When it comes to sweet treats, brownies are a chocolate lover's dream. The decadent, chewy bars usually get their sweetness from a heap of white, granulated sugar, but there are several alternatives if you want to switch it up. Whether you are trying to go sugar-free for health reasons, or just opened your pantry halfway through mixing only to discover your sugar jar empty, some standard and not-so-standard swaps have you covered.
Brown sugar is just white sugar that either retained residual molasses during refinement, or had molasses added after it had been processed. Brown sugar can be substituted directly, in the same quantities, as white sugar in most brownie recipes. Some recipes specifically call for brown sugar instead of white sugar. The only difference will be in flavor -- brownies made with brown sugar will have a slight molasses flavor, especially if you pack the sugar when you measure it.
Dry Sugar Substitutes
If your goal is a sugar-free version of brownies, swap out the standard sugar for a dry sugar substitute. Dry sugar substitutes, such as zero-calorie sweeteners made with sucralose, aspartame or stevia, can be swapped in your brownie recipes. Most sugar substitutes can be swapped in equal quantities with granulated sugar, but check the instructions on the package.
Wet Sugar Substitutes
Several wet sugar substitutes can also replace the granulated sugar in brownies. Maple syrup and honey can both replace sugar, though using them won't cut calories. If you want to go sugar-free, try a zero-calorie liquid sweetener. Agave nectar can replace a portion of white sugar at a ratio of about 2/3 cup agave for every 1 cup of granulated sugar. When using wet substitutes, reduce other wet ingredients to avoid a runny batter. Removing one egg white is usually enough.
If you are in a pinch, or if you are feeling creative, think outside the box for adding sweetness to brownies. Unsweetened dried fruit purees are an excellent source of natural sweetness. You can pulse your own purees in a food processor or buy fruit purees in the baking section of the grocery store. Swap out one-half of the oil or butter in your brownie recipe with a fruit puree, like prunes, and likewise cut the sugar in half. If the recipe calls for granulated sugar, try half as much brown sugar or sugar substitute instead.
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Hannah Wahlig began writing and editing professionally in 2001. Her experience includes copy for newspapers, journals and magazines, as well as book editing. She is also a certified lactation counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Holyoke College, and Master's degrees in education and community psychology from the University of Massachusetts.