How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars: turning to science for success

“Cut back on your sugar intake” and “enjoy an exquisitely delicious homemade chocolate chip cookie” seem like statements in direct opposition to one another, don’t they? But after recently testing lower-sugar versions of eight assorted cookies and bars, I feel confident that saying “lower sugar” and “exquisitely delicious” aren’t as oxymoronic as they seem.

Reduce sugar in your favorite cookies and bars — without the guesswork. Click To Tweet

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

I begin this lower-sugar quest with recipes representing eight different types of cookies and bars:

• Tender: Sugar Cookies
• Moist: Soft and Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies
• Crunchy: Gingersnaps
• Crisp: Buttersnaps
• Cutout: Holiday Butter Cookies
• Chocolate bars: Quick and Easy Fudge Brownies
• Non-chocolate bars: Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars
• Just because: Chocolate Chip Cookies

I decide to bake four versions of each cookie or bar:

• Original recipe, a.k.a. “control” (A)
• 50% sugar, baker’s percentage (B)
• Half the sugar in the original recipe (C)
• 25% sugar, baker’s percentage (D)

My goal: To see what happens if I simply cut the sugar in each recipe in half. And then to refine the test further by using baker’s percentage to try to come up with some “universal truths” about cookies and sugar.

And what’s this baker’s percentage (a.k.a. baker’s weight), you ask?

It’s how professional bakers modify recipes — either scaling them up and down, or changing ingredient amounts.

Using the weight of the flour in the recipe as 100%, the recipe’s other ingredient weights are determined based on their percentage of flour weight. For instance, for a cookie that uses 8 ounces of flour and 12 ounces of sugar, the baker’s percentage of sugar is pegged at 150%. For a cookie using 8 ounces of flour and 6 ounces of sugar, the baker’s percentage of sugar is 75%.

At the end of this post, I’ll take all of my cookie data and draw some conclusions — tips you can use to reduce the sugar in any favorite cookie recipe. But first, let’s look at the complete test results.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Learn to reduce sugar in cookies and bars:

Sugar Cookies

Our basic sugar cookie recipe produces a cookie that’s a little crunchy around the edges, a bit moist in the center, and tender through and through.

What happens when you cut back on the sugar in this cookie?

This first test reveals results that will hold true throughout my testing:

The lower the sugar, the less cookies spread, the drier/more crumbly they are. Cookies with less sugar taste less sweet, of course. But beyond that, their flavor also becomes flat; sugar is a flavor enhancer much like salt is.

I’ll provide tasting notes for each cookie, including a “pass” or “fail” rating — based very subjectively on whether or not I chose to finish the cookie, once I tasted it. For the original-recipe cookie (the control, “A”), I’ll also include the baker’s percentage of sugar, for reference.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Tasting notes

A) Original recipe (69% sugar): These cookies spread into nice disks. They’re crunchy at the edges, softer/bendy in the center. Nicely sweet (but not overly so), they taste like a sugar cookie should. PASS

B) 50% sugar, baker’s percentage: Not as sweet, not as crunchy, but you’d still think you were eating a cookie. Definitely cookie-like, in both flavor and texture. PASS

C) Half the sugar in the original recipe: Very mildly sweet; the butter flavor starts to come through. Especially if drizzled with icing, these would be enjoyable. PASS

D) 25% sugar, baker’s percentage: Texture is almost like pie crust: tender/dry. They’re obviously lacking sugar; flavor is dull. FAIL

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Soft and Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

These old-fashioned oatmeal cookies are flat, very moist, and bend rather than break. As with sugar cookies, reducing their sugar reduces spread; all but the control cookies are round mounds, rather than flat disks.

Reducing sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Tasting notes

Original recipe (87% sugar): These cookies are flat, chewy, and very moist. They’ve got great flavor, with muted spices and lots of sweetness from the raisins — a typical good soft oatmeal cookie. PASS

B) 50% sugar, baker’s percentage: Though these cookies show very little spread, they’re fairly moist. Their overall flavor is good, but the spices are becoming quite strong — almost medicinal. PASS

C) Half the sugar in the original recipe: With even less spread, these cookies are tougher, drier, and flatter tasting than A or B. Again, the spices are coming forward in a not-so-pleasant way. FAIL

D) 25% sugar, baker’s percentage: These cookies show no spread at all, and they’re hard and crumbly. Not only can you taste strong spice flavors, but the acrid taste of leavening, as well. FAIL

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Gingersnaps

These are the ultimate crunchy cookie. Dark and spicy, they’re a favorite at the holidays, but also addictive with a glass of lemonade in summer.

I like to roll these cookies in sugar before baking, but it’s not a necessity; and I haven’t included this extra sugar in my calculations.

Note: Since the baker’s percentage sugar in these cookies is 103%, I tweaked the test a bit. Rather than test 50% of the original recipe and 50% baker’s percentage, which would yield almost identical results, I tested versions including 75%, 50%, and 25% of the sugar in the original recipe — no baker’s percentages.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Tasting notes

Original recipe (103% sugar): With good spread and crunchiness, and the perfect balance of sweetness and vibrant spices, these cookies are delightful. PASS

B) 75% of the sugar in the original recipe: Somewhat reduced spread yields crunchy edges and a softer center. The mild flavor of these cookies is somewhat one-dimensional. PASS

C) 50% of the sugar in the original recipe: With very little spread, these cookies exhibit a crumbly texture and minimal sweetness. Their spices taste harsh. FAIL

D) 25% of the sugar in the original recipe: These cookies show no spread; they’re very tender/crumbly/dry. They taste like a biscuit with some added spice. FAIL

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Buttersnaps

Crisp and thin as can be, Buttersnaps are dusted with both sugar (not included in the sugar calculations) and salt to enhance their caramelized flavor.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Tasting notes

Original recipe (126% sugar): These cookies are absolutely snapping crisp. They’re sweet, with a touch of caramel and butter flavor. PASS

B) 50% sugar, baker’s percentage: Soft, dry, and somewhat crumbly, these cookies are only very mildly sweet; their flavor is dull. FAIL

C) Half the sugar in the original recipe: Crisp edges and a dry/tender center mark these cookies. They’re mildly sweet, with a tiny hint of bitterness from the leavening. Their better flavor/texture is at the edges, which makes sense: sugar migrates outwards as the cookies bake. PASS

D) 25% sugar, baker’s percentage: These cookies are dry/crumbly all the way through. Their predominant taste is salt/bitter (leavening). FAIL

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Note the difference between the control cookie (left) and cookie D (25% sugar), right. These are the highest-sugar cookies I tested, so clearly sugar is critical to both their texture and flavor.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Holiday Butter Cookies

This is my favorite cutout cookie recipe. The dough is easy to work with, and the resulting cookie is crisp without being hard, with a touch of tenderness.

