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Kitchen tips: 9 natural substitutes for sugar

Kitchen tips: 9 natural substitutes for sugar

You may have heard of stevia and agave, but have you tried yacon syrup or xylitol?

Kitchen tips: 9 natural substitutes for sugar

A sugar substitute is a food additive that provides a sweet taste like that of sugar while containing significantly less food energy than sugar-based sweeteners, making it a low-calorie sweetener.

Yacon syrup

Yacon syrup is extracted from the yacón plant, which is native to South America. It tastes sweet, is dark in colour, and has a thick consistency similar to that of molasses. Yacon syrup contains one-third of the calories of regular sugar.

Coconut nectar

Made from the sap of coconut palm trees, the light version tastes similar to honey; the dark tastes like maple syrup. Low GI and affordable, it is sweeter than sugar so you can use less. It is also the most sustainable sweetener.

Agave syrup

A liquid sweetener produced from the sap of the agave cactus plant, it is thinner than honey and sweeter than white cane sugar. It is low-GI and quite affordable, but it is higher in fructose than any other sweetener.

Maple syrup

Made from the sap of maple trees that is then boiled down. It has a popular, characteristic flavour, is reasonably affordable and widely available, however it is quite high GI and cheaper brands can be highly refined.

Coconut sugar

Made from the sap of coconut palm trees, it can be substituted for white, raw and brown sugar in baking. Great caramel toffee flavour, similar to rapadura sugar. It is less sweet than regular white sugar so you need to use more.

Brown rice syrup

Made from brown fermented rice, it has a thick consistency and a nutty sweet flavour. It is about half as sweet as white cane sugar, so you need to use more. Fructose free, it metabolises slowly and contains healthy trace minerals.


The extract of the Stevia rebaudiana plant is sold as a powder. It has zero GI and calories, which is good for diabetics and weight management, but it doesn’t have a great taste, and is not recommended in baking.


Edible fruit from the date palm tree, medjool dates have a delicious caramel flavour. Great in baking and raw desserts, they are a wholefood so contain fibre and are well digested, but they do contain fructose (as do all fruits).


A naturally occurring sugar alcohol commonly extracted from the bark of birch trees, it has a neutral flavour. It is low GI so good for diabetes, no fructose and is lower in calories than normal white sugar.

For more handy kitchen tips, recipes and more, pick up our latest issue of INSEASON. 

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