Sugar Substitutes

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Sugars combine several useful qualities in one ingredient: energy, sweetness, substance, moisture binding, and the ability to caramelize. The problem with this versatility is that each quality comes with the others. And sometimes we want just one or two alone: the pleasure of sweetness without the calories or stress on the body’s system for regulating blood sugar levels, for example, or the substance without the sweetness, or substance and sweetness without the tendency to brown when cooked. Manufacturers have therefore developed ingredients that offer some but not all of the properties of sugars. Many of these ingredients were originally discovered in plants; a few are entirely artificial. Inventive cooks are now experimenting with some to make candy-like savory foods and other novelties.