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Home Canning and Sugar Substitutes - Which to use and when)

Home Canning and Using Sugar Substitutes

(Stevia, Honey, Agave, Splenda, erythitol, xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol)

Many people want to reduce or eliminate sugar in home canning.  Diabetes, keto diets or just the recognition that eating too much sugar isn't good for us, all drive this.

Unfortunately, not everything can be made safely or even taste good with sugar substitutes. I tell folks, jams and jellies just can't be made as a health food...

 In many recipes, sugar is simply added for taste and can be safely removed and, if desired, replaced with a sugar substitute. The authorities recommend adding artificial sweeteners when you consume your home canned goods rather than using them in canning.   In our recipes for home canning, we point out which substitutes to use and how.

Sugar and Home Canning

Penn State University tells us:

While sugar helps fruits keep their bright color and firm texture, it is not necessary to prevent fruit from spoiling. Most pickles, relishes, jams and jellies still need sugar for the proper consistency,

Michigan State University says:

All fruits can be safely canned or frozen without sugar. Some low- and no-sugar foods can be canned at home with very good results. But be aware that some home canned foods lose color, flavor and texture when canned without the usual sugar and so you may end up with a different canned product than you had hoped for.

Jams and Jellies

In many cases, sugar is needed in jams and jellies as a preservative.  When using sugar substitutes, keep in mind that you should add lemon juice to lower the pH to compensate.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) at the University of Georgia offers this specifically about jams and jellies:

Jams and Jellies, or Fruit Spreads: You could use Splenda® as the optional sweetener in a jam or jelly made with a no-sugar needed pectin, such as Mrs. Wages™ Lite Home Jell® Fruit Pectin, Ball® No-Sugar Needed Pectin or Sure-Jell® for Less or No-Sugar-Needed Recipes. With these low-methoxyl pectins, no sugar is required at all. Sugar substitutes can be added as desired simply for flavor. The package inserts with these pectins give instructions on when to add the sugar substitutes (usually after all the cooking, right before filling the jars). Do not try to substitute Splenda® for the required sugar in recipes calling for “regular” liquid and powdered pectins.

However, jams and jellies thicken or gel, based on the reaction of sugar, pectin and acidity with the right amount of heat. Remove or reduce any one of these and you get runny jam or jelly. That makes substituting a sugar substitute challenging. There are reduced and "no sugar needed" pectins that work well, see this page, but in almost all cases, some amount of sugar is still needed to get a good gel and maintain color, appearance and taste. 

Artificial Sweeteners?

Aspartame

Aspartame is destroyed by the heat of cooking. Definitely NOT recommended!

Splenda

Unlike Aspartame, Sucralose (Splenda® ) maintains its sweetness in canning.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) at the University of Georgia says:

Can Splenda® (sucralose) be used in preserving food? Granular Splenda® does not provide preservative properties like sugar.   Canning Fruits: Whereas we do not have published research work with using sucralose in the canning of fruits at home available to us, it is possible to use it for sweetening the water used to cover fruits when canning. The texture and color preserving aspects of a sugar syrup will not be provided. The result would be like canning in water except for the additional sweetness contributed by the Splenda®. The USDA fruit canning directions do allow for canning in water (i.e., without a sugar syrup), as there is adequate preservation for safety from the heat of proper canning.

 

Alcohol-based sugar substitutes

Erythitol and similar alcohol-based sugar substitutes like xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol) typically induce diarrhea, called osmotic diarrhea. The more you eat of them, the stronger the effect. See the references:

Stevia

Stevia,, like Splenda, does not break down during normal cooking temperatures.  But it may impart a bitter taste.  However, you may be accustomed to it!

Honey and Agave

Using these as substitutes is more complex, due to the additional water they contain and flavors.  See this page about substituting honey for sugar. And this page about substituting Agave for sugar.

Acidifiers: Lemon Juice or Vinegar

Don’t forget the lemon juice or vinegar called for in low-acid recipes. The acid is imp[ort for safety and in jams and jellies for the gel!/span>

References:

  1. NIH National Library of Medicine: Gastrointestinal Disturbances Associated with the Consumption of Sugar Alcohols.

  2. Healthline: What Is Sorbitol? Benefits, Uses, Side Effects, and More

  3. Science Direct Sugar Alcohols and Osmotic Diarrhea

  4. Home canning without sugar,  Michigan State University Extension - August 14, 2012

  5. National Center for Home Food Preservation FAQs Splenda

 


Above is the
2020 version of
the Ball Blue Book