Sugar is one of the most addictive foods in our diets. But you can ease these cravings and enjoy sweet foods with a plant-based diet. Think of it as your plant-based sweet tooth!
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If you don’t crave sugar, congratulations! You are spared the overwhelming and sometimes undeniable longings for sweets.
But if you do crave sugar, you’re part of a very, very big club. Sugar is one of the more addictive foods we eat. We tend to eat it when we’re tired or stressed, or if we’ve gone too long between meals. It’s also added to just about everything and incredibly easy to get.
Then, eating sugar sets off pleasure receptors in our brains that keep us coming back for more. But the more we eat, the less responsive that pleasure sensation becomes to sugar, so we need to eat even more to get the pleasure effect.
And the more sugar we eat, the more gut bacteria grows that lives off that sugar, which makes us feel like we need to eat more sugar to make our guts feel “normal”!
When you switch to a plant-based diet, your sugar cravings don’t simply disappear. In fact, during the first few weeks of a plant-based diet, you may experience strong cravings.
Not having as much sugar in your system is a big change to your gut, brain, and tastebuds. It takes time for all three to adjust to plant-based eating.
The good news is that your tastebuds do adjust! Typically, it takes around 10 to 14 days of plant-based eating to make the change. When your body and your gut and your tastebuds adapt to high-fiber, nutrient-dense foods, cravings do tend to lessen.
It’s completely natural to want sweet foods, even when your cravings quiet down. Sweetness is one of the basic flavors, for Pete’s sake!
Sweet foods may also be part of your personal, family, or community traditions. It is definitely okay to include sweet foods in your plant-based diet.
The more you eat plant-based foods, the more your tastebuds “forget” what processed, high-sugar, turbo-flavor-charged foods taste like. It’s one of the upsides of a vegan diet. The natural sweetness in plant-based food becomes a rich sensation all on its own.
You can use these naturally sweet foods to make the sweet-tooth dishes you like the best.
FOR BAKED GOODS
Use these instead of refined sugar.
- Unsweetened applesauce, homemade or store-bought. Applesauce can be swapped cup-for-cup in recipes. Be sure to reduce other liquid in the recipe by about a quarter.
Use about 1⅓ cups of date syrup for each cup of sugar. Make date syrup by blending soaked dates with water until you’ve reached a smooth, syrupy consistency. Dates (like many dried fruits) are loaded with both fiber and natural sugar (fructose) and have a rich, molasses-like taste that will give your dessert a unique flavor. You can also use the same technique to make raisin or prune syrups.
Use about ½ cup banana for each cup of sugar. Very ripe bananas are the sweetest. These potassium-packed fruits act both as binders AND sweeteners!
FOR SWEET DRINKS
Try seltzer water loaded with cut fruit. Some of our favorite combos to add to plain seltzer:
- Lime and raspberries
- Lemon, blueberries, and peaches
- Pomegranate and pear with vanilla extract (or vanilla-flavored seltzer)
- Strawberry and mint
- Lemon and cucumber
FOR EVERYDAY SNACKS
As your tastebuds, gut, and brain adjust to plant-based eating, you’ll find that fruits taste better than they have in a long time. They are full of nutrients, and fiber, too, which helps your body digest the fruit sugars slowly. (No sugar crashes!)
Our top sweet vegan snacks include:
Apple slices with nut butter. Apples are portable, durable, and delicious.
More fruits: Berries, frozen grapes, pears, plums, pineapple, orange slices, bananas
MamaSezz Gram’s Granola for a sweet crunch
Homemade trail mix
Smoothies. Our Chef Caroline created this easy and tasty Antioxidant Blueberry Smoothie
Dates and nut butter. Medjool dates naturally have a caramel-like flavor.
Sometimes you just need to nibble on a cookie... or on raw cookie dough! (We do too.) Here is one of Chef Caroline’s recipes — and there are so many more vegan dessert recipes at MamaSezz.com. Search for “desserts” and your sweet tooth may be satisfied just looking at the results.
Raw Vegan Chickpea Cookie Dough
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Yield: 2 servings (1 cup each)
1 can or drained and rinsed chickpeas
1 dash of sea salt
1 TBS of vanilla extract
a few TBS of water
1 TBS of all-natural peanut butter
3 TBS of maple syrup or date syrup
¼ a cup of raisins or vegan dark chocolate chips
- Blend ingredients together (excluding chocolate chips/raisins)
- Use a rubber spatula to condense cookie dough in a blender to ensure even blending
- Once smooth, stir in chocolate chips/raisins with a spoon
See the how-to video.
- Sugar is highly addictive and our cravings for it are intense.
- Plant-based eating doesn’t magically make cravings go away, but it does lessen them as your brain and gut adjust to less refined sugar.
- It’s okay to have sweet foods on a plant-based diet.
- You can satisfy your sweet tooth by swapping natural sweet foods for refined sugar.
Great! We’re thrilled you're here. Download our FREE Ultimate (little) Guide to Plant-Based Eating for tips, resources, and support to make the change to plant-based!
Becky Karush is a writer, copywriter, and family woman. She came up through newspapers and magazines, including Disney FamilyFun and Martha Stewart Whole Living, with road trips to teaching and farming. She’s run BeckyK Creative Marketing since 2012. She hosts and produces READ TO ME, a literary podcast that ends the cult of the critic and surfaces the power and beauty in great writing.