Peanut butter cookies are a classic treat that’s easy to love and even easier to make! In fact, you can make delicious peanut butter cookies with as little as 3 or 4 ingredients, including peanut butter, sugar, and an egg! But can you make peanut butter cookies without sugar?
The short answer here is yes, but you’ll need to substitute it with other ingredients that will fulfill its roles.
If you’re interested in finding out more about sugarless peanut butter cookies, keep on reading this guide!
The most commonly used type of sugar in peanut butter cookie recipes is refined brown sugar, although some recipes also use other types of sugar as well.
This one gets its color from its high molasses content, which also gives it a toffee or caramel-like flavor that pairs incredibly well with peanut butter cookies.
However, brown sugar is not as sweet as white varieties, which is why some recipes use granulated white sugar or a mixture of the two to make the cookies sweeter.
Most people think that sugar is just a sweetener in peanut butter cookies. However, besides taste, sugar also has a significant impact on the peanut butter texture and moisture.
It binds with the water molecules in the cookie batter, slowing down their evaporation while in the oven.
This prevents the cookies from drying out and crumbling while baking, which keeps the cookies light and fluffy.
Additionally, sugar contributes to the Maillard and caramelization reactions that give the cookies their golden brown color.
That being said, you can still make peanut butter cookies without sugar if you substitute it with other ingredients that can fulfill these roles.
Luckily, there are plenty of substitutes out there that can do the trick, so you can pick the one that suits your needs.
Removing sugar from a peanut butter cookie recipe without using a substitute won’t yield a good-tasting cookie.
Even if you tolerate the lack of sweetness, the cookie will still be too brittle and crumble easily due to the lack of structural support.
To avoid these issues, you can reduce the amount of sugar you’re using to a bare minimum or use a proper substitute.
Luckily, there’s a wide variety of substitutes you can use for peanut butter cookie recipes. In this section, I’ll walk you through each one of them along with their special properties, so you can pick the one that suits you best.
When it comes to substituting sugar in baked goodies, honey has always been a remarkably successful alternative.
While honey is structurally different from sugar, they have a fairly similar flavor profile.
This keeps sugar-sweetened peanut butter cookies as close as possible to the original ones, all while being much better for your health.
Substituting sugar with honey in cookie recipes relies mainly on the type of honey you’re using, as each variety has its unique level of sweetness.
One of my favorite honey varieties for baking is wildflower honey because its floral notes complement desserts nicely. Yet, you can use just about any type of honey you prefer.
Depending on how sweet you like your cookies, the substitution ratio between honey and sugar varies anywhere from 3:4 to 1:1.
Molasses is another excellent choice for sweetening peanut butter cookies, as it’s a mixture of common types of sugar, such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose.
The syrup is produced during the production of refined sugar and has a characteristically bold sweetness that blends in perfectly with many desserts.
Another remarkable advantage of molasses over regular sugar is that it’s rich in vitamins and minerals.
However, it has a remarkably high calorie content, so it’s not the best option for weight watchers.
Since molasses has a dark color, it will also alter the color of your peanut butter cookies. The ideal substitution ratio here is around 1:1 or less.
Maple syrup can be a good substitute for sugar in peanut butter cookies, but it won’t produce an identical alternative.
However, it adds a unique complexity to the flavor of the cookies, which appeals to a lot of people.
Maple syrup is around 60% of the sweetness of regular sugar. However, adding more maple syrup to make up for the reduced sweetness is not recommended because it makes the batter too runny.
For that reason, you should only opt for this alternative if you don’t mind subtle sweetness.
Stevia is one of the most popular sugar substitutes out there. This one is actually a natural component, extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, a South American plant.
The extract is rich in steviol glycosides, which are around 200 to 400 times sweeter than regular sugar.
The main advantage of using Stevia leaf extracts is that it doesn’t have any calories, carbs, or artificial additives.
This makes it a healthy and safe sweetener if you want to keep your peanut butter cookies healthy and low-calorie.
Coconut sugar is another alternative that has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years, with many people dubbing it as the healthier alternative to regular sugar.
Despite its name, coconut sugar is actually extracted from the tree sap and not from the coconuts themselves.
Both coconut sugar and regular sugar share a lot of properties, so it’s a perfect 1:1 substitute if you’re looking for as little difference as possible in flavor.
That being said, even with a lower glycemic index, coconut sugar is still high in calories, so it’s not a perfect choice if you’re following a calorie-deficit diet.
Agave syrup is a golden to amber-colored liquid that results from extracting and concentrating the sweet sap of the agave plant.
What makes agave syrup a great alternative to sugar is that it has a neutral, milder taste that doesn’t compromise the overall flavor of your peanut butter cookies. However, your cookies will get a relatively darker hue from the syrup.
To substitute white sugar with agave syrup, you should use 3/4 cup of syrup for every cup of white sugar, which makes up for the extra sweetness and higher liquid content of the syrup.
If you don’t mind a remarkable change in flavor, you can use fruits to sweeten your peanut butter cookies.
The main advantage of using fruits for sweetening is the healthy minerals and vitamins that come with the fruits you’re using.
However, as you might’ve expected, the cookies won’t be as sweet as sugar-sweetened options.
Fruits can also alter the texture of your cookies, adding an element of chewiness, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how you like cookies.
Your best option here would be bananas and dates, as they have a relatively higher sugar content than others.
Alternatively, you can opt for other forms of fruits. This includes fruit purees like applesauce or dried fruits like raisins.
Monk fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo, is a type of fruit native to Southern China. What makes this fruit special is that it has a natural sweetener that is 250 to 300 times more potent than regular sugar.
Many commercial varieties of the extract are adjusted so that they can substitute sugar at a 1:1 ratio, which is ideal if you want the same taste with fewer calories.
In addition to monk fruit extract, there are plenty of artificial sweeteners out there that work quite well for peanut butter cookies. These sweeteners include Sucralose, Saccharin, Xylitol, Sorbitol, and more.
These sugar substitutes are used as sweeteners in many commercial products and are approved by the FDA. For proper substitution, check the instructions on the packaging of the sugar.
Lastly, if you’re using sweetened peanut butter in your cookies, you don’t need to add extra sugar, as some brands add enough sugar to make cookies fairly sweet.
This marks the end of today’s guide that shows you how to make peanut butter cookies without sugar!
There are plenty of options when it comes to substituting sugar in baked goods, but if you want an all-round perfect choice, you should go with honey or Stevia leaf extract.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.