When you are planning on baking something delicious, you may look at the recipe and wish that you could make it a little healthier. While baking typically implies that you are making sweet desserts that are known to be on the unhealthier side, this doesn’t have to be the case!
There are many ways in which you can take any regular baking recipe and use a few healthy substitutes for key ingredients. I will show you how!
Before carrying on, it’s important to note that while you can substitute one or two key ingredients in a recipe to suit your needs, it isn’t always a good idea to start replacing three, four, or five ingredients.
When you step into the territory of replacing multiple ingredients, you may just want to look for a new healthier recipe. But with that being said, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients you can swap out!
Alternatives to White Sugar
Sugar is commonly seen as the bad guy in baked goods. While it tastes oh so delicious, consuming high levels of sugar can lead to weight gain, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. So, it is probably a good idea to skip all of those risks and look for a healthier alternative to white sugar in baking.
There are two routes you can go when substituting sugar in baking and that is to choose a natural substitute or a man made one. Natural substitutes are things like honey and maple syrup that are “real” foods.
A healthier man made substitute would be using something such as Stevia or Sweet ‘N Low. We will look at both options and you can choose your preference based on your dietary goals.
Natural Healthy Sugar Substitutes
A great natural substitutes for sugar in baking is honey. It is actually considered sweeter than sugar and has many more health benefits than white sugar (which is basically empty calories- no one wants that!).
Honey has vitamins and minerals in addition to antioxidants which can help lower your blood pressure. Substituting honey for sugar in baking is easy enough as you simply need to use 3/4 cup of honey for every 1 cup of sugar in a recipe.
If the recipe has a liquid in it, it is also good to decrease the amount of liquid by about 3 tablespoons since honey is much runnier than sugar.
Using maple syrup instead of sugar is another route you can take when looking for a healthy substitute in baking. Syrup is similar to honey in that it contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals (which white sugar does not) and it has lots of antioxidants.
Substitute sugar with syrup by using 3/4 cup syrup for every 1 cup of sugar in a recipe and also reduce the amount of liquid by 3 tablespoons.
Coconut sugar can be used in place of regular white sugar at a simple one to one ratio. While coconut sugar shares many of the heath concerns as white sugar, it is less processed and is lower on the gylcemic index than white sugar meaning that your body can process it much better (a selling point for any diabetics).
Coconut sugar also is as sweet as regular sugar and has a nice tropical flavor to it which definitely adds a little something to your baked goods!
Man Made Sugar Additives
You may know these sweetener by their brand names which include Equal and NutraSweet. These sweeteners are much sweeter than regular sugar by several times over. They can be interpreted as healthier as they are low calorie or contain zero calories and are also okay for diabetics to enjoy without causing health concerns.
When baking with them, you need to use significantly less or look for a “baking blend” with a one to one ratio.
Just like aspartame, saccharin is an artificial sweetener that is manmade and contains no calories. You may be familiar with Sweet ‘N Low which is essentially saccharin. Look for a baking blend to ensure that you don’t over sweeten your baked goods!
Stevia is making a big name for itself in the world of ‘healthy’ sugars right now. Stevia comes from the stevia plant leaf which means that it is a natural source of sugar. However, it is highly processed in order to be usable as a sugar alcohol.
Stevia baking blends are made specifically for baked goods and are considered healthier than regular sugar as they contain beneficial calories (calories that actually add some kind of nutrition to your diet).
There are so many better options for baking than regular old white sugar so look for one of these healthy substitutes for your next project in the kitchen!
Alternatives to White Flour
White all purpose flour is extremely easy to use, it may not be the healthiest option. However, there are a few different alternatives that you can use instead of white flour. Who knows, you may love one more than white flour!
Almond flour is made by grinding almonds until they are a powdery dust, just like flour! This is a great substitute for baking as the nuts add a lot of healthy fats, protein and vitamin E as well as a good amount of fiber to your recipe.
Because of all the added fat that almond flour has, your baked goods may come out more dense and a little greasy so it is best to use almond flour in things like brownies or cookies.
Made from dried, ground coconut pulp, coconut flour is high in fiber, protein and is more easily digested than regular white flour. Coconut flour also converts sugar in your blood at a slower rate making it perfect for diabetics.
