There are two things I’ve been meaning to do for a while around here. The first is to finally explain what Xylitol is and why I prefer to use it in my baking; and second to make a permanent home for my favourite sugar-free brownie recipe that I literally make at least once (more often twice…) a week that I have previously shared with you guys in an Instagram post that has likely been long buried in your feed! I’m happy to say that today I will accomplish both these things! Look at me, being all productive and stuff.
So let’s start with the first thing: what the hell is Xylitol and why do I like it so darn much? Xylitol is a polyalcohol or sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables and extracted from corn or birch wood to make a sweetener that is similar in taste to sugar but with about 40% fewer calories and without the impact on blood sugar levels in the body (meaning it doesn’t cause the same swing in insulin levels and impact fat storage the way sugar does, including natural sugars like coconut and maple syrup). It’s widely used in chewing gum, oral health products and as a sugar substitute for those with diabetes or blood sugar related problems. Xylitol is recommended by many (but not all) in the natural health community and is even considered ok for those suffering from candida overgrowth (bacteria that feeds on sugar and simple carbs that can take over your micro biome causing a myriad of problems from weight gain to skin issues to headaches to you name it!).
I personally like to use it in my baking because it doesn’t have that bitter aftertaste that stevia has and is easier to sub in place of sugar since stevia requires so much less in a recipe. However, it isn’t as simple as a 1:1 ratio since I’ve found it doesn’t bake as densely as sugar (you end up with a looser final product aka crumbly or just not as chewy). Subbing it in place of liquid sweeteners like agave and maple syrup tend to work better, but other granuled sugars are tougher. I suggest when working with someone else’s recipe that calls for sugar (especially brown or cane sugar) or coconut sugar, try doing half what the recipe calls for and half xylitol and see how that goes. Cookies are particularly finicky and experiments have many times left me with sad flatter-than-pancake results. Wah!
Ok so all the above aside you might still be wondering “is it safe”?
The quick answer is yes, very – but with a few caveats.
Some Xylitol can be made from corn, which is mostly GMO and that irks many folks, so I make sure I buy Xylitol made from non-GMO sustainable hardwood.
Also, for some Xylitol can cause digestive upset (meaning gas and bloating) and thus is not the perfect alternative for everyone. Those with IBS or other digestive issues may want to steer clear as it is a high FODMAP food. I personally do not have any issues with it, but it’s best to start with a small amount and see how you might react before diving right in. Perhaps sub half xylitol for half your usual sweetener in a recipe and see how it goes!
Lastly (and perhaps most importantly) it does not help us manage our addiction to sweet, sugary foods that is causing the rise in obesity and other degenerative diseases destroying our health in today’s society. As always, it’s best to enjoy treats, even healthy ones, in moderation only. A diet rich in vegetables, healthy fats and proteins should always be our focus!! And nothing can replace the deliciously natural sweet treat that is fresh, seasonal fruit as number 1 in this girl’s daily diet. I loooooove my post-lunch berries and coconut yogurt!
That being said, I am a firm believer in balance (and we all know how much baking goes down in my house) so I also firmly believe that every household needs a good go-to brownie recipe – and mine happens to not only be super basic but also sugar-free, dairy-free and gluten-free! So here it (finally) is, friends. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Every. Single. Week.
The Natural Blonde
P.s. I make may these twice a week more often than I care to admit. But these damn things are like lays – and I 100% cannot eat just one. Balance??? Womp womp.
Sugar-Free Weekday Brownies
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup Xylitol (could also sub coconut sugar but might be a denser brownie)
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 eggs
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
- ½ cup sugar-free (I use Lily’s Sweets Vegan Chips) or 70% cocoa chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment. I also find it’s best since there’s no oil in this recipe to grease the parchment a little with coconut oil.
Combine mashed banana, eggs and applesauce in a large bowl and stir them together. Next, add in the cocoa powder, Xylitol and baking soda and stir until everything is wet before thoroughly combining with an electric mixer until smooth (combining by hand first ensures your cocoa powder doesn’t fly everywhere as it has done for my many times before I learned this trick!!). Lastly, stir in the coarse salt and the chips (waiting to put the salt in after you mix the rest allows the crystals to stay more intact so you really get that sweet and salty thing going in these brownies!).
Bake for 30-35 degrees or until the middle is set. Allow to cool in the pan before slicing. These are best stored in the fridge and take on an even more enjoyable texture when cold! Soooooo good.