Ingredient Intelligence

The Best Powdered Sugar Substitutes, According to a Baking Expert

published Apr 30, 2022
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A stack of five cheese Blintz's on a plate, with blueberry sauce on top, and powdered sugar being shaken over the top.
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni
Cheese Blintz

If you’re into baking, you probably have powdered sugar on hand most of the time. It’s a key component in buttercream frosting and icing and is used for dusting over cakes, cookies, beignets, French toast casserole, and cheese blintzes, to name just a few uses. But if you’re starting a baking project and just realized you don’t have powdered sugar on hand, there’s no need to fret or run to the grocery store. Try one of the powdered sugar substitutes below the next time you’re in need. 

First, What Is Powdered Sugar?

Powdered sugar, also called confectioners’ sugar, is simply pulverized granulated white sugar combined with a small amount of anti-caking agent — typically cornstarch — to prevent it from clumping. One of the many benefits of powdered sugar is its fine texture, which makes it perfect for sifting over baked goods. Another advantage to powdered sugar is that it dissolves easily in liquids — this is why it’s great for making icing. 

Powdered Sugar Substitutes to Try

Granulated Sugar and Cornstarch

“You can make your own powdered sugar from granulated sugar by adding about 3% cornstarch by weight and grinding it in a blender until it’s a fine powder,” says Kierin Baldwin, pastry and baking chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. To turn granulated sugar into powdered sugar, start with about 1 teaspoon of cornstarch for every 1 cup of granulated sugar and process it in a high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix. Blend until the mixture is very fine. If you’re making this at home, you’ll likely never get it as fine as the manufactured variety, Baldwin explains, but for dusting or sprinkling on desserts like Bundt cake or bread pudding it works just fine. 

Granulated Sugar and Potato Starch

If you’re looking for a Kosher for Passover substitute for powdered sugar, a combination of potato starch and granulated sugar is a great option. Use potato starch in the same way you would cornstarch: Use about 1 teaspoon KFP potato starch per 1 cup granulated sugar and blend in a high-speed blender. You can put this mixture to use on these pretty cranberry curd bars, these blueberry crumb bars, or, if you’re looking for a flourless option for Passover (or any reason), on this flourless chocolate cake.  

Granulated Sugar and Tapioca Starch

Tapioca starch, which is made from cassava plants and is sometimes referred to as tapioca flour, can also be combined with granulated sugar to make a powdered sugar substitute. To do it, simply follow the directions explained above for cornstarch: Use a ratio of 1 cup sugar per 1 teaspoon of tapioca starch. Blend the two ingredients together in a high-speed blender until fine and powdery. As long as you start with Kosher for Passover ingredients, this combo is also Kosher for Passover. Try sprinkling this over this cinnamon-sugar Dutch baby casserole or Ina Garten’s chocolate banana crumb cake.

Coconut Sugar & Cornstarch, Potato Starch, or Tapioca Starch

If you happen to have a bag of

coconut sugar