Finally, a no-sugar cheesecake you won’t say “no” to! These substitutes give you all the cheesecake with none of the sugar.
Whether you’re giving up sugar or looking for a dessert that’s delicious but not as harmful, we’ve got you covered. While white sugar is a classic ingredient in most cheesecakes, that doesn’t mean you can’t replace it with something else.
You can make cheesecake without white sugar by using a low-calorie sweetener such as stevia, erythritol, or xylitol instead. Honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, and coconut sugar are high-calorie alternatives—and they meld formidably with the other ingredients that go in a cheesecake.
Sugar, in its simplest form, is a carbohydrate that our bodies break down into glucose and convert into energy or store as fat. Although fruits contain natural sugars, such as fructose and glucose, not all recipes work well with the addition of fruit. Even if they do, the sugar in the fruit is often not enough to sweeten the whole dessert.
And so, we resort to refined sugar. Refined sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets. It starts off with a brown color and richer flavor, but goes through processing to remove all the molasses. The result is a fine sugar with a white color and a “clean” taste, which that pleases the eye and suits most recipes.
You’re here, which tells us that, for one reason or another, you want to substitute refined sugar with something else. Of course, you’re looking to do so without compromising on the texture and taste of your cheesecake.
How Do I Make a Cheesecake Without Sugar?
For starters, you may need to use different substitutes for the crust and the filling. One of the reasons why refined sugar is such a common ingredient in most recipes is its malleability. You can add it to the crust, the filling, the frosting, even, and it work just as well.
The same can’t be said for all sugar substitutes. For instance, honey is an excellent alternative and so is coconut sugar. Both are natural, sweet, and in moderation, quite good for your health. But if you’re expecting honey to hold up your perfect graham cracker cheesecake crust, think again; they won’t yield that dry crumbliness that’s sought after.
The Sweeteners: Stevia, Erythritol, or Xylitol
If your goal is to cut down on calories, a sweetener is an ideal way to indulge in your beloved cheesecake without guilt or compromises.
These sweeteners are called “low-calorie” or “no-calorie” alternatives to sugar for good reason. Basically, our bodies cannot digest them, so they pass through our stomach and we excrete them in our urine. The result is sweet cheesecake that’s less fattening and that doesn’t spike blood sugar levels.
Here’s how stevia, erythritol, and xylitol compare:
Substituting Stevia for Sugar in Cheesecake
Stevia is a sugar substitute made from the leaves of the stevia shrub. Depending on the brand and variety, stevia can be as much as 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, so you only need a tiny amount of it to sweeten up your cheesecake’s crust or filling.
Stevia can be hard to disperse, especially in the crust, so it’s more suitable as a sugar substitute in the filling (as long as you whisk it or load it in the stand mixer, the stevia will be dispersed evenly).
Substitution ratio: Use 1 teaspoon of stevia for every 1 cup of white sugar.
Substituting Erythritol for Sugar in Cheesecake
Erythritol is a low-calorie sweetener with 0.2 calories/gram. It’s made from fermented glucose and sucrose, and is roughly ⅔ as sweet as sugar, so you will want to use slightly more of it than the amount of sugar that the recipe calls for (you will find the exact substitution ratio below).
Erythritol has a sugary flavor, doesn’t have much of an aftertaste, and can be used in more or less the same quantity as sugar. Which is what makes it one of our preferred sugar substitutes for making cheesecake.
Substitution ratio: Use 1⅓ cups of erythritol for every 1 cup of white sugar.
Substituting Xylitol for Sugar in Cheesecake
Xylitol is a naturally occurring form of sugar found in fruits and vegetables. Unlike other sugar substitutes, xylitol is as sweet as sugar, so you should use as much of it as you would refined sugar.
Substitution ratio: Use 1 cups of xylitol for 1 cup of white sugar.
As far as ease of baking is concerned, xylitol is the best substitute for sugar as you don’t need to use any less or more of it. You simply follow the instructions of the recipe, and you have yourself a sugar-free cheesecake.
Honey, Agave Nectar, and Maple Syrup
From low-calorie sweeteners such as stevia, erythritol, and xylitol, we shift gear to high-calorie sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup.
Honey comes from bees, agave nectar is the syrup of the blue agave (Agave tequilana) plant, and maple syrup is produced from the sap of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) tree. Each comes with a distinct aroma and unique flavor that can make or break your cheesecake; use them carefully.
Also, these sweeteners are liquid, so they are more suitable for the filling than they are for the crust. When using them, add 10 to 15 minutes of cooling time to be sure that the filing has solidified. (We will discuss baking and cooling times shortly.)
We know what you’re thinking! “Hey, isn’t coconut sugar still sugar?”
Technically, it is. But it’s made from the sap of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) tree, which makes it a more natural and less refined alternative to regular sugar.
Coconut sugar is a great substitute for white sugar in cheesecake. It has a similar consistency and is just as sweet, so you don’t have to make any adjustments to the recipe whatsoever.
Also, your desserts will smell like cappuccino and taste like dark caramel, which, when combined well, can make an amazing cheesecake. Use it when you want to add flavor to your cheesecake, and avoid it if you’re looking for a “pure” sweetness that won’t steal the show from the rest of the ingredients.
Does Removing the Sugar Change the Baking Time?
Baking is a matter of chemistry—anyone who has ever tried to bake the perfect soufflé can attest to that. Each ingredient requires a certain amount of heat to react with the other ingredients properly. Thus, substituting any ingredient in a recipe can alter the baking time.
Cheesecakes are unique in that the crust must be baked while the filling must be cooled. So, both the baking time and the cooling time may be reduced or extended when using sugar alternatives. The exact amount largely depends on the sugar alternatives you’ve chosen.
The general rule of thumb is to go by the consistency of the sugar substitute you are using.
Adjusting the Baking Time
There are no-bake cheesecakes out there and, if you’re preparing one, you can skip this section of the article all together.
But if you are one for the baked crust, be sure to accommodate the sugar substitute in your baking temperature. We recommend lowering the temperature by 20-25 degrees as calorie-free sugars alternatives tend to burn quicker than regular sugar.
Also, be sure to give the crust longer to cool down once you’ve removed it from the oven lest you want a cracked cheesecake.
Adjusting the Cooling Time
So, if you chose to use honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup in the filling, you will need to chill the cake for longer. This is because you’ve substituted a liquid substance for a solid one.
Don’t worry; this doesn’t mean your cheesecake is going to be a soupy mess, it just means you have to let it cool for longer than you would with a sugar-based filling. If you’re not sure on the exact time, you can check the consistency by pulling the cake out of the fridge and giving it a bit of a shake.
If the filling jiggles at all, leave it for longer in the fridge. If the filling stays firm, it’s time to indulge in that sugar-free sweetness! This process could take anywhere from 6-8 hours that said, we recommend simply leaving it in the fridge overnight.
If you’re afraid of tampering with your great-grandmother’s iconic cheesecake recipe, we get it. However, times have changed—and recipes need to follow.
Sure, a little sugar won’t hurt. But, because such excellent alternatives exist, it’s somewhat hassle-free to cut it out. So, to have your cake and eat it, too, try our alternatives out.