Note: These are the only cookies where reducing sugar doesn’t change their spread at all. This makes sense, since they’re also the lowest-sugar cookie in the test.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Tasting notes

Original recipe (43% sugar): Cookies are nicely crisp, with a touch of tenderness. They have good balanced flavor, and would be enjoyable without icing. PASS

B) 50% sugar, baker’s percentage: Crisp, with a touch of tenderness, the texture of these cookies is identical to the control. Flavor is slightly sweeter. PASS

C) Half the sugar in the original recipe: Cookies are tender, not crisp. While mildly sweet, they’re starting to taste boring; icing or sprinkles would enhance their flavor. PASS

D) 25% sugar, baker’s percentage: These cookies are tender, not crisp; their texture is identical that of “C.” Flavor-wise, they’re almost like pie crust; icing is a requirement here. PASS

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Quick and Easy Fudge Brownies

These super-moist, chewy brownies are thin rather than thick. Their flavor is deeply chocolate, though semisweet rather than bittersweet.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Tasting notes

Original recipe (331% sugar): Typical brownie texture: moist & chewy, with a mild sheen to the top crust. They have good chocolate flavor, though quite sweet. PASS

B) 50% sugar, baker’s percentage: These brownies are dry, crumbly, and barely rose in the pan. Their taste is unpleasant, bitter from the cocoa. FAIL

C) Half the sugar in the original recipe: The texture of these brownies is cakier than the control, but still retains a degree of moistness and chew, with just a tiny bit of crumbling. Their flavor is excellent: deep chocolate, without a hint of being too sweet. PASS

D) 25% sugar, baker’s percentage: These very crumbly and dry brownies exhibit unpleasant flavor, with a strong taste of bitter cocoa and noticeable lack of sugar. FAIL

Note: I also tested these brownies with a 25% reduction in their original sugar. The result? Delicious. They’re very similar to the control, with even better flavor thanks to the slight reduction in sweetness — which lets the chocolate shine through.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars

These bars puff up as they bake then fall as they cool, yielding a bar with dense, moist, chewy texture. They’re pleasingly sweet, and aromatic with spice. Note: The sugar on top, while a nice element, isn’t critical to the texture of the bars themselves; and I haven’t included it in the sugar calculation.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Top row is the control bar, while the bottom row is reduced-sugar bar D. Notice how dry and crumbly the reduced-sugar version is.

 

Tasting notes

Original recipe (187% sugar): The texture of these bars is fudgy brownie-like, chewy and moist. Their pleasing flavor relies on sophisticated spices, including cardamom, which add an air of elegance. PASS

B) 50% sugar, baker’s percentage: Bars are extremely crumbly. Their flavor is totally unremarkable; they’re somewhat sweet, but the sweetness is overpowered by spice. FAIL

C) Half the sugar in the original recipe: Texturally these bars are a bit moist, though noticeably crumbly. They’re definitely sweet enough, with good overall flavor. PASS

D) 25% sugar, baker’s percentage: These dry, crumbly, unpleasant bars are so delicate you can barely pick one up. Their flavor is mildly sweet, but the spices are very prominent: unpleasantly so. FAIL

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Chocolate Chip Cookies

My favorite chocolate chip cookie is tender/crisp around the edges, and softer in the center. Its flavor is butter and caramel and chocolate, all playing harmoniously off one another.

Interestingly, all four iterations earn passing grades from me — proving that even sub-par chocolate chip cookies are pretty darned good!

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Tasting notes

Original recipe (113% sugar): These cookies spread into perfect rounds, with wonderfully crunchy edges and a slightly soft/bendy center. Sweetness and chocolate predominate; butter is a secondary flavor. PASS

B) 50% sugar, baker’s percentage: With much less spread, these cookies are soft, dry, and tender, rather than crispy or crunchy. There’s a tiny bit of crunch on the edges. Though somewhat sweet, chocolate is the predominant flavor, with a strong hit of butter. PASS

C) Half the sugar in the original recipe: Identical to B. PASS

D) 25% sugar, baker’s percentage: These cookies exhibit wonderfully tender/crumbly/cakey “melt in your mouth” texture. With the merest hint of sweetness, chocolate and butter predominate; they’re almost like buttery pie crust served with a smear of chocolate. A hint of leavening flavor starts to peek through. PASS

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

One last experiment with cookie B: Here’s what chilling the dough for 24 hours accomplishes. The chilled-dough cookie (on the right) is darker/more caramelized, and thus tastes better (richer, more complex). It also spread about 20% more, which means the edges were thinner/crispier.

So, we’ve come to the end of our data — what’s the bottom line?

Reducing sugar in cookies compromises their texture, usually quite drastically. Reducing sugar also affects cookies’ overall flavor: less-sweet cookies reveal more background flavors, which can be good (butter) or not (bitter cocoa, harsh spices).

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Taste tips

• Sweet add-ins make lower-sugar cookies more palatable. The raisins in the oatmeal-raisin cookies earned cookie B a passing grade, where otherwise it would have failed.

• Cookies or bars including cocoa powder or unsweetened chocolate will need more sugar. Natural chocolate is bitter, and requires sugar to make it palatable.

• Chilling cookie dough for at least 30 minutes (and up to 7 days) before baking increases caramelization during baking, which enhances flavor.

• Rolling cookies in sugar before baking fools your mouth into thinking they include more sugar than they actually do. If your reduced-sugar cookie is right on the edge of becoming unpleasant, top it with a restrained sprinkle of sugar (or roll briefly in sugar) before baking; you’ll almost certainly be adding less sugar this way than you would adding it to the dough.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Texture tips

• The lower the amount of sugar in the cookie, the less it will spread.

