How To Substitute Sugar In A Cookie Recipe

by National Cookie Network

If you’ve ever wondered about what sugar does in your cookies, or what kind of substitutes you can use for it, then this is a must read.

What Sugar Does

When it comes to cookies, sugar is not only a sweetener, but also a tenderizer. It caramelizes as it melts, altering the texture of your cookies. The more course your sugar is, the slower it will melt, and the chewier your cookies will be. The finer your sugar is, the faster the sugar will melt and the crispier your cookies will be.

Sugar helps to create “spread” in your cookies. The finer the sugar is, the more your cookies will spread and “thin-out” (This does not apply to powdered sugar).

Brown sugar will give a brown coloring to your cookies, as well as adding a molasses flavoring (I LOVE Chocolate Chip Cookies made with brown sugar. Yum!)

Powdered Sugar (or confectioners sugar) is rarely used in a cookie recipe. I do have some recipes that call for it, but not many. Typically, this type of sugar is used more for making icing, sprinkling over your cookies, or powdering your counter top with to roll out your cookie dough.

Liquid sugars such as honey or agave, do not contain the air that regular sugars do, and will alter the leavening in your cookies. This means that if you are using a liquid sweetener, you may want to add baking powder or soda to your recipe to help with the leavening a bit.

A Word On Weight

I’m referring to the weight of your sugar. Any sugar, liquid or dry.

Before I get into how to substitute your sugars, you have to understand the difference between measuring by weight and measuring by volume.

The essence of what I’m about to say is that sugar can be substituted in any recipe in equal amounts. This means, if you want to use honey instead of sugar, you can substitute the amounts equally.

However, if you measure by volume (cups), you will not be using equal amounts. You must weight your sugars to be sure you are getting the same weight. 1 Cup of sugar, does not equal 1 cup of honey. But 100 grams of sugar, does equal 100 grams of honey. So when making your substitutions, get the weight of your 1 cup of sugar, and then use that same weight when measuring your honey. A simple kitchen scale will do the trick every time. It’s easy! So now we can move on.

How To Substitute Sugar In Your Cookie Recipe

As you just read, sugar can be substituted on a 1 to 1 basis. In other words, if you want to use honey instead of sugar, and your recipe calls for 100 grams of sugar, then use 100 grams of honey.

Honey – When I’m creating a new recipe using honey, I usually reduce the amount by 1/4 and 1/2, and bake two batches of cookies to see which amount of honey I prefer. Honey tends to have a very strong flavor, and while I like using natural sweeteners, I don’t always want the flavor of the honey to overpower the other flavors in my cookies.

Agave – When using agave, I use equal amounts because the flavor of agave is not overpowering as it is in honey.

So now you know the secrets of sugar in your cookies. You can now bake with wild abandon!

Happy Baking!


Archived Responses

4 Archived Responses to “Facts About Sugar In Your Cookies”

  1. Erica
    Nice post! I have to admit that I don’t weigh my sweeteners when I swap out, but I do the experimentation that you do – splitting batters to see which is better.Another thing to add though is that honey (not sure about agave because I haven’t tried it) can make a cookie wetter or moister, so sometimes I will cut back on another ingredient that adds more moisture.
  2. admin
    Hi Erica,
    Thanks for adding that info. You’re correct. If you bake by volume instead of weight, then it is necessary to reduce other liquids in your recipe to achieve close to the same texture. But it’s been my experience that when using liquid sweeteners, it will always change the texture just slightly. There’s no getting away from that. Of course, the cookies are just as good. But if you are looking for a very crisp cookie, then honey may not be the way to go. It depends on your recipe, and how you measure your ingredients.

    Thanks for the input!

  3. Ricki
    Thanks for all the info–I love the idea of using weight instead of volume (so much more accurate!). I find I also have to reduce the oven temperature by about 25 degrees F if I use agave–it will burn more quickly than sugar.
  4. admin
    Thanks for sharing that helpful hint! I’m sure a lot of people will benefit!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Zelley September 20, 2013 at 3:17 am

How about splenda do we use 1 to 1 too ?


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