Gluten Free Cooking Basics III: Sugar Substitutes




Oh yeah, we all love our sugar, but some are better than others. The more I learn the more I prefer natural anything, but my diabetic hubby needs other options. Following is what I have gleaned so far. Enjoy: just like the company says–
in fact, Enjoy Life chocolate chips are AWESOME!!!!


Sugar Free Options with
vanilla & chocolate facts thrown in for good measure!


Natural Sweeteners (Healthy GF Life)

Glycemic Index is a numerical scale used to indicate how fast and how high a particular food can raise your blood glucose level.

*Its not just the GI alone that leads to the increase in blood sugar. Equally important is the amount of food that you consume. The concept of the GI combined with total intake is referred to glycemic load.

Example: a whole candy bar high load. Small piece of candy bar-small glycemic response.

Fructose – Another factor is fructose-GI of 19. Too prevalent in foods and is discouraged. Fructose may be a factor in metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. High fructose promotes high blood cholesterol levels, decreases insulin sensitivity and increases organ fat—its what gives you that beautiful looking beer-belly look. Fructose can cause fatty liver disease and induce insulin resistance in humans, may accelerate the development of Type 2 Diabetes and may not trigger normal satiety, and may elevate blood pressure.

High Fructose

  • AGAVE because its heated. If you can find truly natural, raw agave—even real raw gets baked at 350 degrees which increases fructose.

• real MAPLE SYRUP Maple Grove Farms (SF) and Vermont Sugar-Free Syrup

• raw ORGANIC HONEY — raises A1C levels. Can lower triglycerides and fasting blood sugar levels. Good product to buy is Really Raw Honey. Buying local honey helps with allergies.

• COCONUT NECTAR – can use cup for cup to replace other liquid sweeteners.

• organic evaporated CANE JUICE (also organic powdered sugar and brown sugar)

Can replace sugar with maple syrup, raw honey or coconut nectar.

Don’t worry about replacing dry sweetener with liquid.



Author uses RIGOI di ASIAGO brand fruit spread, which is made from organic fruit. The fact that these fruit spreads are juice sweetened (with no refined sugars) adds to their appeal. When using jam, it’s extremely important to use an organic product. In conventional jams, as the fruit concentrates, so does the pesticide content. This creates an added toxic.



Yacon is a root composed primarily of water of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)—those types of short chain sugars have a lower caloric value (as they are digested anaerobically) and high fiber content. Author uses yacon syrup in recipes that traditionally call for molasses, such as gingerbread.


RULE OF THUMB for each 1/2C dry sugar, use 1/4C to 1/3C liquid sweetner

High Fructose Foods

• Apples, Boysenberry                                          • watermelon

• concentrated fruit sources                             • dried fruit

• fruit juice                                                                     • canned fruit in natural juice

• honey                                                                             • molasses

• rum                                                                                 • wine

• corn syrup

Using applesauce in place of sugar can give the necessary sweetness without the extra calories and, well, sugar. While one cup of unsweetened applesauce contains only about 100 calories, a cup of sugar can pack in more than 770 calories! This swap is perfect for oatmeal raisin cookies.
Pro Tip: you can sub sugar for applesauce in a 1:1 ratio, but for every cup of applesauce you use, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.


Converting a recipe from sugar to honey: Honey is 3x as sweet as sugar, so the conversion factor is 3:1. Reduce liquid in recipe by 1/4 C for each cup of honey used in baked goods. Add about 1/2t baking soda for each cup of honey used in baked goods. Reduce over temp by 25 degrees to prevent burning.


Converting a recipe to Agave Nectar:

White Sugar: For each cup of white sugar replaced, use 2/3 of a cup of agave and reduce other liquids by 1/4 to 1/3 cup. This substitution will also work for Demerara Sugar, Turbinado Sugar, Evaporated Cane Juice or Sucanat.

