11 Sugar Free Desserts Without Artificial Sweeteners
Find the best sugar-free recipes, ingredients, and tips.
Anyone who’s followed a sugar-free diet knows it’s hard to find healthy desserts that actually taste good.
And artificial sweeteners aren’t necessarily a healthy swap for sugar. One study, published in 2022 BMJ journal, shows a link between artificial sweeteners, sucralose (used in Splenda) and aspartame, and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. And Harvard Health points out that many artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar. Sucralose, for example, is 600 times sweeter than sugar.
The good news is this: sugar-free desserts don’t need to contain artificial sweeteners. If you’re going sugar-free, you can use a range of foods and sugar alternatives to naturally sweeten desserts.
These recipes and ingredients help you prepare cakes, cupcakes, and cookies - whether you’re looking for zero-sugar desserts, keto desserts without stevia, or low-sugar diabetic desserts.
In this article, we’ve rounded up the internet’s most highly-rated low-sugar desserts.
How to bake low-sugar desserts without artificial sweeteners
When it comes to low or no-sugar desserts without artificial sweeteners, you have a few options:
- Natural sugar substitutes: Natural sweeteners that may provide some nutritional value. Examples: honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar
- Foods: Foods, usually overripe, that can be used to add sweetness and texture. Example: fruit, vegetables, and nuts
- Sugar alcohols: These occur naturally, but some are manufactured. Examples: erythritol and sorbitol
Depending on your dietary needs, some sugar substitutes will work better than others. Honey, for example, isn’t appropriate for a keto diet. While one animal study suggests monk fruit may be beneficial for diabetes.
Baking without sugar or sugar substitutes
Nuts, fruits, and vegetables naturally sweeten desserts if you’re baking without sugar or sugar substitutes.
Nutritionist Kerry Torrens tells BBC Good Food whole fruit and vegetables are natural sweeteners for sugar-free baking:
“Using them in their whole form means you'll be benefitting from the valuable fibre and nutrients they contain as well as enjoying their naturally sweet flavour.
“Popular veggie choices are carrots, parsnips and beetroot – these all work surprisingly well in sweet treats, as do sweet potatoes, squash and even courgettes. A great tip is to combine veg like these with ground almonds to create a crumbly, naturally sweet cakey crumb.”
In terms of fruits, bananas, mangos, and dates are great choices, said Torrens. Dried fruits like dates and prunes contribute sweetness, moisture, and stickiness.
How to bake desserts without refined sugar
When baking desserts without refined sugar, you’ll reach for natural sugars or minimally processed sugars rather than refined sugar.
Perhaps, you want to curb your refined sugar intake for health reasons. Too much refined sugar, from table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup, is linked with type 2 diabetes, according to Healthline.
Here’s the thing: a lot of these health concerns are connected with excess consumption. Sugar, in moderation, isn’t all that bad, suggests Harvard Health. But the reality is that manufacturers often sneak added sugar into foodstuffs like soup, brea, and sauces.
This means even if you’re avoiding soft drinks and sweets, you might still exceed the recommended intake. Case in point: adult men consume 24 teaspoons of sugar per day. The recommended daily serving? Nine teaspoons.
One way to curb your added sugar intake is to consume more whole foods over processed foods.
In addition, many choose to use these natural sweeteners in their desserts instead. But are these sugar substitutes better than sugar? Let’s review.
Raw honey has a slightly lower glycemic index score than sugar. As a result, it won’t spike your blood levels as much, writes dietician Lauren Armstong in CNBC.
Honey’s glycemic load is 58 vs sugar’s GI score of 60.
According to a research review published in the Molecules journal, honey is protective against diabetes and contains vitamins and minerals.
However, heating honey can reduce these health benefits, writes John Skinner, a professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee:
“Honey should not be heated rapidly, over direct heat. Basically, the hotter you heat it, the more potential for reducing nutritional value. Excessive heat can have detrimental effects on the nutritional value of honey.”
Skinner provides the guidelines for the impact of heat on honey’s nutritional value:
- Up to 37°C (98.6 F): causes loss of parts of antibacterial properties
- Up to 40°C (104 F) destroys invertase, an enzyme with potent health benefits
- Up to 50°C (122 F) for more than 48 hrs: honey becomes caramel. At this point, many of the most valuable honey sugars are comparable to sugar
You can learn more about heating honey on Bee Health Extension’s website.
A popular sugar substitute, coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree.
Although it contains traces of zinc, iron, and calcium, it doesn’t supply enough of these nutrients to “offer immeasurable benefit”, writes WebMD.
Still, coconut sugar may prevent blood sugar spikes:
“Per serving, coconut sugar contains a small amount of inulin, a type of soluble fiber that can make post-meal blood sugar spikes less likely. Foods containing inulin can be healthy choices for people with diabetes.”
Pure maple syrup
Pure maple syrup is a natural sweetener frequently used in baking. But is it healthier than sugar?
While maple syrup supplies antioxidants and has a lower GI, it’s still high in sucrose, writes Healthline.
Because maple syrup has no fiber, too much of it will cause blood sugar and insulin spikes, explains wellness dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, per Cleveland Clinic:
“So while it can be a decent substitute for sugar, I can’t yet recommend maple syrup to my patients as a “healthy choice.”
In short: even though natural sugars may provide health benefits, they’re still sugars. Limit your intake to avoid surges in your blood sugar and insulin levels.
11 sugar-free desserts without artificial sweeteners
Below, you’ll find no added sugar desserts and desserts without refined sugar.
Desserts without sugar or artificial sweeteners
You can bake the below desserts without sugar or artificial sweeteners.
- Keto fat bomb: A great treat for diabetics or anyone on a low-carb diet, this keto dessert is sugar-free. Bonus: it’s easy to make with just 5 ingredients.
- Frozen yogurt bites: This no-sugar dessert is packed with fruit and Greek yogurt.
- Vegan tiramisu with strawberries: Enjoy a sugar-free tiramisu made with almonds, dates, strawberries, and cashews.
- Sugar-free sweet potato brownies: Give this flourless, sugar-free, dairy-free brownie a try. Dates and ripe bananas add natural sweetness.
- Healthy chocolate cake: This rich, moist chocolate cake doesn't contain any sugars, using dates instead.
- Sugar-free three-ingredient cookies: An easy recipe that requires only oats, bananas, and coconut.
No sugar refined sugar desserts
These natural sugar desserts contain ingredients like coconut sugar, honey, or maple syrup.
- Keto cheesecake: You’ll only need five ingredients for this keto cheesecake, and there's a no-bake option, too. Feel free to use any natural sweetener in this recipe, like erythritol or xylitol.
- Keto sugar cookies: These low-carb cookies swap sugar for any granulated sugar substitute. It comes with a sugar-free frosting.
- Sugar-free flourless cookies: You’ll need only three ingredients, one bowl, and 10 minutes to make these sugar-free cookies.
- Keto cupcakes: These vanilla cupcakes contain keto basics like almond milk and almond flour. Choose from natural sweeteners like Swerve or erythritol to add sweetness.
- Low-carb peanut butter cookies: A simple diabetic cookie recipe without artificial sweetener. You only need five ingredients.
Pick a sugar-free dessert recipe and experiment this weekend
Sugar-free desserts can be rich and decadent and more healthful than sugar-laden desserts.
Choose an easy recipe and set aside time to experiment. You might choose to customize and refine the recipe to suit your preferences and dietary needs. Before you know it, you’ll have a bank of go-to sugar-free desserts you can prepare for special occasions.