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The 11 Best Alternative Sweeteners For Coffee

Coffee has been a popular drink for many years, and not only just for breakfast but cups of java are consumed throughout the day. And while coffee is often enjoyed black or with creamer, a large number of people like their coffee sweetened. And those people who are becoming more health conscious and consider artificial sweeteners taboo, are searching for the best sugar for coffee.

For those folks who no longer want to use artificial sweeteners nor do they want the empty calories associated with white sugar, which has no nutritional value, here are 11 great substitutes:

1. Sugar In The Raw 

Raw organic cane sugar in a bowl

Sugar in the Raw is cane sugar that has been refined, but it has not been refined as much as white sugar. White sugar is sugar that has been refined until the molasses has been completely removed, but sugar in the raw still contains a small amount of molasses, giving it its light brown color. And, since it still contains some molasses, you would think that it would be healthier than white sugar, when in fact, it only contains traces of certain nutrients. 

But Sugar in the Raw does have its benefits. It is a Certified Kosher product, is Vegan friendly because it has not been subjected to bone char during processing, and it is safe for persons with Celiac Disease because it contains no wheat and does not come in contact with any glutinous products during its manufacture.

So, even though it isn’t a considerable amount healthier than white sugar, and contains the same number of carbohydrates and calories found in white sugar, it does have merit. Unfortunately, because sugar in the raw is processed in the body in the same way that white sugar is processed, it is not safe for use by persons with diabetes. 

2. Turbinado Sugar or Unprocessed Cane Sugar

Woman taking brown cane sugar from a kitchen cupboard

Turbinado, or unprocessed cane sugar, like my recommended brand found on Amazon, is an excellent substitute for granulated sugar in all your coffee beverages, and will even provide a hint of the molasses taste, which is quite pleasing to some coffee drinkers. 

Very similar to Turbinado sugar are Muscovado and Demerara sugars which are not exactly the same product, but they are products of different levels of the sugar manufacturing process and can all be used in coffee.

While these sugars, Turbinado, Muscovado, and Demerara, dissolve well in hot beverages, they do not dissolve easily in cold drinks.

Health Fact: According to the United States Department of Agriculture, unprocessed cane sugar has more calories (18 calories per teaspoon) than granulated sugar’s 16 calories per teaspoon. But one teaspoon of unprocessed cane sugar does have one milligram of potassium and one milligram of calcium, while granulated sugar has none.

3. Brown Sugar

Brown sugar and white sugar packets in a small bowl

Brown sugar is another sweetener that can be used to sweeten coffee, and provides the rich taste of brown sugar that many people like in their coffee.

Brown sugar differs from white sugar by not having been processed as much as white sugar. While white sugar has had all the molasses removed and Turbinado, Muscovado, and Demerara sugars all have slightly different amounts of retained molasses, brown sugar has had less processing than any of them and retains more molasses. As a result, brown sugar contains more of the beneficial nutrients found in molasses.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 4.6 grams, or 1 teaspoon, of brown sugar contains1.3 mg of sodium, 4.6 grams of carbohydrates, and 17.5 calories, while white sugar contains 16 calories, but no nutrients.

PRO TIP: You can make your own homemade brown sugar by merely combining one cup of granulated sugar with one tablespoon of molasses for light brown sugar or one cup of granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons of molasses for dark brown sugar.

4. Stevia

Close up of woman hand pouring stevia into a coffee cup

Most people think of Stevia as one of those artificial sweeteners similar to Splenda and NutraSweet. However, Stevia is derived from a natural plant and should be placed in the category of sugar substitutes along with honey and maple syrup.

Not only does Stevia come from a plant, but it brings with it the benefits of other plant-based products like antioxidants and anti-microbial properties. And, as an added benefit, Stevia has no calories, does not affect the insulin or blood-sugar levels, and is considered safe by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). And, according to Healthline, Stevia may help you manage your blood sugar.

However, there are some potential side effects associated with the use of Stevia, including nausea and other gastrointestinal issues and possible allergic reactions, while some folks find that Stevia leaves an unpleasant after taste.

Stevia is marketed under several brand names such as Truvia and Sweetleaf, and is also available in a baking blend that is low carb, keto, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly to use in cooking and baking. I have used it in baking and in making jam with good results. The quick breads that I have made with Truvia baking blend taste no different than quick breads made with granulated sugar. The jam made with Truvia as a sweetener had an excellent taste but was more soft set than jam made with regular sugar.

Related The 14 Best Instant Coffee Substitutes in Baking.

5. Agave


Agave Nectar is extracted from the agave plant, a succulent which grows in dry regions of Mexico. There are two kinds of agave: blue and salmiana. Blue agave is famous because of its use in making Tequila

Agave is similar to honey and is a natural sweetener for your hot or cold beverages. But, if you are seeking a sweetener with fewer calories than sugar, agave actually adds 20 calories per teaspoon rather than sugar’s 17 calories. But, because agave nectar has a strong flavor, you can add less than you do with sugar, thus reducing your caloric intake in that manner.

As a negative side effect, agave nectar is high in fructose with the potential of creating some adverse health effects such as increased belly fat and fatty liver disease. In fact, agave has a higher fructose content than even corn syrup. Sugar breaks down to 50% fructose in the body, agave breaks down to 90% fructose, and corn syrup breaks down to between 42 and 55%, depending on the type of corn syrup used.