Coconut flour is very dense so it may dry out baked goods so mix it with other types of flour or be sure to add a little more liquid to your recipe.
Raw quinoa seeds are ground finely to make a fluffy flour, perfect for baking! Quinoa is high in protein and is a great alternative for people who cannot have wheat.
Quinoa flour doesn’t hold its shape very well so you may need to add an extra egg or two for stability in your recipe or just use it for things like pancakes which are okay to be flat!
This is another protein packed flour that also adds fiber, selenium and B vitamins to your recipes.
Chickpea flour will act very similar to white flour in your baking, holding its shape well but it does have a fairly strong nutty taste that may be perfect in some recipes but less than ideal in others.
Brown Rice Flour
You probably guessed how this flour was made- grinding brown rice! Brown rice flour has a similar texture to white flour and is easily used in baked goods as it doesn’t have a strong taste and is easy to work with.
So many options, what flour will you choose for your next baking project?! Not white flour, that’s for sure!
Alternatives to Butter
Butter tends to get a bad rap and may be the main reason a lot of people shy away from eating a lot of baked goods. However, there are a lot of healthier substitutes you can use rather than butter and here are a few you should try right now.
This tried and true substitute for butter is not only fat free and full of fiber but tastes so good. Replace the butter in your baking by using half of the amount of apple sauce as the amount of butter called for (if the recipe says one cup of butter, use 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce instead). This is perfect for cakes, cookies and quick breads.
It may sound a little out there to be baking with an avocado but you will be happy you did when your recipe is higher in fiber and vitamins K, B, B-5, B-6 and E.
Avocado is also perfect for just about any baking recipe and it’s mild taste won’t interfere too much with your baked goods. Use the same amount of mashed avocado as called for butter.
For a high protein option, replace butter with half the amount of greek yogurt. Greek yogurt works great in cakes, breads and muffins as it creates a velvety texture and has very little flavor imparted on your baking. Sounds easy enough for a healthy substitute!
Since coconut oil is solid when it is cold, just like butter, it is a perfect healthy oil substitute when baking. You can cream sugar with coconut oil just like butter which makes it perfect in cookies and cakes.
Coconut oil does have a tropical taste so be aware of this when picking what recipe to make. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid which is a type of saturated fat that raises the HDL (healthy type) of cholesterol in your body.
So as you can see, there is no need for butter in baking if you are trying to avoid it in your diet. Now which substitute to try first…
Alternatives to Eggs
While many people consider eggs to be healthy, you can also point to the high cholesterol levels that eggs can cause. While baking without eggs may seem tricky (how can you make those delicious chocolate chip cookies without eggs!?), it is definitely doable!
Try these substitutes if you want to back off on the amount of eggs you are consuming.
Flaxseeds in baking work exactly the same as eggs meaning they bind the ingredients together and are essential to almost every recipe. Flaxseeds also have little to no taste so you won’t even notice that they are there in your recipe.
So why use flaxseeds? Fiber and protein are two of the main reasons!
To use flaxseeds as a substitute for eggs, mix one tablespoon of ground flax with two tablespoons of water and let it sit for a few minutes. The mix will thicken and then be ready to use just like an egg!
Use 1/4 cup of mashed banana for one egg the next time you are making any baked goods. Be prepared for a nice banana taste though! Bananas are a perfect substitute for eggs as they are fibrous and low in fat.
The natural sweetness and high moisture makes applesauce a natural choice for baking. Applesauce can replace an egg and help with binding baked goods (they won’t crumble apart) but won’t help lift a pastry as an egg does.
So, skip applesauce if you are trying to make a light fluffy cake but definitely use it for dense chewy brownies. 1/3 cup of applesauce per egg is all you need!
Flavorless and so healthy, silken tofu is a nice egg substitute when you are cooking dense baked goods. Just like applesauce, it won’t fluff your baking but will hold everything together nicely. Use 1/4 cup pureed tofu to replace each egg.
So there you have it! Lots and lots of healthy substitutes for the most common baking ingredients.
Next time you are ready to bake, pull out this guide and see what healthy alternatives you can use. Want a healthier sweetening option? Ready to pass on white flour for something better? Trying to cut back on butter?
You have some great healthy choices for all of those ingredients now!
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.