Baking With Xylitol as a Sugar Substitute

A spoon of Xylitol
 4nadia/Getty Images

Xylitol is becoming increasingly popular as a lower-calorie alternative to sugar. This chemical compound is most often found in commercially processed low sugar or no sugar added food products such as candies, chewing gum, and mints. It is used as an ingredient in low sugar versions of these foods. Xylitol is as sweet as sugar but has around 40% fewer calories than real sugar. It has also gained popularity as being a preventer of dental cavities, but this is not fully supported by scientific evidence. For those with diabetes, Xylitol does not have any effects on blood sugar. Unlike sugar, it is metabolized without the need for insulin.

It is part of a group of sweeteners known as sugar alcohols which may be found naturally occurring in some plants. While the name suggests that it contains alcohol, it indeed does not. Instead, it is a substance that, in its pure form, is a granulated colorless or white solid. It looks and tastes very much like real sugar and also dissolves in water or liquids.

How to Buy

You may have seen Xylitol sold in larger bags in products such as Ideal Sweetener and Xylosweet. While not very prevalent in standard grocery stores, these products can be found in some specialty food stores or can be bought via an online retailer. Xylitol is sold in powdered form, in one, two, three-pound bags. The price is about $7 per pound.

These products are intended for use in the home as a sugar substitute and are meant to be used as an exact replacement for sugar. Xylitol does keep its sweetness even after being exposed to high temperatures and does offer volume and texture, unlike some other sugar substitutes.

How to Use

The manufacturer's websites for these products do offer some recipes and tips for cooking with their products that you may try, or you may also experiment with these products in your recipes. Do keep in mind that while xylitol bakes much like sugar, it should not be expected to have the same results as using real sugar. Often texture, moistness, and browning will be affected by using the sugar substitute.

Safety Concerns

As with other sugar substitutes, if consumed in large quantities xylitol can cause a laxative-like effect. Also, for pet owners, it is important to know that xylitol and the products made from xylitol are not considered safe for your dog or ferret to eat and can be lethal if consumed. That fact alone may shy some curious bakers away from using xylitol in your sweet treats. According to the FDA, pet owners should contact their veterinarian or pet poison control center immediately for advice if they know or suspect that their pet has ingested a human product containing xylitol. Be careful if you are a pet owner and plan to have baked goods containing xylitol in your home with them.