5 (Nearly) Sugar-Free Desserts That Will Delight Your Taste Buds

Looking to lower your sugar intake but still have a sweet tooth? Check out these delicious sugar-free dessert recipes!

December 30, 2017
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Although most of us intend to follow a healthy diet, sugary foods take up a large portion of what the average American eats and drinks. In 1970 Americans consumed 123 pounds of sugar per year, whereas current statistics show that the average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar per year (or nearly three pounds per week!)

As delicious as sugar is, its overwhelming presence in the average American diet has contributed to a startling rise in diabetes across the country. Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to enjoy the taste of sweet desserts without having to rely on sugar, honey, maple syrup, or other added sweeteners.

We’ve got plenty of sugar-free dessert options that don’t skimp on taste—and we also have tips for following a sugar-free or low-sugar diet.

How much sugar is too much sugar?

According to the American Heart Association, adult women should aim to consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Despite this recommendation, many average Americans consume at least 19.5 teaspoons a day, which is more than three times the recommended daily intake. Although this number may seem particularly high, consider the fact that the average 12 ounce can of soda contains over 10 teaspoons of sugar.

What counts as sugar?

It’s important to note that the term “sugar” doesn’t simply mean white granulated sugar. Jodi Robinson, a registered dietitian who specializes in low-sugar and diabetic-friendly diets, explains that: “‘Sugar’ is inclusive of white sugar, brown, cane, honey, maple syrup, molasses, agave, etc. There are many forms of added sugars and many claims that some are better than others because they are ‘natural’ (the one I often hear the most is honey), and the truth is that they are all essentially the same to the body. So don’t be lured into believing otherwise!”

Unfortunately, although some sugars may seem better for you than others, sugar is sugar and your body has no real way of telling the difference.

Who benefits from a low-sugar or sugar-free diet?

Cutting your daily sugar intake is largely beneficial to anyone looking to improve their health in any capacity. Individuals who have diabetes (both types 1 and 2), who experience high blood sugar, or who take certain medications (such as antipsychotics) all may benefit from a low-sugar diet.

Robinson explains that a low-sugar diet doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of limitations and deprivation. In fact, it can encourage creativity within your existing diet: “Watching your sugar intake isn’t a life sentence of boring food. It’s an opportunity to explore and experiment with new and exciting healthy alternatives! Everyone, no matter their health status, is better off watching their intake of added sugars, so think of it as an opportunity to learn about new nutritious and delicious alternatives that will help your health and the health of your loved ones that you share meals with.”

How to Add Sweetness Without Adding Sugar

There are a multitude of ways in which you can create sweet desserts without heaping on the sugar. For example, registered dietitian Anjali Shah likes to make good use of ingredients that are naturally sweet without any added sugar.

She says: “I use a lot of dates, bananas, pears, and applesauce when I’m making no-sugar treats. Additionally, some nuts like cashews or hazelnuts are naturally sweet, and cocoa powder is a great way to make something taste chocolatey without adding sugar. All of these ingredients are really nutritious but are also very sweet!”

It’s easy to keep a supply of jarred applesauce, frozen bananas, and dried dates if you have an interest in desserts without added sweeteners.

A Quick Note About Artificial Sweeteners

There are many sugar-free dessert recipes that rely on the use of aspartame, Splenda, stevia, and alcohol-based sweeteners such as xylitol and maltitol. Although many people have no trouble digesting these chemicals, there are others who find that they can have unwanted effects. Some people find that aspartame can cause headaches, and others find that Splenda and stevia have an unpleasant aftertaste.

Alcohol-based sweeteners such as xylitol and maltitol can be disastrous to your digestive system, potentially causing diarrhea and uncomfortable gas. Although artificial sweeteners can improve the flavor of sugar-free desserts, it’s important to exercise caution when first using them as the main source of sweetness.

Sugar-Free Desserts for When You’re Craving Something Sweet

These desserts offer plenty of sweetness without any added sugar, and most of them can be brought to school or work for a healthy and satisfying snack between meals.

Sugar-Free Date Squares

The sweet butterscotch flavor of Medjool dates is a natural pick for this sugar-free dessert. A combination of orange and lemon juice boosts the natural sweetness of the dates. Serve these classic date squares as an accompaniment to coffee or tea.

Filling

  • 1 lb pitted Medjool dates
  • Juice of 1 large orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • Generous pinch of kosher or sea salt

Bottom and Topping

  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • Generous pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • ¾ cups Splenda
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Special equipment: food processor, parchment paper, 9”x13” baking pan

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Blitz together the Medjool dates, citrus juice and zest, butter, vanilla, and baking soda in the food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula when necessary.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oats, salt, and Splenda. Using your hands, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles loose gravel.
  4. Using your fingertips, press half of the flour mixture into a parchment-lined 9”x13” baking pan. Carefully spread the Medjool date mixture on top of the crust. Sprinkle the last half of the flour mixture on top to cover.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until the topping turns a light brown color.

Greek Frozen Yogurt

Although low-sugar frozen commercial frozen yogurt exists, it often contains alcohol-based sweeteners that may upset sensitive stomachs. This healthy option makes use of the natural sweetness of frozen bananas and the smooth texture of sugar-free vanilla Greek yogurt to produce delicious frozen yogurt that can be customized for every taste.

  • ½ cup sugar-free vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 frozen bananas, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1½ cups frozen fruit (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and mangos all work well)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Special equipment: food processor, lidded container

Method

  1. Add the vanilla Greek yogurt, sliced frozen bananas, frozen fruit, and vanilla to a food processor.
  2. Blend all of the ingredients for several minutes until completely smooth, scraping the sides with a spatula every 30 seconds. Depending on your food processor, this may take several minutes.
  3. Transfer the yogurt to a lidded container and freeze for at least two hours.
  4. Scrape the frozen yogurt back into the food processor and blend once more for two minutes.
  5. Transfer back to the lidded container and freeze for at least one more hour. Serve the frozen yogurt alone or with extra fruit.

