Refined white sugar is arguably the most common source of sweetness in cooking and baking. Its main benefit stems from the fact that it sweetens without any other effect on the flavor profile of a dish. Other benefits include the fact that it is easy to find and affordable. This type of sugar shows up in many recipes that require a sweetener, but there are many effective substitutes if you are out of it or need a white sugar alternative for health reasons.
Table of Contents
- Your best bet: Light brown sugar
- A decent second choice: Powdered sugar
- In a pinch: Agave nectar
- Other alternatives
- Must-read related posts
Your best bet: Light brown sugar
When it comes to texture and flavor, light brown sugar is the best analog you will have for refined white sugar. All brown sugar consists of white sugar with a little molasses added. Light brown sugar offers the least amount of molasses and, therefore, can serve as a replacement for white sugar with only a minor effect on flavor. You can use the same amount of light brown sugar your recipe requires for white sugar. There is no need to alter any other ingredients in the recipe.
Bear in mind that the small amount of molasses in light brown sugar can give a light brown hue to some paler foods. If this is a problem, you may need to opt for another substitute.
A decent second choice: Powdered sugar
The difference between white sugar and powdered sugar is that powdered sugar is ground more finely. The fine grind allows it to dissolve more quickly in frostings and icings, which means that it can provide a smoother texture. Powdered sugar contains a small amount of cornstarch to keep it from caking.
Powdered sugar is a good white sugar substitute because it consists mostly of white sugar; it has the same flavor and color. It is not an ideal substitute in drinks because of the cornstarch, which may give them an undesirable flavor. If you use powdered sugar as a white sugar substitute in a sauce, the cornstarch may also cause it to thicken faster than it would with white sugar.
In a pinch: Agave nectar
Agave nectar is sometimes called agave syrup and is made from the plant that gives us tequila. The sap is extracted from the plant and processed to convert its carbohydrates to sugars. The result is a liquid that provides sweetness but is lower on the glycemic index. So there is not the blood sugar spike that you see with white sugar.
When using agave nectar in place of white sugar, it will be necessary to adjust your recipe to compensate for the extra liquid. If you use 2/3 cup of blue agave nectar, you should remove 2/3 cup of the other liquids in the recipe. Use 2/3 cup of agave nectar to replace 1 cup of white sugar.
Note that agave nectar browns at a lower temperature than sugar, so you should reduce your baking temperature by 25 degrees to prevent this.
Raw sugar is the form of sugar that has undergone the least amount of processing. It has been passed through a centrifuge but has not had all of its non-sucrose components removed. Raw sugar has a light brown color (similar to light brown sugar) because of those components.
–> Learn More: Raw Sugar Vs. White Sugar – How Do They Compare?
Honey is another effective way to replace white sugar in some recipes. You can use ¾ cup of honey to replace 1 cup of sugar. Like agave nectar, it is a liquid that browns at low temperatures. You will want to lower the other liquids in your dish by the amount of honey you add. You will also want to reduce the baking temperatures by 25 degrees to prevent premature browning.