Brown Sugar: For each cup of brown sugar replaced, use 2/3 of a cup of agave and reduce other liquids by 1/4 cup. Because the moisture content of brown sugar is higher than that of white sugar, liquids may not have to be reduced as much when substituting agave nectar.

Corn Syrup: When replacing a cup of light corn syrup, use 1/2 as much agave, and increase other liquids in the recipe by up to 1/3 of a cup. Like corn syrup, agave nectar will not crystallize.

Stevia Conversion Chart (White Powder Extract only)

1/4 t Stevia white powder extract = 1 C sugar in sweetness. To make a liquid solution, dissolve 1 t Stevia white powder extract into 3 T distilled water. Refrigerate in a dropper bottle.

Granulated Sugar                                         Stevia Powder Extract

1/2 C                                                                           1/8 t

3/4 C                                                                           1/5 t

1 C                                                                                 1/4 t

Adapting favorite family recipes and baked goods to stevia may take several trials. Baked Goods made without sugar don’t brown well and need to be checked with a toothpick for doneness. Sugar adds volume to a recipe as well, so the liquid and dry ingredients will need to be drastically adjusted when just a dash of stevia is used.

Corn-Free Powdered Sugar

It is important to know that practically all commonly, commercially available powdered sugar contains cornstarch! It is VERY easy to make your own powdered sugar. Grind any kind of granulated sugar in a spice grinder and voila, instant powdered sugar!



When substituting sugar, you need to keep the following issues in mind:

  1. How much sugar are you substituting? If substituting only a small amount–say less than 1/4 C–you can use Stevia. Just add enough as needed based on taste preference-actually taste the batter. If substituting larger amounts, you need to recognize that the sugar is now serving the purpose of bulk in the recipe and that reduced amounts may affect texture and taste. Here is where you may need a bulking agent to increase the volume since Stevia is a very concentrated sweetness (30-40x sweeter than sugar in bulk), and add this in addition to the Stevia to your recipe.
  2. Which sugar substitute are you using? If it’s a liquid substitute and more than a few teaspoons, you may need to adjust the total amount of liquid in the recipe to accommodate for this added liquid. Often, you need to cut back about 1/3. The recipe may not actually tolerate the sugar change. Honey and other “substitutes” caramelize at lower heats and may burn. You need to check the package.

You can use Ultimate Sweetener (from birch bark) as a sugar substitute because you can use it in equal substitution for any amount of sugar (its the same sweetness, moisture content and granulation) without altering the recipe. And you can even add one T of molasses to each cup of Ultimate Sweetener to make mock brown sugar.



To replace granulated sugar**, try:

Palm sugar

Stevia or NuNaturals

Wax Orchards’ Fruit Sweet and Pear Sweet (corn -free)

Ultimate Life’s Ultimate Sweetener Honey Xylitol (FODMAP)

NOT Agave* (see note below)


Maple Syrup (the real stuff, not Mrs. Buttersworth!)

Rice Syrup

Palm Sugar

Coconut Nectar

Sugar Alcohols (i.e., xylitol) FODMAP 😦

To replace agave: honey, maple syrup, coconut nectar, stevia

Fruits as sweeteners: pureed reed soaked dates, banana, applesauce, pureed soaked raisins or plums are some of the more commonly used substitutions


* Agave: With an obscenely high amount of fructose (more than regular sugar), and the extensive refining process it goes through to become what it is, this is not a good option to replace sugar.

**Sugar is ‘addictive and the most dangerous drug of the times’

Soft drinks should carry tobacco-style warnings that sugar is highly addictive and dangerous, a senior Dutch health official has warned.


Vanilla Facts

Vanilla extract is typically on an alcohol base, which usually does contain some gluten. Some celiacs say the amount of gluten in a recipe made with it is too small to matter, and for some it’s too much. It is possible to find gluten-free vanilla (all pure Nielsen-Massey vanillas are gluten-free) made with corn alcohol (oh great!) The vanilla paste and vanilla powder are both gluten-free.

