Healthy Baking Substitutions {healthy living}

baking sub

I can’t lie, I have a major sweet tooth and I love to bake.  Most of the recipes I gravitate toward are loaded with butter and sugar, so when I did make them in the past it was always a rare treat.  This just wasn’t cutting it.  I wanted to eat sweets more often and NOT feel like I should have to go on an all  lettuce diet for the next week.  This is when I started exploring healthy recipe substitutes for baking.  I found some really strange things, and I found some really great things.  I tested the substitutes on some of my favorite recipes and came out with some winners (and some really weird things I just won’t share!).  I’ve been using many of these substitutes for a while now on recipes like the Skinny Chocolaty Chippers and The Healthy Brownie with delicious results.  Here they are, some of my favorite healthy baking substitutes

PS.  If you like these substitutions, then you’ll LOVE my 10 healthy eating choices!

baking sub

Healthy Baking Substitutes


Black Beans

How it works? Using black bean puree in place of flour in recipes is a great way to reduce calories and add fiber to any yummy treat.  If your recipe calls for a cup of flour, try swapping it with a cup of black bean puree!

Works best with: Brownies, cookies


Unsweetened Apple Sauce

How it works? For cakes and bakes, you can reduce the sugar content by up to half when you use apple sauce.  All you need to do is cut the sugar in half, then add the same amount of apple sauce plus about 1/3 more. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, you can use 1/2 a cup of sugar and about 3/4 a cup of apple sauce (1/2 a cup, plus about 1/3 more).  For this substitution, you will need to cut down a bit on the recipe’s liquids.  Reduce the recipe’s main liquid by about 1/4 for every cup of apple sauce added.

Works best with: cakes, bakes and fruit dishes


Mashed Avocado

How it works? Avocados are packed with essential vitamins and minerals and are a great source of healthy fats.  Swapping avocado for butter will significantly reduce the calories and fat in any recipe.  To make this switch, replace with a one to one ratio.  For example, if your recipe calls for one cup of butter you can swap it with one cup of mashed avocado.  Just remember, naturally this will tint your batter or dough green, so keep that in mind!

Works best with: Cakes and cookies. With cakes, reduce your oven temperature by 25% and increase your baking time. This will help to prevent your cake from rising up in the middle or, alternatively, caving in. It’ll also prevent the cake from browning too quickly.


Evaporated Milk

How it works: Replacing heavy creams with evaporated milks is another great way to cut out fat and calories.  Use a one for one substitution on most baked dishes.

Works best with: Whipped cream, dessert beverages



How it works? Replacing butter in a recipe with banana results in a nice rich, dense texture which can be great for all kinds of sweets.  Substitute an equal amount of mashed banana for the butter in the recipe. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup softened butter, for example, pack a 1/2 cup with mashed banana.

Works best with: Cakes, muffins, cookies, breads. Using banana for butter may reduce cooking time by up to 25%, so keep an eye on your sweets!


Vanilla Extract

How it works?  For most baked goods, you can cut the sugar in half and add a teaspoon of vanilla as a replacement.  This will add just as much flavor without all the added calories!  Assuming a recipe originally calls for one cup of sugar, that’s a reduction of almost 400 calories!

Works best with: Cakes, muffins, cookies, breads


Cacao Nibs

How it works? Cacao is essentially chocolate in the raw.  It’s often referred to as a “super food” because of it’s wide array of benefits (unlike it’s processed counterpart).  Cacao nibs contain no sugar, and very little fat so they make a fabulous substitution for chocolate chips in just about any recipe!  Use cacao nibs one for one in place of chocolate chips.

Works best with: Any recipe where chocolate chips are used.



How it works? Stevia is an all-natural plant based sweetener with zero calories!  Stevia is usually sold in packets under different brands (Truvia etc.) in a granulated form.  This makes it the ultimate, natural sugar replacement.  One tablespoon of sugar is equal to approx. 1 1/2 packets of Stevia.  For example, if a recipe calls for one cup of sugar, you should replace that with approx. 20-24 packets of Stevia, this will eliminate almost 800 calories!  Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar, so sample recipes before adding too much!

Works best with: Cookies, cakes, muffins, dessert bars, breads


Greek Yogurt

How it works?  Using Greek yogurt in a recipe in place of oil is one of the best ways to cut the fat right out!  The Greek yogurt replacement is barely detectable and makes recipes super moist.  To make the substitution, cut the recipe’s amount of oil by half. Add ¾ cup of yogurt for every cup of oil that you remove from the recipe.

Works best with:  Cakes, breads, cookies

Now go forth and bake!


