After hours spent making your favorite dessert, it can feel like a baker's nightmare to find an empty box of confectioner's sugar (raise your hand if your kids haven't put an empty box away in the cupboard). Your powdered sugar donut cake isn't complete, of course, unless you have the main ingredient. But instead of hauling yourself to the nearest grocery store, try looking at what you have right now in the kitchen.
There are several substitutes that work just as well at replicating the sweet taste and texture of powdered sugar. And some options may be a better alternative to powdered sugar if you're following a low-carb, paleo, or low-glycemic diet. Try our powdered sugar substitutes that will do in a pinch.
Homemade Powdered Sugar Substitute
In the mood for a quick DIY project? Try making your own powdered sugar. It takes about 30 seconds to a few minutes to make, depending on the speed and strength of your blender or food processor. Mix and blend these two ingredients:
- 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, tapioca starch, potato starch, or arrowroot powder
- 1 cup of granulated sugar or sweetener of choice
Continuously blend the mixture on high in a blender or food processor until it reaches a powdered consistency. You can use homemade powdered sugar as a substitute in any recipe that calls for regular powdered sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
Powdered sugar is also called confectioners' sugar or icing sugar.
Sugar-Free Powdered Sugar Substitute
Having a sweet tooth while watching your sugar levels is difficult but doable when you're sticking to sugar-free desserts. One way of making desserts with fewer carbs is using sugar-free substitutes. This low-calorie, lower-carb alternative to powdered sugar tastes like just the real thing — your family might not even notice the difference. To make it at home, use the blender/food processor method above with the following ingredients:
- 1 cup of Splenda or other artificial sweetener
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca starch, or arrowroot powder
You can substitute this sugar-free powdered sugar mixture for any recipe that calls for regular powdered sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
This contains about 10 calories and 2.5g of carbs for the entire recipe. So, while it is low in carbs and calories, it isn't carb or calorie-free.
Swerve Confectioners Sweetener
If you're looking for a no-calorie, no-carb sugar replacement, try Swerve Confectioners. It measures just like powdered sugar and is made from the sugar alcohol erythritol, which has zero net carbs and is keto-friendly.
Regular Granulated Sugar
For some recipes (like icing and dense desserts), the texture will be grainy if you use regular granulated sugar instead of powdered sugar. However, this substitution will do the trick when you're in a pinch and don't have a blender:
- 1 ¾ cup powdered sugar = 1 cup of granulated sugar
To avoid the grainy texture, only use regular granulated sugar as a substitute for powdered sugar when making less dense baked goods like cookies and cakes. It doesn't work for icing, as the frosting will be too grainy.
Paleo Powdered Coconut Sugar
You'll often see coconut sugar used in paleo baking, and arrowroot powder is also a paleo ingredient, so you can use this blend if you're on a paleo diet. Coconut sugar isn't as sweet as regular granulated sugar, and it has a caramel-like flavor. Use the blender/food processor method above with the following ingredients:
- 1 cup of coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon of arrowroot powder
You can use powdered coconut sugar as a 1:1 ratio substitute for powdered sugar in dessert recipes. The result won't be as sweet as you're used to, so you might want to compensate with other sweet ingredients depending on your personal taste.
This is not a low-carb sugar replacement. 1 cup of coconut sugar contains 720 calories and 192g carbs. One cup of granulated sugar contains 774 calories and 200g carbs. Coconut sugar does have a lower glycemic index: 35 for coconut sugar versus 65 for granulated sugar.
Dry Milk Powder
If you've run out of powdered sugar or simply want to reduce your added sugar intake, try substituting nonfat dry milk powder for powdered sugar. But remember that you may have to slightly increase the liquid in your recipe when choosing dry milk powder to replace powdered sugar. Keep an eye on the consistency of your dish as you add more liquid one teaspoon at a time.
Mix together and blend in a blender or food processor:
- 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
- 1 cup cornstarch
- ½ cup granulated Splenda or other sugar substitute
A major benefit to using dry milk powder is that it already has a powdered consistency. In other words, you don't have to worry about having a grainy texture in icings and dessert toppings. You can use this powdered milk substitute as a 1:1 ratio. Note that while this is lower in sugar (the dry milk powder has 49g sugar), this is not low-carb or low-calorie.
Hot Cocoa Mix
While you might have to sacrifice a night of hot cocoa, you can grab one of the premade packets and use it as a substitute for powdered sugar. Many commercially prepared hot cocoa mixes already have ingredients needed for powdered sugar: nonfat dry milk and sugar. Blend the mixture to a powdered consistency and use as a replacement for powdered sugar in chocolate-flavored recipes as a ratio slightly higher than 1:1.
Since you're also adding cocoa to your recipe, remember that you'll probably taste some chocolate in the final product. So, if you're making white cake, this may not be the best substitute compared to the other suggestions. If it's a chocolate-based dessert, it's a perfect fit.
Choose a Powdered Sugar Alternative
Whether you need some powdered sugar in a pinch and there isn't any in your cupboards, or you're looking for lower sugar substitutes, we've got all the ways to get the right flavors and consistency in your baking with easy powdered sugar substitutes.