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Friday, May 22, 2020

Baking Delicious Cookies With Half the Sugar

Like many folks these days, I've been reading about how to use less of just about all of the ingredients in my baking cupboard. A couple of weeks ago, I looked into baking cookies with half or less sugar -- what changes I would need to make, and what results I could expect.

Fortunately, someone else has already done a reasonable amount of experiments in this area, from baking cookies with half the sugar to 25% of the sugar for a variety of cookie types. Here's the link to the full article: King Arthur Flour: How to Reduce Sugar in Cookies and Bars.

The article experimented with 8 types of cookies: gingersnaps, buttersnaps, fudge brownies, cut-out holiday sugar cookies, chocolate chip, oatmeal-raisin, sugar, and vanilla-chai bars.

For my batch of cookies, I chose chocolate chip drop cookies and used half of the usual amount of sugar that was called for on the back of a bag of chocolate chips (your standard Toll House recipe). Instead of a combined 3/4 cups of brown and white sugar for the batch, I used a total of 3/8 cup of sugar (both brown and white sugar combined). My batch made 25 cookies. That's about 3/4 teaspoon of sugar per cookie in addition to the sugar contained in the chocolate chips. By the way, I sampled just the dough, and you know how cookie dough can have a slightly grainy texture from the sugar? This dough was smoother -- a lot like those tubes of dough sold in the refrigerated cases at the supermarket.

The King Arthur website indicated that cookies with less sugar wouldn't spread as much, so after forming balls of dough, I flattened them all slightly. The cookies still held more of a mounded shape than the completely flat cookies that I'm accustomed to. However, unlike some other cookies which are rather soft and cakey, these cookies still had a crispy edge to them (which I especially liked). And they were definitely sweet. Next time, I'll try flattening the dough even more to produce a larger and flatter cookie.

The King Arthur website also suggested refrigerating the cookie dough overnight before baking. This rest period for the dough allows the sugars to caramelize better, resulting in a cookie that tastes sweeter. Since I didn't bake a control batch (following the regular recipe), I don't have an adequate way to compare sweetness of my half-sugar cookies with how they usually turn out. But I can say this, we enjoyed the cookies very, very much and didn't care that I only used half the usual amount of sugar. The flavor was rich and deep.

I thought the results of the KA's experiments were interesting. As you might guess, cookies that had a sweet extra ingredient, such as chocolate chips or raisins, gave the consumer a greater sense of sweetness than cookies which didn't have such ingredients. 

In addition, the KA's experts indicated that with considerably less sugar, other flavors become more prominent -- spices took on a larger flavor profile in a cookie, sometimes overwhelmingly so, and baking soda became more pronounced. Because they recognized that baking soda was more pronounced, I did use slightly less soda in my batch. The recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. I used a shade less, somewhere between 3/8 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon. My batch had no detectable soda taste to it.

King Arthur's article had a bunch of helpful nuggets for reducing sugar content in homemade cookies. It's worth a quick read. 

I'm not in any danger of running out of sugar soon, but I am being cautious with my supplies. The bonus was that I made a very tasty cookie that may be better for my waistline. 

I think I'll continue reducing sugar in other cookies and bars, using some of King Arthur's suggestions and experience to guide me as I alter favorite recipes.


  1. My mother was the champion of reducing sugar in things. Unfortunately, I've forgotten much of what she did because I don't bake that much. Thanks for the link to the King Arthur article. I've been thinking about baking some chocolate chip cookies and will try it with less sugar.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I actually preferred the cookies with less sugar, so I hope you enjoy them, too. The King Arthur Flour website has a lot of good information.

  2. I like to cut down on the sugar when I make cookies also, I don't like them overly sweet. Baking soda is a nightmare for me, either I'm not incorporating the dry ingredients enough or I shouldn't scrap the bowl towards the top, some of baked items have a bitter taste, not all but some, you'll eat a bite, enjoy it than BAM soda taste. Not sure what I'm doing wrong. Have a great weekend and happy Memorial Day!

    BTW - someone asked how many county was managing since our re-open, it's going pretty smoothly (I'm in central PA), our governor indicated yesterday some counties (mostly likely mine included) will be moving onto the step phase of reopening - the green phase. I'm diligent with caution and I think for the most part other are also.


