Being a newbie to sugar-free baking can feel like uncharted territory with few rewards in store. It can feel like a big gamble, where family and friends are betting against you. We know how you feel! We’re here to share our best 10 tips for sugar-free baking! Sugar-free baking has allowed us to get more creative in the kitchen and has caused us to develop tastes for different ingredients. Despite any problems that may arise with sugar-free desserts, with a little patience and attention, you can find success in your own kitchen. You’ll be surprised at how many of your favorite recipes can be made refined sugar-free! Here’s our secrets for recreating the best versions of our favorite recipes!
#1 Know Your Sweeteners
First and foremost, it’s important to understand your new sweeteners. Not all sweeteners work like regular sugar. Visit our Natural Sweetener Guide for an easy compilation of our favorite sweeteners so you will know how these sweeteners work. This guide takes out the guesswork so nobody has to go in blind when trying out a new recipe. Once you have a good grasp of how a sweetener will work in baking, you can make better educated decisions during the baking process.
#2 Use Room Temperature Ingredients
This may be an old tip for many of you, but we know people who don’t give any attention to this whatsoever. This simple step is key for ingredients to properly blend together. Let eggs, milk, applesauce and creams sit out a bit before use. This is especially important when using coconut oil or any ingredient that can seize when mixed with cold ingredients. This allows our new sweeteners to properly blended into the mixture and helps aid success. Of course, if your pie crust calls for cold butter or your sauce requires hot butter, follow the recipe.
#3 Combine Sweeteners
Unlike regular refined sugar, many natural sweeteners do not caramelize. Without that, your treats may not turn out dense, chewy or tender. This is especially important to note when using xylitol or date sugar. These sugars melt very easily and do not caramelize. In baked goods, some natural sweeteners just don’t work on their own. Agave can take on a funny texture when used alone. In which case, they need another sweetener to help form that traditional, chewy, sugary consistency. Sweeteners like coconut sugar and honey help create this perfectly.
#4 Don’t be Afraid of Fats
Adding in ingredients like avocado, coconut milk, banana, walnuts or coconut shreds helps create natural sweetness while also creating texture, flavor and bulk. When an unfamiliar sweetener is used, ingredients like these can help reduce failures by creating an extra hearty “base”. They also can greatly improve flavor. Please don’t be afraid of adding these in when eating naturally sweet. Cutting out refined sugar goes a long way in helping to reduce overall calorie consumption and healthy fats are an important part of a nutritious diet.
#5 Decrease Baking Times
Many natural sweeteners take less time to bake. Factor that in with different oils or flours and you may have a completely different baking time all together. All recipes differ, but as a rule of thumb, we generally check baked goods 5 or 10 minutes before a recipe suggests when using many natural sweeteners. Honey especially, is a sweetener that bakes particularly faster than refined sugar. In order to prevent goodies from burning, it is helpful to bake treats covered and check on them throughout the baking process.
#6 Don’t Be Afraid Of Extracts
When baking sugar-free, sometimes extracts like almond, coconut, vanilla, or orange help enhance the dish and the sweeteners that are in it without adding a ton of extra sweetener. Natural sugars are more expensive, so this is a nice little trick! We’ve found a little extra never hurts! Another extract that works wonderfully are stevia flavored extracts. Liquid stevia is a very popular product and the vanilla flavored or cocoa flavored liquid stevia are incredible sweeteners without adding any calories.
#7 Be Familiar with Flours
You will notice that we try to avoid processed white flour in most of our recipes. When substituting flours, it’s important to remember that not all flours are created equal and some like whole wheat flours have more bulk. Normally, you would decrease the amount of wheat flour in a recipe when substituting for white flour. When using sweeteners like xylitol or maple syrup that add more liquid to a recipe, using a heavier flour can help make up for the difference. We will always specify which flour to use in our recipes.
#8 Know Your Oils
All oils are different. When baking with natural sweeteners and natural oils, certain combinations do not work well together. Coconut oil melts very easily and can not hold up well in a recipe that calls for little flour. Olive oil can work well but has a strong flavor. Butter can burn easily. Knowing how oils react and taste will help you determine the best sweeteners and ingredients for that particular dish.
#9 Change Things Slowly
If you want to replace sugar in a recipe, try keeping the rest of the recipe as is. You really won’t know how honey worked in that rice flour bread that called for 5 eggs if you also subbed out those ingredients for wheat flour and applesauce. This is also true for recipes that are already naturally sweet. We sometimes receive comments from readers saying that a recipe didn’t work only to find they tried substituting three different ingredients out for another. Once you are familiar with natural sweeteners and know what to look for in texture and consistency in the original recipe, then it’s possible to experiment more. This way, you’ll understand how each natural sweetener works and will give you more success!
#10 Be Flexible!
If something you made happens to go wrong, don’t get discouraged. Look back over the recipe. Did you follow it as best you can? Did you try to make changes? Before throwing it away, can you add to it? Try fixing it or using it in a completely different dish. If your cookies ended up being too dry, eat them with ice cream or put some frosting on them. If a sauce didn’t turn out, try baking with it. You may even be desperate and just resort to using white sugar to make it taste great. That’s okay too!
Ultimately, our goal is to use natural sweeteners more than refined sugar. Through our recipes and tips, we hope to take the guess work out of sugar-free baking for you. Please be kind to yourself for any mistakes and allow yourself time to learn! These tips, combined with lots of practice, will allow you more success and help you create the sweetest dishes refined sugar-free!