I am a sucker for cookies, and I often make these sweet treats. Sugar sure makes everything sweeter, but it is definitely not a good choice for everyday use. In my pursuit of alternatives, I discovered that more than a few options can replace it perfectly. So, what are the best sugar substitutes for baking cookies?
Honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, stevia, applesauce, agave syrup, mashed bananas, and dates are some of the best sugar substitutes for cookies. The most important thing is to know how to use them effectively.
When it comes to baking, beneficial and delicious don’t often overlap. Still, if you are stubborn enough, you will definitely find the crossover point between these two. So, in this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about sugar substitutes that will still leave you with delicious cookies.
Honey is a great sugar substitute for many sweets, cookies included. In addition to making the cookies sweet, sugar also helps the ingredients bind better. The sticky properties of honey do a great binding job, and it also makes the cookies delightfully sweet.
I love using honey as a sugar substitute because it doesn’t create a risk for the cookies to burn as sugar does, and it is an amazing alternative. Honey also adds moisture and sweetness to cookies and creates a somewhat caramel-hinting taste which goes especially well in cookies containing dried fruits or nuts.
I particularly like how honey affects the texture of oatmeal raisin or ginger cookies, making them moist and chewy. Moreover, since honey and sugar are very close in terms of sweetness, you don’t have to do hard math to get the amount right. Still, start with a bit less honey than the recommended sugar amount.
Reduce the amount by a quarter, so if the recipe calls for a cup of sugar, use about ¼ cup of honey.
You can also reduce the oven temperature for about 15 °F, i.e., 25 °C, because the honey may speed up the browning process.
Maple syrup is another excellent sugar substitute. Although it isn’t an alternative that’s better for you, it definitely is a delicious one. Sticky and gooey, maple syrup has a distinct sweetness and a certain floral note that perfectly fits many cookie types.
I love baking with maple syrup because it injects my cookies with depth and complexity that sugar doesn’t deliver. So, whenever you want to transform your cookies from plain old sweets into a fancier experience, substitute sugar for maple syrup, and you’re done.
Maple syrup mixes nicely with sweet spices, especially with cinnamon, bringing out its floral dimension and making your cookies taste like spring. It is slightly sweeter than sugar, so when substituting sugar for maple syrup, reduce the maple syrup amount by a quarter so that you don’t get sweets that are too sweet or overly dense.
If you like the taste of caramel, you will definitely like coconut sugar. Coconut sugar looks similar to brown sugar, and it is very close to it in taste and density. It is basically dehydrated coconut palm flakes, so sugar is a little misleading because it isn’t sugar in the traditional sense. Contrary to popular opinion, coconut sugar is not a much healthier alternative to sugar, but it does have some nutritional value. 
Still, if you are looking to replace sugar with a more nutritious option, coconut sugar won’t make much of a difference. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more flavorful option, coconut sugar is what you are looking for.
It gives the cookies a very noticeable caramel note, complexity, and depth of flavor. I find that it works especially well with chocolate cookies, so don’t hesitate to give it a whirl. Generally, the dosage doesn’t need adjusting, so simply replace the sugar with coconut sugar without changing the amount.
Still, since this is not always the best way, here’s a video that will explain it better!
Stevia is similar looking to sugar, but only finer and powder-like. It is a known sweetener with zero calories and is extracted from the stevia plant. To be honest, I’m not too fond of the flavor stevia gives my cookies, but that doesn’t mean that the product is not good.
It is a beneficial ingredient, especially if you can’t have sugar, so replacing sugar with stevia in your cookies will bring you very close to the desired flavor. Also, it contains a lower Glycemic Index, which means that it won’t affect the level of your blood sugar as severely. 
Still, if your recipe calls for a substantial amount of sugar for structure, stevia won’t do well, as it isn’t created to substitute for that much sugar for that purpose. On the other hand, it is intensely sweet, and it is an excellent substitute for the taste. So, if you are looking to replace sugar for the taste and not so much for the cookie structure, stevia can do a good job.
When substituting sugar for stevia, make sure you use less stevia than sugar. I reduce the amount by one-third, but I always glimpse at the stevia package instructions to make sure.
Dates are a known sugar alternative as they deliver sweetness as well as structure. Depending on what I need them for, I use them chopped or blended. I usually buy pitted dates because I want them to be ready to go.
If I need the dates to make up for the sweetness, I use them chopped, and if I need them for structure purposes, I use them blended. Although they do great in recipes that call for baking, they fit much better in no-bake cookies.
Dates are excellent to make up for the sweetness, so just throw them into the cookie dough and let them do their magic. However, when using them where you would use them for consistency purposes, you should blend them and adjust the amount.
Adjusting the date amount to replace sugar in cookies can be a little bit tricky, especially if you are new in the baking department and you should play it by ear. I usually add a cup of blended dates to substitute for sugar, no matter how much sugar the recipe calls for, and so far, it has worked well for me.
You can use sweetened or unsweetened applesauce as a sugar substitute for cookies, but the sweetened kind still has sugar. The sugar amount in the sweetened applesauce is still lower than what you would use in your cookies, but it isn’t a way to avoid sugar altogether.
So, if you are looking to fully replace sugar for applesauce, use the unsweetened kind. Unsweetened applesauce is still sweet, but it is only the natural sweetness from the apples used in the applesauce.
Applesauce is probably my favorite sugar substitute for cookies because it makes up for the sweetness, as well as the consistency. It imparts a fruity and floral taste with a delightful natural-tasting note that makes your kitchen smell like spring and joy. It also adds moisture making your cookies soft and chewy but still compact and stable.
If the recipe calls for a cup of sugar, use a cup of applesauce instead. Now, the sugar amount is still higher because the amount of pure sugar is still higher than a cup of applesauce sugar, but a cup of applesauce does nicely consistency-wise.
Mashed bananas are a great and simple sugar substitute for baking. Ripe bananas do best here because they are sweeter and softer, making an excellent replacement for sugar. Still, in addition to the remarkable consistency they offer, as well as the natural and fruity sweetness, they will also give your cookies banana flavor.
So, use mashed bananas as a sugar substitute only if you like bananas because otherwise, you won’t like your cookies. If you are like me and love banana-flavored cookies, then this idea is the perfect solution for you.
I usually mash two medium-ripe bananas, and it usually does the trick. Still, the recommended amount is one-quarter lower than the usual sugar amount for your recipe. So, if the recipe calls for a cup of sugar, you should add ¾ of mashed bananas.
Still, you should know that bananas are bursting with carbs, and if you are watching your carb intake, they may not be the best thing to use in your cookies. 
Agave syrup is another sweetener you can use for your cookies instead of sugar. It is very sweet, and it easily delivers the taste. However, it is much more intensely sweet than sugar, so you should reduce the amount by a quarter or even a third.
Agave syrup gives the cookies a floral and natural-tasting note that is gentle and very pleasant to the palate. Still, its intense sweetness may significantly burden the flavor, which is why you should reduce the amount. Consistency-wise, agave syrup makes the cookies chewy and soft, with an irresistible middle part.