What sweetener is in sugar free Reese’s Cups?

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a beloved chocolate candy with a rich peanut butter filling. For people limiting their sugar intake, Reese’s offers a sugar free version of their iconic candy. But what sweetener is used in sugar free Reese’s peanut butter cups to provide sweetness without sugar?

Common Sugar Substitutes Used in Sugar Free Sweets

There are several different sugar substitutes that are commonly used to sweeten sugar free candies and chocolates:


Maltitol is a sugar alcohol (also called a polyol) that is used to replace sugar in many sugar free products. It looks and tastes very similar to sugar, but has fewer calories and does not spike blood sugar levels as much as regular sugar. Maltitol has about 75-90% of the sweetness of sugar and is known for having a very similar texture and bulk to real sugar. It is commonly used in sugar free chocolates, cookies, hard candies, and ice creams. However, one downside of maltitol is that it can cause digestive issues like gas and bloating when consumed in large amounts.


Erythritol is another popular sugar alcohol used in reduced sugar foods. It’s about 70% as sweet as sugar but contains almost no calories. Erythritol also does not affect blood sugar levels as much as regular sugar does. It’s becoming an increasingly common sweetener in low carb and keto-friendly products. Erythritol has less of a tendency to cause digestive issues than some other sugar alcohols.


Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the leaves of the stevia plant. It contains no calories and is much sweeter than sugar – about 200-300 times sweeter! Stevia does not have an aftertaste like some other sugar substitutes do. It’s gaining popularity as a sugar substitute, especially in beverages. However, stevia alone often does not work perfectly to replace sugar in baked goods. It’s typically combined with another sweetener like erythritol.

Monk Fruit Extract

Monk fruit (also called luo han guo) is a small melon from Asia that produces a natural sweetener when extracted. Monk fruit extract is about 150-200 times sweeter than sugar. Using monk fruit allows products to be free of calories and carbs while attaining sweetness. Monk fruit is growing in popularity in sugar free products, but the extract can be expensive compared to other sweeteners.


Sucralose, also known as Splenda, is an artificial sweetener made from sugar but processed to take out calories. It’s about 600 times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose maintains sweetness well when used for baking and is heat-stable. It does not have an aftertaste like saccharin, another artificial sweetener. Sucralose is found in many reduced sugar products, especially baked goods. However, there are concerns from some over the safety of sucralose consumption.

Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K)

Ace-K is another artificial sweetener that’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It’s often combined with sucralose in products because it pairs well and masks any aftertastes. Ace-K brings out and enhances sweetness in foods and also holds up to heat. It’s found in many baked goods, candies, and beverages labeled as “sugar free” or “no sugar added”. While approved for use, there is some controversy over potential health risks with regular consumption.

Ingredients in Sugar Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

So which sweeteners does The Hershey Company actually use in their famous sugar free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?

Here is the ingredient list according to the nutritional label:


Milk chocolate (milk chocolate contains sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, milk, milk fat, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR)


Sugar alcohols (maltitol, sorbitol)

Peanut oil


TBHQ and citric acid (to preserve freshness)

Soy lecithin (an emulsifier)

Natural and artificial flavor

Contains: Milk, peanuts, soy

Based on the ingredient list, the primary sugar substitutes used in sugar free Reese’s are:


– A sugar alcohol mentioned earlier that provides bulk and a sugar-like sweetness while being lower in calories than sugar. It’s likely the main sweetener replacing sugar in these candies.


– Another sugar alcohol that adds sweetness with fewer calories and less blood sugar impact. It’s sweeter than maltitol but less likely to crystallize.

Together, maltitol and sorbitol allow the Reese’s to remain sweet while dropping from 24g sugar in the regular milk chocolate cups to just 1g sugar per serving size.

The other ingredients help provide the classic chocolate and peanut butter tastes. There are no artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, or ace-K. The “natural and artificial flavors” likely enhance the chocolate and peanut butter notes.

Pros and Cons of Maltitol and Sorbitol as Sweeteners

The sugar alcohols maltitol and sorbitol have pros and cons when used to replace sugar:

Pros of Maltitol and Sorbitol:

– Fewer calories than regular sugar, about 2.1 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram in sugar. This allows for calorie reduction.

– Much lower glycemic impact than sugar, do not spike blood glucose levels as high. This allows people with diabetes to consume them in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

– Do not promote tooth decay like regular sugar. Less harmful to dental health.

– Both have a similar sweetness profile and food application properties as regular table sugar. The taste, texture and browning ability are comparable.

Cons of Maltitol and Sorbitol:

– Can cause gastrointestinal issues when eaten in excessive amounts, like gas, bloating and diarrhea due to the way they are metabolized and fermented by gut bacteria. The effect varies between individuals.

– Sorbitol has about 60% the sweetness of sugar, so more needs to be added to attain the same level of sweetness. Maltitol is closer to 90% as sweet as sugar.

– Sugar alcohols are considered synthetic additives by some consumers seeking cleaner labels. They are chemically processed from other carbohydrates.

– Costs more than regular sugar on average. The production processes are more complex.

Nutrition Facts for Sugar Free Reese’s

Here is the nutrition information for a 1 package (1.5oz or 43g) serving of sugar free Reese’s peanut butter cups:

Calories 190
Fat 12g
Saturated Fat 3.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 5mg
Sodium 125mg
Carbohydrates 21g
Fiber 1g
Sugar 1g
Sugar alcohol 20g
Protein 6g

The 1g of sugar comes from the milk chocolate coating made with regular sugar. The 20g of sugar alcohol is from the maltitol and sorbitol providing sweetness in place of sugar in the peanut butter filling.

