Chewy, airy, and rich, there’s no doubt that cornbread is one of the most versatile baked goods out there.
Most recipes for cornbread call for sugar. But what if you forgot to make a trip to the grocery store? Well, don’t panic yet! You can use a substitute to make cornbread without sugar and still have it taste as delicious as ever!
Today, we’re sharing a list of the 9 best alternatives for sugar and how to add them to your cornbread recipe.
The majority of cornbread recipes contain sugar. Obviously, the reason is to add some sweetness to the cornbread, but why is that necessary?
A sweet flavor helps balance out the corn flavor of the cornmeal, the richness of the butter, and the bread flavor of the flour.
9 Best Substitutes for Sugar in Cornbread
Here’s a breakdown of the top 9 sugar alternatives that you can use to make cornbread without sugar:
For lots of baking enthusiasts, honey is what their minds immediately think of when looking for a sugar substitute and we couldn’t agree more!
Honey is an all-natural alternative to sugar. It tastes amazing and doesn’t really affect the overall texture or flavor of baked goods, including cornbread.
Not only can honey provide as much sweetness as sugar, but in many ways, it’s a healthier option.
Honey doesn’t contain as much glucose or fructose and it’s rich in various nutrients such as amino acids, antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.
Granted, one tablespoon of honey does carry more calories than one tablespoon of sugar (64 calories vs 49 calories), but honey is a lot easier to digest than sugar thanks to the enzymes added by the bees. This means you’ll burn calories from honey much faster than calories from sugar.
That said, you need to keep the following points in mind when replacing sugar with honey:
- The first couple of cornbread batches should be experimental as you determine the ratio of honey to sugar that suits your taste since not everyone is the same.
For example, some people prefer half a cup of honey for each cup of sugar, while others go with a whole cup of honey or three-quarters of a cup.
- Despite its viscosity, honey is a liquid. This means you’ll need to cut back on other liquids in your recipe by two to three tablespoons to keep the ratio between dry and wet ingredients somewhat unchanged.
- When using honey instead of sugar, you should expect extra moisture in the cornbread texture as well as quicker browning when baking.
Maple syrup is pretty much the same as honey except for a warmer, richer flavor.
Its conversion ratio also depends on your preference, and you’ll need to reduce the liquid content of the batter if you decide to use maple syrup instead of sugar.
Applesauce is the mashed, concentrated version of apples. It can be left as is with its natural sweetness or made even sweeter by adding sugar or honey.
In both cases, applesauce can help you make cornbread without sugar. It can even boost cornbread’s nutritional value.
Not only can applesauce replace sugar in cornbread batter, but it can also substitute for eggs!
That’s right, applesauce can serve as a binder that sticks batter ingredients together thanks to the pectin in apples. It can also act as a source of moisture due to the liquid content in the puree.
This means that you can hit 2 birds with 1 stone if you have applesauce lying around and happen to miss both sugar and eggs from your cornbread recipe.
Agave nectar or agave syrup is becoming a more popular sugar substitute among bakers looking for ways to make healthier recipes.
Agave does contain less glucose, so it won’t raise your blood sugar levels as much as white sugar. It also has more fructose, which can be problematic but only if you over-consume it.
When making cornbread, replace every cup of white sugar with two-thirds of a cup of agave nectar or syrup.
Similar to honey, agave nectar is a liquid. This means you’ll have to reduce the liquid content of your recipe by around three to four tablespoons.
Cane sugar and regular white sugar share many similarities, but they also differ in multiple aspects.
Cane sugar is simply unrefined sugar. It’s sugar that didn’t undergo as much processing as white sugar, so it still has most of its vitamins intact.
While white sugar can be sourced from sugarcane or sugar beets, cane sugar only comes from sugar cane. Cane sugar appears granulated like white sugar, but the former isn’t as fine.
Additionally, cane sugar has a more golden color and isn’t pure white like regular sugar.
