Knowing how to make sugar-free muffins is a good trick to have up your sleeve! Muffins can still be sweet without refined sugar, and I'm going to show you how and share a few recipes.
Muffins are wonderful little puffs of heaven, and I could eat them every day.
They are a great make-ahead breakfast or they can be enjoyed for a snack. Sometimes I even warm up a muffin for dessert and serve it with a scoop of ice cream!
The problem with me eating them every day is that my kids would also want to eat them every day, and I don't like to give them that much sugar.
So, sugar-free muffins are a must at our house!
Substitutions for sugar in muffins
"Sugar-free" doesn't have to mean "gross," though. There are a number of ways you can bake muffins without refined sugar.
And I don't just mean making savory egg frittata muffins either. (Though I also do that!)
Baking sugar-free muffins isn't as hard as it looks, I promise. There are lots of ways, from natural sweeteners to man-made substances, to skip the pure sugar in a recipe.
Whether you have a dietary need to eat less sugar or are just looking to scale back on sweets, there's a muffin here for you.
No matter which of these 6 methods you use, make sure you store your muffins properly so they stay fresh and delicious as long as possible.
Note: I am not a nutritionist or doctor — these are just the ways I make my recipes at home. If you are looking for a recipe for sugar free muffins for diabetics or any other dietary concern, please consult your doctor.
Coconut sugar AKA coconut palm sugar is an all-natural sweetener made from the sap of coconut palm flowers.
Made without cutting down trees, coconut sugar is a sustainable and environmentally-friendly option for baking.
It is brown in color and has a similar texture to brown sugar, though it doesn't clump. Muffins will bake into a golden brown color, a trademark of using coconut sugar.
According to Bon Appetit, coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index ranking (GI) than cane sugar. Foods with low GI values are digested and metabolized at a slower rate, prompting smaller fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels, and reducing risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes.
You can use coconut sugar in a 1:1 ratio with granulated sugar. However, note that brown sugar and coconut sugar have the exact same amount of calories.
Where to buy it: Coconut sugar should be available in most grocery stores, near the alternative sugars and flours. I buy this coconut sugar, which is available online.
Try coconut sugar in: Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins. These muffins are made with coconut sugar and soaked oats. They are naturally sweet and have lots of flavor and texture. They're also dairy-free!
I also use coconut sugar in these Lemon Blueberry Muffins. Such a delicious breakfast!
Dates are a type of stonefruit, which means they contain pits. Though native to the Middle East, dates are often grown in California and Florida. We also have date farms in Arizona that I would love to check out!
According to The Food Network, "Dates can be found year-round and are sold pitted, unpitted and even chopped. Store dried dates in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months or in the refrigerator for up to 1 year."
I almost always have Medjool dates on hand to add to baked goods. For muffins, blend chopped, pitted dates with boiling water to create a paste-like substance, then you can add them to your recipe like sugar.
Dates are also made into date sugar, which can be used like coconut sugar.
Where to buy dates: Dates are available at most supermarkets. I buy these Medjool dates. We regularly get them during our Costco runs too. Other dates will work, but Medjool tend to be the sweetest and softest, which works great for muffins!
Try dates in: No Sugar Added Blueberry Muffins. This was the first recipe I made without added sugar and as someone who’s grown up on store-bought, sugar-filled muffins, I was skeptical but they turned out so well! This recipe is made in a blender, which is perfect for getting those dates into the batter. It's been a fan favorite on the blog for years!
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener made from the sap of maple trees. A staple on every kind of pancake and waffle, maple syrup is a delicious addition to baked goods as well.
Maple syrup can also be dried and made into maple sugar, which also works in lieu of refined sugar. Make sure you are using 100% pure maple syrup and not the stuff with corn syrup.
According to Vermont Maple Sugar Makers, the best way to substitute maple syrup for regular sugar is to use "¾ to one cup of maple syrup for every one cup of granulated white sugar. Decrease the liquid in your recipe by 2 to 4 tablespoons for each cup of syrup used. Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon baking soda, unless your recipe already calls for buttermilk, sour milk or sour cream. Also, decrease your oven temperature by 25 degrees as batters containing maple tend to caramelize around the edges more quickly.
