Top 5 natural sweeteners and how to use them in cooking

PPhoebe September 2, 2023 1:56 PM

If you're looking for a healthier alternative to refined sugar, you're in luck! There are plenty of natural sweeteners available that can provide the sweetness you crave, without the negative health effects associated with sugar. Below, we're listing the top 5 natural sweeteners and giving you some tips on how to use them in your cooking and baking ventures.


Honey, often considered the queen of natural sweeteners, is not only delicious but also packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It's ideal for sweetening beverages like tea, can be drizzled over yogurt or oatmeal, and can be used in a variety of baking recipes as a sugar substitute.

Cooking tip: When substituting honey for sugar in baking, use ¾ cup of honey for every cup of sugar, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup.


Derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It's a great option for those watching their calorie intake or managing diabetes.

Cooking tip: Because of its intense sweetness, a small amount of Stevia goes a long way. Start with a pinch and adjust to taste.

Maple syrup

Maple syrup, extracted from the sap of maple trees, imparts a unique flavor to dishes along with its sweetness. It's perfect for pancakes, waffles, and can be used to sweeten baked goods, sauces, and marinades.

Cooking tip: When using maple syrup in baking, use ¾ cup for every cup of sugar, and decrease the liquid by 3 tablespoons.

Coconut sugar

Made from the sap of the coconut palm, Coconut sugar has a caramel-like flavor and is rich in several nutrients. It can replace refined sugar in baking at a 1:1 ratio.

Cooking tip: Despite its health benefits, remember that coconut sugar behaves like regular sugar in our bodies and should be used in moderation.

Agave nectar

Agave nectar is a sweetener produced from several species of agave plants and is slightly sweeter than honey. It's ideal for sweetening drinks, desserts, and can be used as a sugar substitute in baking.

Cooking tip: Use 2/3 cup of agave for every cup of sugar and reduce the liquid by ¼ to 1/3 cup.

Following table provides a quick comparison of these natural sweeteners:

Natural Sweetener Sweetness relative to sugar Calories per tablespoon Ideal for
Honey Slightly less sweet 64 Beverages, baking
Stevia 200 times sweeter 0 Beverages, baking
Maple syrup Similar sweetness 52 Pancakes, baking
Coconut sugar Same sweetness 45 Baking
Agave nectar Slightly more sweet 60 Beverages, baking

Remember, while these natural sweeteners are healthier than refined sugar, they still need to be used in moderation. It's always best to enjoy sweetness from whole foods like fruits whenever possible.

Incorporating these natural sweeteners into your cooking and baking can be a great step towards a healthier diet.

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