Sugar has its place, but the last few decades, it’s been all over the place, thinking it can go anywhere it wants and invite extended family for a house party. Well, party’s over, pal. We don’t need (much of) your kind to make moist baked goods with fluffy insides and caramelized, crusty outsides. We’ve curated some of the best low-sugar baking books that teach how to make tantalizing treats using no sugar, less sugar, and alternatives to sugar.

Why did we ever need sugar in the first place? Besides the obvious appeal of its sweetness, Joanne Chang, pastry chef-owner of Flour Bakery + Café in Boston, says we’ve been drawn to sugar for its other abilities: attracting and holding moisture, browning, tenderizing, making pastries crispy, lowering the freezing point in frozen desserts, stabilizing beaten egg foam, inhibiting coagulation in custards, incorporating air into solid fats during the creaming process, and helping yeast grow by feeding it.

So yes, we will never break up with sugar completely.

“Choosing to consume less refined sugar is not a diet issue that pushes different groups’ buttons,” Chang says in Baking with Less Sugar. “Rather, it is the approach that always wins the day for all of us: intention and moderation over restriction and elimination.”

Bottom line: Sugar, we love you, but we need our space and think we should see other people. There’s always time to kick off 2017 on a healthy note with these nine tips and try these Paleo-approved snacks or 30 Whole30 approved foods. “We can still have our cake and eat it too if we learn to satisfy our cravings in other ways,” Chang says.

Let’s date around.

1. Baking With Less Sugar | Buy Now

Chang is a pastry chef first and foremost, so each recipe had to pass her “can’t stop eating it” test, besides having low or no sugar, to make it into her third pastry book. Sometimes she simply cuts down on the white sugar, and other times she leaves out all white sugar while playing up the recipe’s natural flavors with honey, maple syrup, chocolate, molasses, or fruit instead. We can tell you the apple-walnut-maple cake is to die for, and we have the truffle chocolate cream pie, honey cashew morning buns, and lemon ricotta cupcakes on our list to make next.  Buy it here.

2. Real Sweet | Buy Now

Bake at 350

Directed toward parents with young children and those who like to have friends and family over for dinner, this book by Shauna Sever, Piece of Cake blogger, turns to “real” sugars, such as coconut sugar, muscovado, agave nectar, turbinado sugar, and maple syrup. You get more than 80 recipes without a speck of refined white sugar. Buy it here.

3. Better Baking | Buy Now

Recipe developer for food and health magazines and collaborator with top pastry chefs, Genevieve Ko wanted to create treats that were just as indulgent as their originals. But she wanted to make her goodies even more full flavored and nourishing. Expect baked goods like brownies and pies reformulated with alternative oils, flours, and sugars. She uses brown sugar, maple syrup, and molasses in muffins and granola, reduced pomegranate syrup for her pomegranate pistachio baklava, and pureed fruits and vegetables to keep food moist, like her red velvet roulade with strawberry cream cheese. Buy it here.

4. Honey & Oats | Buy Now

Expect 75 classic baked goods, but with whole grains and low-sugar alternatives in this baking book, including light, moist, and flavorful cakes, pies, scones, cookies, muffins, bars, and breads. Author Jennifer Katzinger replaces sugar with honey, coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, and Sucanat. She uses oats and whole grains,such as teff, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, einkorn, barley, and whole-wheat flour. Buy it here.

5. Naturally Sweet | Buy Now

When you reduce or replace sugar in a baked treat, it can turn out dense, dry, and inedible if you don’t do it right. America’s Test Kitchen created this book to help you make all your favorites with 30 to 50 percent less sugar. Recipes include lower sugar cheesecake, coconut washboard cookies, honey carrot banana bread, and fudge-y chocolate cookies. Buy it here.

6. The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking | Buy Now

These 80 low-carb sweet and savory recipes offer solutions for people who are wheat-sensitive, have diabetes, and or want to lose weight. By using nut and seed flours and alternative, natural sweeteners as the foundation, legendary bread maker and James Beard Award-winning author Peter Reinhart and his baking partner, Denene Wallace avoid the carb-heavy starches that are found in typical gluten-free baking. From breakfast to dessert to dinner, there’s a range of recipes, such as blueberry hazelnut muffins, apple crumble pie, blondies, cheddar cheese and pecan crackers, poppy seed scones, pancakes, and pizza. Buy it here.

Check out these other savory and sweet healthy recipes. If you’re not concerned about sugar, just the best-tasting treats, then try some of our cookie recipes and cake recipes.

— Head Photo: Truffle Chocolate Cream Pie/Baking with Less Sugar.


Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
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