Natural Sweeteners: Baking with Honey, Stevia and Other Sugar Alternatives

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This holiday season, enjoy decadent treats—such as this honey cake with caramelized oranges—made healthier with sweet alternatives to refined sugar.

The holidays are a time to celebrate, but that doesn’t have to mean abandoning our healthy eating habits. This season, impress your friends and family by serving up delicious, classic flavors without relying on refined white sugar. In the following recipes, 100 percent natural sweeteners such as honey, stevia and agave nectar bring rich flavors and a healthier profile to your homemade baked goods. Pack on the flavor, not the pounds!

Hearty Honey

The most common of all of the natural sweeteners, versatile honey can replace sugar in almost any recipe–use about half as much honey as you would sugar. Rich in antioxidants, honey also has well-established antibacterial properties.

Sweet Stevia

Stevia is a remarkably healthful herbal sweetener that can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, yet is completely natural and calorie-free. Stevia combines well with other sweeteners and is heat-stable, making it ideal for baking. Best of all, most experts believe stevia does not affect blood sugar levels. Stevia can be used whole or crumbled, fresh or dried. You can even grow and dry stevia yourself. You’ll find stevia extracts at natural food stores–extracts vary in sweetness, so adjust recipes according to package instructions.

Peanut Butter Cookies

This cookie is perfect for freezing.

Unbelievable Agave Nectar

Many varieties of the agave plant produce a wonderfully sweet, low-calorie nectar. The nectar’s high fructose-to-glucose ratio makes it a low-glycemic sweetener, meaning the body metabolizes it slowly, preventing dramatic spikes and dips in blood sugar. Plus, it’s sweeter than sugar, so you can use less. Agave nectars come in light, amber and dark varieties. Light agave nectar has an almost-neutral sweet flavor ideal for most delicate baked goods, but you might enjoy the caramel flavors you’ll get with darker grades. Experiment to find your favorite nectar for various recipes.

Agave sweetens these two heavenly cream pies. If their amazing flavor isn’t enough to impress you, their easy, quick assembly is sure to knock your socks off. For more decadence, top them with homemade whipped cream–whip in a bit of agave nectar for sweetness. For an extra health boost, check out this great  vegan pie crust made with whole grains and agave.

Vegan Coconut Custard Pie

This yummy, creamy version of the classic dessert will be loved by vegans and non-vegans alike.

Banana Cream Pie

This rich banana cream custard pie is decadent but free of refined sugar.


GloryBee Foods
organic agave syrup

Local Harvest
find local beekeepers

organic agave syrup

Navitas Naturals
organic stevia powder

NOW Foods
organic stevia extract

Wholesome Sweeteners
organic agave syrup

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