Sugar Alternatives, Know When to Use Which Ones

By Chef Judi Gallagher –

sweetsWhen scanning the aisles at the grocery store, you’ll notice there are an incredible number of  refined white sugar alternatives. How do you know which ones to use? Isn’t fructose bad for you? Sugar is often associated with fattening foods, diabetes and high energy. But there are a lot of sweeteners (not the artificial ones) that have health benefits and taste just as sweet as white sugar. Here are some to consider for your pantry:


Brown Sugar

Highly concentrated in molasses, brown sugar adds more moisture and an aromatic taste to baked goods and can be used to substitute white sugar in most recipes. It also blends well with your morning coffee or homemade pancake syrup.


Maple Syrup

A good source of manganese and zinc, maple syrup can be used to sweeten nuts, sweet potatoes, a slice of peanut butter toast, and even drizzle over ice cream.



Rich in iron, B-vitamins, folate, potassium, magnesium and calcium, molasses is a healthy, natural sweetener. It is a staple for gingerbread and tastes great in other holiday goods as well.



It can be used as a key ingredient in salad dressing or a glaze. A spoonful of honey can be the cure for a restless night’s sleep or a cough. Commonly used to sweeten tea, honey also adds a lot of flavor to a light martini.


Here are a few of my favorite sweet recipes


Honey Gelato

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup nonfat dry milk

honey1 (12-ounce) can evaporated fat-free milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 large egg yolks

1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk

Mint sprigs (optional)


Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium, heavy saucepan. Heat mixture over medium heat until honey dissolves, stirring frequently (do not boil). Remove from heat. Combine salt and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add honey mixture to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Place honey mixture in pan; cook over medium heat until mixture reaches 180° (about 3 minutes), stirring constantly (do not boil). Remove from heat; stir in 2% milk. Cool completely. Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon gelato into a freezer-safe container.

Cover and freeze 2 hours or until firm. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.


 Brown Sugar Bars

bars1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour


In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in flour and mix well. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 3 minutes. Pat into a1/3-in.-thick rectangle measuring 11 in. x 8 in. Cut into 2-in. x 1-in. strips. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Prick with a fork. Bake at 300° for 25 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen.


Mrs. Cooney’s Hermits

(from The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones)


12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

¾ cup dark brown sugar

2 eggs beaten

3 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ cup molasses mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts

Glaze: 1 beaten egg


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter with the two sugars, then beat in the eggs. Toss together the flour, salt, baking powder, spices and add them to the butter-sugar mixture along with the molasses. When well mixed, fold in the raisins and nuts. Divide the batter into fourths and plop two mounds each, with space between them, onto two greased baking sheets. Shape each mound, using your floured hands to push and pat the down down into a strip of 10 inches by 3 inches. You should have two strips on each baking sheet, placed several inches apart. Paint the tops of each with the egg glaze and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how crisp you like yours. While still warm, cut each strip into bars.

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