139 responses to “Healthy Baking Substitutions {healthy living}

  1. I wish I could give this post a 10 Pickle vote! This is one of the most helpful items I have read lately to help with trying to learn to eat healthier. Most are too much of the blah, blah, blah but you really explain “how and why” here.
    Thank you so much for sharing this information and really, you CAN share the weird stuff you have found too! 🙂


    1. Darlene,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Please feel free to share your recipes if you try any of the substitutions!



    2. I am trying to print this great site out and it names the pics in English but all the Info. is in some other language. its not my Dell or Printer. any ideas? I really want this info. Thanks, Nancy

  2. I completely agree with Darlene. This is the first post about substitutions that really gave a good explanation for the ingredient exchange. I never was all that interested in doing “healthy exchanges” in my recipes, but now I am curious enough I may actually give a couple of these a try. Thanks!

    1. You’re right. Natural, organic butter (especially from grass fed cows) is great for you, in moderation of course. However, these substitutions are some of the best, natural alternatives for those looking to reduce fat and calories from recipes. Having said that, one thing you should never replace natural butter with is margarine or any other “fake” butter substitutes. Those are loaded with harmful ingredients that will often do nothing but slow down your bodies fat burning potential.

      1. I don’t know why you’d replace cream (straight from the cow!) with evaporated milk (straight from a factory, in a BPA-lined can!) if you’re cool with butter. Fewer calories, yes. Healthier? Um…it’s not even real food anymore!

        1. I agree, Danielle. Evaporated milk also contains carrageenan, which is very unhealthy. Most grocery stores now carry a great grass-fed butter, Kerry Gold. Another great substitute for canola oil is coconut oil (or olive oil).

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  4. I just tried the banana substitute for the butter and the vanilla for the sugar in a healthy cookie recipe and I was shocked at how great they turned out. I am very impressed that banana for butter works so well – THANK YOU for posting this – very helpful.

    1. I am interested in trying this substitute on a persian love cake…could you taste the banana in your cookies? I would hate for the banana flavour to overpower the cake

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  10. These all sound incredibly interesting, I can’t wait to try them!

    Also, I’ve had success in substituting applesauce for canola oil (or any vegetable oil). I don’t know the exact ratio, a little under one to one, but it works best with brownies and they taste exactly the same as if made with canola oil!

      1. I almost always substitute applesauce for oil. I use a one to one ratio and it always comes out great in things like cakes and brownies.

        1. I have also used the unsweetened applesauce instead of oil in my brownies and cupcakes. They were moist and so good.

  11. This is such a great list and I cannot wait to test some of the suggestions for a cake that I will be making next week! My friend is in love with nutella but trying to diet. Do you think the sugar suggestions would work with a recipe calling for powdered sugar? It seems like it should but I am not a chemist! lol I sent her a link to your blog with the suggestion of trying a 1/4 cup of splenda/stevia with the vanilla and slowly adding more from there if needed but if she can cut out the sugar all-together, that would be even better.

  12. hey the black bean thing…will cupcakes/cookies/bread actually rise properly using black beans? thats so crazy. i want to try it but only if it actually rises like flour does

    1. I was wondering that too! Also, with the black beans, do we need to increase the amount of other dry ingredients to make up for the extra wetness or is there a way to do black bean puree that isn’t such a different consistency from flour?

      1. Lindsay, the black beans actually stay pretty dry after you mash them. Just make sure to strain and dry them first before mashing.

        Happy baking!

        1. Hello, Thank you for the Great Tips! I am not much of a cook but once in awhile I see something I want to try such as this recipe for Broccoli Pie. The recipe calls for 3/4 cups of baking mix (I assume that means Bisquick?). I like black beans so I would not mind trying that substitution but not sure it that would work. What do you think? Also, are there any substitutions for ‘Baking Mix’ that are Healthy? Thank you very much 🙂

          1. You will need to make up for the baking powder in some recipes, but in the impossible pie types such as broccoli pie, the amount used is so nominal, it does not affect the outcome. So, no, you will not need to add other ingredients in the recipe to have a great outcome, in your broccoli pie. Just sub one to one, mashed black beans for flour.

  13. i love to bake, too, but have always felt compelled to bake healthy. i can testify that all these tips work! i have a hard time with stevia, though, which leaves a cloying sweetness afterwards i just can’t handle, so i tend to cut down sugar and use sucanat (pure dried sugar cane juice, retaining its molasses content) in most recipes. it gives a wonderful, rich taste to muffins and cookies. i haven’t tried the black bean substitution–that’s exciting! one other tip for whole grain baking i’ve found very useful is to add lemon or orange–juice, oil, zest, whatever you have on hand–to whole wheat recipes (for example, 1 tbsp. lemon juice to your muffin or pancake batter). it cuts the “whole wheat” taste that many people find difficult when transitioning from white to whole wheat. happy baking!