• The lower the amount of sugar, the drier and more crumbly the cookie will be. An exception to this is cutout cookies, which exhibit good texture throughout a range of sugar levels.

Refrigerating cookie dough for as short a time as 30 minutes before baking will help increase spread and enhance crispiness.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

Reducing sugar in cookies and bars: (almost) universal truths

If you want to successfully reduce sugar in your cookies and bars in a way that relies on science rather than guesswork, embrace baker’s percentage. That means you need to bake with a scale; or at least use a weight chart to determine the weight of the flour and sweeteners in your recipe.

Note: If your recipe includes liquid sweeteners (honey, molasses, maple syrup, et. al.), Google the weight of the liquid sweetener to determine its sugar content (weight) when figuring the weight of sugar in your original recipe. E.g., Google “Sugar in 100g honey.” 

For drop cookies: First, determine the baker’s percentage of sugar in the cookie recipe you’re using (remember, that’s the weight of the sugar in the recipe divided by the weight of the flour).

If that percentage is 100% or higher (i.e., there’s at least as much sugar, by weight, in the recipe as flour), then you can halve the sugar in your recipe and obtain decent (though not stellar) results. Cookies will taste mildly sweet, though their texture will be dry/crumbly/tender, rather than crisp, or soft, or crunchy.

If the baker’s percentage of sugar in the original recipe is lower than 100%, try reducing the sugar in the recipe by just 25% to start. If you enjoy the results, edge lower on your next attempt.

For cutout cookies: Sugar can be cut down to 25% baker’s percentage and produce a cookie with texture nearly identical to that in the original recipe. If you’re going to ice cookies (and thus increase their sweetness), you might as well start with a lower-sugar cookie.

How to reduce sugar in cookies and bars via @kingarthurflour

For non-chocolate bars: Non-chocolate bars can be reduced to a baker’s percentage of 100% sugar, flavor-wise; but their texture will be cake-like and crumbly, rather than moist, soft, and chewy.

For brownies: In general, brownies aren’t a good candidate for a major sugar reduction, as a significant amount of sugar is necessary to balance the bitterness of the cocoa or unsweetened chocolate in the recipe.

Try a 25% reduction in sugar from the original brownie recipe first. If you like the result, reduce the sugar still further in subsequent bakes; you should be able to reach a 50% reduction from the original while still enjoying a good-tasting brownie (though its texture will be veering towards cakey/crumbly).

What about baking with artificial sweeteners?

That’s a whole other ball game! We’ve tried artificial sweeteners in cookies and bars in the past, and have been unimpressed with the results. So for now, we’re concentrating on adjusting the level of standard sweeteners.

Do you have any tips to share with fellow bakers wanting to reduce the sugar in cookies and bars? Please add your thoughts in comments, below.

Want more information on reducing the sugar in your baking? Read these posts:

How to reduce sugar in muffins 
How to reduce sugar in cake
How to reduce sugar in yeast breads
How to reduce sugar in pie

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. R

    Thank you for this post as I tend to like less sweet desserts. Though I am curious as to why there is such different result for the 50% sugar and half sugar ginger snaps. Since the original had 103% sugar shouldn’t the results be similar? It also seems like the results would be similar for the half and 25% sugar Holiday Butter Cookies.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      You’re absolutely right — I amended the test for the gingersnaps, but then neglected to amend the template I was using. I’ve fixed it in the post: the cookies pictured are actually 75%, 50%, and 25% sugar versions of the original recipe. As for the cutout cookies, the results were indeed very similar for the 50% sugar reduction from the original and the 25% baker’s percentage sugar (C and D), and I hope I’ve indicated that clearly? Thanks again for spotting this — PJH

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      ‘Tis true, Denise. Chocolate cures a world of ills, doesn’t it? 🙂 PJH

  2. Maggie

    PJ, would you consider doing another version of this experiment using things like apple sauce (or other substitutions) to reduce sugar amounts?
    thanks for posting this and being so thoughtful and thorough with your documentation!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Maggie, I know people often use applesauce or prune purée to reduce fat, and it works up to a point; but the texture really changes. The same would be true for sugar reduction with fruit purée (if that’s what you’re thinking of). Adding the liquid in applesauce to a soft oatmeal cookie might be welcome, but in other cookies — a crunchy sugar cookie,for instance — it wouldn’t be a good choice. Also, you’d be adding the flavor of whatever purée you choose. For these reasons, I suspect we won’t be exploring how to reduce sugar by substituting fruit purée. Thanks for the suggestion, though — PJH

    2. Marianne Saint George

      If not apple sauce, what about alternatives like Monkfruit and sugar alcohols? I found a monkfruit/erithritol blend (Lakanto) that has generally performed very well for me. I would love to have the experts give it a go and see what they find.

      Also, subbing in things like honey or maple syrup. (My sister is currently not allowed table sugar, but honey and maple sugar are acceptable, but I know that the liquid content can really change things.)

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Marianne, you read our mind (or our schedule)! We’ll be sharing our experiments with liquid sugar substitutes in a blog post soon, and we hope to work on alternative sweeteners in the future. PJH

  3. Kay

    Those 25% sugar versions look so sad! Interesting to see how much the amount of sugar alters the end product. Good to know there’s not much that can take a chocolate chip cookie down! 🙂

    I hope that anyone with diet restrictions can find good substitutes for their favorite sweet treats.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Kay, it’s true; I was surprised how significantly texture was affected. As for substituting for your favorite sweet treats — when I’ve had to (occasionally) do that, I rely heavily on fruit, especially dried fruit. Not the same, but it does help quell the desire. PJH

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Baking science is fascinating, and it’s nice we have the time here to pursue it, William. And, of course, to share it with our fellow science-lovers. PJH

  4. Emma

    I am a French amateur baker and I discovered you blog a few months ago. I am absolutely amazed at what KAF does. We do not have anything like that in France, really, and we have big brands who could do it and dedicate the workforce. I don’t know if it is due American customer service culture, as the French are disastrous for that, even if slowly getting better or due to KAF values, but sincerely it is really amazing.
    It helped me adapt American recipes, for example learning that American butter is different and should be reduced if using French butter (before I thought, my God, those Americans so eager to overload in fat…).

