Using naturally sweet foods instead of sugar to sweeten is a culinary trick with a long and honored past. Sugar was rationed during the Second World War because transporting it across oceans was so dangerous.
But, the people must have bread and cake. So home cooks figured out how to sweeten their foods without an endless supply of sugar. Carrot cake and fruit cake earned their popularity in victory cookbooks.
We are still benefiting from that knowledge. There’s a long list of foods that can add a little extra sweetness without adding sugar.
Before you get busy bringing some of these foods into your cooking, understand that they will not sweeten the same way as sugar. You will likely need to be patient while your palate adjusts to a more natural and mellow sweet taste.
Here’s a great list of sweet foods to get you started:
Banana: This is often baby’s first food because it is so sweet. Add to muffins or pancakes in place of sugar.
Applesauce: Also super for baking. And, incredible as a side dish to encourage reluctant little eaters to eat something they aren’t keen on. Grated or chopped apples sauteed in a bit of butter makes for an excellent addition too.
Stevia: This plant adds a big bang of sweetness to everything you can imagine. Great for sweetening your morning tea or coffee, and decadent homemade treats.
Beets: Beets can be a mess to cook and prepare, but there’s a reason they are grown as a sugar crop. Batch cook beets and keep them ready in the fridge. They make a tasty addition to smoothies, and your small people won’t even know they are in there. (Throw some greens in too, when no one is looking.)
Apple cider: Best used for braising. It’s incredible delicious with pork or cabbage.
Orange Juice: A great swap for honey in salad dressing.
Berries: Instead of slathering your Sunday morning waffles in syrup, try blending up a mix of berries - this works great with frozen or fresh fruit. Cook them in a small saucepan until soft, then blend. Try mango and pineapple with a bit of coconut to make a nice piña-colada-esque sauce.
Vanilla Powder: A little pricey, but it will last you a very long time because you only need a pinch. Delicious on greek yogurt with sliced peaches, or added to braised meats or chili.
Pecans: If there’s a nut that qualifies are dessert, it’s the pecan. Toast them and blend to make a homemade pecan butter, maybe with a dash of cinnamon, and it’ll be the yummiest thing you’ve tasted in a long time. Eat it up on a stick of celery. Plain pecans add a natural sweetness to salads and roasted vegetables.
Salt: This might seem counter-intuitive, but salt increases the natural sweetness of foods. When cooking onions, a dash of salt helps bring out the sweetness. Salt on melons or fruit salad does the same. Use salt sparingly, and be sure you aren’t adding too much salt to your diet.
Caramelized Onions: Delicious crispy onions cooked to a perfect golden brown taste like candy. Add to salads, omeletes, and anything savory that needs an extra boost of sweetness.
Roasted Garlic: Rich, creamy roasted garlic makes a wonderful base for salad dressings. Use it anywhere mayonnaise is called for.
Roasted Vegetables: Carrots, rutabaga, parsnips, sweet potatoes baked low and slow will caramelize and surprise you with how sweet they can become. Roasted vegetables can be used in all kinds of ways, but it’s unlikely you’ll have any leftovers because they are so delicious.
Did we leave any out? Which foods do you use to naturally sweeten?