Return To Site

With so many varieties of sugar in a bakers arsenal, how do we know which one(s) are the best? From stevia to straight white sugar, we try 11 different kinds of sugar combinations and substitutes to make the most perfect vegan and gluten free brownies. EVER.

11 natural sugar substitutes for the BEST VEGAN GLUTEN FREE BROWNIES

With so many varieties of sugar in a bakers arsenal, how do we know which one(s) are the best? In particular, how do we know that they are vegan, gluten free and possibly a little healthier? Is there a way to reduce the calories while maintaining the perfect fudgy (or cakey) texture we all love in a brownie?

These are the questions that circle the inclusive bakers head constantly. We want it to taste like the real deal, but still be “better” (whatever that means).

From stevia to straight white sugar, we tried 11 different kinds of sugar combinations and substitutes to make the most perfect vegan and gluten free brownies. EVER.


We combined all sugars used in this trial with the cane sugar present in our premium baking mixes (get yours here). If you're making your own brownies, we like to cut the recipe sugar requirements down by 1/3, and we sub in one of the following sweeteners. Full Disclaimer: There is no real "healthy" sweetner, unless it is calorie free like stevia or xylitol. Your body will break down sugar molecules all the same, whether it came direct from a tree or from a refined cane.   RANKED AND TESTED, THESE ARE THE RESULTS: 11) 1/4 cup Applesauce; Like in our egg substitute trials for brownies, apple sauce came in near to dead last. Although the acidity of the applesauce made the brownies rise much more and gave a lovely soft, cakey texture, the overwhelming taste of apples ruined the expected chocolatey taste of a brownie. Overall, we would not recommend the use of applesauce in any chocolatey treat. Ever.  10) 1/4 cup Agave; We get a lot of questions regarding the use of agave instead of maple syrup when making our brownie mixes. Although they can sub 1-1, the sticky texture that agave creates in these brownies is outright unpleasant. Agave is not any healthier than using regular cane sugar, so why go through the hassle of having a stick non-brownie when you can just enjoy a real, full sugar brownie? 9) 1/4 cup Unsweetened Soy Milk; For those who are trying to reduce their sugar or carbohydrate intake, using unsweetened soy milk could be a good option. The brownie was still soft and moist, but it was noticably less sweet than any brownie we have ever had. It is really great if you are not a huge sweets fan- the cocoa is really apparent! However, I would mix the soy milk with some stevia or xylitol to try and keep the sweetness of a classic brownie alive, while reducing those calories!Or, you can just eat dessert and enjoy it for its calorie-laden deliciousness! That's what we prefer anyways! 8) 1/4 cup Medjool dates, pitted and made into a paste; Dates are a fairly popular low-cal sweetner in the vegan community, especially with raw desserts. In our baked brownies, they were delicious,  for a fruit. The date flavour was apparent on first bite- not something you exactly want in a classic fudgy brownie. Regardless, it was still better than old applesauce, so if you have dates lying around and want to get creative with your brownies, by all means, go for it! 7) 1/4 cup brown sugar in 2 tbsp water; Our Bettie's Brownie baking mixes already contain part brown cane sugar, which gives it a more rich depth of flavour if we just used plain white cane sugar. However, adding it in excess really was not ideal. It did not do much for the brownie, and therefore placed in the lower middle of this ranking. There are much better sweetners out there, so why settle for 7th (or lower!). This can be used in a pinch, however. 6) 1/4 cup coconut sugar in 2 tbsp water; Coconut sugar is another popular sweetner in the healthy baking scene. In our brownies, it fairs well and makes a decent tasting brownie. However, due to it being slightly more grainy there is a slight textural difference compared to something like maple syrup. It is best to dissolve the coconut sugar very well in water to reduce the grainy-ness. In addition, its an expensive sweetner. Given that there are so many other less expensive sweetners out there, why settle for coconut sugar?  5) 1/4 cup coconut nectar; This sweetner is an equivalent to honey, minus the bees. It did create a chewy and soft brownie that tasted as great as our other top 4 brownies, but due to its high price ($16.00 CAD for 200mL), we would not recommend this as the first choice sweetner for our brownies. 4) 1.5 tsp powdered stevia; Let's be frank: we at Dolled Up Desserts HATE stevia. We are white sugar and Earth Balance lovers, so the artificial taste that stevia brings to treats (even though it is totally a natural sweetner) is a turn off. The raw batter was 100% stevia- it was revolting!However, to our suprise, the stevia brownies were INCREDIBLE! The only reason these brownies are ranked 4th was because it made a cakey brownie, and we're all about fudgy brownies (who isn't!). However, the stevia taste was gone, it was pleasantly sweet and overall just as good as any classic cakey brownie. This is weird for me to say but I love stevia brownies! You should try it out! 3) 1/4 cup monk fruit/xylitol combination; Monk fruit is a fairly new sweetner to the sugar market. This sweetner comes from a small melon native China and Thailand. It is used as a sweetener and herbal remedy in traditional Eastern medicine, and has recently made its way into the North American Keto Market as a sugar that doesn't raise blood sugar levels and is calorie free. In our brownies, it made a fudgy and deliciously sweet treat. However, this sweetner is very expensive. Unless you have a lot of dough, we would recommend stevia as your go-to calorie free sweetener. If that's how you swing of course. The next two sweetners are really our true favourites. 2) 1/4 cup maple syrup; This is the Dolled Up Desserts standard natural sweetner. Amber and dark maple syrup has a rich depth of flavour that cannot be achieved with other sweetners. We love using it in our treats whenever possible. As a Canadian, it is also widely available in its natural form. Would table syrup work in the same way? Unlikely. Try to use the pure stuff over the corn syrup whenever possible to get the authentic Canadian brownie taste. 1) 1/4 cup white sugar in 2 tbsp water; The words I am sure most health-fanatics would shudder at: WHITE SUGAR WINS! With traditional fudgy brownies, white sugar is the primary sugar and is essential in making the perfect soft texture of a brownie. It also plays a role in creating that crackly brownie top that we are all familiar with. So, it was no surprise to us that white sugar took the cake (or brownie, in this case). We truly believe dessert should taste like and just be DESSERT. In all of its sweet and fatty glory. So if you're going to have dessert, especially dessert everyone will enjoy, we believe jumping off the deep end and using white sugar is your best bet! What do you think about our ranking? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!