Compared to regular milk chocolate Reese’s which have 24g total sugar, the sugar free version cuts out 97% of the sugar. This comes with a tradeoff though – the extra sugar alcohols can cause digestive side effects if too many pieces are eaten.

Glycemic Impact

One of the benefits of the sugar alcohol sweeteners used in sugar free Reese’s is their low glycemic index compared to regular sugar.

Research has found that maltitol has a glycemic index of 36 and sorbitol is 9. For comparison, sucrose (table sugar) scores a 65 while fructose is 19.

This means that sugar free Reese’s made with maltitol and sorbitol will have a minimal impact on blood glucose levels compared to the regular ones made with regular sugar.

However, those with diabetes should still be mindful of portion sizes of sugar free candy. While sugar alcohols are lower glycemic than sugar, overconsuming can affect blood sugar. Enjoying a few sugar free Reese’s cups occasionally can fit into a healthy diabetes diet when paired with balanced meals.

Taste and Texture

In blind taste tests, most people find sugar free Reese’s nearly indistinguishable from the original in terms of taste, sweetness, and texture.

The combination of maltitol and sorbitol does an excellent job mimicking the properties of sugar while cutting the calories significantly.

The chocolate coating remains smooth and creamy. And the inside peanut butter retains a thick, rich consistency very close to the regular version.

Some people notice a slight aftertaste from the sugar alcohols, but the chocolate and peanut flavors overpower it for most. Overall, Hershey’s did a great job creating a sugar free Reese’s that lives up to the original.

Cost Comparison

Sugar free Reese’s are often priced similarly or slightly higher than regular Reese’s cups. For example, on Amazon.com at the time of writing:

– Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, 36 count bag – $11.90 ($0.33 per cup)

– Reese’s Sugar Free Peanut Butter Cups, 36 count bag – $14.29 ($0.40 per cup)

The sugar free version is about a 21% increase per cup over the regular Reese’s. This premium pricing reflects the higher production costs of sugar free candy made with pricey sugar alcohol sweeteners.

However, on a per-pound basis, both versions cost about the same. So the sugar free Reese’s provide calorie savings for just a small cost increase.


Sugar free Reese’s can be found in many major grocery stores, candy shops, online retailers, convenience stores, and wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club.

They are carried by most retailers that normally stock regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. The sugar free version is widely mass distributed just like the iconic original.

Some stores may only carry them seasonally around holidays when sugar free candy sales tend to peak. But the major national chains and online stores normally have them year round.

So sugar free Reese’s cups are readily available at many brick-and-mortar and internet outlets for those looking to purchase them. The stores that don’t regularly stock them can also special order them.

Sugar Free vs Unsweetened

It’s important to note the difference between “sugar free” Reese’s made with sugar alcohols compared to unsweetened Reese’s with no sweetener at all.

For example, brands like Lily’s make stevia-sweetened chocolate products advertised as sugar free. And Paleo or keto brands offer unsweetened chocolate confections made without any added sweetener whatsoever.

The Hershey’s sugar free Reese’s still aim to provide the sweet taste people expect from milk chocolate peanut butter cups. The sugar alcohol sweeteners maltitol and sorbitol allow this while removing nearly all sugar content.

Meanwhile, unsweetened versions do not taste sweet at all. While they are lower carb and calorie than even sugar free Reese’s, the taste is bitter and not palatable for most.

So unsweetened chocolate products are targeted to a different demographic than conventional consumers looking for sweet tasting treats.

Nutrition Recommendations

Here are some tips for enjoying sugar free Reese’s as part of a healthy diet:

– Stick to small portions as sugar alcohols can cause gastric distress when overconsumed. 1-2 peanut butter cups is a reasonable serving.

– Pair them with high fiber foods like fruits and vegetables to help slow digestion if prone to sugar alcohol sensitivity.

– Avoid eating too late at night. Sugar alcohols can interrupt sleep if eaten right before bed for some people.

– Drink plenty of water to help digest and absorb the sugar alcohols. Dehydration worsens side effects.

– Look for other sources of nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals in your diet. Do not overly rely on sugar free candy to provide complete nutrition.

– Use them as one treat option in moderation, but don’t let sugar free snacks replace healthy whole foods as dietary staples.

Ultimately, sugar free Reese’s can be incorporated into a balanced diet for most people when consumed in sensible amounts. They provide a sweet treat with fewer carbs and calories than regular sugar-laden candy.


Sugar free Reese’s peanut butter cups use the sugar alcohol sweeteners maltitol and sorbitol to provide a sweet taste with significantly less sugar and calories than the original milk chocolate version.

These substitutes allow the Reese’s to maintain a similar tasty indulgence factor while reducing the glycemic impact and cutting total carbs from 24g down to just 1g per serving.

While enjoying sugar free candy in moderation can fit into an overall healthy lifestyle for many, keep in mind that overdoing it on sugar alcohol-laden products can cause unwanted gastric side effects. Stick to reasonable portion sizes.

Other than that, for peanut butter and chocolate fans looking to reduce sugar without giving up sweetness, sugar free Reese’s offer an excellent alternative.

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