If you're using maple sugar, you can use a 1:1 ratio for granulated sugar.
Where to buy maple syrup: Pure maple syrup is widely available in grocery stores. Look in the baking aisle or near the pancake mixes. This is my favorite maple syrup right now.
Where to buy maple sugar: Maple sugar can be found with the sugar and flour alternatives in the grocery store. I buy this maple sugar.
Use maple syrup in: Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Muffins. I love to bake these in the fall when I am craving some autumn spices on everything and maple syrup is the perfect complement.
Oh, the sweet bees' nectar. I love to use honey to sweeten everything from whipped cream to lemonade.
You can use it in lieu of maple syrup or agave nectar. For drinks and some baked goods, you may need to make a honey syrup by adding hot water to lessen the viscosity of the thick honey.
According to The Kitchn, you will want to use less honey than sugar when substituting honey in baking recipes because honey is sweeter than granulated sugar. You may also want to reduce liquids in the recipe, add more baking soda and reduce the oven temperature.
Where to buy it: Honey is widely available in grocery stores. I try to buy organic honey whenever I can.
Use honey in: No-Sugar Added Strawberry Muffins. Honey adds extra sweetness to this recipe, which also uses dates. The strawberries are sweet on their own, of course, so these are a lovely option for a naturally sweet treat.
Bananas are another natural way to incorporate sweetness into muffins. As we know from banana bread and banana smoothies, these tropical fruits make for a delicious sweetener.
Bananas are often used in vegan baking as a substitute for eggs. However, bananas are flavorful so they will also add in flavor and sweetness. Only use them when they complement other ingredients. I am always surprised by recipes that use bananas AND sugar, when bananas are plenty sweet!
According to The Spruce, you can freeze ripe bananas for easy baking. Be sure to pay attention to the size and poundage of the bananas so that you can use the right amount in your recipe.
Where to buy bananas: At the grocery store!
Try bananas in: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. Omit the chocolate chips or use sugar-free chocolate chips (I like Lily's) if you want to make these truly sugar-free.
Baking with apples is another natural way to bring in the sweetness of real fruit. I love baking with apples, especially this apple spice skillet cake or a good slice of apple crisp.
Applesauce, which is made by cooking apples with spices, is both a delicious after-school treat and a way to bake without sugar.
Applesauce makes a great egg and/or oil substitute as well, especially if you are in a pinch. According to Taste of Home, substituting applesauce in baked goods can change the texture of your baked goods, so you may need to experiment with a recipe until you get the right texture.
I always recommend buying unsweetened applesauce for baking, especially if you are using it in lieu of sugar.
Where to buy applesauce: Most grocery stores will have applesauce. I like to buy jars for my kids, but I keep a few of the little snack-size cups on hand for baking. You can even make your own homemade applesauce.
Try applesauce in: Healthy Apple Muffins. These easy apple muffins by my friend Liz use applesauce, fresh apples and honey to create a delicious sweet treat.
Other sugar substitutes
There are a number of other ways to make muffin and other baking recipes sugar-free. I prefer natural sweeteners over Swerve, Splenda, or xylitol, but it totally depends on your diet and preferences! Check out these other sugar substitutes suggested by Gemma's Bigger Bolder Baking:
- agave nectar
- fruit concentrates
- barley syrup
- malt syrup
- lakanto sugar (made from monkfruit)
- xylitol or erythritol
- Swerve (made from erythritol, can be used 1:1 for sugar)
- Splenda (their baking blend can be used 1:1 for sugar)
- Stevia (a liquid, best for unbaked desserts)
No matter what method you use, if you are converting a muffin recipe using refined sugar to a sugar-free recipe, there may be some trial and error. Do your research and don't blame the recipe creator if it doesn't go perfectly the first time. 😉
Let me know which sugar-free muffin recipes you try!
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