Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, or Squash Purees
Pureed fruits make excellent substitutions for fat in baked goods – keeping in mind that they can slightly affect the taste of the finished product. Applesauce doesn’t impart too much flavor so that’s my go-to substitute, but prune puree (baby food works best because it’s so smooth) is great for chocolatey baked goods and banana and pumpkin purees work well with pancakes, waffles and quick breads. I use the same amount of puree as the amount of fat called for in the recipe. I humbly suggest baking my Chocolate Sweet Potato Spice Cake. It’s both oil- and sugar-free.
Nut and seed butters also make fantastic oil substitutes. I trade them one-for-one for the oil called for in a recipe. Check out my oil-free Quick Chocolate Chip Banana Squares and my Banana Fig Cakes with Date-Coconut Drizzle.
Barley Malt Syrup
Liquid Stevia, Coconut Nectar
Usually I use powdered stevia instead of even unrefined sugars. Stevia is derived from an herb and doesn’t wreak havoc on the glycemic index the way that other sweeteners do. And it packs a powerful sweet punch – it can be between 70-400 times sweeter than sugar – so you have to be mindful of how much you add to a recipe. I use between 1-2 teaspoons of powdered stevia for every one cup of sugar called for in the recipe. And since the bulk of sugar will be missing from the recipe, it must be replaced with applesauce or another fruit puree. I use 1/4-1/2 cup of applesauce when using 1-2 teaspoons of stevia in a recipe. Again, it takes some experimentation to get the texture the way you want it. NuNaturals makes wonderful stevia products – no bitter aftertaste – in a variety of flavors.
Agave nectar and maple syrup are great for using when making bread dough or preparing beverages since they dissolves quickly.
Maple sugar has a nostalgic place in my heart and when a recipe absolutely needs the grain and bulk of sugar, I reach for the jar of maple sugar. I get mine from the same place my family has been buying maple syrup forever: Richard’s Maple Syrup in Ohio. It’s the real deal. FYI, maple sugars can come in a variety of textures. The kind I buy is very fine so it’s good-to-go in recipes, but some are very coarse and need to be put through the food processor prior to use. Also, it can clump like brown sugar so store in an air-tight container and throw in a heel of bread to absorb moisture. Maple syrup can be substituted for sugar as well, but since it’s a liquid, the amount of other liquid called for needs to be reduced slightly.
Xylitol is another good substitute for white, refined sugar; it looks just like it. It’s derived from various sources including oats, birch, mushrooms, or corn husks. Unlike other sweeteners, xylitol is actually beneficial to dental health. I use it one-for-one in recipes.
Coconut nectar comes from coconut trees – think of it like maple syrup. It’s has a low glycemic index, is raw, and contains amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Use it in beverages, as a pancake or waffle syrup, or in baked goods.
Finally, date paste and date syrup make for nearly guilt-free sweetening (dates pack a powerful caloric punch, so go easy). I put chopped dates in my smoothies. For baked goods, I make a thick and intoxicating date paste (simply cover a pile of dates with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or so. Cool, process until smooth, and store in the ‘fridge). Dates add a smoky richness to sweet breads, cakes, and cookies. For a recipe that calls for 1 cup sugar, I will generally use 1/4 cup date paste and 1/2 to 1 tsp. of powdered stevia.
These aren’t the only unrefined sugar substitutes out there, but they are the only ones I have in my cupboard. You might investigate date sugar, brown rice syrup, turbinado or Demerara sugars as well. Check out my sugar-free Mango Lime Pancakes with Ginger & Coconut.
Nothing complicated here. If a recipe calls for dairy milk, substitute your favorite non-dairy variety – soy milk works especially well in baked goods calling for milk. You can even curdle it – either with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar – to make “buttermilk.” Try hemp, flaxseed, oat, rice, cashew, and coconut milks. They all have subtle and distinctive flavors, so do some taste-testing. If you don’t like the ingredient on store-bought non-dairy milks, make your own. Check out my almond milk and peanut milk recipes.
Same goes for yogurt, though be sure and read labels. I love coconut yogurt, but even the plain variety is usually sweetened.
Chia Seeds (pictured below)
Happily it is quite easy to replace eggs in recipes for baked goods. I switch between using ground flaxseed meal and Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer (made from soy flour, wheat gluten, seaweed and corn syrup solids). I’ve used both to great success. The ratio of water to replacer is the same for both: 1 tablespoon replacer/flaxmeal + 3 tablespoons water. When using flaxseed meal, add 1/8 tsp. baking powder to the mix to lessen gumminess. Whisk together until frothy and let sit a moment to thicken, then add to the recipe with the other liquids. Hampton Creek Foods also offers a powdered egg substitute (they also make a mayonnaise substitute) and don’t miss out on the “aqua faba” craze. Use the thick liquid from canned chickpeas or white beans. I use 3 tablespoons in place of 1 egg.
Chia seeds also make a very satisfactory egg substitute. I use 1 tablespoon chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsp. water. Be sure and stir the chia/water well so that all of the seeds are moistened. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes until very thick and gooey. Keep in mind that using chia seeds will give a little bit of crunch (unless you grind them) to whatever you use it in – much like poppy seeds. Check out my Carrot Walnut Bread recipe and my Creamy Chia Cheddar Sauce.
Silken tofu can be used to replace the eggs in recipes as well – use 1/4 tofu for each egg called for in the recipe. Water-packed tofu can be used to make scrambled “eggs” and “egg” salad – with surprisingly delicious results.
Try The Vegg if you’re looking for a substitute for egg yolks. It’s eerily yolky.
There are many mayo substitutes – many of which taste spot on to their eggy counterparts. I love mayo, but it’s loaded with oil so I use it very, very rarely. Vegenaise, Nasoya, and Hampton Creek Foods (my favorite) all offer delicious mayo stand-ins. Check out my Nasoya Nayonaise and NayoWhipped review and mayo recipes.
If you avoid added oils as I do, make your own creamy sandwich spread with silken tofu, lemon, dry mustard, salt and pepper.
If you’re trying to ween yourself off of coffee, give herbal substitutes a try. They are surprisingly delicious and can be used in all kinds of ways – from straight up “coffee” to lattes, smoothies, and in baking. I especially like Cafix and Dandy Blend – but there are many other brands – try a few to find the one that makes your taste buds sing. Teeccino also makes a huge variety of herbal substitutes (some of which come in handy single serve “tea” bags). I like their French Vanilla and Hazelnut flavors.
While ground cacao is not strictly a coffee substitute, I include it here because it’s delicious and also might make for a good replacement for those trying to kick the coffee habit. My brand of choice is Crio Bru or Choffy, but there are other brands as well. Brew it up like you would coffee (I use a French press) and add a splash of non-dairy milk and sweetener of choice. The smell alone will get you. P.S. you can use the un-brewed or brewed grounds in baked goods. Check out my Chocolate Sweet Potato Spice Cake and my Chocolate-coated Key Lime-Coconut Creme Pie recipe.
*I am not compensated in any way by the brands mentioned or pictured here.