Another option is just to use whole or ground vanilla beans, which do not contain gluten. In any recipe which has a liquid phase, simply steep the bean in the liquid, or add ground beans to the dry phase of the recipe.

It is also possible to make your own gluten-free extract with vanilla beans, using a non-wheat based alcohol such as corn alcohol or very strong potato vodka. Authentic Foods Vanilla Powder, Frontier Foods Vanilla and other ready-made products are available online from retailers.

NOTE from Nielsen Massey company regarding their vanilla products:


Q: Are Nielsen-Massey products GMO-Free?

A: Yes. We use all-natural ingredients in our pure vanillas and flavors. The raw materials (such as vanilla beans or oranges) used to produce the specific flavor are free from any genetically modified proteins or DNA. The ethanol used as part of the extraction process is made from non-GM yeast using a starch fraction of corn. It is our ethanol producer’s policy to procure corn from crop sources that have received international regulatory approval. Testing of the alcohol has shown there are no genetically modified proteins or DNA present. In this way, we can safely state our products are GMO-free. 

Our Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder and Pure Vanilla Powder have maltodextrin, a starch made from corn, as an ingredient. This starch, which acts as a carrier for the vanilla flavor, has been tested and certified as not being made or mingled with any genetically modified corn.

Our Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder is simply our premium vanilla extract encapsulated on a cornstarch base. It’s all-natural, alcohol-free and sugar-free. Because it’s in powder form, it works well in mixes and other dry applications, such as cakes, cookies and pancakes. Or, sprinkle it on top of fruit or in beverages, such as coffees, cocoas or sodas. The powder also comes in handy for dishes that are sensitive to color and could be affected by the amber tint of our extracts. Pure Vanilla Powder can be used measure-for-measure the same as Pure Vanilla Extract in recipes.

Another gluten-free vanilla extract is manufactured by Flavorganics.


Chocolate Facts

Studies show that chocolate is a potent antioxidant that can reduce blood pressure and raise good cholesterol. These benefits are derived from eating dark chocolate, not milk or white-chocolate.

Use Dagoba organic unsweetened cocoa powder and dark chocolate (bars or choco drops) because Dagoba is organic and dark chocolate has a much higher cocoa content and less sugar than semisweet or milk chocolate. The choco drops are disks that are similar to chocolate chips, just a bit larger and flatter. If you want to use a bar of chocolate, just chop it into chunks and then measure it in a cup. If you are weighing the chocolate, one cup of choco drops is equal to approximately six ounces by weight.

Because the percentages of cocoa butter and powder vary from product to product and brand to brand, make sure that the chocolate you use is 73 percent cacao for these recipes.

Another author prefers • Prefer ditched or dutch-process COCOA powder


NEXT: Dairy-Free

Almond, Hazelnut and Raspberry Muffins

rasp muffins


Ripped from the pages of The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking.

So, here I go with my personal opinion. I rate them 7.5 stars out of 10. Why? you ask. Because when I first took a bite I did not respond with, “Oh my stars, these are AWESOME!”

BUT the more I ate the more I appreciated the subtle sweetness allowing the flavor of the fresh raspberries to shine through. (I’m a sugar-holic and it’s kinda hard to give up all that sweetness) 🙂

Do I feel good about eating the muffins because they are so healthy and really do taste good? 10 out of 10 stars! Hopefully, my diabetic husband won’t finish them off before they get to their hiding place in the freezer. For my husband, out of sight–out of mind 🙂

These muffins are not the cheapest things to bake (at least the first time). They require stevia/spenda–that’s not too bad, until you get to the almond and hazelnut flour and the liquid stevia ($13); then you’re talking money if you don’t have a grinder to turn the nuts into flour. Oh, yeah, I substituted chestnut flour (real Italian) for the hazelnut flour. Hazelnut’s coming from Bob’s Red Mill on Monday 🙂

So, my first foray into baking from The Joy…. is a hit! I’m going to have to get myself a grinder. Can anyone suggest one that they believe is very good.


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