If you’re like many coffee drinkers, chances are you take yours sweetened. But what if you’re looking to cut back on sugar? What’s the best substitute for sugar in coffee? Here are 11 options to choose from.
People choose to reduce their sugar intake for a variety of reasons, from cutting back on calories and improving their oral health, to helping reduce the risk of diseases.
But what if you’re among them and you enjoy your coffee sweetened? The good news is you don’t need to forgo your morning cup of Joe. Here’s a look at some of my favorite sugar alternatives for coffee, from natural sugar substitutes to artificial sweeteners.
Honey is one of the most common natural sweeteners available. And it’s not just for tea. If you’re looking to reduce your sugar consumption, it can be a great sugar substitute for coffee as well.
Not only does it have a pleasant sweetness, it also has been linked to a range of health benefits. Its high level of antioxidants can help fight heart disease and reduce cancer risk. Plus, honey can act as an anti-inflammatory and help relieve gastrointestinal issues.
However, honey has about 50% more calories than sugar, so it’s not an efficient weight-loss aid like some of the other sweeteners on this list. But it is natural, easy to find, and affordable.
2. Maple syrup
You may already put it on your pancakes and waffles, so why not complete the breakfast by using maple syrup in your morning coffee as well? With a rich sweetness, this amber-colored liquid is rich in nutrients and dissolves easily in hot beverages.
To get the most benefit, opt for an all-natural variety rather than the “maple flavored” syrups. Those are usually just made with high fructose corn syrup and water, with added flavors and colorings.
If you like deep, rich caramel flavor and don’t mind the thick consistency, molasses can be a good sugar substitute for your coffee. It comes in a few different types from light to dark, as well as one called blackstrap molasses.
For something sweeter, go with light molasses. For a more robust flavor, opt for dark molasses. Blackstrap is also dark in color, but the taste can be off-putting for some, with a touch of saltiness, a bitter aftertaste, and almost a burnt quality. So it won’t exactly be the best way to balance out the bitter notes often found in coffee.
4. Agave nectar
If you prefer a natural alternative to sugar in liquid form, agave nectar can be a good choice. Made from the blue agave plant, it’s produced in various styles from light to darker-colored. The texture is similar to honey and the flavor can range from almost indiscernible to a caramel flavor that gets stronger in amber and dark agave.
It also features a pronounced sweet flavor thanks to its high levels of fructose. Plus, since agave syrup is a liquid instead of a powder or granulated, there’s no graininess when mixed with your coffee.
5. Monk fruit sweetener
Native to China, the monk fruit is a small ingredient that packs a substantial sweet punch. Made from monk fruit extract, it has a slightly fruity flavor and can be as much as 250 times as sweet as regular sugar. But it contains no calories.
It comes in granules and mixes easily with coffee, so it can be an effective sugar substitute. But you may want to use a small amount at first so you gauge how sweet you ultimately want your cup of Joe to be.
6. Coconut sugar
As you might imagine, coconut sugar (or palm sugar) has a mild nutty flavor. But it’s not overly sweet. So it can be a good sugar substitute if you don’t want to overpower the coffee flavor in your mug of Java.
It’s made from the coconut palm tree and includes some beneficial nutrients like iron, calcium, and zinc. However, it’s also high in calories and it can significantly raise blood sugar levels. So if you’re looking to use coconut sugar as an alternative to table sugar, it’s a good idea to consume it in moderation.
This popular sugar alternative is a zero-calorie sweetener and is made from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, an herbal shrub native to South America. It’s widely used as a sweetener in things like soda, cereals, and ice cream, and it can be an effective substitute for sugar in coffee.
But it can have a very intense sweet taste. In fact, some estimates put it as much as 300 times as sweet as sugar. So if you decide to use it in your coffee, don’t swap it for sugar 1-to-1. Instead, try a little bit first, then adjust to taste. And the taste isn’t for everyone. To some, it can have a bitter or even minty flavor.
With about 40% fewer calories than regular sugar, Xylitol is a popular sugar substitute that’s used in a range of products from chewing gum to mints.
Naturally occurring in some fruits and vegetables, Xylitol is categorized as a sugar alcohol. But it doesn’t actually contain any alcohol. And it can help with unwanted weight gain because sugar alcohols aren’t absorbed in the small intestine, so the calories they contain don’t make it into your body.
Plus, despite its sweet taste, Xylitol doesn’t contribute to tooth decay or spike blood sugar levels in the ways that regular white sugar can, so it can be a healthier option. It’s sold commercially as a white, crystalline powder that resembles granulated sugar. So it may be a close second to the real thing as a sugar substitute in your coffee.
Another popular sugar alcohol, Erythritol is slightly less sweet than regular sugar but has a similar appearance. And it has near zero calories and few carbohydrates, so it’s also helpful in aiding in weight loss.
Erythritol is commonly added to other sugar alternatives, including stevia and monk fruit sweeteners. Plus, it’s already included in a host of foods like sugar-free varieties of cookies, candy, and protein bars.
However, erythritol has recently been associated with serious health risks, including blood clotting and heart attacks. While researchers say more studies need to be done to confirm any links, they say it is cause for caution if you’re considering using it as an alternative sweetener.
10. Vanilla extract
Vanilla extract is a common ingredient in baking. It can add some extra depth of flavor to everything from cakes to muffins. And a splash can add some pleasant sweetness to your cup of coffee as well. Plus, it works great in both hot and iced coffee drinks.
This versatile item is readily available at grocery stores and relatively affordable. And if you’re into baking, you may already have some in your pantry.
11. Almond extract
If you like a bit of nutty flavor in your coffee, then almond extract may be a good sugar substitute option. It tastes a bit like marzipan. And it has a mellow sweetness that can act as a nice balance to the bitterness in coffee. But it’s pretty concentrated, so a little can go a long way.
If you’re looking for a slightly richer, sweet flavor in your coffee, then brown sugar can be a good alternative to regular white sugar. The difference between the two is that brown sugar has molasses. That can give it a slight caramel flavor. In terms of nutrition, the differences are negligible when it comes to calories, but brown sugar is higher in nutrients like calcium, iron, and potassium.
Made from sugar beets, this type of natural sweetener comes packaged as granules similar to regular sugar, so in terms of consistency, it can make a good alternative in coffee. But it can have a mild taste of burnt sugar that some can find unpleasant.
More food substitute answers
Get more answers to your food substitution questions. Tap the links below.