Healthy Baking Substitutions

Ernastine Ulmer said it perfectly: “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first [,]” this quote is nothing short of true. If you are a dessert lover, like so many of us are, go ahead and enjoy your favorite treats. Desserts are not only fun to eat, but they can be fun to make as well. Traditional desserts typically contain high amounts of fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, which are definitely okay to consume in moderation. However, it is simple to swap out some traditional ingredients that are commonly found in desserts such as white flour, sugar, butter, oil and eggs, for healthier alternatives.

Try some of the following ingredient swaps the next time you bake and want to create a healthier treat that you can enjoy.

Healthy Baking Substitutions

Instead Of                                          Substitute

1 cup flour                                          1 cup of purred black beans (works in brownies)

7/8 cup flour                                     1 cup whole wheat flour (works in cookies, brownies and breads)

1 cup sugar                                        1 cup applesauce (For every cup of applesauce used, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by    ¼ cup)

2 tablespoons sugar                        ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup butter or oil                             ½ cup apple sauce + ½ cup butter/oil (works in sweet breads and muffins)

1 cup butter or oil                             1 cup mashed banana (works in brownies and cookies)

1 cup butter                                        1 cup puréed avocado

1 egg                                                    1 tablespoon chia seeds + 1 cup water (let sit for 15 minutes)

1 egg                                                    1 tablespoon flax meal + 3 tablespoon water (let sit 5-10 minutes)

1 cup chocolate chips                     1 cup cacao nibs


The following desserts are definitely not your typical recipes; the muffins are made with almond flour, and the pudding contains avocados. Although these aren’t your traditional dessert recipes, they sure are tasty and you would never even know that they are eating something so healthy!


Orange Cranberry Nut Muffins with Almond Flour (makes 12 small muffins)


  • 2 ½ cups almond flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 chia egg (1 tablespoon chia seeds + 1 cup water, let sit for 15 minutes)
  • 1/3 cup ripe mashed banana
  • 2 tablespoons honey, agave, or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of melted coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • Optional: chocolate chips


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with muffin liners
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, baking soda and salt
  • In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, banana, honey, oil, vinegar and orange zest
  • Add wet ingredients into dry and stir together until well mixed
  • Add in the optional walnuts and chocolate chops and mix all ingredients together
  • Pour batter into muffin tin
  • Bake in the oven for 14-18 minutes, or until edges are golden brown
  • Let muffins cool in the tin for about 30 minutes before removing


Avocado Chocolate Pudding (makes 2 cups)


  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until a creamy, pudding consistency is formed. Transfer mixture into a bowl and let sit in the fridge to chill for 2 hours.

Substituting traditional baking ingredients for healthier alternatives reduces the amount of refined flour, sugar and unhealthy fats, and increases the amount of fiber, whole grains, healthy fats, and protein. Have fun experimenting in the kitchen, swapping traditional ingredients for healthier alternatives, and playing around with your favorite recipes and customizing them to your own personal likings.

Photo Credit: Laura Asbury, Dakota Howe

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