    1. Marty, I’m sO glad to hear that you’ve had great results trying these substitutions too! Thanks so much for the tip about the whole wheat flour and lemon juice, I’ll have to give it a try!



  14. Would these substitutions work on other things besides sweets? I’m a college student who’s trying to keep off the freshman 15. I have an idea to make crock pot meals and freeze them for when I’m really craving a home cooked meal. These substitutions would work great in some recipes. Have you tried them outside of sweets and do they work just as well?

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  16. I tried the black been puree in place of flour for chocolate chip cookies and the batter was really soupy! I rinsed and strained the beans before i pureed them. what did I do wrong? It called for 2 1/4 cups of flour so I substituted the same amount.

    1. Tanya, you really have to make sure the beans are super dry before you mash them. You could try spreading them across a paper towel to soak up the water after you rinse and strain them. Also, if you’re not happy with the consistency, you can cut down a bit of liquid in your recipe too!

      Hope this helps =)

  17. Hello 🙂

    I learned a few thing today, and as I loooove cookie, the black beans are very interesting for me now !
    But I have to disagree with you about Stevia. Please, don’t recommend products like Truvia, the pourcentage of real Stevia is very VERY small ! The only real Stevia you can get is the plant itself, with the leaves…

  18. I can vouch for the evaporated milk substitute. I use it a lot in soups, etc. and you cannot tell the difference. I’m going to have to try some of these suggestions. Also thankful for the comment someone posted about adding lemon juice when baking with whole wheat. I don’t like how it has that “bite” to it, so I’ll have to try that and see if it helps. We just started eating greek yogurt and I had a feeling you could use it in baking. First think that came to mind was baked goods with sour cream in them. Thanks for this post!

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  21. Thank you for this! My children have food allergies (one soy and one dairy) and I’ve been trying to find something to use in place of butter that actually works and isn’t soy based (I’ve tried coconut already) Thank you thank you thank you!

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  23. Please be very careful with the Stevia; let people know if you use it in your baked goods. I’m mildly allergic and only get stomachaches. My SIL is VERY allergic; she stops breathing.

  24. I love this. Definitely going to look at some healthy exchanges. I’ve been hunting around for a healthy jam recipe that replaces white sugar with something a little less harmful, at the very least brown or raw sugar. Would you have any suggestions?

  25. Hello! I’m very excited to tryout the substitutions. My only question is can I use multiple substitutions in a single recipe? For example, if something requires butter, flour and sugar. Or would that just change the recipe too much?

    Thank you!

  26. I loved your article, like everyone else I’m very interested in cooking baking healthier without having to sacrifice taste. With that said, could any the above mentioned substitutes work for cheesecake. I just made one over the weekend and everyone loved it but of course, it was full of all the loaded calories of the butter, sugar, etc. Thank you in advance for input 🙂


  27. My husband just had triple bypass surgery so I am looking for ways to cook and bake healthy. I am anxious to try some of these ideas. I also would like to know if a recipe calls for butter,flour and sugar do you substitue all of the ingredients. Thank you.

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  29. Can you use more than one of these alternate ingredients at a time? Say I’m cooking a cake and it calls for flour, sugar, and oil. Can I do the replacement for each ingredient or is it best to just substitute one?

  30. White beans are also a great replacement food. Purée them for oil and use them whole for butter. They will cream with the sugar. I use the puréed beans instead of oil in my whole grain bread. I have puréed black beans for oil in cakes and brownies (color matches with chocolate better). I have creamed the whole beans with sugar for cookies and muffins. You can see a lot of bean suggestions in Rita Binghams Country Bean cookbook and more like I just described in The cookbook I Can’t Believe It’s Food Storage. Just sharing some more ideas! Thanks for posting yours!

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  34. Though high school I used prunes as a sub for butter in my brownies. Its a 1 to 1 sub. You puree the prunes or really any moist dried fruit and the texture tends to be that nommy fudgy gooieness 🙂

  35. My 3yr old won’t drink milk and is on the fence with a bunch of proteins so I’m more and more looking for ways to get it in his diet. one of the ways I’ve been doing it is by putting beans in muffins or pancakes. this website had actual ratios though! very helpful

  36. This is a really cool substitution chart! I write for a blog for 20 somethings that focuses on quick easy and realistic meals. This substitution chart is great! I just wrote something about it up on the blog, I love finding easy ways to make things healthy.

