Naturally sweet: 5 Tasty ways to use vegetables as a sugar substitute
09/10/2021 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
Naturally sweet: 5 Tasty ways to use vegetables as a sugar substitute

Did you know that you can sweeten many of your favorite foods with vegetables? Surprisingly, many vegetables are deliciously sweet due to the natural sugars they contain.

Carrots, for instance, can be added to muffins and cakes. Plus, they make a deliciously sweet juice alone or with other vegetables. Beets are fantastic in smoothies and sauces, while onions have a surprisingly high sugar content. Naturally sweet vegetables like sweet potato are even being made into healthy sweeteners.

Aside from cutting back on sugar, sweetening your foods with vegetables is a great way to incorporate nutrient-rich foods into your diet. There’s also evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of various health conditions, from eye problems to heart disease.


Here are five ways you can sweeten foods with vegetables.

1. Use sweet potatoes in chocolate brownies

Roasted sweet potatoes add a natural sweetness to decadent, chocolate brownies while cutting down sugar. Plus, the soluble fiber in sweet potatoes helps control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar in the gut and helps you feel full. Sweet potatoes are naturally gluten-free, too.

Follow this recipe to make your own decadent chocolate brownies with sweet potatoes:


  • 1 large egg 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed and boiled until tender
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond butter (or sunflower seed butter if allergic to nuts)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup organic maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a brownie baking dish with parchment paper, leaving two inches of overhang on each side. Lightly grease.
  2. To a food processor, add the sweet potato cubes, almond butter, coconut oil, egg and egg yolk. Process for 1 minute or until smooth. Make sure no chunks of sweet potato remain.
  3. Scrape down the side of the food processor, then add vanilla extract and maple syrup. Process until combined, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Process for 1 minute, then add the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and spread it evenly. Sprinkle with more chocolate chips if desired.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. To check if it’s done, insert a toothpick into the center. If it comes out with a few moist crumbs, it’s done. Let cool, then cut into 24 bars.

2. Swap added sugar for miso paste in hoisin sauce

Hoisin sauce is an intensely flavored and versatile sauce typically used in stir-fries. It is also often used as glaze for meats or as a marinade. The key ingredient of this sauce is fermented soybean paste, which adds that unique savory flavor that other sauces use fish or meat to achieve.

However, most store-bought hoisin sauces taste very sweet because of added sugar. For a healthier version, try using miso paste in place of sugar. Miso paste is a traditional Japanese seasoning made of fermented soybeans. Generally, miso tastes salty, tangy and savory. But lighter varieties tend to have more sweetness.

Here’s a recipe for low-sugar hoisin sauce sweetened with miso paste:


  • 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 cup white miso paste
  • 3 Tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or chili oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder (star anise, fennel seeds, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon)


  1. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, black pepper and five-spice powder in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat for 1 minute.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add the miso paste. Bring to a gentle simmer.
  3. Mix cornstarch and water in a bowl, then add this to the sauce. Simmer until slightly thickened. Let cool.

3. Sweeten soup with carrots

Add a touch of sweetness to tomato basil soup by throwing grated carrots into the mix. Grated carrots also help make the soup extra creamy, minus the saturated fats in regular cream.

Follow this easy recipe for creamy tomato basil soup:


  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots and onions. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, then add basil.
  4. Working in batches, pour the soup into a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  5. Return the blended soup to the saucepan and reheat. Ladle into bowls and serve.

4. Put pumpkin in breakfast waffles

Waffles are a popular breakfast item, but they’re typically made from refined flour and topped with ultra-sweet syrups. Needless to say, you shouldn’t be starting the day off with such an unhealthy breakfast.

Make your own healthier version instead by following this recipe for pumpkin spice waffles. Naturally sweet pumpkin puree makes up the base of these waffles, which are topped with maple-infused Greek yogurt.


  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 cups low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons organic maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  1. Preheat the waffle maker.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Add milk, coconut oil, butter, vanilla and pumpkin puree.
  4. Pour the pumpkin puree mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Whisk until just combined.
  5. Working in batches, add about 1/2 cup of the batter to your waffle maker and spread evenly. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, maple syrup and remaining ground cinnamon. Pour over the waffles and serve.

5. Sweeten water with cucumber

Cucumbers have a mild, slightly sweet flavor due to their high water content. They are refreshing to eat raw but can also be added to water for a dash of flavor. If you don’t want to slice cucumbers every time you want to drink naturally flavored water, make cucumber ice cubes.

Just chop up some cucumbers and add a few pieces to each slot of your ice cube tray. Fill the slots with water and freeze.

Some vegetables make surprisingly good sugar substitutes in both sweet and savory dishes. Swapping sugar for vegetables is also a great way to boost your intake of various nutrients as many vegetables are nutrient powerhouses.

Sources: 1 2 3 4

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