Apple Crisp

Apple crisp is a great sugar-free dessert option because of the natural sweetness of the apples. Adding finely chopped Medjool dates to the topping gives this tasty dessert a hint of caramel flavor, and a small amount of stevia will go unnoticed in the topping. Serve this apple crisp warm with a dollop of sugar-free vanilla yogurt and a dash of cinnamon.

  • 6 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (a mix of Honeycrisp, Braeburn, and tart Granny Smith apples is an ideal combination)
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. dried nutmeg (or a generous grating of fresh nutmeg)
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. dried ginger
  • Generous pinch kosher or sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. powdered stevia
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, cubed + 1 Tbsp. for greasing the baking dish

Special equipment: paring knife (for preparing the apples), 9”x13” baking dish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. In a large bowl toss together the sliced apples, cornstarch, lemon juice, and lemon zest until the apples are evenly coated.
  3. In another bowl combine the all-purpose flour, oats, spices, salt, and stevia. Using your hands, rub the butter into pea-sized pieces in the flour and oat mixture.
  4. Grease a 9”x13” baking pan with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add the apple mixture and spread the oat topping evenly across to cover the whole pan.
  5. Bake the apple crisp for 35 to 40 minutes or until the topping is browned and the apples are fork tender.

Black Bean Brownies

No one will ever guess that these rich brownies contain black beans as a secret ingredient! Black beans add plenty of fiber and an authentic fudgey texture that will satisfy any chocolate cravings you might have.

Best of all? These can be made entirely in the food processor, which means less time washing dishes for you!

  • 1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp. melted butter, unsalted
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ cup Splenda
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • Toppings of your choice (shredded coconut, chopped nuts, seeds, or chopped dried fruit)

Special equipment: food processor, 8”x8” baking pan, parchment paper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Add all of the ingredients except for the toppings to the food processor. Blitz until completely smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula as needed. Note: It could take a couple of minutes for the mixture to completely emulsify.
  3. Line an 8”x8” baking pan with parchment paper and pour in the black bean brownie mixture. Sprinkle with the toppings of your choice.
  4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, checking the brownies often toward the end to make sure that they aren’t browning too quickly. If they are, loosely tent a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan.
  5. The brownies are done when they begin to pull away from the sides. They will be quite moist when removed from the oven.
  6. Enjoy your brownies immediately or store in a lidded container or tin for several days at room temperature.

Coconut Banana Chia Pudding

This is a great recipe for using up super-ripe bananas that are completely brown on the outside or any frozen bananas you might have kicking around in your freezer. You can use regular dairy milk or unsweetened almond milk (or a combination) in place of the coconut milk.

Running the pudding through a food processor gives this sugar-free dessert an ultra-creamy texture.

  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • 2½ cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt
  • Toppings of your choice (shredded coconut, fresh fruit, or carob chips)

Special equipment: food processor or high-powered blender

Method

  1. Grind the chia seeds in a food processor or high-powered blender until they become a fine powder.
  2. With the motor still running, add the coconut milk, bananas, vanilla, cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt. Blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula occasionally.
  3. Transfer the chia pudding to a container and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the pudding set.
  4. Serve with the sugar-free toppings of your choice.

Low(er)-Sugar Granola Bars

Store-bought granola bars often contain ridiculously high amounts of sugar, making them off-limits for anyone looking to curb their sugar intake. Making your own lower-sugar granola bars is simple and gives you the opportunity to customize these favorite snack treats however you’d like. Looking to lower your sugar intake but wary of going totally sugar free? These low(er) sugar granola bars have you covered.

(Basic bar recipes based on Bless This Mess)

  • 2½ cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup nuts (or seeds), chopped
  • ¼ cup honey or maple syrup
  • ¼ cup melted butter or coconut oil
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup of additional mix-ins (chopped dried fruit, shredded coconut, extra nuts, or seeds)

Special equipment: 9”x9” baking pan, baking sheet, small saucepan, parchment paper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Line a 9”x9” baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Spread the oats and nuts evenly on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
  4. Stir together the honey, butter or coconut oil, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a small saucepan over low heat.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the butter and honey mixture with the toasted nuts and oats. Stir in your choice of mix-ins.
  6. Press the mixture into a 9”x9” pan with your fingertips and chill for at least half an hour.
  7. Use the parchment paper to lift the bars onto a cutting board and cut into bar-sized pieces.
  8. Sliced granola bars can be stored in the fridge wrapped in parchment paper for several days or they can be wrapped up and stored in the freezer for several months.

Look for balance when making sugar-free desserts.

Instead of feeling limited by sugar-free desserts, think of including sugar-free or lower sugar desserts in your eating plan as an excuse to get creative in the kitchen. Shah encourages us to: “Take an ‘inventory’ of all the sugary things you might eat on a daily basis. And try to replace one of those things each week with something less sugary. For example—if you normally drink soda, try replacing your soda with sparkling water mixed with just a splash of fruit juice or lemon/lime. If you love chocolate, try switching to dark chocolate that has greater than 72 percent cocoa. Or if you snack on sugary things, try replacing those snacks with fresh fruit, which is naturally sweet and good for you! All of these changes are small but can make a big difference in your health and well-being!”

Small steps are crucial but will ultimately lead to a wealth of dessert options you previously hadn’t thought possible!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Linkletter
Ashley Linkletter
Contributing Writer