I love sugar as much as anyone; it’s the backbone of most everything I do, since it provides desserts with volume, structure, body, flavor, and, oh yeah, sweetness (its least important job as far as I’m concerned). Sugar’s at the top of the food pyramid for a reason, a sweet cap to an otherwise balanced diet, something to be consumed in moderation.
For the most part, I accomplish that with portion control: thinner slices of cake, smaller scoops of ice cream, one cookie instead of two. But a number of my favorite recipes have a relatively low amount of added sugar, around eight grams or less per serving. For those who love baking, but feel like cutting back on sugar for one reason or another, these recipes should fit the bill.
Like the original, my homemade Fig Newtons feel pretty virtuous. The cakey cookie is lightly sweetened with honey and brown sugar, while the filling itself is made from nothing more than dried figs, plain applesauce, and a squeeze of fresh orange juice. It’s a chewy, fruity snack that’s not too sweet or rich and easy to customize with the variations in my cookbook (including apricot-strawberry, blueberry-lime, cherry-banana, and…bacon!).
This simple galette is primarily sweetened by the pears, with just a few spoonfuls of added sugar to draw out their juices. Cardamom, Chinese five spice, and vanilla bean amplify the natural flavor of the pear, which stands in creamy contrast to the crispy crust below. It’s the ideal dessert to conclude a night of tapas or wine and cheese, but to be honest, I’m all about having it for brunch.
The bulk of sugar in these lemony scones comes from a sprinkle of turbinado on top, an entirely optional (though delightfully crunchy) addition. The dough itself leans on fresh blueberries for sweetness, with just 2 teaspoons of sugar to help with flavor and browning.
My buttermilk granola has less added sugar than its commercial counterparts, just enough to help it brown and crisp in the oven. With toasted sugar, that sweetness is even milder, tempered by a hint of caramel complexity. Serve it for breakfast with Greek yogurt, or grab a handful whenever you need a light and crunchy snack.
In most recipes, sugar serves some key structural role, but in these grainy English muffins, I use honey in an entirely optional way—to serve as a sweet counterpoint to the graham-y flavor of whole wheat. You can dial it back to taste, but I’d use at least an ounce, so the yeast has a snack during its long, overnight rise.
Few things are as satisfying as homemade bagels that turn out just as blistered, chewy, and flavorful as if they’d come from an old-school bakery. There’s just a pinch of sugar to help fuel the dough’s slow, overnight rise and a bit of malt syrup in the boiling water for a glossy brown and aromatic crust, but the total amount is still well below our 8 gram threshold—even if you opt to make cinnamon raisin bagels instead.
Look, it’s not my fault if you wind up drowning these in maple syrup, but the waffles themselves have only a pinch of sugar in the batter. Instead of doing an overnight rise, I often make these brown-butter waffles first thing in the morning. Then I let them rise all day, so I can griddle them up to serve along with soups and stews or (my fave) fried chicken.
I learned to make biscuits when I was about two years old, less a reflection of my skill than a testament to the truly foolproof technique—smushing butter into flour with reckless abandon. Biscuits are a fast and simple breakfast or the foundation of a breakfast sandwich, but they’re also an easy side for just about any meal (well, any Southern meal).
As with my lemon-blueberry scones, the dough here is just barely sweetened, with most of the sugar coming from the chocolate itself. So instead of a sweet milk chocolate, choose something bitter and dark for a bold take on chocolate scones.
Thanks to whole wheat flour, digestive biscuits have an amazing, graham cracker–like flavor and crunch. Paired with a shiny coat of dark chocolate, these crisp but tender digestives are immensely satisfying with a cup of tea (and when sugar is of no concern, they’re the perfect size to sandwich around a toasted marshmallow for s’mores).
They may be showered in powdered sugar, but that’s only because Mexican wedding cookies (a.k.a., Russian tea cakes; a.k.a., snowballs; a.k.a., Danish wedding cookies) start with an almost savory dough. And, of the sugar that’s sprinkled on top, a good deal is lost along the way, scattered across your baking sheet and (real talk) down the front of your shirt.
