What is a Natural Sweetener?
Simply put: a natural sweetener is a sweetener that is derived from nature. There are natural sugars found in trees, fruit, seeds, and nuts. Natural sweeteners usually contain some beneficial compounds, such as vitamins and minerals, but they’re still sugar. That means that your body can process them quickly, causing energy spikes and dips, and that they should be consumed in moderation to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
That being said, using a natural sweetener in a recipe is a great way to round out a dish. Unlike granulated sugar, many of these sweeteners bring in additional flavors outside of pure sweetness. A touch of honey or a dash of maple syrup can bring softness and complexity to your dinner or dessert.
Our Favorite Natural Sweeteners
Honey is a natural sweetener produced by our friends, the bees. This golden syrup brings beautiful floral flavors to the table along with sweetness. It’s a perfect complement to nutty flavors (peanut butter and honey anyone?), and also work well in a variety of savory foods. Try using it as an alternative sweetener in your coffee, or make your own honey mustard for a sweet and spicy chicken dinner.
Date syrup is a natural sweetener derived from dates. This amazing ingredient is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. In addition to sweetness, the dates provide a delicious dried fruit flavor reminiscent of raisins or fruit leather. Date syrup is great mixed with lemon and tahini to make a sweet and nutty sauce to drizzle over vegetables or a protein. We’ll even use date syrup while making pickled red onion.This sweetener can add complexity to any quick pickle.
Maple syrup is produced by concentrating the sap harvested from maple trees. This syrup has a deep, rich flavor. You probably already know that it’s delicious on pancakes, but its usefulness doesn’t stop there. Maple syrup is great in smoothies and in savory dishes like these roasted carrots.
Dried fruits are a way to add a little pop of sweetness to a dish. We love working with dried dates, apricots, currants and figs. Dried fruits bring a delicious concentrated sweetness to a dish, and add some nice texture as well. Try adding chopped dried fruits to salads, couscous, and pan sauces.
Ready to get cooking? Look for dishes with natural sweeteners coming up on the Blue Apron menu.