Food & Drink

How Baking With Less Sugar Can Make Your Desserts Taste Better

sugar canva

Of all the trends in the dessert world, "low sugar" doesn't sound particularly sexy. But according to some of the country's leading pastry chefs, desserts with less sugar are the wave of the future.

It's not necessarily that chefs are using less sugar for health purposes, though a low-sugar diet is one of the top recommendations for Americans from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). Chefs are embracing less sugar in their desserts to add nuance to flavor, resulting in better-tasting and more interesting desserts.

Brooks Headley, pastry chef at New York City restaurant Del Posto, said at last month's Brooklyn's Food Book Fair that sugar can overpower other flavors, and ultimately dull the palate. The chef said he thinks about sugar "the way a savory chef thinks about salt. Sugar should be used to enhance the other flavors [in a dish].”

Pastry chef Joanne Chang, who owns Boston's Flour Bakery, echoes Headley's sentiment in her new cookbook "Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar." Chang doesn't demonize the white stuff, but celebrates using less of it. "You will discover, as I did," Chang says, "that when you don't focus on sugar and sweetness, you end up with desserts that are full of amazing, compelling flavor."

Using less sugar isn't always easy, however, because it does more than make food sweet. It also affects texture, the moisture and the lifespan of the food. So chefs often have to develop creative fixes when cutting back. Chang, for example, treats her low-sugar ginger cookies like biscotti. She dries them overnight so that they get the right amount of crisp.

For more successful ways to eliminate sugar, and achieve more flavor in the process, check out the 11 recipes below.

Low-Sugar Banana Bread
Frugal Living NW
Get the Low-Sugar Banana Bread recipe from Frugal Living NW
Sugar-Free (Or Low-Sugar) And Flourless Chocolate And Oatmeal Cluster Cookies (Gluten-Free)
Kaylyn's Kitchen
Chocolate Peanut Butter Avocado Pudding
Minimalist Baker
Flourless And (Almost) Sugar-Free Cookies With Peanut Butter And Chocolate
Kaylyn's Kitchen
Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies (Made Without Flour, Eggs or Sugar)
Eat Real Healthy Food
Low-Sugar and Whole Wheat Garden Harvest Cake With Zucchini, Apple And Carrot
Kaylyn's Kitchen
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Gimme Some Oven
Get the Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe from Gimme Some Oven
Apple Pie Date Bars
Minimalist Baker
Get the Apple Pie Date Bars recipe from Minimalist Baker
Low-Sugar Gluten-Free Cranberry Apple Crisp
Kaylyn's Kitchen
Mango And Strawberry Crisp (Refined Sugar Free)
Not Enough Cinnamon
Whole-wheat crackers, 8
bhofack/iStock/360/Getty Images
Up to 12 grams sugar Source: Eat It to Beat It!by David Zinczenko
Crispy chicken and spinach salad, prepared in a restaurant
TBird59/iStock/360/Getty Images
Up to 13 grams sugar Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko
Tomato basil soup, 1 can
molka/iStock/Thinkstock
Up to 13-22 grams sugar Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko
Crunchy broccoli salad, 1/2 cup
ElenaFabbrili/iStock/Thinkstock
7 grams sugar Source: Kraft recipes
Energy drinks, 8-ounce bottle*
Up to 21–30 grams *Some energy drinks are sold in 16-ounce bottles Source: University of California, Davis, Department of Nutrition fact sheet
Yogurt, single serving-size cup (usually 6 ounces)
moranaF/iStock/Thinkstock
Up to 25–34 grams of sugar Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko
Coleslaw, 2 tablespoons
TheMalni/iStock/Thinkstock
Up to 12 grams of sugar Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
Baked beans, 1/2 cup
Ju-Lee/iStock/Thinkstock
11–16 grams of sugar Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
Beef jerky, 1 serving
bhofack2/iStock/Thinkstock
4–6 grams of sugar Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
Vanilla almond milk, 1 cup
bhofack2/iStock/Thinkstock
Up to 14 grams of sugar (Unsweetened almond milk: 0 grams sugar) Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
Hamburger buns, 1 bun
sautepl/iStock/Thinkstock
Up to 3–6 grams Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
Teriyaki marinade
Svetlana Kolpakova/Hemera/Thinkstock
Up to 8 grams sugar Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko
Cereal bars, 1 bar
rzeszutek/iStock/Thinkstock
12 grams of sugar, on average Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
Hot cereal, 1 envelope
AbbieImages/iStock/Thinkstock
Up to 7–12 grams Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
Dark chocolate, 1 bar
Zakharova_Natalia/iStock/Thinkstock
Up to 16–21 grams (You can find dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao with as little as 5 grams of sugar) Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko