and I’ve heard conflicting information about agave syrup.

    Best wishes to you as you embark on the new phase with childcare for the little. He will be fine and will have a well-rested Mommy.

    I’m not a subscriber/member because my son is so picky that he won’t explore new options for lunch. But, I still like to read the blog/newsletters to get good tips and possible options for our family. And if anyone ever expresses an interest in healthy school lunches, I’ll certainly send them to you. You can feel the passion for what you do come shining through each post.

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