    So again thank you for this post that will help me adapt some recipes to my not that much sweet taste

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thank you so much, Emma — Our goal here at King Arthur Flour is to share the pure joy of baking, and that sharing takes many forms. We’re known as the largest educator of home bakers in the U.S., starting with kids’ classes around the country, and continuing with our baking schools on both coasts. So education is in our blood, as they say, and we carry that right through to our website and this blog. So glad you enjoyed this sugar exploration — and happy we’re helping you adapt recipes to your own taste. Bon appetit! PJH

    2. Tellou

      Like Emma I’m french and I truly appreciate KAF recipes that are so accurate (it barely fails…). I love the atmosphere on this blog and all the community sharing.
      Apart from that, as I also lived in the US, I noticed though that our french (and somehow european taste) is less sweet than the american one. For my friends and myself, if we follow recipes from US websites, cakes, cookies etc are way too sweet. So I tend to reduce the amount of sugar by 1/3 usually. Like using 1 cup of sugar instead of 1.5 cup. It’s more than enough. Right now I’m baking the bakealong herb bread and I didn’t put the 2 tablespoons of sugar.

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      I suspect Americans are used to more sugar in our diets in general; and unfortunately, for many of us it becomes a health concern. Thanks for endorsing the lower-sugar approach — from a Continental perspective. 🙂 PJH

  5. Rosanne

    Love the baking science here! Thanks for sharing this fascinating experiment, PJ. You have inspired me to give some of these versions a try. 🙂

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I was pretty surprised at some of the results, Rosanne. I know now that I can cut back the sugar in my cookies at least to some degree — and still have something pretty yummy! 🙂 PJH

  6. Leslie

    This is really interesting, but a small part of my brain keeps saying “But cookies are treats!” I eat healthy most of the time, but when I have a cookie, I want a COOKIE. But I do love the fact that KAF explores so many ideas. Rock on!

    Reply
  7. Quinn

    Thank you so much for approaching this question in such an organized way! I have been experimenting with reduced sugar in baking favorite repeat recipes – usually some kind of apple cake – but it’s by means of using a bit less sugar each time until I hit a point where something is clearly lost in the result. If I ever expand into reducing sugar in cookies, I’ll check back with this post again first!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      That’s the way I used to approach sugar reduction, Quinn — just gradually backing off. I finally took the bull by the horns and spent some time putting structure around the process, and this is the result. Hope you’ll find it useful next time you bake a batch of cookies — PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for asking, Jeanne. The spring edition will be out on March 28th. We hope you’ll enjoy it! Mollie@KAF

  8. Terrie

    I’ve always wondered why my cookies varied using the same recipe. I often end up putting the dough in the fridge and baking the next day. Sometimes I probably forget how much sugar I put in! I do vary the white: brown sugar ratio sometimes. I made dough today and subbed 1 c whole wheat pastry flour. The dough was crumbly so I added 1 Tbsp water. I’ll bake them tomorrow! The brown sugar was hard and had to be microwaved.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Terrie, refrigerating cookie dough before baking helps with both flavor and texture, so keep it up. It sounds like you’re interested in experimentation, which is a great way to learn and become a better baker — kudos to you! PJH

    2. EL

      PJ, which of the cookie doughs did you use for the chill test? It looks as though it might have been the 50% sugar one. Was it?

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Yes, it was C – half the sugar in the original recipe. Trying to get it to spread more, and it did indeed. PJH

  9. Caitlin

    This is one of my favorite posts I’ve ever read. The science behind baking is great, and your breakdown is so informative! Thank you!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      You’re very welcome, Caitlin. Hope you can take this information and really make some great-tasting lower-sugar cookies. 🙂 PJH

  10. donna kerr

    I have made many cookies for my years….and now because of health issues….have to watch sugar….I have had a lot of success using triva brown sugar…and about 1/2 triva to the sugar requirement….ie: 1 cup sugar……1/2 to not more than 3/4 triva brown sugar….a few disappointments but all told….pass…..

    I would like to hear comments on triva use in baking….thanks

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Donna, we’re steering away from sugar substitutes at the moment, concentrating on simply reducing the sugar appearing in any given recipe. We experimented with Splenda for Baking years ago, and weren’t impressed with the results. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying good cookies using Truvia. PJH

  11. Susan D.

    A fascinating read! I’ll be pinning it on Pinterest for reference; thank you. I’m curious as to why you didn’t add a bit more vanilla to the recipes to make up for the difference in sweetness. That would have been my first solution. Also, I always assumed adding less of any major ingredient in a dessert (flour, sugar) would adversely affect the texture of the result. Now I’m going to try your suggestions. Thank you again!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      You’re welcome, Susan. And that’s an excellent suggestion about the vanilla; it never occurred to me, but it makes perfect sense. Thanks for sharing that tip with everyone here! PJH

  12. Susan

    Have you experimented with using dates or date paste as a processed sugar substitute? I wonder if dates could help yield a chewy texture.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Susan, I imagine dates could indeed help create chewy texture. Haven’t tested it, though, as this post wasn’t about processed sugar substitutes, but rather about simply reducing sugar. If you try it out — check back and let us all know what date paste does to texture, OK? Thanks — PJH

    2. Linn Steward RDN

      That’s my question too. Any further experimenting scheduled for adding sweetness with dates or raisins? Or counting the sugar in chocolate chips?