    1. Hi Shelby,
      Thanks for the update on your county. Bit by tiny bit, it sounds like progress being made everywhere.

      Hmmm, on the baking soda, one thing I've done for years is add the soda and salt to the creamed butter, sugar, egg, and extract. I mix the soda/salt in well at this point, then add the flour and other ingredients. In Home Ec, we had to sift the soda with the flour, but that always seemed like an extra step I didn't want to take. So, I figured I'd just get the soda mixed in well before the flour was added. It seems to work for me, and I don't think doing it this way compromises the soda's function at all. I don't know if doing soda/salt this way will work for you.

      Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, too, Shelby! We're hoping for at least one dry day, here. We often have wet Memorial Days. but if we get a dry day, we'll have a cookout to celebrate. That means I'll be needing to bake buns and graham crackers. Better get busy!

    2. Good idea, Lili. I have found that off-brands of soda don't always mix in well so I spend the extra pennies for name brand. I also tend to use my fingers to make sure the soda isn't clumping up. Getting a mouthful of that is not a pleasant experience!

  3. Interesting you talk about cookies today! Earlier this week my two oldest adult kids (both live at home) decided they wanted to have a cookie contest. Dad would be the judge (bad idea BTW since it was like choosing your favorite kid). One made snickerdoodles and the other made chocolate chip made with oil and cream of tartar making it a white cookie. They made full batches so now we have a bunch in the freezer. Both were very good. Dad chose snickerdoodles as his favorite

    We haven't used very much sugar for a long time but I did buy some at an Amish store I was at a few weeks ago. I made hubby some strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, rhubarb jam which we are thoroughly enjoying. And I had some sugar left so from that they made cookies.


    1. Hi Alice,
      That sounds like fun! I haven't had snickerdoodles in quite a while. That sounds like a great variety to make next time. I wonder how King Arthur Flour's suggestions for a low-sugar snickerdoodle would work?

      I am hoping to make strawberry jam this spring/summer. Did you mix strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, and rhubarb together in one jam? I make a rhubarb-vanilla spread that we all seem to enjoy, and I was thinking of trying a rhubarb-rosemary preserve in the next week.

      Have a great weekend, Alice!

  4. Hi Lili, I haven't commented in awhile but follow your blog as always. I don't have an analytical mind - at all (just setting the stage) I just "jump in." That approach has caused interesting things at times!! A few years ago my doctor suggested I cut down on both salt and sugar. I'm a baker and I like my own cooking and baking. So I just did it - cut the sugar in half in cookies. They were very good. My biggest surprise was the European women who live in my apartment building really liked them. They never liked our sweets as they always said we Americans use too much sugar. BTW I have two friends that are very analytical so If I really want to be cautious, I call one of them (like referring to your blog) because I know they have or will do the research! Hugs to you, Shirley in Bellevue

    1. Hi Shirley,
      Oh, that's interesting about your European neighbors and preferences for less sugar. I've had a similar experience with friends outside of the US and salt in baked goods. Evidently, Americans like their baked goods on the salty side, compared to elsewhere. Probably not a good thing for us. I like hearing that others bake with half the sugar.

      I've reduced sugar in a lot of my baking, but never had a set amount by which to reduce. I have discovered that I prefer brownies with less sugar than most recipes call for. More of the cocoa flavor comes through. I'll be trying this with more and more of my home-baked goods. Glad to hear it works so well for you.
      Have a lovely weekend, Shirley.

    2. Thanks, Lili, I should have added I use less sugar in all everything now and teeny amounts of salt. I just started with cookies. Like your brownies and having more cocoa taste, I love tasting the fruit in cakes, muffins, etc. Have a nice weekend, too. Shirley

  5. Thanks for the resource! I frequently cut down on the sugar and salt amounts but I've never been brave enough to halve the sugar. I find that a lot of recipes are too sweet for me. Back in my weight watcher days, they frequently suggested techniques like adding less sugar but sprinkling some on the outside of things (like muffin tops) as that's the first place your taste buds hit. Many foods from restaurants are simply too salty for me these days! I'll have to check out the KA site.


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