The Best Low-Carb Holiday Desserts

So you've managed to avoid the high-carb temptations of holiday dinner. The mashed potatoes, the crusty dinner rolls, your Mom's homemade sourdough stuffing. It was hard work! So don't allow yourself to be derailed by high-sugar holiday desserts. Whether you're watching your blood sugar or your waistline (or both), some clever substitutions in the kitchen can help you create desserts that deserve to be the center of any holiday dessert table. So arm yourself with some trusty low-carb dessert recipes, select your personally preferred alternative sweeteners, and wow your family this year with a dessert (or two or three) so good that they won't even ask if it's a "healthy" version.

Mastering sweeteners

When preparing low-carb desserts, you will be faced with a decision: which sweetener should you use? Table sugar, or sucrose, with its high carb count, is obviously out of the question. Artificial sweeteners, like sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal), and saccharin (Sweet'N Low), are quickly falling out of favor with home chefs who prefer a more natural product. Luckily, there are plenty of natural, alternative sweeteners for a low-carber to choose from.

Sugar alcohols, also called polyols, are found in many low-carb treats and are available as commercial blends created for baking. The ones you will see most often include xylitol, sorbitol, malitol, and erythritol. All receive accolades for their sweet taste, not to mention their lower-than-sugar calories counts and low glycemic load, though many people complain that sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal discomfort. If it's your first foray into the world of sugar alcohols, go slowly until you determine your own reaction.

Monk fruit is another all-natural choice that is a big hit with low-carb dieters. It's 100-250 times sweeter than sugar, so it's sometimes blended with corn-based dextrose to be usable in a powder form. Also known as luo han guo, monk fruit has a history of being used as a cough and cold remedy as well as an anti-inflammatory.

Stevia is a plant that has long been used as a sweetener, and it has recently gained popularity, finding its way into many name-brand products. Available in powder or liquid form, stevia is calorie-free. Many people find that stevia leaves a bitter aftertaste, so it is often blended with a combination of other alternative sweeteners to temper the taste.

Low-carb cookie options

From cookie swaps to office gifts to holiday parties, the holidays just wouldn't be the same without homemade cookies. You may think that sticking to your low-carb plan means you need to forgo all the cookie-licious fun, but you can be swapping with the best of them once you're armed with a few smart recipes.

Maria at Keto Adapted offers a delicious and simple recipe for holiday favorite snickerdoodles. Her recipe utilizes both blanched almond and coconut flours and provides advice on sweetener options.

Classic gingerbread men are a must for the holiday season, and Carolyn at All Day I Dream About Food shows us how she got her kiddos involved in making them with coconut flour, xanthan gum, and a perfect-for-decorating icing using Swerve sweetener and meringue powder. Carolyn clearly takes holiday cookies very seriously because she also found a way to make a low-carb version of sugar-dusted snowball cookies, which are brilliantly flavored with walnuts and cardamom.

And because everything is better with chocolate, your swap wouldn't be complete without Healthy Living How To's chocolate candy cane cookies topped with just a sprinkle of crushed organic candy canes.

Low-carb cake options

No cake is more quintessentially Christmas than a Yule log cake, or Buche de Noel if you want to be fancy. If it's one of your favorites, you'll be happy to know there are a few low-carb versions of this iconic cake out there. Low Carb Yum shares Elviira's many-stepped version featuring a tiramisu-like mascarpone cheese and coffee filling, and topped with a frosting flavored with freshly grated orange peel. If you're looking for a simpler recipe, low-carb pioneers Atkins has a Yule log cake made with whole grain soy flour and a simple chocolate glaze.

Sugar-free cheesecake has long been a go-to dessert for anyone counting carbs. A perfect holiday cheese cake recipe is this easy one for eggnog cheesecake, with a crust of ground nuts and filling flavored with DaVinci sugar-free flavored syrup and nutmeg.

Ideal for any holiday dessert spread, Satisfying Eats' ginger spice cake with cream cheese frosting is sweetened with all-natural stevia, plus a touch of applesauce and raw honey for moisture.

Low-carb pie options

Starting with Thanksgiving and carrying on throughout the holiday season, we're hit in the face with nearly every kind of pie imaginable. With a few crafty substitutions, you can still enjoy pie during the holidays, even when counting your carbs.

You too can be low carb and lovin' it when you make George Stella's low-carb praline pumpkin pie. This super-easy recipe features a pecan crust and canned pumpkin filling. Round it out with this delectable recipe for pecan pie from Keto Adapted and you'll be the champion of the low-carb Thanksgiving dessert table.

If you want to make a coconut cream pie, you may as well go coconut crazy with Low Carb Yum's coconut cream pie. The crust is made with coconut flour and shredded unsweetened coconut, and the custard-like filling of coconut cream is topped with toasted coconut flakes, for a tropical holiday treat.

