Cut the Sugar, Turn Up the Flavor! 5 Low-Sugar Dessert Recipes

Trying to cut back on sugar, but your sweet tooth keeps calling your name? An easy way to cut back and keep track is by making the sweet treats yourself! Homemade goods can have far less sugar than store-bought goodies, and these recipes flavor by swapping out sugar for spices.

Apple Pie with Cloves

 Apple Pie with Cloves

Sharon Bowers

Apple pies frequently have too much sugar, and the sweetness can obscure the apple itself. What’s more, many apple desserts have such a strong flavor of cinnamon that it’s all you taste. You may be pleasantly surprised at how well a simple addition of nothing more than cloves complements and highlights the apple flavor. A homemade crust (especially easy with a food processor) makes a flaky, buttery taste stage to let your apples really shine. You won’t miss the sugar here, and you may come away with a whole new appreciation for apple pie. Use a sweet cooking apple such as Macintosh, or even Golden Delicious.

Get the recipe: Apple Pie with Cloves

Spicy Ginger Loaf

Spicy Ginger Loaf

Sharon Bowers

Gingerbreads and ginger cakes don’t need as much sugar as many other cakes because they have so much spice that you don’t miss the sweetness. Or, at least, they’re supposed to. Most ginger cake recipes call for too little spice, resulting in a dull flavor that needs—what else?—more sugar to make it tasty. This cake redresses the balance, with a little brown sugar and molasses for sweetness, and a lot of zingy spice. It actually tastes better a day or two after you bake it, when the flavor of the spices matures. Store it tightly wrapped for up to a week.

Get the recipe: Spicy Ginger Loaf

Fruit Scones

Fruit Scones

Sharon Bowers

At 1/4 cup sugar for a dozen big scones, this is about as little granulated sugar per serving as you can get in a sweet baked treat. True, there are plenty of raisins to sweeten things up, but at least with dried fruit you get some additional nutritional benefits along with the fructose. You can use any dried fruit you like here as well: dried cherries, chopped dried figs or dates, perhaps dried blueberries. If you’re trying to cut the processed sugar, though, beware of dried cranberries, which often have a great deal of added sugar to counteract their natural tartness.

Get the recipe: Fruit Scones

Creamy Cheesecake

Creamy Cheesecake

Sharon Bowers

Who says birthday cakes have to be flour-based? This dense and creamy cheesecake is a rich and luxurious treat, and it has only 1/2 cup granulated sugar for 12 servings. (There is sugar in graham crackers, yes, but this crust is thin on purpose to use fewer of them.) Okay, yes, it’s cheesecake, so the fat content is high. But the serving sizes aren’t big and the cake is so rich that it’s surprisingly satisfying in small slices. You can easily use low-fat cream cheese and low-fat sour cream, but avoid the nonfat versions of both or the cake won’t taste good. Be sure to plan ahead so you have enough time to chill it well before serving.

Get the recipe: Creamy Cheesecake

Rhubarb Galette

Rhubarb Galette

Sharon Bowers

Rhubarb in a low-sugar dessert? Absolutely. It’s a mistake to sweeten rhubarb too much because it robs it of character and makes it lose its lovely tart flavor. This simple free-form tart relies on orange zest and ground ginger to perk up the rhubarb’s flavor, and uses a minimal 1/3 cup sugar. Served warm, it’s excellent with a little unsweetened whipped cream on the side. Cold, a slab of it makes an excellent breakfast treat.

Get the recipe: Rhubarb Galette

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