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Icing Sugar Alternatives

Ingredient Swaps
black bowl filled with icing sugar

Icing sugar is used in lots of baking recipes; it’s often used as the main component of icing, or sprinkling on top of desserts to add a dash of sweetness. It adds flavour, a smooth texture and decoration to your bakes.

If you’ve run out of icing sugar, there are plenty of icing sugar alternatives that work just as well. It’s also easy to make yourself with the right equipment.

What is icing sugar?

Icing sugar is the same as granulated sugar; it’s just granulated sugar ground down into a fine powder. This is why it’s also known as powdered sugar.

Some store-bought icing sugar may also contain an anticaking agent, like starch. This helps to absorb moisture and prevents the grains in the icing sugar from sticking together.

What is icing sugar used for? 

Due to icing sugar's fine texture, it mixes with water much easier than ‘normal’ sugar crystals. This makes it ideal for melting and using in icing, frosting and glazing.

It is also often used as the final touch for finishing off bakes. Dusting it over jam doughnuts, brownies and muffins adds extra sweetness and decoration.

How to make icing sugar

If you’ve run out of icing sugar, the best way you can replicate the real thing is to make it yourself.

If you have a food processor, blender, grinder or pestle and mortar, all you need to do is grind granulated or caster sugar until you get a powdered texture. How powdery you can get the sugar can depend on the quality of the grinder you use.

You should also make sure you have suitable equipment to grind the sugar. Some devices like blenders can overheat if there is no liquid being blended.

If your sugar isn’t blending well, there may also be too much sugar in the grinder. If this happens, try to grind the sugar in batches. You can also stop the blender every few seconds to toss and stir it to get an even blend - but make sure the grinder is off before doing this. 

Granulated sugar

Replacement ratio: Replace 100g of icing sugar with 100g of granulated sugar

You can make granulated sugar into icing sugar, or, just use it as it is.

Granulated sugar being used as icing sugar works well when sprinkled over your recipes, such as cake, doughnuts and muffins. It will add some sweetness, just like with icing sugar, however, the texture will be different as the end result will feel grainy and crunchier. 

You can also use granulated sugar to make icing. This will also change the texture of the icing as it won’t be as smooth, and it won’t melt as easily as icing sugar, or look as smooth when it sets.

Coconut sugar

Replacement ratio: Replace 100g of icing sugar with 100g of coconut sugar

Coconut sugar can also be used as an alternative to icing sugar. Bear in mind this will alter the flavour of your final bake, giving it a light coconut flavour. It’s a great alternative for desserts that contain coconut, berries or tropical fruit.

You can grind coconut sugar, as you would with granulated sugar, to get a texture like icing sugar. You can also use it as it is, however, the texture of your bake or icing won’t be as smooth.

Cocoa powder (for recipes with chocolate)

Replacement ratio: Replace 100g of icing sugar with 100g of cocoa powder

If you happen to have some hot chocolate powder at the back of your cupboard, this makes a good icing sugar replacement for chocolatey bakes like chocolate cake or brownies. 

Grinding cocoa powder down will give you a smoother texture for desserts and bakes, however, it also works well in its original form. As well as adding a chocolatey flavour, this will also change the colour of your bake if it doesn’t already contain chocolate.

You can use cocoa icing for cupcakes and chocolate cake, or sprinkle hot chocolate powder over some brownies for a finishing touch.