What can I use instead of icing sugar? The best substitute for icing or powdered sugar is homemade by combining cornstarch with granulated sugar. Other excellent substitutes are different sugars, like coconut sugar and superfine sugar, or milk powder and hot cocoa mix if there’s no sugar. Sugar-free substitutes are stevia, xylitol, erythritol, and Splenda.
Powdered sugar, confectioner’s sugar, or icing sugar is finely ground sugar with cornstarch added to avoid clumping. This refined sugar is ideal for frosting, glazing, and dusting.
These are the ten icing sugar substitutes we call on when we’re out of icing sugar:
Our Favorite Substitutes for Icing Sugar
Homemade Icing Sugar
The ideal icing sugar substitute is homemade or DIY icing sugar.
It is easy to make an icing sugar substitute at home from some simple ingredients, including granulated sugar and cornstarch.
In a blender or processor, blitz together one cup of granulated sugar with one tablespoon of cornstarch.
Then, grind the icing sugar mixture until it becomes a fine powder, taking care to stop every 60 seconds to avoid overheating and melting the sugar.
Sift the sugar through a fine sieve or strainer to remove lumps.
Homemade icing sugar is never as fine as commercial icing sugar. Still, it is a handy substitute, especially if you want to use it for dusting or sprinkling over a dessert or brownie or in a pie or cake filling.
Homemade Kosher Powdered Sugar
If you are concerned about keeping kosher, try this substitute for homemade icing sugar.
Many cornstarch brands are not regarded as kosher because of cross-contamination and manufacturing methods.
To make a kosher version of powdered sugar, replace the tablespoon of cornstarch in the instructions above with a teaspoon of kosher potato starch or tapioca starch. (Tapioca starch comes from cassava.)
Use your powdered sugar as a dusting on fruit bars or as an ingredient in a cake.
Another substitute for icing sugar is superfine sugar, also called caster, castor, and baker’s sugar.
Superfine sugar is finely ground sugar with a texture between powdered and granulated sugar. The original purpose of superfine sugar was to sprinkle on fresh fruit, so people kept it on the dining table in a shaker called a caster.
Used for baking in the UK instead of granulated sugar, superfine sugar is available in some specialty baking stores in the US.
Use superfine sugar to substitute icing sugar, especially for dusting and sugar syrups.
Grind the superfine sugar in a blender with a tablespoon of cornstarch to make frosting. However, you can use it as-is if you don’t have a blender.
Just take care that the sugar creams well with the butter to get a smooth texture when making buttercream.
Regular or granulated sugar is a practical substitute since most people have it in the cupboard.
Granulated sugar has a coarser texture than icing sugar and superfine sugar. However, it’s often used in baking and will provide all the sweetness you need.
To replace icing sugar, create homemade icing sugar using granulated sugar and cornstarch.
If you don’t have a blender, cornstarch, tapioca starch, or potato starch handy, use the granulated sugar as is to replace icing sugar. The texture will not be ideal, especially in frosting, but it won’t influence glazes or cake fillings.
Because of the differences in texture and ingredients, substitute one cup of granulated sugar for every 1¾ cups of icing sugar.
Another icing sugar alternative is coconut sugar.
While granulated sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, coconut sugar comes from the sugary sap of the coconut palm tree.
Coconut sugar looks like regular sugar, with a brownish color and a more delicate texture. It tastes nothing like coconuts.
Many health enthusiasts argue that coconut sugar is a healthier option than regular sugar, with a lower glycemic index and less sweetness. However, coconut sugar is pure fructose, so consume it in moderation.
To substitute coconut sugar for icing sugar, you can make homemade icing sugar by blending it with cornstarch, tapioca or potato starch, or a tablespoon of arrowroot powder.
Use coconut sugar as a replacement for icing sugar at a push, but the texture will never be smooth. Instead, use it for sweetening cakes or making a fruit compote or filling.
Dry milk powder or powdered milk is an unusual but effective substitute for icing sugar.
Milk powder is made by evaporating the liquid from milk. The resulting powder is sometimes combined with added nutrients, like vitamin D.
The advantage of milk powder is that it has a long shelf life, ideal for long-distance travel and storage without a fridge. Campers, survivalists, and humanitarian aid groups commonly use powdered milk.
You can reconstitute the powder as milk, but milk powder is also an ingredient in infant formula, confectionery, and nut butter.
Create a homemade icing sugar substitute by blending a cup of milk powder with a cup of cornstarch (and ½ cup of Splenda, if desired).
This mixture makes perfectly smooth frosting, although you’ll need to add extra liquid as the powder is more absorbent than sugar.
Use milk powder as is to make dessert toppings or cake fillings.
Hot Cocoa Mix
When you have no sugar, turn to hot cocoa mix as an icing sugar substitute.
Hot cocoa mix contains cocoa or chocolate powder, milk powder, and sugar or artificial sweetener. It usually has a very fine texture.
If you’re making a chocolate dessert, frosting, or pie filling, grab the hot cocoa mix and use it in equal amounts to icing sugar. Add your cocoa as usual – the more chocolate, the better.
For those who want to avoid sugar, stevia is a good alternative.
Stevia is a sugar alternative that comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. For centuries, people have used stevia leaves to sweeten food and as a medication for high blood sugar.
Modern stevia is available as a liquid or in sachets or tablets for sweetening beverages. Stevia sugar replacements for baking are also available but include artificial additives.
Stevia is a more natural product than highly processed sugar and contains zero calories. However, it is still refined and should be consumed in moderation.
Blend one cup of stevia baking granules with a teaspoon of cornstarch to make icing sugar for frosting.
Otherwise, use stevia baking granules as you would use icing sugar in equal amounts. Take care to taste the stevia first, though, as it can be sweeter than sugar.
Another low-calorie, sugar-free substitute for icing sugar is xylitol.
Classified as a sugar alcohol, xylitol is a natural substance found in fruit, vegetables, grain, and other plants. (Alcohol is a chemical term here, not a reference to beverages. It is non-alcoholic in that sense.)
When processed, xylitol looks and tastes like sugar. It comes in powdered and granular forms.
Use xylitol as a direct substitute for icing sugar in equal quantities. Add extra liquid as xylitol dries out more quickly than sugar.
Don’t use xylitol if you are baking with yeast, which needs real sugar to activate it. Also, avoid xylitol in any recipe that requires the sugar to caramelize.
Please remember that xylitol is toxic to dogs, so be careful when using this sugar alternative in your home.
Another sugar alternative that can substitute icing sugar is erythritol.
Like xylitol, erythritol is a sugar alcohol naturally occurring in plants. It tastes and looks much like sugar, but without the calories or impact on blood sugar, making it a far healthier choice.
In most recipes, you can use powdered erythritol instead of icing sugar, but with the same cautions as xylitol – add more liquid, no yeast or caramelization.
Erythritol doesn’t taste as sweet as sugar: to get the same effect, you need to use more ⅓ more erythritol than sugar.
Another sugar-free alternative to icing sugar is Splenda.
Splenda is an artificial sugar that is chemically manufactured to be low-calorie and have a more pleasant aftertaste than many other artificial sweeteners.
Splenda comes as a liquid, powder, and as baking granules.
You can blitz one cup of granulated Splenda with a teaspoon of cornstarch as homemade icing sugar, especially for frosting and dusting. The ingredients take longer to combine than if you use regular sugar.
Alternatively, use the baking granules as a substitute for icing sugar in equal amounts where you need a bit of sweetness.
Note that if sugar is the main ingredient of the bake, Splenda won’t provide the structure or caramelization that sugar does.