That said, cane sugar acts the same as white sugar when it comes to sweetness and baking. As such, the conversion ratio is one-to-one in your cornbread recipe.
In addition to apples, you can use other types of fruit to replace sugar in your cornbread recipe.
Just like applesauce, purees of other fruits can be an alternative to sugar. They can be left as is with their natural sweetness or made sweeter with added sugar.
Fruit purees also contain loads of nutrients and their natural sugar content is easier to burn. As such, fruit concentrates can significantly reduce the total amount of calories in your cornbread and make it a lot healthier.
Applesauce is made by smashing peeled and cored apples, so applying the same concept to other fruits will give you a wide variety of options to try!
Granted, fruit purees can alter the flavor of the cornbread, you might end up loving the new flavors and turn them into regular recipes.
Here are a few of quick the best fruits you can use in puree form as a substitute for sugar in cornbread recipes:
- Pumpkins: you can make your own pumpkin puree at home or buy it canned from your supermarket. Either way, it’s a great substitute for sugar in cornbread that’s not only sweet but also offers plenty of moisture for an extra chewy texture.
- Bananas: rich in potassium and fiber, banana puree is one of the easiest alternatives you can use in cornbread instead of sugar. It’s sweet, tasty, and moist, so it’s ideal for baking purposes.
- Pears: extremely similar to apples, pears make for a puree that closely resembles applesauce. It can work as a sugar substitute, adding a kick of flavor to your cornbread in the process.
- Pineapples: with lots of sweetness and high moisture content, pineapple puree can do everything sugar does in cornbread while incorporating a fresh flavor.
- Raspberries: once mashed and pureed, raspberries make for an awesome sugar substitute in cornbread. Obviously, it’ll alter the color of the bread, but hey, it’s quite a fun change!
- Apricots: tasting both sweet and sour, apricot puree offers a hint of tanginess that may just change how you eat cornbread forever.
Of course, you’re free to experiment with as many fruit purees as you like. Peaches, prunes, figs — you name it!
7 – Molasses
If you have molasses sitting in your pantry and you’ve run out of sugar, you can add one and one-third of a cup of molasses for every cup of white sugar your cornbread recipe calls for.
You should expect, however, that molasses will alter the flavor of your cornbread. Also, you’ll need to reduce the liquid content of the batter to keep it from turning runny.
8 – Coconut Palm Sugar
A lot of people think that coconut palm sugar comes from coconuts, but it’s actually extracted from the sap of coconut palm trees.
It’s all-natural and has a lower glycemic index compared to white sugar, so it can be a healthier substitute to add sweetness to your cornbread.
Coconut palm sugar offers just about the same effect as white sugar. This is why the conversion ratio is one-to-one in your cornbread recipe.
9 – Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Last but not least, you can try using mashed sweet potatoes to make cornbread without sugar.
We all know how beneficial mashed and pureed veggies can be for our health. However, using vegetable puree to replace sugar in cornbread means it has to have a certain level of sweetness that most veggies lack.
Enter sweet potatoes.
They’re not just nutritious but also taste quite sugary. This allows you to add sweet potatoes to cornbread and still get the right amount of sweetness.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Grab a couple of sweet potatoes.
- Bake them until soft.
- Peel them off then start to mash the flesh until you get a puree texture.
- Mix some of the puree (to taste) into your cornbread batter and bake as normal.
In addition to replacing sugar in your cornbread, mashed sweet potatoes can act as a thickening agent due to their starch content. Accordingly, they can yield a denser version of cornbread.
However, you can fix this by adding some more milk to your cornbread recipe.
For an extra kick of flavor, consider spicing up the sweet potato puree with nutmeg or cinnamon before using it in your cornbread.
If you’re looking for a substitute to make cornbread without sugar, we’ve done the research and experiments on your behalf.
To save you time and effort, we’ve put together a list of the 8 best sugar alternatives you can use in your cornbread recipe.
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.