If you’ve been doing the health lifestyle thing for a while, you probably already know about agave and stevia, two natural sweeteners that knock the socks off of using synthetic sweeteners like aspartame – both health-wise and taste-wise. Agave and stevia are favorite ingredients for baking healthier dessert recipes that are far better than some other sweeteners, but why not try something new? Here are five lesser-known natural sweeteners you should try in baked goods the next time you pop something sweet in the oven:
1. Coconut Nectar
Coconuts can be used not just for their meat and milk, but also for nectar. Coconut nectar is derived from the liquid sap of the coconut blossoms. It is a low glycemic sweetener. Try it in Raw Vegan Chocolate Pudding Tart with Coconut Cream and Goji Berries, Vegan Cherry Pie with Hemp Seeds and Walnut, and Raw Vegan Mince Pies.
2. Barley Malt Syrup
This unrefined sweetener is created from malting sprouted barley grains. Its unique, molasses-like taste and dark, caramel-brown color makes it ideal for beer and bread recipes. Use it in Pretzel Roll Bagels and Old-Fashioned Montreal-Style Bagels.
3. Brown Rice Syrup
To make this sweetener, cooked rice is cultured with enzymes and concentrated. Brown rice syrup is low on the glycemic index scale. Try it in these Healthy Oats Squares with Coconut and Dates, Pear and Almond Tart, and Vegan Rice Krispy Treats. Look for organic, eco-farmed brands, since there is an arsenic risk with the manufacturing of brown rice syrup.
4. Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is the byproduct of table sugar production from either beets or raw sugarcane. Just two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses can provide 400 mg of calcium. Use this nutrient-dense sweetener in Super Power Vegan Bars, Spicy Gingerbread Cake, Russian Tea Time Cookies, and Hazelnut Cacao Torte.
5. Dates (and date sugar)
Date sugar is made by chopping up dried dates. It should not be used simply as a replacement for sugar in recipes, since it can clump and does not melt, as is necessary with some baked goods. Make date paste by blending soaked dates in a high-speed blender with just enough water to form a thick paste. You can use dates in these Vegan and Gluten-Free Date Square Cookies or date paste in these Mint Carob Walnut Brownies.
The next time you want to make a baked good, try using a lesser-known natural sweetener instead of sugar or the already-popular agave nectar. From nectar and syrup to sugar and molasses, nature has a host of sweet foods for us to enjoy.
Image source: Badagnani / Wikimedia Commons