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Linn, the flavor of the lower-sugar oatmeal raisin cookies was definitely enhanced by the raisins’ sweetness; so if you can put up with the different texture, adding dried fruit does help with flavor when lowering sugar. I don’t have any formal tests planned around this right now, as I’m working on reduced-sugar cakes. Our project list right now is focusing on sugar reduction, rather than alternate sources of sugar. As for the sugar in chocolate chips, since they don’t affect texture, I didn’t include it. But checking the side of the Nestle’s bag, I see a cup of chocolate chips has 128g sugar. Other brands will vary somewhat, I imagine, but that’s a good baseline number. PJH

  13. Marijke Schellenbach

    Sorry if I seem dense, or ignorant, or confused, but isn’t half the same as 50%. I just want to make sure I really understand this. This is an awesome article and love seeing all the testing you do.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Marijke, it can seem confusing. I’m referring to two different things: half the sugar in the original recipe (e.g., reducing the sugar from 1 cup to 1/2 cup); and a baker’s percentage of 50% sugar, which means the weight of the sugar in the recipe is half the weight of the flour. See the difference? The introductory part of the blog post explains it better, so you might want to go back and check that out. Hope this helps — PJH

  14. Julie Cobian

    Why are cookies not very “forgiving” when it comes to reducing sugar? Baked goods like quick breads (e.g. banana, zucchini) turn out almost identically when I reduce the sugar by 1/3. The appearance, rise, texture and flavor are fine–they’re just less sweet.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Julie, have you seen our post on reducing sugar in muffins and quick breads? The texture of quick breads does change pretty radically as you reduce sugar; but you do have to reduce it by more than you do in cookies to see that obvious difference. I think the moisture (water, milk, or other liquid) in quick breads tempers the deleterious effect of lessened sugar on their texture. That’s my theory, anyway! PJH

  15. Rachel

    I wonder if increasing the fat content in reduced sugar recipes rectifies the spread issue a bit. Of course then you have the issue of higher fat, but I think we’re finding that sugar has a bigger impact on brain chemistry – as in “can’t stop eating cookies!”

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Rachel, increasing fat might help cookies spread a bit more; as would baking them on a heavily greased (or buttered) pan. I’m just not sure how much fat would equal how much spread (except around the waistline, which I can unfortunately document…) 🙂 PJH

    2. Cheryl

      I made cookies that spread too much using ghee, so now I can reduce the sugar to stop the spread. I’m so excited to try that!

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Cheryl, for more tips on how to control spread and “manipulate” the texture of your cookies, you might enjoy a read through our blog article all about Cookie Chemistry. Happy reading and happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  16. JLynn

    Great post! I experimented with backing off sugar with my chocolate chip cookies and the family begged me to stop baking them. Now I reduce sugar about 20% with good results. My one hold out was refrigerating the dough but this post convinced me I must try it! Does reducing baking powder promote spreading and would it counter the smaller, denser, puff results from reducing sugar?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I didn’t try reducing baking powder, but I suspect it wouldn’t help promote spreading. Baking powder adds air to dough, which actually helps spread it on the baking sheet, so I fear it might have the opposite effect. And if you increased the baking powder to potentially increase spread, you’d begin to taste it. The only thing I tested to increase spread was water; and that didn’t make any discernible difference. That said, some of the non-spread cookies, notably chocolate chip, had delightful soft/tender/crumbly texture, so if you manage your expectations, you could find yourself enjoying these lower-sugar, non-spreading cookies quite a bit! PJH

  17. alan

    what you didn’t address was less sugar in cookies (and probably less cookies) leads to less spread of my waist and less spread of my belt and pants!! Ahhhh, dilemmas 🙂

    Thanks for the ever interesting discussions. Your products and site are my lifeblood of baking!!

    Reply
  18. Chrissy

    So timely! And lucky me that one of the recipes you tested this theory on is one I plan to try out soon – the sprouted wheat vanilla chai bars! I usually always try to reduce the sugar in my sweets because who needs so much sugar?? Thank you PJ & all of KAF!

    Reply
  19. Angie

    Thank you for the great information! I have been trying to reduce sugar consumption for my family, which has entailed not making as many treats, but I miss baking for them. I am excited to try some recipes out with your tips. Quick question – would you be willing to share the recipe for your chai bars? We love those spices!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re more than happy to share, Angie! In fact, the recipe is available through the link in the post or right here. Enjoy! Mollie@KAF

  20. Judi

    I think many cookies are too sweet so generally cut the sugar. Is there a way to improve texture by adding something simple like perhaps a bit of water or another egg to compensate for reducing the sugar?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Judi, depends how you want to change the texture. Adding water will make a hard (hard, not crisp) cookie. Adding fat will make a softer cookie. Changing the sugar from dry to liquid will add chewiness. It’s not one size fits all, but with some experimentation you can definitely change your cookies’ texture. PJH

  21. Lynn

    Great read PJ. Thanks for your thoroughness and easy to follow documentation. I always learn something with your blog.

    Reply
  22. Lee

    What a great, timely post. I have been experimenting with cutting back my sugar 20-30 percent with mostly good results, but was wondering how far I could go without really changing the character of my baked goods. Thanks for saving me from wasting goodies, this makes it really clear. Thanks PJ for the detailed post and pics!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      You’re most welcome, Lee. I was really surprised at the texture change, but if you know what to expect, the lower-sugar cookies can be quite good. Glad we could do some experimenting for you! PJH

  23. Karen

    This is such a great post. I’ve been reducing sugar in my baked goods and my life for a year now. I only use Evaporated Cane Sugar rather than processed, bleached cane sugar. It’s sweeter, so I can use a good third less anyway. I’m going to put YOUR work to work in reducing my sugar even more. THANK YOU!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Karen, glad we could help with your lower-sugar quest. It’s interesting to see how low you can go, and still enjoy the cookies; I found with chocolate chip cookies, though the texture was very different, I really enjoyed them no matter what the sugar level. Of course, you can’t really go wrong with chocolate… 🙂 PJH

  24. Ruby

    I would love to see an article on baking with sugar substitutes (I think I speak for the 25% of seniors with diabetes, too). I would also love to see a recipe that makes 2 cookies (similar to “mug cake” recipes that I have tried). My problem is that the standard cookie recipe makes at least a dozen cookies!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Ruby, we’ve done a series of log posts on sugar substitutes, but they were long ago. At some point we’ll hopefully update them, but for now, we’re looking at reducing sugar, rather than substituting. As for “mug cookies” – here’s what I do. I make a batch of cookie dough, scoop it into balls, freeze them on a baking sheet, then put them in a bag and store in the freezer. When I want a couple or several cookies, I take however many I want out of the freezer, let them thaw very briefly (maybe 10 minutes), then bake them in my toaster oven. SO much easier than trying to make a tiny little batch of cookie dough. Of course, you can also make an entire batch of cookies and freeze most of them, then when you want one, take it out of the freezer and microwave VERY briefly, just to warm it up. You’ll think you’re enjoying an oven-fresh cookie! PJH

