Alternative Sweeteners & Candied Walnuts

by Alexa

Always natural.

Minimally processed.

Used sparingly.

That is my approach to sugar.

My Favorite Sweeteners

I used to preach that sugar was sugar, no matter the kind, but there is some exciting research about left-spinning sugars (the adulterated, processed kind) and right-spinning sugars (the whole, natural kind found in fruit for example) that may soon turn heads. So are all sugars really the same? I will leave that for another post. But I will say that there are a handful of natural sweeteners I have come to love and that have helped me to cutback on the use of refined cane and beet sugar.

  • Stevia – Zero-calorie, no guilt, combine it with any of these others to reduce sugar in baked goods
  • Raw Honey – Anti-bacterial (when eaten raw), rich and sweet
  • Coconut Sugar – Lower glycemic … a good replacement for “crystalline” sugar, especially for brown sugar
  • Medjool Dates – Dates, date paste and date syrup (boil dates and blend with water) are divine!
  • Maple Syrup – Sometimes you just need that rich, maple flavor
  • Coconut Nectar – Lower glycemic … a caramel-like syrup that I drizzle on homemade frappucinos
  • Jerusalem Artichoke Syrup – Lower glycemic and loaded with inulin, this goes in our smoothies

There are numerous articles out there talking about these naturals sweeteners so I won’t reinvent the wheel here, but will point you to this post over at Renegade Health. The one sweetener I will comment on is stevia. It falls at the top of my list for good reason. It is zero-calorie and is completely natural (as long as you buy it pure, sans flowing agents like maltodextrin). I have come to realize that many people don’t give stevia a fair chance. They will try it and be turned off by its somewhat sharp aftertaste. If this has happened to you, you just may have used to much or a bad tasting brand. NuNaturals Singing Dog Vanilla Liquid Concentrate is the bomb! Two drop in my tea is all that I need. And when baking, I suggest combining stevia with another sweetener (say honey or coconut sugar) to achieve a nice balance.

So, I want to show you just what you can do with one of these sweeteners—coconut sugar. I love coconut sugar because it is one of the few alternative, natural sweeteners that comes in crystalline form. Here is a recipe for Coconut Sugar Candied Walnuts. I love these on a salad of greens and strawberries or atop a chewy (low-sugar, of course) brownie.

Coconut Sugar Candied Walnuts

Makes: 1 cup
Prep Time: 10 minutes


6 tablespoons COCONUT SUGAR
6 tablespoons WATER
Pinch of SALT
1 cup raw WALNUTS


  1. In a small skillet, combine coconut sugar, water and salt. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.
  2. Once sugar has dissolved, add walnuts.
  3. Stirring constantly, cook until all liquid evaporates, nuts become sticky, and “cobwebs” begin to form as you stir.
  4. Remove from heat and spread out on a plate to cool and harden.


  1. Coconut sugar has a low burn point, so be careful to cook at a low simmer over medium to medium-low heat.
  2. Serve over ice cream, brownies, or salad—if they last that long. I end up snacking on them.

More Good Stuff


Sarah January 19, 2012 - 1:49 pm

Thanks for the post. This is some great information! Over the years I have used many of the sweeteners you mentioned, however, these days I primarily use stevia and coconut nectar. I agree that mixing stevia with other sweeteners is helpful but these days I find myself using it by itself in almost all of my baking. Now I'm off to visit the other blogs to get some more sweet tips:)

Lexie January 19, 2012 - 3:04 pm

Sarah, it's always great to find like minds : ) We've been on the candida diet for what seems like YEARS with Miles and are now re-entering the world of sweeteners with him. But still, stevia will remain my go-to sweetener : ) Thanks for leaving a comment. xoLexie

Maggie January 19, 2012 - 5:19 pm

What a great sugar-resource this is Lexie! Thanks for sharing. I am in love with those candied walnuts. They look perfect, totally pinning that pick! I will be trying these, I love them on a salad. I'm getting into the stevia world slowly but surely. I need to get my hands on some NuNaturals!

Kim(Cook It Allergy Free) January 19, 2012 - 8:51 pm

These walnuts sound perfect (but pretty dangerous). I would probably end up eating the whole batch! I love your list of go-to sweeteners. I still have not tried Jerusalem Artichoke syrup. Need to get me some of that. 🙂

Cara January 20, 2012 - 1:56 am

What you said about people not giving stevia a fair chance is SO true! They try a packet of stevia (any brand) once in their coffee and hate it. I am constantly telling people about NuNaturals vanilla liquid stevia too, it's by far one of my favorite products 🙂

artha January 20, 2012 - 3:21 am

Lately there has been a lot of discussion out there about how a body does actually NEED sugar. Which makes sense considering there are so many naturally occurring sugars available everywhere in our ecosystem such as fruit. I mean, look at breast milk, a nearly perfect food one would think. A good bit of sugar there. It seems that folks abuse a good thing (eat mass amounts of twinkies) and then everyone wants to close up shop on sugar completely. Our family eats LOTS of sugars by way of fruit and date syrup. (organics are for everyone) and we do just fine. none of us are overweight and we rarely ever get sick.

and.. that nut recipe looks awesome.

Lexie January 20, 2012 - 3:39 am

Artha, So glad you left that comment. When we think of our ancestors hunting and gathering … they were very active and needed quick bursts of energy at times … or so it seems to me. A shot of honey to get them that last 10 miles back to the cave or to outrun that sabertooth tiger. I remember my mom telling me how my grandpa would give my uncle a shot of honey before his swim meets. It makes total sense to me. The key is to keep the balance, keep moving and exercising along with the intake of sugar. (Which I need to do more of :).

Amy January 20, 2012 - 4:25 am

How about vegetable glycerin? It is very low glycemic, and when paired with stevia (even in baking) it's a good combination. I just made a batch of BBQ sauce which normally uses honey, but I'm out of it. So I used glycerin 1 for 1 for the honey and added a shake of stevia. Can't really tell the difference much. Now, in my elderberry cough syrup, you can definitely taste the difference. Will be still using honey for that.

Shirley @ gfe January 20, 2012 - 11:50 am

Yummmy candied walnuts and great post overall, Lexie!

Thanks! xo,

Frederique January 20, 2012 - 7:01 pm

I thought Agave Nectar was the bomb and then some naturopathic doctor endorsed it as being Poison. Its so difficult to know whats actually good for you (by ways of sugar i mean) when things seem to be just passing *fads*. Has any research actually been made on Stevia? How does it metabolize in the body if its zero calorie? Natural doesn't always mean healthy, plenty of natural poisons out there too… Im not against it, Im just tired of trying new things and being told after ive gotten used to it thats its just as bad if not worst than refined sugar. At least I can still use Honey, maple syrup and dates in the meantime!

Stephanie January 23, 2012 - 11:57 pm

These look amazing! I love candied nuts. So glad to have a healthier option when making them 🙂

Alisa January 27, 2012 - 2:59 am

jerusalem artichoke syrup? Now that is a new one to me!

These are truly drool-worthy Lexie!

Carol January 27, 2012 - 4:20 pm

Oh My!!! I want a handful (or two or three) of these right now!

Reply January 27, 2012 - 6:57 pm

Fabulous article! So happy to see agave is NOT on the list! your recipe looks fantastic!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.