13 of the Best Cane Sugar Substitutes

Sugar. It’s become a negative word, but it doesn’t have to be. 

With the need to escape from heavily processed sugars, cane sugar has gained some serious popularity. You’ll find that it’s called for more often and people prefer the flavor to the over-processed white sugar most of us grew up with.

If you’re looking for a substitute for cane sugar in your favorite recipe, here are some options to consider: honey, beet sugar, applesauce, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and molasses.

Read on for the best substitutes for cane sugar. There will be one on this list that suits your needs for sure. 

Cane Sugar Overview

Cane sugar is the most common type of sugar. It’s made from sugarcane and has a high glycemic index, which means that it can cause a spike in blood glucose levels. 

How do you get crystallized sugar from a plant? Cane sugar is made by boiling the juice of the sugar cane (kind of like maple syrup from tree sap). It’s boiled past the syrup state until it crystallizes. You can also get sugar cane syrup too.

You’ll find cane sugar as an ingredient in a lot of jams, cookies, sweet toppings, and cereals. It tastes similar enough to refined sugar that they can be used interchangeably. 

Can I Use Brown Sugar in Place of Cane Sugar?

If you’re looking for a substitute for cane sugar in baking, brown sugar is the way to go. 

Brown sugar comes in light and dark varieties–both are made by adding molasses to white granulated sugar. The darker the color of your brown sugar (and thus its taste), the more molasses it contains. 

Because it has less refined sucrose than regular granulated white table sugar does, brown tends not to harden as much when exposed to heat and humidity; this makes it ideal for use in soft doughs like cookies or cakes where you want tenderness rather than crunchiness on top of your dessert plate!

Brown also adds depth of flavor that makes baked goods taste more complex than usual–you’ll notice this particularly if you’re using a recipe with lots of spices or flavorings like gingerbread men cookies (which traditionally use molasses). 

Since brown sugar has cane sugar and molasses in it, you can definitely use brown sugar in equal parts to replace cane sugar. 

What Can You Use Instead of Cane Sugar?

As a sweetener, there are many options to use instead of cane sugar. They are not all created equal though and some will work better than others depending on the circumstances. 

1. Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It’s calorie free, 200 times sweeter than cane sugar, and does not affect blood glucose levels.

You can purchase stevia in powder or liquid form at your local grocery store or health food store. It’s also possible to grow your own stevia plants if you have access to land where they will thrive (Stevia can be grown outdoors in USDA climate zones 9 through 11).

When swapping out the cane sugar, use liquid stevia in your drinks and such and use the granulated version in your baking recipes.

2. Pure maple syrup

Maple syrup is a great substitute for cane sugar. It’s less expensive than cane sugar and sweeter, so you don’t have to use as much of it in order to get the same amount of sweetness out of your food.

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Made from boiling the sap collected from sugar maple trees, maple syrup has a distinct flavor profile and is lower on the glycemic index (meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar levels as much as cane sugar). 

Maple syrup is a great alternative when baking, just make sure to adjust your recipe to accommodate the extra liquid.

3. Agave syrup

Agave nectar, or syrup is the fluid that gets extracted from the blue agave plant. 

You’ll find the color and consistency similar to honey, but the flavor is sweeter than sugar. 

What makes agave syrup special is that, unlike other sweeteners, there’s no aftertaste. 

4. Honey

Honey is a great sugar substitute, as it’s sweet, natural, and has many health benefits. Honey is made by bees who collect nectar from flowers and transform it into honey by adding enzymes to it. The end result is a thick liquid that contains sugars like glucose and fructose.

Honey also contains small amounts of proteins, minerals, and vitamins such as vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) which helps to reduce homocysteine levels in the blood; manganese which supports bone health; calcium for strong teeth & bones; magnesium for healthy blood pressure levels; potassium for heart function & good circulation.

This gluten-free cane sugar alternative can be used in similar quantities, but consider the recipe. When baking you’re going to have to compensate for the extra liquid if swapping cane sugar for honey. 

5. Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is a sugar made from the sap of coconut palm trees. It has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar, so it may not raise your blood sugar as much when you eat or drink it. 

Coconut sugar can be used in baking, coffee, and tea–just like regular granulated white table sugar! However, it’s slightly lower in calories than white granulated table sugar because there are fewer carbs in coconut palm tree nectar (the main ingredient).

These little granules look just like your regular table sugar and contain iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium.

This plant-based sweetener is a great alternative to cane sugar as it sweetens in the exact same way.

Diabetics often switch over to coconut sugar in their diets to help regulate their blood sugar levels. 

6. Monk fruit

The powerful sweetener comes from the small, round Swingle fruit or Luo Han Guo. Coming from China, this sweetener is zero calories, natural, and potent. 

One pinch of monk fruit is almost equivalent to a whole spoonful of cane sugar. 

Use it as a replacement in baking, no problem. It’s quite stable at higher temperatures. 

7. Molasses

The thick, dark brown syrup is a product of the refining process of sugarcane so of course, it makes a good cane sugar substitute. 

Molasses is quite sweet but has a similar if not stronger flavor profile to cane sugar. 

In many cases, molasses will make a great substitute for cane sugar. 

8. Date syrup or date paste

Date syrup is a thick, viscous liquid made from dates. Date paste is the same thing, but it’s been strained to remove any solids. Date syrup has a more concentrated flavor than date paste does, so if you want to use it in baking and other recipes that require a strong taste of sweetener (like chocolate cake), then go for the former!

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Date syrup and paste are both good for adding moisture to baked goods; they’ll also help keep them from drying out over time since they’re full of natural sugars and oils. You can replace granulated sugar with either one cup-for-cup in most recipes–just make sure that whatever else you add doesn’t contain too much liquid or else your batter could end up runny (or worse!). 

9. Beet sugar

This is the sugar obtained from the sugar beet plant. It’s often used in specialty tea shops to sweeten tea as it enhances the natural flavors of the tea. 

With a high concentration of sugar, beet sugar is an intense sweetener. A little bit goes a long way.

The flavors differ slightly between cane sugar and beet sugar. Beet sugar has a small smokey or burnt aftertaste. 

10. Corn syrup

Made from the starch of corn, corn syrup or glucose syrup is another common sweetener. 

You can get it in light or dark and they change the flavor. Your light corn syrup has a flavor more reminiscent of vanilla while the dark corn syrup you’ll find closer to the smoky flavors of caramel. 

The flavors are different which can mess up a recipe, but when it comes to sweetness the light sweet flavor can be a great substitute for cane sugar. 

11. Applesauce

A common cane sugar alternative in baking is applesauce. 

Despite the slight tartness from the apples, the sweet apple flavor is an excellent alternative to cane sugar. 

Be careful and make sure you use unflavored and unsweetened applesauce. 

12. Muscovado or Barbados Sugar

This is unrefined cane sugar. 

Sugarcane juice is mixed with lime. This is then evaporated to create sugar crystals. The molasses side product is kept so the dark brown color remains and the crystals are more like wet sand.

The addition of molasses to the crystals gives this sugar a deep flavor profile much like caramel. 

If you’re replacing cane sugar with muscovado sugar, use the dark variety. 

13. Fruits

Fruit is a great way to sweeten in a healthy way. Your best options when baking are bananas, dates, or figs. 

How much you use is a little more complicated. You’re going to have to gauge based on how sweet the fruit you choose. 

Fruit is a great option as a cane sugar substitute in drinks, smoothies, and creams. 


Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas for how to replace cane sugar in your diet. 

The options when it comes to sweeteners are almost endless. If you want something healthier, why not try using a fruit substitute or perhaps one of the plant-based sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, or coconut sugar?