What could be more American than apple pie? Just ask Brazilian food blogger Adriana, who put a Paleo spin on this holiday classic. Her pie is sweetened with coconut sugar and features a nutty streusel topping.

Low-carb pudding, mousse, and custard options

Puddings, mousses, and custards are fantastic whether they're used to fill your favorite tarts and pies or simply eaten stand-alone. Most can be be whipped up in a jiffy, and they often include low-carb friendly ingredients like egg yolks and heavy cream. With a few low-carb sweetener substitutions, puddings, mousses, and custards can be an easy and welcome addition to your holiday feast.

A classic custard tart gets the keto-fied treatment at My Keto Kitchen, where Gerri uses flaxseed and almond meal to form a crust that is filled with a vanilla bean custard. Gerri confesses that she even brings her keto-licious desserts to dinner parties where nobody knows they are enjoying a low-sugar treat.

Packaged sugar-free pudding mixes are pretty easy to come by at the grocery store, but you can also go the extra low-carb mile and make a low-carb pudding from scratch. The Low Carb Maven makes her low-carb vanilla pudding with heavy cream, almond milk, gelatin, and xanthan gum.

It's hard to pass up a decadent chocolate mousse on any day of the year, so why not serve one at your holiday dinner? Cafe Delites makes a three-ingredient, low-carb version that is also egg- and dairy-free, using coconut cream, sweetener, and chocolate.

Low-carb ice cream options

The low-carb revolution has reached your supermarket frozen foods aisle, and there are some worthy choices for low-carb ice creams for you to sample. Halo Top ice cream is quickly growing a reputation as a fave among low-carbers. Sweetened with stevia and erythritol, Halo Top comes in a wide variety of flavors like oatmeal cookie, birthday cake, and red velvet, with most flavors coming in at a mere 4 grams of net carbs per serving. Arctic Zero, another popular low-sugar, frozen delight, is sweetened with monk fruit and just a touch of real sugar, with most flavors boasting a low calorie count at just 35 calories per serving. If you can't find Arctic Zero at your local store, they'll happily deliver it to your doorstep.

If you would rather make some ice cream from scratch, consider this recipe from Dave Asprey of Bulletproof Executive fame. His creamy coconut "Get Some" ice cream is a favorite of the blogosphere, but be warned: Dave claims its satiating ingredients will get people in the mood for love. If you're comfortable with it being that kind of holiday party, you may want to really make them swoon by scooping the frozen delicacy into Maria's bacon ice cream cones.

Low-carb candy options

There's no shortage of low-sugar and sugar-free candy on the market, but much of it is sweetened with the kinds of artificial sweeteners that many low-carbers are trying to avoid. At Low Carb Yum, Lisa successfully pulls off low-carb versions of chocolate kisses and Tootsie rolls, which she carries with her throughout the holiday in case the temptation for sugar-filled treats threatens to sabotage her low-carb day.

Brenda at Sugar-Free Mom didn't want to spend a holiday season missing out on one of her favorites: Ferrero Roche's famous chocolate and hazelnut balls. She recreated a low-sugar version for herself using her own recipe for homemade, low-carb nutella.

Peppermint patties get the low-carb treatment at Desserts With Benefits, and would make a great DIY holiday gift, along with Margeaux Vittoria's three-ingredient chocolate truffles.

Low-carb brownie options

Teen blogger and vegetarian Kelly offers lots of low-carb recipes at her blog, Foodie Fiasco. Her recipe for classic chocolate brownies is sweetened with xylitol and just a touch of applesauce. Over at She Knows, Carolyn Ketchum brings us a decadent warm skillet brownie for two, which would be amazing topped with some low-sugar ice cream. At Ditch the Carbs, Libby bakes up a keto chocolate brownie recipe that's free of nuts and sugar.

If blondies are more your bag, feast your eyes on this recipe for browned butter chocolate chip blondies at All Day I Dream About Food, which uses a combo of Swerve and Sukrin sweeteners. At Low Carb Yum, quick and easy blondies are whipped up using a commercial, low-carb baking mix and the flavors of pecans and blackstrap molasses.

Low-carb bar options

No, not low-carb protein or fitness bars, though there are seemingly hundreds available. I mean those delicious and entertaining-friendly little squares of dessert goodness that aren't quite a cake or a brownie.

Katrina of In Katrina's Kitchen has dressed her sugar cookie bars up for the holidays using almond and gluten-free oat flour. All Day I Dream About Food can always be counted on for amazing low-carb creations, and there we will find cranberry bliss bars, and eggnog cheesecake bars with gingerbread whipped cream. For a fantastic, low-carb, pumpkiny treat, you can't go wrong with Chef Becca's pumpkin pie bars at It's Yummi. And what bar is more well-known than a classic lemon bar? Maria makes us a tempting batch using fresh lemon juice, coconut flour, and blanched almond flour.