“Sugar, ah honey honey… Honey, ah sugar sugar. And you’ve got me wanting you!”
Y’all frequently ask me about my favorite sweeteners; you want to know where I buy them and what recipes I use them in. Before I get started, let me just remind you that I am not an expert. I am just a home cook, sharing what I’ve learned over the years. I haven’t backed this up with scientific research or anything; this is just what I have gathered from trial and error.
We all can probably agree that for the most part, sugar is sugar.
Here in the Myers’ house, we have cut back on our sugar intake over the last 7-8 years. And we always try to use healthier sweeteners. Which means, we choose the least processed sugars we can and are always trying to consume things as close to their natural state as possible.
But, I’m not trying to fool myself saying, “Oh this is just local, raw honey or pure maple syrup… I can drink the whole quart!”
No way. We always try to watch our sugar consumption, and we try not eat excessive amounts no matter how “healthy” of a sweetener it is. We aren’t against sugar. Y’all know I love chocolate; I’ve got stashes all over the house! But as a family, we just consume our sugar and sweets in moderation.
Whenever I bake, I usually cut the amount of sugar in half.
We don’t really notice a difference. For example, most muffins call for 1 cup of sugar and I always do 1/2 cup. Sugar is not really a flavor that we miss. When you’re having a muffin, you’re slathering butter all over it, right? You might find, like we did, that you don’t need all that sugar.
Here are my favorite sweeteners:
We buy local, raw honey in bulk from the farmer’s market. We prefer the raw honey, because I can also use it medicinally. My kids and husband will eat this by the spoonful. I am not a huge fan of honey; I don’t like the taste of it. When I bake muffins, cookies, or most other baked goods where I can really taste the honey, I prefer to sub something else. I do use honey in recipes where I can’t taste it, like my bread recipes. Don’t forget that when you heat raw honey, you lose a lot of health benefits. If you have a sore throat, it is very soothing mixed with real cinnamon. We also sweeten smoothies with honey and my kids love it on their toast.
Sucanat is a whole, unrefined cane sugar that is also known as evaporated cane juice. It is less processed and more natural than white sugar, but it’s still sugar. It’s a great substitute for brown sugar in recipes because it has a bit of a molasses taste. This is not very good in sweet tea. I buy mine 50 lbs at a time from Bread Beckers.
Honey Granules are basically just sucanat that has had honey added to it to change the color slightly. The honey makes it lighter in color and flavor. When you use it in cooking or baking, the flavor is not as deep and rich as traditional sucanat. Honey Granules are delicious in sweet tea! I purchase mine from Honeyville.
I know y’all are going to tell me that stevia is a really processed and contains maltodextrin (from non-GMO corn). And I hear you – I do not use it all the time! To be honest, most stevia has such a weird aftertaste I can’t even eat it. But the Kal Stevia is amazing. I love it. A 4 oz bottle costs about $20, but it takes me a LONG time to go through that much – seriously a LONG time. I know some people just don’t like the flavor (Barry is one of them) and that’s okay too! But if you haven’t found a stevia you like the flavor of, you might want to try this brand. I drink my coffee black, with no sugar. But if I ever make a special hot drink like my crock-pot honey spiced latte, I love sweetening with stevia instead of pure sugar.
I always like to have some unbleached (white) organic granulated sugar on hand. There are certain baked goods that I make with sugar, especially when I’m cooking for other people. I buy this for a very affordable price at Aldi.
REAL Maple Syrup (and not that crap labeled “syrup”)
Our favorite syrup is a local Grade B maple syrup made by a family at our church. We usually buy at least a gallon or two at a time. While it doesn’t have the same health benefits as honey, it is healthier and much less processed than conventional sugars. We love it! We enjoy it on baked oatmeal, in my iced coffee drink, homemade granola, and homemade ice cream, just to name a few. Since we buy ours in bulk, we always portion out a pint or so and freeze the rest. But don’t worry maple syrup won’t completely solidify in the freezer.
One note about sugars I don’t use…
Some people believe Erythritol and Xylitol are natural sugars. While I used to enjoy them regularly, I don’t anymore. Both of these really bother my stomach. Let’s just when I consume these it makes me very musical. I ask myself, should my sugar be giving me gas?? I have several friends who can’t do sugars, and so they have to use xylitol or erythritol. I get that, but for the Myers house, we chose to avoid them.
Also, I have tried coconut sugar the past but it’s not a sugar I plan to buy in the future. I’m not as big of a fan of the flavor it adds to recipes. It is less sweet than the sugars I have mentioned above, so I had to use more sugar to get the results I wanted. Since it has some of the more expensive price tags, I felt like it wasn’t worth it for our family.