An Introduction to Sugar Substitutes

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Fructose is naturally occurring monosaccharide found in honey, fruits, and most root vegetables. The powder form is sourced from beetroot, fruits, sugar cane, and corn. While fructose is the sweetest tasting sugar, it has a lower impact on blood sugars than glucose or sucrose (table sugar).

Studies have shown that both fructose and glucose are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. However fructose on the other hand doesn’t impact insulin levels. This is one of the reasons why fructose is a recommended ingredient for those who are diabetics or are going through a strict diet. Though it is slightly different in taste, the substitution of table sugar with fructose is rarely noticed.

In baking

If you’re using fructose in baking, you’ll need about 1/3 less fructose than table sugar, and you won’t need to compensate for the reduced volume. This is because fructose attracts more water and increases the height of baked items. It also makes baked goods remain moister for longer. Other than baking and crystallization, fructose can also be added to glazes and dairy products to increase their viscosity. It will add more creaminess to ice creams, sauces, or marinades.



Maltose is a kind of sugar syrup produced by germinating malt. It is made through the production of germinating grain, usually barley. When the grain is collected, it is then soaked and allowed to sprout. This malted grain is then added to a slurry of water and starch and then cooked to create the maltose, a unique type of sugar.


Maltose’s sweetness is about 70% less sweet than normal sugar, however, it has a high GI (glycaemic index). It is unsuitable for diabetics. Maltose has a certain toasty, nutty, caramelized flavour which means that it is not so much used as a sugar in cooking but as a flavouring. Ice cream and chocolate flavour well with maltose. This also works very well in bread and beer, as the sugar feeds the yeast without making bread too sweet. This will also extend the shelf life of these products. Maltose has a unique tolerance to heat and cold, thus meaning that it is works very well in frozen desserts and hard candies.



Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol naturally extracted from fruit. In high production, sorbitol is extracted from corn syrup. Most common fruits with high sorbitol levels include prunes, apples, pears and bananas. Sorbitol works very well when combined with other ingredients such as sugars, gelling agents, vegetable fats and proteins. It has a very low calorie content, lower than isomalt, which means that it can be used as a substitute within sweets, cakes, icings and fillings.

Sorbitol is the chemical in fruit that in excess can have a laxative effect, therefore is imperative that it is not overused.



Glucose is a sugar sourced from corn and can be found in forms of powder and syrup. These elements are used in a variety of cooking techniques. Mainly in baking to enhance flavour, add volume, soften cakes, and prevent crystallization. Adding it to food also will extend shelf life. In sugar work, glucose prevents recrystallization and makes the sugar more elastic.

While the syrup is in liquid form and can be used for a variety of applications. The granulated powder might need to be converted into a liquid before use. The syrup is usually used in addition to sugar which will prevent crystallization and enhance the texture and flavour.



Preparing jams and fruit jellies with glucose syrup improves their stability by reducing the chance of splitting and enhancing the fruit flavour.

Pecan Pie:

Corn syrup, which is traditionally used in making a pecan pie can get overwhelmingly sweet. For this reason, this ingredient is substituted with glucose syrup to give a smooth texture to the pie without making it too sweet or caramelised.


When making ice-cream the addition of glucose is used as a stabiliser, to prevent crystallisation and give it an overall smooth and creamy texture. Without this addition the ice-cream can become gritty and icy.


How to handle glucose syrup:

Glucose syrup is very sticky and a pain to work with when measuring for recipe. In order to prevent sticking to hands or bowls, wet hands with warm water or a heated spoon. Use hot water to remove stickiness from equipment.


Isomalt is a substitute for sugar which is found in beetroot. It is a sugar alcohol that is mainly used as sugar because of its structural similarities. Isomalt is used over actual sugar because its melting temperature is higher. It also maintains its texture for longer and is stronger than table sugar. While it is not as sweet as sugar, it is diabetic friendly. Isomalt can be added with other substitutes to increase their sweetness.

Isomalt melts between 145-150ºC, this means that it won’t caramelise when heat is applied to it. For this reason, it is a preferred sugar when it comes to creating clear designs elements for cakes and other desserts. It can be used to create windows of gingerbread houses, gemstones, and sparkling mosaics that are non-cloudy and opaque. Once it is melted, it becomes very hot and sticky and is hard to remove. Therefore, it is recommended that you wear gloves when creating sugar work.


High Heat Resistance: as the element has high heat resistance, it won’t caramelise as table sugar does. You can work with the sugar alcohol at normal cooking temperatures without altering its chemical structure. If you’re creating a dessert that needs to be boiled, using Isomalt will ensure that it develops and takes on their full flavour.

Absorbs Very Little Moisture

Its hygroscopicity is lower than other sugar alcohols or even sugar itself. This means you can store elements made with Isomalt easily.

Increased Solubility

24g will dissolve in 100ml of liquid at 24 ºC, and its solubility will increase as the temperature is raised.




What is it?

Mannitol is a sugar substitute with 50/60% sweetness of sucrose (standard sugar). It doesn’t increase blood sugar levels as much as sugar so it is an ideal replacement for diabetic diets. It is mainly used commercially as the crispy coating on chewing gum and also to lower calories in sugary drinks and protein shakes (2.6 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram in regular sugar).

How is it made?

Mannitol is found naturally in most fruit and vegetables, but the concentration varies drastically product to product. Watermelon, sweet potato and cauliflower are among the highest and used to extract most of what we buy for kitchen use. It can also be produced from starch or seaweed but it is a more expensive and time-consuming process.

Mannitol purchased from companies like MSK comes in a crystalline form, which is how it is typically bought. The natural sugars from the fruits and vegetables (fructose) are reacted with hydrogen and nickel (hydrogenation) to separate the Mannitol from the fructose. It is then reduced and dried to sugar like odourless powder and packaged for sale.

How do I use it?

Typically for kitchen use Mannitol is heated gently to 180c and then used for dipping sweets and fruits, leaving a crispy opaque caramel shell on the outside. It Doesn’t absorb water from the until the air is at 98% humidity, which means it can be left out and also prepared in advance without the risk of the product going soft or soggy.

I recommend using Mannitol mostly for replacing sugar in recipes for diabetics, but it’s lower calorie count can also be useful depending on the type of product you are trying to produce. Comment below to share your thoughts, or any applications you have come across for using Mannitol in your kitchen.

Sugar Ester

Sugar esters are chemical compounds that are created after condensation of an oxoacid, like sulphuricor carboxylic acids with alcohol.  It is available as a special ingredient in powder form.


Sugar esters are classified as an emulsifier for food products. It also helps in improving texture, aeration and sugar crystallization. Ester is used mostly to make milk foams, foamy butter sauce and a variety of other airs and froths. The ester also keeps starches from staling, prevents proteins from browning, and prevents fat bloom in chocolate-based recipes.

Another use of sugar ester as far as cooking is concerned is in baking. The component generates finer textures and stabilizes dairy and sauces. It is also beneficial in improving thetextureof ice creams and mousses. Finally, sugar esters are also used to improve the texturesof low-fat food.

Using Esters

The amount of sugar ester you use in your recipe depends entirely on the type of end product you’re looking for. However, the concentration range for most applications is 0.5-1.5%. For instance, if you’re making a milk based foam, use 1.2% of ester and mix with an electric whisk. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a foamy butter sauce, use 1.2% of ester along with 10-20% of melted butter and 100% of the chosen liquid and blend with a hand beater.

When emulsifying oils with water like mediums (puree, juices) the sugar ester needs to first be dissolved in the water like medium before it is mixed with a fatty medium.


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