What can I substitute for powdered sugar?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What can I substitute for powdered sugar?” and discuss the possible substitutes for powdered sugar.

What can I substitute for powdered sugar?

We can have many substitutes for powdered sugar which includes powdered coconut sugar, powdered dextrose (also termed as D-glucose), 6X or 4X powdered sugar, Xylitol powder, dry milk powder, hot cocoa mix, baker or caster sugar, snow powder, and erythritol.

Cane sugar, the raw sugar obtained from processing sugarcane, had an export value of USD 24.7 billion in 2017; an estimated 34.43% (at least 54,593 million tonnes) of total cane sugar produced that year was exported.7,10 The largest cane sugar exporting countries in 2017 were Brazil (USD 11.4 billion), Thailand (USD 2.6 billion) and France (USD 1.3 billion) (1).

Powdered sugar: What is it?

Powdered sugar is formed by grinding the granulated sugar or crystals of sugar into a fine powder. This powdered sugar is also termed icing sugar, 10X sugar, or confectioner’s sugar. 

Powdered sugar is majorly used by confectioners regularly since powdered sugar has easily dissolving contents that are used in baking products, for frosting, and also for icing.

Powdered sugar makes a snow-like powder or dusty appearance on baked goods such as pastries, brownies, doughnuts, and cake slices.

This type of sugar is not crystalline like refined sugar. Beside undesirable physical properties and changes (stickiness, lumping, caking, agglomerating, or crystallization) of amorphous powders or products containing amorphous components during storage and production, amorphous powders are required and have numerous advantages as compared to crystalline ones in many food applications. A typical example is icing sugar (also known as powdered sugar or confectioners sugar) produced by milling of crystal sugars into very fine particles. Due to the presence of a large proportion of amorphous regions and very fine particles, icing sugar dissolves into water much more easily and quickly than crystal sugars. This property makes it become a preferred choice for food applications in which a quick dissolving sugar is required such as in preparation of fruits, milkshakes or any cold beverages, or for those in which the smoothness is required such as icing, frosting, and other cake decorations in bakery production or fondant (2).

Substitutes for powdered sugar

If you are preparing any recipe or baking a cake, brownie, or pastries but you get short of powdered sugar, then you should go for the substitutes of powdered sugar which will equally complement the recipe.

Some of the following substituted products for powdered sugar are described below:

DIY powdered sugar

One of the best alternatives for powdered sugar is a self-made powdered form of sugar. It is very easy to synthesize, just take a small amount of sugar then grind it into powder form and mix it with a little content of cornstarch.

Powdered sugar is produced by milling crystalline sugar. As the objective of milling is to reduce particle size, this can be also done by grinding using a grinder. The cornstarch or arrowroot is added to act as an anticaking agent. Caking is defined as a phenomenon in which particles of amorphous powders are progressively deformed until they stick to each other, eventually forming large agglomerates. Cornstarch and arrowroot are able to absorb moisture and therefore reduce agglomeration of the particles (3).

The powdered form of sugar can be made by using a food processor, blender, and also by using coffee grinder.

Powdered coconut sugar

Powdered coconut sugar is another substituted product for powdered sugar. To make a perfect substitute, mix the powdered coconut sugar with arrowroot powder. Powdered coconut sugar is not very sweet in taste and flavour and it also has a lower index of glycemic. 

Coconut sugar powder is produced conventionally by heating the coconut sap until reaching a saturated solution, and crystalline coconut sugar powder finally is formed. The main composition of coconut sugar is sucrose with the amount more than 80% (per total solid) and followed by a tiny amount of glucose and fructose (about 2.3% per total solid) (4).

Typically, many people also prefer to use coconut powdered sugar in place of regular powdered sugar due to the caramel taste of coconut powdered sugar which is present in it by nature, and also due to less sweetness.

In measurements, when we have to replace the powdered sugar with coconut powdered sugar, we should use 1 cup of coconut sugar with 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder.

