​​Ingredient swaps to help you paleo-ify your favorite dessert

half of a coconut with chocolate chips spilling out

For a lot of people, giving up desserts is the hardest part of transitioning to the paleo diet. With sugar, flour, and processed chocolate products all off the table, it may seem impossible to bake at home. Luckily, more and more stores are beginning to stock prepackaged paleo foods like grain-free bread, muffins, and cookies. However, these packaged goods are still highly processed which is not ideal for your body, and they are also usually very pricy!

We think that enjoying a small amount of a sweet treat is a healthy thing, and baking them at home is your best option! Remember, like with anything it’s important to enjoy these desserts in moderation.

Paleo swaps for sugar

Sugar is a key ingredient in almost any dessert recipe, and it’s what makes treats so satisfyingly sweet. However, refined sugars that you might normally use in a recipe are off-limits when you follow a paleo diet. The best paleo-friendly swaps for sugar are:

Organic honey 

Organic honey is a great sweetener to use in place of refined cane sugar. Honey is naturally occurring and has been a part of a healthy diet for thousands of years. 

Honey is packed with antioxidants that may help reduce blood pressure, and it also is known to reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. 

Honey still contains a lot of fructose, so it is important to enjoy only a small amount at a time.


Stevia is another great low-carb and paleo-friendly sugar swap that has been gaining popularity in the last few years. Stevia is derived from the stevia rebaudiana plant, which has been used for its sweetness throughout history. If you want to use stevia in place of cane sugar, look for a brand that uses minimal processing and fillers. Also, note that stevia is significantly sweeter than cane sugar (300-400x), so you will only need to use a small fraction of the volume.

Raw maple syrup

Raw maple syrup is another good pick for your homemade desserts. It is a natural sweetener derived from maple trees and has been eaten by humans since paleolithic times. Make sure the maple syrup you buy is 100% real and as unprocessed as possible. Most of the popular brands of “maple syrup” use little to no actual maple, and instead are sweetened with corn or cane sugar.

Paleo swaps for flour

Almost any baking recipe you’ll find is built around a foundation of flour: cakes, cookies, muffins, etc. Traditional flour you might buy at the grocery store is highly processed and made from wheat, which is not a food included in the paleo diet. Luckily, there are a few paleo-friendly flour alternatives available at most grocery stores. Natural grocers and health food stores will have the best selection of grain and gluten-free flours.

Bob’s Red Mill has a great paleo-friendly baking flour that is a premixed combination of almond flour, arrowroot starch, coconut flour, and tapioca flour. It contains zero grains, gluten, dairy, or beans. However, it is still a processed packaged good, so be sure to consume it in moderation

Paleo-friendly chocolate and chocolate chips

Is something really dessert if it doesn’t have chocolate? Giving up chocolates may be one of the hardest parts of switching to a more natural diet.

The good news is, cocoa itself is not only paleo-friendly but it’s nutrient-packed! Products like unprocessed cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate are often paleo-friendly — just make sure to check the ingredients for fillers, sugar, and dairy. 

If you want sweetened chocolate to use in your baking, there are a handful of paleo-friendly organic brands that are very low in sugar or use alternative sugars. Lily’s makes great paleo-friendly chocolate chips, which are sweetened with stevia and completely gluten-free.

The paleo diet should never be about deprivation. There are plenty of ways to enjoy sweets and desserts (in moderation) using organic ingredients that our ancestors have been using for thousands of years.