  25. Chris

    Thank you for this article! The chemistry of baking is amazing even for those without a scientific bent. You keep me coming back for more teachable moments.
    While I don’t eat sugar or starch I love your blog and King Arthur’s pantry items like coconut flour, almond flour, wonderful cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, and more.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Chris, thanks for your enthusiasm about this post — even though you avoid starch and sugar. I’m glad you can enjoy the food science, anyway — PJH

  26. Denise Ryan

    I find most people I bake for don’t even notice the sugars been cut. I cut butter when I can and have wonderful results. If you’re used to grocery store baked goods I think you like the sweetness. Love your blog DSR

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      So, you’ve got a headstart on the lower-sugar process, Denise – kudos to you for figuring it out! And for baking healthier for those around you. PJH

  27. Gail Hartel

    Have you done a study of the “Stevia” based baking sugar that, has half sugar or regular sugar mixed with Stevia? I would be interested in these results as I usually bake with the baking mix sugar. I have also substituted brown sugar for white in many recipes and also use the “Stevia” based brown sugars successfully. Not Great but edible. Love the interesting articles on KA, Thank You & all at KA for doing a Wonderful job. Smootches to all. .. gh.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks, Gail. We haven’t approached sugar substitutes for quite awhile in the blog, but perhaps will in the future. Right now, we’re concentrating strictly on lowering sugar, rather than substituting. I’m glad you’ve had success with the stevia blends — PJH

  28. The Decadent Vegan Baker

    Baking science is indeed fascinating. I bake vegan at high altitude (in the mile high city) so I am constantly changing recipes. I’ve looked at baking healthier, too, so I am intrigued at testing out your experiments with altitude as a factor. Classic brownies are my nemesis, but I think the science you discuss here has made a few things clearer. Gotta get out the baking pans so I can post results to my baking blog.

    Reply
  29. Petrena wilbur

    This article was helpful in a different way. I experimented with an old family recipe by adding a different kind of cocoa than usual. Same amount. They were extremely bitter and now I know why. Thank you.

    Reply
  30. Megan

    I love your kitchen chemistry experiments! I have a question – in this post you say that chilling the dough increases the spread by 20% but in your but in your 5/17/15 post you say that chilling dough decreases the spread. I am confused about the disparity – increase vs decrease in spread after chilling.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Megan, it can get confusing, can’t it? In reduced-sugar cookies, the spread increases, I believe due to the fact that as dough rests/chills, the gluten relaxes. When you bake the cookies, this relaxed gluten is more likely to encourage cookies to flatten out, and this flattening is noticeable due to the absence of sugar. In standard (full-sugar) cookies, this relaxed-gluten spread is totally overwhelmed by the vigorous spreading encouraged by sugar; and chilling the dough in order to get the fats nice and solid (thus increasing their melting temperature, and decreasing spread) is the only way to counteract sugar’s spreading effect. SO: in low-sugar cookies, chilling encourages spread (yes, despite the effect on fat’s melting point); in full-sugar cookies, chilling decreases spread. Helpful? PJH

    2. Karen C

      Megan, I am so glad you asked this question because I was going to start chilly my cookie dough. Didn’t know that was only if you reduce the sugar.

  31. Ellen

    This article was great! Thanks for the info.

    For these experiments, did all of the recipes require only white sugar or did some need brown sugar also? If they had both types of sugars, did you reduce them both proportionally? I’m a beginning baker (who just bought 2 cookie scoops-can’t wait to use them!) and wondering if there would be a difference between a reduction of white sugar and brown sugar.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Ellen, while brown sugar has slightly less sugar than granulated per gram (due to its increased moisture content), they’re virtually identical, and can be reduced by the same factor. Enjoy your cookie scoops — and your reduced-sugar cookies! PJH

  32. Susan M

    As with other readers, I’m thrilled to see this post, as I’ve been trying to reduce my family’s sugar intake as well. Some other readers and I have posted comments previously about this, so having a whole post dedicated to the science of sugar is very appreciated. I love KAF for many reasons, but the only thing I don’t love is how sweet the recipes generally are. I almost never make a KAF recipe without reducing the sugar. I hope that the positive response to this post will help inspire a new approach to recipe formulation. The French bakers who previously commented prove the need.

    Reply
  33. Fran

    This was an incredibly informative and interesting blog. Thank you so much for taking the time to do all this work and experimenting for us. Since baking is more of a science than cooking, I have been reluctant to do much experimentation. I will save the notes on this blog.

    Reply
  34. Beverly

    A simple way to increase spread is to flatten each cookie before baking with a flat-bottomed glass dipped in water. (or for a bit of sugar on top of the cookie, you can grease the glass bottom and dip in sugar before flattening each cookie.)
    I really enjoyed your sharing your test kitchen results with us. Thanks for all your work.
    I’ll definitely chill the dough to increase spread from now on whenever I decrease the sugar.
    One last thing: since baking powder makes a puffier cookie and baking soda increases spread, perhaps substituting 1/2 tsp. baking soda for 1 tsp. baking powder in a recipe that already has baking powder might help.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Beverly, that’s a good suggestion about the baking soda — I’ll have to try that sometime. I did actually flatten some cookies with a glass, but then they turned out hard; and I figured I’d rather have light/puffy/less spread than hard/more spread. But ordinarily, that’s a good idea. Thanks for sharing — PJH

  35. rachiti

    Thank you for the introduction to Baker’s Percentages. Even though I’ve been using this and other sites for years, I had not heard that term before. I love when you post this type of article because it saves me trying to figure it out on my own. I don’t bake sweet treats very often so it’s helpful to see how a key ingredient changes the texture. I better understand the impact of regular sugar percentage adjustments now. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Baker’s percentages are really helpful in cases where you’re adjusting recipes; I use the process all the time. Glad we could provide you with some good information for yourfuture baking experiments. 🙂 PJH