Though lightly glazed in barley malt syrup, homemade Wheat Thins don’t require much added sugar, so you can grab a handful of crispy crackers without overdoing it (whatever that means to you). Plus, there’s a little more glaze than strictly necessary, so a good deal of the sugar that’s present on paper won’t ever make it to the crackers themselves. With a sprinkling of coarse salt and the grainy crunch of wheat germ, these savory-sweet crackers are as hearty as they are crisp.
Unlike the epic crunch of homemade Wheat Thins, these whole wheat crackers are thick and tender with a gentle snap (like the Carr’s ones you buy). They’re fun and easy to make (the dough comes together super fast in a food processor), and they will keep up to a month in an airtight container. Pull them out as a homemade addition to cheese plates, or smear one with peanut butter for a simple snack.
Out of everything on this list, these are my all-time favorite for snacking; they’re unambiguously salty, cheesy, and crisp. Like any other cracker, these have a great shelf life, so I like to make a big batch to enjoy over a few weeks. Plus, when I’m feeling creative, homemade Cheez-Its are easy to customize with additional herbs and spices or alternative types of cheese.
With a cheesy crust, chunks of salty ham, slivers of scallion, and shredded Gruyère scattered throughout the dough, savory scones make a hearty breakfast, or they can be cut small to serve alongside bowls of creamy tomato soup.
With fresh parsley, a dash of onion powder, garlic, paprika, and cayenne, these cheddar biscuits have a bold flavor that can stand up to even the heartiest bowl of chili or chowder. So grab a spoon, dollop the dough onto a half-sheet pan, and start baking!
It breaks my heart to see Irish soda bread relegated to a bit of St. Patrick’s Day kitsch, especially when recipes treat it like some sort of fruity scone. In reality, Irish soda bread is a crusty loaf that’s chewy and satisfying enough to pair with any meal or even just a charcuterie plate. It has an almost pretzel-like flavor that goes with any sort of stew or braise.
Like bagels, my favorite dinner rolls are briefly boiled before baking, producing a crackly crust that’s glossy and eggshell thin. Inside, they’re fluffy and light—perfect for mopping up sauces and stews. Thanks to a long overnight rise these rolls can be a make-ahead element for family dinners and holiday gatherings, letting you knock out the work of making and shaping the rolls a day in advance.
I’ve always thought of chicken pot pie as a secret pastry since the best part is the crust, whether you opt for drop biscuits or a flaky lid (I’m partial to hearty whole wheat). But even if the crust is the star, the filling has to do its part, which means the chicken has to be juicy and the sauce has to be thick and full of flavor.
These biscuits get their sweetness from thick and mellow sweet potato purée. The sweet potatoes also lend a bright orange hue and wonderfully buttery flavor. Serve the biscuits alongside hearty soups and stews or with a spoonful of jam.
Angel biscuits are buttery and tender, but their flavor and texture is more similar to a Parker House roll than a traditional biscuit. After proofing overnight, they’re ready to bake in the morning, so you can enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, and maybe even dinner.
Pumpkin purée transforms a regular white sandwich loaf into a beautiful and flavorful bread. The pumpkin purée imparts the bread with a subtle earthiness and seasonal flair. It’s a versatile loaf perfect for toasting, sandwiching cold cuts, cubing for bread pudding, or whipping up a grilled cheese sandwich.
It’s true that these are technically cookies, but their almost-savory flavor gives them balance and depth. With biscotti, the exact amount of sugar per serving depends on how you slice it, so aim for 30 12 millimeter pieces to keep the sugar in check. Lean and crunchy with a refreshing anise flavor, they’re perfect for dunking in fortified wine or snacking on with a cup of coffee.
Toning down the sweetness in these gingerbread cookies allows the rich flavors of freshly ground ginger, orange zest, and warm spices to shine through. Despite the addition of both brown sugar and molasses, these cookies are rolled so thin the yield is quite high, leaving only 3 grams of sugar per 2 1/2-inch cookie. Serve them plain or with a thin layer of royal icing. Either way, they’ll be gone in a snap.
This banana bread is classic, but it’s certainly not plain. While it’s an optional step, toasting the sugar will bring the bread an added layer of depth. Ripe bananas give the loaf structure, while replacing some of the all-purpose flour with oat flour makes for a moister bread. Baked as two 8-inch loaves, cut into 10 slices each, our classic banana bread technically qualifies for the list—so just keep an eye on the serving size. However you cut it, our take on this recipe will be a hit.
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