Powdered dextrose (D-Glucose)

Dextrose Monohydrate is one of the main constituents of table sugar. Packaged dextrose powder is another substituted product for powdered sugar in most recipes. Dextrose powder usually comes in a packaged form which consists of crystals that are in fine grounded condition. 

The texture, taste, and function of both these substituted and original powdered sugar are almost similar. Dextrose’s absorbance ability is more as compared to other forms of sugar. So, when using this alternative product for powdered sugar then add some more liquid in the recipes to balance the recipe’s consistency.

Dextrose is the end product of complete starch hydrolysis – can be purified and spray-dried or crystallized as monohydrate or in its anhydrous form. It is used for its nutritive value, mild sweetness, texture, bulking ability, and white colour. Dextrose monohydrate comes as a white crystalline powder, readily soluble in water with a negative heat of solution, thus exhibiting a pleasant cooling mouth feel (5).

Powdered dextrose is also less sweet as compared to other powdered sugars such as lower sweetness than the regular ones. Therefore, adjusting the sweet taste of recipes adds a large amount of dextrose to balance the sweetness.

6X or 4X powdered sugar

Powdered sugar is granulated white sugar that has been pulverized or milled and mixed with about 3% cornstarch to prevent caking. It is generally available in three degrees of fineness (6X, 10X, and 12X; the higher the number, the finer the product)  and as the number of X’s increases, the sugar granules become more finely dispersed (6).

6X or 4X powdered sugar is also the substituted product for powdered sugar. The regular sugar generally comes in 10X size of crystal sugar in the fine grounded powder. 

6X or 4X powdered sugar is considered a perfect substituted product when you don’t have access to the 10X confectioner’s sugar. It is also clear that sugar with large crystals is also not suitable for some of the recipes such as in cake’s frosting.

6X or 4X powdered sugar are perfect substitutes for drizzling over the products such as pastries, cake slices, doughnuts, and desserts.

Xylitol powder

Xylitol powder is a type of sugar alcohol, which is a near to perfect alternative product for powdered sugar. Xylitol powder is extracted generally from vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Xylitol is a particular type of sugar alcohol, or polyol, which is used in food and pharmaceutical industries as a sucrose substitute for people affected by diabetes and obesity, to prevent ear infections in young children, and to reduce gingivitis. It can be produced by chemical or biotechnological techniques using pure xylose or xylose-containing hemicellulosic hydrolyzates. After synthesis and purification processes, xylitol is crystalized into powdered form (7).

Xylitol powder is found in different sizes and the crystals of xylitol powder are also similar to sugar crystals. If xylitol is present in the large form of crystals then these can be ground by blender, food processor, or blender into smaller granules termed as refined sugar. 

Xylitol powder is most effective in powdered sugar recipes, and it is also a calorie-free product.

We hope that the list above brought additional insight on what to substitute the next time you run out of powdered sugar. But, if you personally prefer the real thing, that is perfectly fine, too!

Other FAQs about Sugar that you may be interested in.

What Can I Substitute for White Sugar in a recipe?

How to soften hardened brown sugar?

How to melt brown sugar on the stove?


In this brief article, we have provided an answer to the question, “What can I substitute for powdered sugar?” with an in-depth analysis of the possible substitutes for powdered sugar and the measurements of these substituted products. 


  1. Voora, Vivek, Steffany Bermúdez, and Cristina Larrea. Global Market Report: Sugar. Winnipeg, MB, Canada: International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2020.
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  3. Dozan, Tea, M. Benkovic, and Ingrid Bauman. Sucrose particle size reduction—determination of critical particle diameters causing flowability difficulties. J Hyg Eng Des, 2014, 8, 3-10.  
  4. Nurhadi, Bambang, et al. Physical characteristics of amorphous and crystalline coconut sugar powder with the addition of tricalcium phosphate (TCP) as an anticaking agent. Int J Food Sci, 2020.
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  7. Martínez, Ernesto A., et al. Strategies for xylitol purification and crystallization: a review. Sep Sci Technol, 2015, 50, 2087-2098.