  36. M-J B.

    Like the article appreciate the time and effort that went into it. I have a go to recipe for peanut butter oatmeal cookies’ with chocolate chips and I add dried cranberries. The problem is there is no flour and 2 cups of sugar , one white one lt brown , would you recommend less sugar? They are so gooood I don’t want to mess with the ingredients to much. Appreciate your thoughts on this.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Well, it seems like an experiment is in order. I’d surmise you can reduce the sugar without too much problem, but here’s what to do: make the dough as usual, but without any sugar. Divide the dough into several pieces, and add a different amount of sugar to each piece. Bake the resulting cookies, and see which version you like best. It’ll take some math; if you divide the dough in four pieces, say, then the full sugar version for one piece would be 1/4 cup each brown sugar and white sugar (since you’re using just 1/4 of the dough); reducing the sugar by 50% would be 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) each brown sugar and white sugar, etc. Let us know how this comes out — sounds interesting. PJH

  37. Kate

    Thanks for the really interesting post! I’m curious if you’ve tried this with any gluten-free recipes. I use your gluten-free all purpose flour for most of my cookies. I’m wondering how you think they’d behave with less sugar. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Kate, we haven’t tried this using gluten-free recipes. Considering the effect on spread that gluten has, I can’t simply say the results will be the same. My suggestion would be for you to try cutting back the sugar in your cookies by 25%, and see what happens. If the result is good, you can test a larger reduction next time. Good luck — PJH

  38. Jas

    Thanks for the informative post!
    For the chocolate chip cookies, which type of sugar did you reduce? I am assuming the recipe contains both white and brown sugar. Did you keep their ratio the same as in the original? Do you think changing that ratio when reducing the sugar might help in any way…?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Jas, I reduced both sugars in proportion to one another. Reducing just the white sugar might have provided fractionally more spread and moistness, but I don’t think enough to be noticeable. Good question! PJH

  39. grace

    Hi, I want to reduce my cookie’s sweetness, but it would ruin the texture as well! Do you have any suggestions as to how i can reduce the sweetness but retain the texture? Would it make a difference if i only reduced the white sugar but kept the brown the way it was? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Grace, you’re asking for the impossible; you can’t reduce sugar in cookies by any significant amount and retain their exact texture. If you’re looking for soft cookies, using brown sugar will help a tiny bit; and there are other ways to increase moistness (date paste, applesauce), though they all come with a down side, texture-wise. For crisp cookies with nice spread, my best suggestion is to reduce the sugar gradually, assessing as you go; when you reach the level where you no longer care for the texture, increase the sugar a bit and that’s your ideal. Good luck — PJH

  40. Julia Koch

    Sooo interesting and helpful! Thank you!

    Have you experimented with Eryfly (a so called natural and calorieless sugar substitute)? Or with Xylith (or other calorie reduced natural sugars)?

    I would be very interested in those results (especially when baking chocolate chip cookies. But also with brownies and cakes…. etc.)

    Also I would love to learn about baking cookies (also brownies, muffins, cakes.. ;-)) with honey or syrups like maple syrup or agave nectar for instance… Or with different kinds of sugars like coconut blossom sugar (instead of regular sugar)

    Greetings from Vienna, Austria! I am really enjoying reading your posts!!! Thank you!
    Julia

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Julia, thanks for connecting — from “the Continent!” I haven’t used either of those sugar substitutes, but I’ve used others, and while they’re OK for pure sweetening (e.g., pie filling, chocolate sauce), if they’re like other sugar substitutes they’re not good for anything with structure, like brownies, cookies, cake, etc. We may examine more natural/less refined sugars going forward, but for the time being we’re concentrating on simply reducing the amount of sugar in baking — rather than keeping the sugar the same, but substituting a different form. PJH

  41. Willy

    PJ- you rock. This is one of the best articles I’ve read on baking in general. I also enjoyed the breakdown by cookie type and the simple pass/fail test. I’m a chocolate lover so I’m thrilled the brownies earned a pass rating in all four tests. Next time you test something I hereby volunteer to be the taster!

    Reply
  42. Shelley

    PJ, thanks for this! One question — when you said “artificial sweeteners”, do you include stevia in that list of undesirables?

    In the cases where it’s mainly the flavor, not texture, that fails when cutting sugar quite a lot, I’m wondering whether adding in some stevia would make them acceptable, without affecting insulin response.

    Thank you! This is very useful!

    ***Sent to PJ on 5/4 -KA***

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Shelley, yes, while I realize stevia isn’t an artificial sweetener, it acts like one as far as baking is concerned. I was trying to distinguish standard sugars — granulated, brown, confectioners’ — from all the other sweeteners out there. If you’re using stevia just for flavor, then absolutely give it a try; can’t comment on whether this will affect insulin response, as that’s a question for your doctor. Good luck! PJH

  43. Elaine Fallah

    I was wondering why you didn’t test a 10%reduction of the sugar in your test. Would it be safe to assume that a10% reduction would have a minimal effect on the cookies taste and texture?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Good question, Elaine. We’ve actually adopted a 10% testing approach in some of our other sugar reduction blogs, like the one on cakes. In this case, we found that a 10% reduction was an acceptable threshold for almost every kind of cake. We wanted to push the envelope a bit with our testing in cookies in the hopes of finding the highest limits of successful sugar reduction. Since many of the 50% reduction tests received a “pass” (five out of the eight cases explored here), we think it’s probably safe to say that a 10% reduction would produce very little difference flavor and texture-wise in most cookie and bar recipes. Hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  44. Cynthavi

    In regard to your comment “We’ll be sharing our experiments with liquid sugar substitutes in a blog post soon”… I’m eager to read about the use of brown rice syrup since it’s reputed to be so much healthier than other sweeteners. I’ve been timidly swapping it out for modest portions of sugar along with reducing the overall sweetness in desserts. I wasn’t willing to risk failure and throwing food away! I’d rather cut down on portions. BTW, I often split a cake batter into two loaf pans so I have smaller slices as well as less heat in the kitchen with the shorter baking time. Smaller cookies, ditto. Every little strategy to help my family’s health! Thanks for your great work. Your blog is a treasure.