6. Molasses


Molasses comes from sugar cane and is considered a by-product of the sugar refining process. Molasses is made by squeezing the juice from the sugar cane and cooking it down low until it is reduced to a thick liquid with the consistency of liquid glue. In my dad’s day, syrup making was quite an art, and he had the reputation as a young man of being the best molasses-maker in the community.

In the process of refining pure cane sugar, the molasses is totally removed from the cane juice and the liquid that is left after the removal of the molasses is dried/crystallized to make the cane sugar that we purchase from our local grocery or supermarket.

Molasses contains all the nutrients in the sugar cane and, as a result, is the healthier choice for a sweetener. It does have a strong flavor that many find very appealing for sweetening their beverages, along with the benefits of such nutrients as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, and vitamin B-6, plus 18 amino acids. And, molasses contains 60 calories per tablespoon.

As an added benefit, molasses is known to provide at least 6 health benefits:

  1. Reduces stress,
  2. Builds healthy hair and bones,
  3. Increases blood circulation,
  4. Is anti-inflammatory,
  5. Aids in digestion, and
  6. Provides antioxidants.

7. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup on a grocery store shelf

Maple syrup is one of the best-tasting sweeteners you can use in your coffee, and it can be used to sweeten any of your beverages, hot or cold. Even though 100% pure maple syrup is a little pricey, its rich flavor allows you to use only a small amount to get the sweetness you desire, so a little goes a long way.

You can get artificial alternatives with the maple flavor, but I recommend getting the real thing because the artificial alternatives, though less expensive, are loaded with artificial sweeteners and other chemicals that most folks are trying to avoid.

Maple syrup has a thinner viscosity and mixes well with hot and cold beverages, unlike the artificially flavored alternatives that are thick and do not dissolve easily.

8. Xylitol

Store shelves with xylitol of different brands on display

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that can be substituted for sugar as a sweetener in coffee at a 1:1 ratio. In fact, Xylitol is recommended by Healthline as one of the sugar alternatives safe for use by people with diabetes.

Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. They are from 25 to 100% as sweet as sugar, depending on the kind of sugar alcohol, but they do not have some of the negative effects as sugar does, such as raising blood sugar levels or contributing to tooth decay. They may also promote digestive health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system.

9.  Maltose

Malt syrup on a wooden spoon

Maltose is a sugar that is made from glucose molecules and contains no fructose. Maltose is naturally created in seeds and other parts of plants where they break down stored energy in order to sprout.

Maltose isn’t as sweet as sugar and can be purchased in powder or liquid form. Because of its tolerance to heat and cold, it can be used to sweeten hot or cold beverages. Hard candy is one of those foods that are sweetened by maltose.

According to Healthline, maltose does not contain fructose which table sugar does, so it might be slightly healthier than fructose, and the health concerns associated with the use of fructose can be avoided by using maltose. But, the effects on health caused by the use of maltose have not been sufficiently studied to know what those effects might be.

Because maltose isn’t as sweet as sugar, there is the temptation to use more than when using sugar, and unfortunately, since there hasn’t been enough testing done to determine whether using maltose as a sweetener is a healthy option, maltose may or may not be such a good option as a coffee sweetener.

10. Honey

Honey jar and coffee cup with coffee beans on wooden table

Using honey as a natural sweetener to replace sugar in your coffee is by far the healthiest option. But, one thing to keep in mind is that not all honey is created equal. Processed honey usually has sugar added to it, so be sure to look for natural or raw honey in order to reap the benefits of using honey as your sweetener of choice.

The amount of honey that you use to sweeten your coffee depends on how sweet you like your coffee. One tablespoon of honey packs a whopping 64 calories, while one tablespoon of sugar comes in at 48 calories. But, because honey is sweeter than sugar, chances are that you can use less honey than sugar which could bring down your calorie intake.

As an added benefit, using honey as a sweetener in your coffee brings with it a number of health benefits, including the addition of many nutrients including vitamins A, C, B6, and riboflavin, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, allergy relief, promotes good digestion, and antimicrobial properties. But, according to Bee Health, as honey is heated, the potential for loss of nutritional value goes up rapidly as the temperature rises, so adding honey to your coffee after it has begun to cool might be your best bet.

11. Beet Sugar

A sugar beet and some beet sugar with cubes

Beet sugar comes from the sugar beet plant, which is a root vegetable, and beet sugar is made by slicing the beets to extract the juice and then the sugar is made in much the same way that cane sugar is made by drying or crystallizing the juice to result in granulated beet sugar. And beet sugar contains only 15 calories per teaspoon as compared to 16 calories per teaspoon of cane sugar.

There is very little difference in using beet sugar rather than cane sugar, and the two can be used interchangeably. The primary difference is a slightly different aroma and aftertaste from beet sugar. And because beet sugar comes from a starchy vegetable, it contains a higher amount of carbohydrates that can raise blood sugar faster than non-starchy vegetables.

Nutritionally, there is very little difference in using either cane sugar or beet sugar.


While coffee is often enjoyed plain with many different kinds of coffee grown in many different countries around the world from which to choose, there is a multitude of coffee drinks, including lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, and even iced coffees for your enjoyment. In fact, there are a variety of businesses that cater solely to coffee drinkers. I hope my list has helped you discover that perfect alternative sweetener for your morning cup of Joe. Here they are again.

The best natural sweeteners for coffee are:

  1. Sugar In The Raw
  2. Turbinado Sugar
  3. Brown Sugar
  4. Stevia
  5. Agave
  6. Molasses
  7. Maple Syrup
  8. Xylitol
  9. Maltose
  10. Honey
  11. Beet Sugar

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss The 12 Best Substitutes For Milk In Coffee.

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