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Our Top Tips for Whole Food Desserts

It should go without saying that the very cleanest and healthiest dessert choice is always going to be a nice big bowl of fresh fruit. But we fully admit that fruit-only desserts are not always the most fun. So here are our best tips for making delicious and healthy whole food desserts…




Best Tips for Making Whole Food Desserts


  • Ditch the cow’s milk and substitute hemp milk, cashew cream, coconut milk, or almond milk.
  • Eliminate butter, margarine, and highly refined omega-6 vegetable oils like corn oil and soybean oil. Instead use more healthful oils such as extra-virgin olive oil (which can add a surprisingly welcome savory addition to many baked dessert recipes), macadamia nut oil, or extra-virgin coconut oil (a perfect replacement for butter, especially in high-heat recipes). Or, better yet, try not to use any oil and try to incorporate “whole fats” such as avocado (amazing for making chocolate puddings by the way!), chia seeds, flaxseeds, etc.
  • For moisture and substance consider pureed white soy-beans, applesauce, ground flaxseeds, prune puree, or pureed baby food fruit in place of empty-calorie oils.
  • Reduce the sugar in all recipes substantially. Replace it with fruit sugars from fresh or frozen fruits or dried fruits.
  • Substitute refined cane sugar with one of the following two unrefined sugars (both are available from natural foods stores or online):
    • Date sugar:  Is made from nutritious whole dates. The downside is that it does not dissolve easily, so it is best for toppings
    • Coconut Palm Sugar: Like date sugar, this natural sweetener is also not refined and thus contains all of its natural vitamins and minerals. As an added bonus, it does not appear to negatively affect blood sugar levels the way refined sugar does.
  • Try unpasteurized raw honey. While honey is still very calorie dense, it also contains antioxidants, essential minerals, seven vitamins of the B complex group, amino acids, enzymes, and an array of phytonutrients. Because honey is sweeter than sugar, you need to use less – ½ to ¾ cup for each cup of sugar. (For each cup of sugar replaced, you should also reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup and the cooking temperature by 25 degrees F.)
  • If you have a high-speed blender, you can use dates, yellow raisins, gogi berries, mulberries, or other dried fruits mixed with water as a replacement for sweeteners in smoothies, pies, cakes, cookies, etc. It takes a little bit of experimenting, but it is entirely possible to make desserts that taste very sweet but have zero added empty calorie sugar and sweetened entirely with dried fruits.
  • Use spice for sugar. To enhance the perception of sweetness, many recipes benefit from spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, pumpkin pie spice, or cloves. Orange or lemon zest can also boost flavor when sugar is reduced. Pure vanilla, lemon, and almond extracts are also excellent sugar-free flavor boosters that simultaneously add richness and depth to numerous desserts.
  • Adding liqueurs or spirits is another great way to add richness to your desserts. Try amaretto, brandy, coffee liqueur, rum, and bourbon. It doesn’t take much so this is a safe indulgence.
  • Celebrate the natural sweetness of nutrient and fiber-rich fruits. Instead of sugar, why not try flavorful orange juice concentrate as a natural sweetener?
  • Add crunch and satisfaction with nuts and richness with nut creams. Process nuts with water in a high-speed blender to form decadent nut creams that can replace dairy cream.
  • Fiber up the flour. Add ¼ cup of ground flaxseed in place of ¼ cup of flour. Try tossing in some  oatmeal too. Coconut flour, almond flour, and amaranth flour are slightly sweet, nutrient-rich flours ideal for desserts and definitely worth experimenting with.
  • Add instant espresso to chocolate recipes to intensify the rich flavor of cocoa.
  • Use dried fruit in place of half the chocolate chips in a recipe.
  • Use unsweetened raw cacao powder in place of sweetened cocoa powder.
  • Use raw cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips.
  • Use chia seeds to thicken puddings.
  • Make shot glass desserts! Because the satisfaction of dessert comes mostly from the first few bites, you create a dessert that is perfectly portioned to be just a few bites but presented so beautifully that you don’t feel deprived. You can create an incredible assortment of shot glass desserts (key lime pie, pecan pie, and chocolate velvet cake come to mind). To make them even more decadent try pouring a little liqueur on top before serving.



  1. K. E. Schroder, “Effects of Fruit Consumption on Body Mass Index and Weight Loss in a Sample of Overweight and Obese Dieters enrolled in a Weight-Loss Intervention Trial,” Nutrition 26, no. 7–8 (2010): 727–34.




Ivy Larson

In 2010, Clean Cuisine was launched because Ivy Larson wanted to share her anti-inflammatory lifestyle and delicious recipes using ingredients in their most natural and nutrient-rich state. In 2020, Ivy passed the website to Aimee and Madison. Since then, they have been adding new recipes and nutrition posts while updating old recipes and articles. Thanks for visiting Clean Cuisine!

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