    Reply
  45. DB

    Thanks for this scientific approach! I was wondering about white versus brown sugar. I make a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie without the white sugar. So it’s half the sugar, but in a different way. I did figure out to refrigerate it a few hours; next time I’ll try 24 hours.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi DB, brown sugar is just slightly (about 3%) less sweet than white sugar. We’ve found that cookies made with white sugar tend to spread more and end up slightly more crisp. Brown sugar holds its moisture better, so the cookies will be softer and tend to rise a bit more if your cookie recipe has baking soda in it. If those are qualities you like in your cookies, feel free to make the swap and also use slightly less sugar overall than the recipe calls for, using the guidelines provided in this article here. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  46. Esther Finkelstein

    I have baked with xylitol and had excellent results. I didn’t try cookies yet but I did bake cakes using 100% xylitol and they were really good

    Reply
  47. Cindy

    Thanks for this exploration. Have to say, when I make less-sweet desserts, I eat bigger portions! Hard to fool my brain.

    We make maple syrup and use it a lot in baking–muffins, scones, cornbread, whipped cream, strawberry shortcake and more. In pie we use part sugar, part maple. It’s not so great in cakes. Cookie-wise, it works only in what The Tassajara baking book called “earthy, gritty” hippie cookies. When I used to use 100% maple in blueberry pie, I used a stick blender to mix ClearJel into the syrup. While the pie “gravy” was thick, I was creeped out by the industrial nature of the product. Back to arrowroot and part sugar.

    Reply
  48. Mary Andersen

    My husband is diabetic, but we love sweets! I have been doing about 50% sugar for Betty Crocker recipes. I also replace the brown sugar with 2 Tablespoons of Molasses. I use Canola oil – a little less quantity than butter. Also replace 1/3 to 1/2 of the flour with oatmeal. Most of the oatmeal, ginger and chocolate cookies have turned out well. Banana bread is tasty but doesn’t rise as well.

    Reply
  49. Marion

    Thank you for such wonderful articles on baking with less sugar. I thought that the fats used in baking cookies were the reason for the spread of the cookies, so am very grateful that you have published this post and set me on the right track. Would it also be possible, in a future blog, to talk about high altitude baking?

    I’ve been happily baking for 50+ years and am still learning new things. Your blog is one of the best I’ve come across. It is very well researched, written and so easily understood. Keep up the awesome work!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Marion, we’re always looking to increase the amount of resources we have for baking at high-altitude, as we know baking at elevation is a challenge faced by many bakers. We have developed a High-Altitude Baking Guide that you may find helpful if you haven’t already come across it. It can help give you rough ideas about how to start making changes to your recipe, although we always encourage careful testing and adjustments that are specific to your locale. We’ve shared your request for additional blogs to help support this topic with the right team; we appreciate your feedback! Kye@KAF

  50. Kim Mc

    Great article! I’ve been experimenting with using less sugar when I bake and noticed the drier texture and less spread so this confirms it was due to less sugar! Can additional fat be added to improve texture & spread? Also, have you tried using dextrose instead of sugar? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Kim, I tried adding plain water to improve cookie spread, but all it did was make the cookies softer; they still didn’t spread like they would with the original amount of sugar. As for fat, I didn’t try that — if you do, c’mon back and share your results here! I don’t believe dextrose comes in any readily available form that could be used for baking, does it? I know it’s in high-fructose corn syrup, but I’ve never seen it offered as a sugar substitute for baking. Unless it’s labeled as such, I surmise dextrose would only be suitable for baked goods that don’t rely on sugar for their structure or texture, e.g., fruit pie filling. PJH

  51. Kim Mc

    OK I’ll let you know if I try with added fat!
    Actually I’ve used dextrose (it’s more powdered and less sweet and can be found with home brew supplies) in place of sugar and it works OK as far as taste. Much less sweet – and I can’t remember what it did to spread/texture. Sounds like dextrose is better for your body than sugar. I read about it in the book called “A Year Of No Sugar”.

    Reply
  52. Elisa

    Love the Baker’s percentage approach, it’s so science-y!! I tried this with a favorite peanut butter cookie recipe and reduced the sugar by 25%, which worked out to 100% baker’s percentage, down from 133%. They turned out great, and I think they have more peanut flavor! I plan to try reducing the sugar even further next time. Thank you so much for blogging about this technique!!

    Reply
  53. Candice

    Thanks so much for doing the hard work testing these recipes…I am trying to reduce sugar for my kids but also avoid store bought cookies to reduce waste and save money. This will really help me in the kitchen 👍

    Reply
  54. Cheryl

    Because I have a dairy allergy, I have been trying to make a chocolate chip cookie without butter, so I decided to use ghee instead and the cookies look like those Buttersnaps. They are thin and crispy and I added nuts and toffee bits to them but my body balks at all the sugar. They are totally delicious and I can’t stop eating them so reducing the sugar will help slow the spread and reduce the sugars effect on my health.

    I have tried using dates and such to replace the sugar, but even fruit sugar is sugar to the pancreas, so I feel it’s best to lower sugar period. I made a gingerbread loaf bread and reduced the sugar by 1/2 and the center was sunken although it was still delicious. (Gingerbread Loaf by Kate Ramos) She uses molasses in addition to the sugar but I used the less sweet Blackstrap Molasses which has more vitamins/minerals.

    Thank you so much for the well-researched article, I will now be able to tackle other desserts with a bit more confidence.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re glad you’re finding it helpful, Cheryl, and hope that you’ll find the link to our Cookie Chemistry blog article helpful too. Another dairy-free alternative to butter that you might keep in mind is Earth Balance’s Vegan Buttery Sticks. So far, we’ve found them to be the best butter imitation out there, especially because they can be creamed just like butter. Mollie@KAF

  55. louis smith

    Hello: I actually want less spread in my c.c. cookies, they’re always too flat. But I also chill the dough just because it makes for easier ball making with my hands. So why do they still flatten out chilled with full sugar? Can I try baking powder instead of soda, using about 2x powder as the called for soda, and maybe all brown sugar? Or should I just learn how to use a spoon or scoop to get the damn un-chilled dough onto the baking sheets? And yes, I’ve tried ALL the standard “prevent spread” tips and rules. Thanks, this site is sooooo helpful, Louis.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Louis, not sure what recipe you’re using, but if you want less spread you can increase the flour by 1/4 cup. Changing the leavener won’t affect the spread one way or the other. Brown sugar has more invert sugar in it, which will make your cookies more bendy, but again, won’t change spread one way or the other. By the way, you can save yourself a lot of hassle and chill time if you go for a scoop, and chill the dough AFTER portioning. Susan

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