Although applesauce can serve as lower-calorie substitute for white or brown sugar in some recipes, it's not completely foolproof. Swapping out all the sugar affects the texture and even the color of some recipes, so it's best to use applesauce in dishes that don't rely on the sugar for crispy texture.
Choose an Unsweetened Apple Sauce
If working with store-bought applesauce, choose a variety listed as "unsweetened" or "no sugar added." Apples and applesauce naturally contain sugar, in the form of fructose. Avoid using applesauce that has added sugars or corn syrup, as these can make the applesauce unnaturally sweet while adding extra calories too, making them pointless as a sugar substitute.
Make Your Own Applesauce
Making your own applesauce is the best way to ensure you're familiar with all the ingredients. To make 2 cups of applesauce, core, peel and slice four apples. Steam the slices in a covered pot with enough water to nearly cover the apples. Steam five to seven minutes or until tender. Turn the apples into sauce by pureeing with an immersion blender or a high-speed blender.
Defining Sugar's Role in the Recipe
In some recipes, such as sugar cookies, sugar adds much more than sweetness. Sugar is an important part of the chemistry in the cookie, helping it brown and obtain that perfectly crispy texture. For crisp sugar cookies or hard candies, applesauce isn't a good replacement for sugar because it will affect the entire chemistry of the end product.
If the sugar's role is to add sweetness, such as in pot of baked beans or muffins, applesauce makes an excellent substitute for sugar. Applesauce works well with other baked goods, too, such as brownies and quick breads. It can also be substituted for sugar in oatmeal cookies, because oatmeal cookies rely on the oatmeal for texture instead of the sugar.
Choosing the Best Ratio for the Recipe
In many recipes, applesauce can be substituted for sugar equally: 1 cup applesauce for 1 cup sugar, for instance. Because applesauce is a wet ingredient, reduce the amount of another liquid, such as milk or water, by one quarter. Do not reduce the amount of eggs in the recipe, if any. Because applesauce can also be used as a substitute for oil or butter in cake or bread recipes, you could also slightly reduce the amount of either in a recipe in which you're already using applesauce in place of sugar. Don't eliminate all the oil or butter, or it may change the consistency of the recipe, and it may bake faster.
More applesauce can be added to enhance the sweetness if you prefer. In this case, use up to 1 1/2 cups applesauce for every 1 cup sugar, reducing the other wet ingredients.
Replacing Part of the Sugar
If you aren't so sure about replacing all of the sugar with applesauce, experiment. If a recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar, replace just 1 cup with applesauce. This way you'll have the best of both worlds: some dry sugar to work its kitchen chemistry and some fruit-based sugar to cut the final calorie count in the finished creation.
- Greatist: 83 Healthy Recipe Substitutions
- Time: Top 10 Food Substitutions for Healthier Cooking
- American Heart Association: Sugars 101
- Vitamix: How to Use Applesauce as a Sugar Substitute
- Detoxinista: Slow Cooker Applesauce
- Applesauce: A Healthy Replacement
- Prevention: 8 Surprising Oil Substitutions For Lighter, Healthier Brownies
- Consider the taste and texture of your recipe when you decide whether to substitute applesauce for sugar. Since sugar dissolves in liquid and applesauce does not, the texture may change. Puddings, cheesecakes and other baked goods with a creamy consistency may not be a good choice for making this substitution.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, Kroger, SFGate and others.