  37. I was super excited to see this list and I couldn’t wait to try the substitution on my carrot cupcakes. I used the Greek yogurt as substitution for the oil and used applesauce to replace half the sugar. I’m not sure if it was the combination of the two substitutions or what happened, but these did not raise, did not bake properly, and tasted super nasty!
    I may try one of the substitutions again, but never 2 or more in the same recipe.
    I’m disappointed that the subs didn’t work and that I had to throw an entire batch of my cupcakes away. Even after 40mins in the 350 degree oven, they didn’t bake. I’m an avid baker, so I know the recipe works, besides the subs. I”m bummed!

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  40. Hi,
    Some of the Subs I knew before, but I NEVER Substitute the full amounts of fat or sugar, because the tase differs (for non-Dieters like my dad!)But for me.. I prefer a “good or not bad” Cupcake with less calories (than a “super-great” one which is loaded with guilt!!!)
    But my question: Has anyone tried the beans in selfmade Pizza dough??? I want to omit the flour because I am WW, and beans are great HF-Food, so you needn`t Count Points:-)
    Sorry for mistakes, my english is not so good!!!
    Greetings from Germany

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  42. I love the substitution list, but sill have one question as regards flours. Can gluten-free flour be substituted for regular flour into regular recipes and still deliver the same results? When I contacted the company that makes this, they said I might need sorghum flour also. If it’s a straight substitution, then I can begin to experiment.

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  46. I’m so glad I found this! Finding substitutions like this is so rare but oh so helpful! I’ve also swapped out oil for applesauce and that seems to work too!

  47. how many subs can you make in a single recipe before it totally flops. For example can I sub flour AND sugar?

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  50. Do you have any suggestions for a healthier icing? I noticed most were for baked goods. I had considered using vanilla whey for powdered sugar, but I can’t have dairy.

  51. This is the best! Thank you so much for posting this and for posting it with such cool visuals. Love your site design!

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  53. This is one of the best articles I have seen when it comes to substitutes tied together with healthy benefits for making the substitutes. I bake bread. My wife bakes the rest. We both found it very, very useful. 10 pickles.

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  57. If I have a spice grinder can I just grind up some dry black beans and substitute for the flour in a 1:1 ration? For some reason, canned black beans are impossible to find where I am. If I didn’t have to cook them that would be great, it takes hours!!
    This is one of the most comprehensive lists I’ve seen. I had no idea about the avocado!

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  68. Thank you Jordan for these great tips! Could you please expand on how to make black bean puree? Do you have any idea how to make them from dry beans instead of the canned stuff? And like most people are wondering, can you actually substitute multiple items in one recipe?

  69. This is a fantastic post! I agree with one of your reviewers “you covered everything” so thank you so very much.

  70. I agree with your other reviewers that this is fantastic article. You explain why and how to use these substitution. So thank you very much for all the effort that went into sharing these fantastic and helpful tips.

  71. Previously in case you needed to bake a gluten free recipe you needed to make your own baking combine. This took a lot of trial and mistake and ordinarily resulted in disaster. Now that you can purchase mixes like Bob’s pink Mill Gluten Free Biscuit & Baking mix, Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free All intent Baking combine, Bisquick Gluten Free Pancake and Baking combine, King Arthur baking combine, Pamela’s Baking & Pancake combine and HEB Gluten Free All purpose Baking mix.

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  73. I’ve been looking for ways to substitute sugar in baking cookies. I like your suggestion to use apple sauce, but I have a recipe for oatmeal cookies with no true liquids (3/4 c. brown and 3/4 c. white sugar). Would I add more oats to keep the cookies from being too wet? FYI, the recipe gets its moistness from 3/4 c. coconut oil and 2 eggs, and the batter is just right. I’m not looking to reduce either of those ingredients, but I’m willing to give it a try if you think it would help. Thank you!

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  76. I’ve been looking for ways to substitute granulated sugar in baking muffins. I like your suggestion to use stevia. I am trying to find out 3/4 cup of granulated sugar corresponds to how much stevia ? I have bought from the supermarket the one that is white and in powder. Thank you !

  77. Can I substitute banana for the butter & the sugar in a lactation cookie recipe or do I have to pick one or the other?? Thanks!

  78. And like most people are wondering, can you actually substitute multiple items in one recipe?

  79. hello , I’m quite interested with this . And I wonder if the “Canele” can also be like this? Cause I’m worry that if I change sugar to stevia , I can’t get the crust perfectly. Hope you can answer me, thanks!

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