Sift's Fall 2017 issue has plenty of sweet things to discover and bake, including our feature on alternatives to white sugar.

Coconut and date sugars, honey, and brown rice syrup are all sugar alternatives with unique flavor profiles that are worth getting to know. Some alternatives are sweeter than sugar, some have many more trace nutrients, and some add healthy fiber and are absorbed more slowly than white sugar.

There's a dizzying roster of choices for finding a path to sweeten your recipes. Here's an overview, with ideas for how to use them.


Agave syrup is excellent poured over pancakes. It dissolves easily in cold liquids. Darker versions will have stronger caramel notes. 150% sweeter than sugar.

Barley malt syrup adds a classic malt flavor to dark breads, bagels, beer, and barbecue sauces. Enhances browning in baked goods. 50% as sweet as sugar.

Brown rice syrup can be used in any recipe calling for a liquid sweetener. It has distinct butterscotch notes with a slight nuttiness to its taste. 50% to 75% as sweet as sugar.

Cane syrup is also called table syrup. It can be used on pancakes or biscuits, or wherever light corn syrup is called for. Equally as sweet as sugar.

Date syrup has a distinct date flavor; it's ideal when mixed with yogurt in a smoothie or poured over hot cereal. Less sweet than sugar.

Golden syrup has a slightly caramelized flavor that's wonderful in tarts, puddings, and granola bars, where it makes them a bit chewier than they would be otherwise. Slightly sweeter than sugar.

Sugar Alternatives via @kingarthurflour

Honey can come in a wide range of flavors, depending on the plants from which its pollen comes. Good in any baked good using a liquid sweetener. 150% sweeter than sugar.

Maple syrup ranges in flavor from light to dark. The darker syrups have stronger caramel and some bitter notes, and their taste comes through better in baked goods. Equally as sweet as sugar.

Sorghum syrup is mild and slightly more sour than cane syrup. It blends well with butter and works well anywhere maple syrup does. Equally as sweet as sugar.

For a deeper dive into honey, molasses, and maple syrup, check out Baking with Liquid Sweeteners.


Coconut sugar melts and behaves like cane sugar. Has butterscotch and brown sugar notes. Equally as sweet as sugar.

Date sugar is sweet and particularly well suited to pairing with vegetable purées or other fruits. It's high in fiber, and doesn't melt or dissolve. Tastes like dates, and pairs well with ginger and cinnamon. Less sweet than sugar.

Palm sugar is often lighter in color than coconut or date sugar, with a more neutral flavor. Equally as sweet as sugar.

Ideal recipes for these sugar alternatives

We've captured the essence of these wonderful flavors, and collected these recipes to show them off. They're sure to become part of your baking repertoire. Let us show you what they can do.

sticky toffee pudding via @kingarthurflour

Sticky Toffee Pudding

A traditional favorite in Britain, this moist cake is served with butterscotch sauce and whipped or clabbered cream. We've updated the classic recipe with alternative sweeteners for a rich, caramelized flavor in the sauce.

Swap out the 1/4 cup brown sugar for one of our alternative sugars. Coconut, palm, and date sugar are cousins, but not clones. The cake can be made with any of the three, but for the sauce, only coconut sugar will work. Date sugar is made of finely ground dried whole dates, which means it contains a lot of plant fiber that keeps it from melting smoothly.

plum and ginger galette via @kingarthurflour

Plum and Ginger Galette

Plums are beautifully rich and more flavorful cooked than not, which makes them a natural partner for coconut or date sugar. This lightly sweet galette has a hint of ginger for spice.

beinenstich via @kingarthurflour

Bee Sting (Bienenstich)

In European bakeries, this classic pastry starts with a tender, honey-sweetened brioche. The top is gilded with more honey and almonds, then split and filled with pastry cream.

King Arthur's original Bienenstich recipes calls for white sugar, but check out the baker's notes below the recipe for an all-honey version.

sweet potato cake via @ kingarthurflour

Sweet Potato Cake

In this cake, brown rice syrup really has the chance to strut its stuff. It has a wonderful butterscotch note to it that marries beautifully with the moist sweet potato and rum. We recommend baking your sweet potatoes, either in the microwave or the oven, instead of peeling and boiling them. This is a moist cake, and boiled sweet potatoes can be too watery.

quad coconut bars via @kingarthurflour

Quad Coconut Bars

Coconut shows off its versatility in these layered bars with four different sources of coconut flavor. A sweet coconut frosting tops off a bittersweet chocolate filling and caramel coconut sugar cookie base.

This wealth of ways to sweeten things up from nature's pantry is only the beginning. We hope you'll give them a try, and let us know which alternative sweeteners you like and use. Let us know in the comments below!

Jump to Comments
Quad Coconut Bars
Quad Coconut Bars
4.5 out of 5 stars 2 Reviews
1 hr 9 mins
about 4 dozen 1 1/2" square bars
A headshot of Susan Reid
The Author

About Susan Reid

Susan Reid is a chef, baker, teacher, writer, and swimmer. She’s been cooking since her mother drafted her to make appetizers for family dinner parties at the age of 12. Like most liberal arts majors (Bates College), she ran away from home after graduating. After landing in Chicago, she backed into ...
View all by Susan Reid