This natural, no-cal sweetener from the leaf of the stevia plant is incredibly good for you. Unlike sugar, it doesn’t create an insulin response. Its sterols and antioxidants actually nourish the pancreas, the organ that regulates blood sugar.
Sugar addicts can enjoy foods sweetened with stevia without suffering all the negative effects of sugar. Risk of chronic diseases caused by too much sugar in our food, like diabetes, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and obesity, can be reduced by using stevia to lower our sugar consumption.
Don’t expect stevia to taste exactly like sugar. Pure stevia extracts are 300-400 times sweeter than ordinary table sugar. A little goes a long way. Used properly, stevia sweetens food nicely. It takes the sourness out of lemons and yogurt and the bitterness from coffee. The taste is lighter and fresher than the same food sweetened with sugar, which can be cloying.
Every sweetener has its own unique taste. Honey tastes different than maple syrup. Agava syrup tastes different than brown sugar. Coconut palm sugar tastes different than corn syrup. And all these sweeteners taste quite different than ordinary table sugar. But none of these sweeteners are calorie-free or nonglycemic. Stevia is both.
What stevia product should you buy?
Read the label. Buy a powdered product that is 100 percent pure stevia extract. Stevia powders sold in combination with fillers have diminished health properties and can cause digestive problems in some people.
Truvia is one such product, where the stevia is combined with erythritol, a sugar alcohol made from corn. You might also see stevia combined with maltodextrin, inulin, xylitol, and glycerin. These additives are included to prevent clumping, to adjust the taste closer to that of table sugar, and to lower the cost. But all this comes at a cost to your health. Pure is best.
If you only use a little stevia, to sweeten your coffee or a bowl of yogurt, for example, liquid stevia is way more convenient. Again, read the label and buy an alcohol-free, pure liquid stevia.Or make your own liquid stevia, like I do.
100% Stevia – no sugar or other additives
In Canada, I buy New Roots stevia white powder concentrate and I use it to make my own home-made pure liquid stevia sweetener. It’s much cheaper.
Baking When making desserts, always add the powdered stevia to the liquid ingredients in the recipe and give it time to dissolve, as it tends to clump. Be patient. It dissolves quickly. Also, it dissolves quicker in hot liquids than cold ones.
Stevia works well with chocolate and in puddings and custards.
In recipes that need a crystalline structure to rise properly, like angel cake, souffles, or meringues, you have to use a combination of granulated sugar and stevia. Experiment with your favorite recipes to get it right. These might not be worth the effort.
Snacks My favorite snack is what I call my yogurt bowl. I buy 0% Greek plain yogurt, for more protein and less saturated animal fats. Then I add fruit and nuts, and perhaps some cinnamon or vanilla. I finish with home-made liquid stevia made from powdered concentrate to sweeten it all up. So good!
Beverages For sweetening single cupfuls of tea, coffee, and cocktails, where only a small amount of stevia is needed, I use home-made liquid stevia made from the powdered concentrate. You can buy the liquid extract, but making your own from the powder is cheaper.
Home-made liquid stevia
Makes 1/2 cup, enough to sweeten 24-36 cups of coffee
- 1/4 teaspoon stevia white powder concentrate from New Roots
- 1/2 cup boiling water (filtered or distilled, preferably)
- Pour the boiling water on the powder in a small heat-proof bowl.
- Gently stir until the powder dissolves. It clumps in the water initially but it quickly dissolves. Within a minute or so you have a colorless solution.
- With a funnel, pour it into a small dropper-style, dark-brown, glass bottle. Store the excess in a second dark-brown glass bottle. I found mine at the pharmacy and washed them well before using. Refrigerate or store in a cool place, away from light for longer shelf-life.
I find that with time the liquid stevia gets cloudy. It doesn’t affect the taste. Just shake it well before using. But if you don’t use it often, you may want to make it up in smaller quantities. If you have enough patience to divide a 1/4 teaspoon in half, you can cut my recipe in half.
Adjusting the amount
Too much stevia can change the taste from sweet to metallic. You have to learn for yourself how much is just right. Choose a brand you like and experiment with your favorite recipes. Keep notes and readjust the next time. Or buy my brand and follow my guidelines. Then adjust to your own taste from there. Believe me, if you like sweet foods it is so worth the effort.
For single servings of coffee, tea, lemonade, or cocktails, it’s easy to adjust the sweetness to the level you like best.
Start with half a dropper of home-made liquid stevia in your usual cup of coffee. Taste, and if you want it sweeter, add more, one drop at a time. Taste after each addition, until the taste is right. Too much, and the drink tastes bitter.
I’ve found that I like about 1/4 teaspoon of my home-made liquid stevia in my espresso coffee. But to each his own. This technique works for any single-serving beverage.
Most traditional recipes are too sweet for my taste. Normally, I reduce the sugar to half the amount called for. Then I use the following stevia substitutions:
Sugar Stevia powdered concentrate Home-made liquid stevia
1 cup 1/2 teaspoon 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon – 3/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon – 1/4 teaspoon
Accuracy when measuring stevia is important. Over-fill the measuring spoon, then use a knife to smooth the top of the powder, pushing the excess back into the bottle. For small quantities, use the liquid option.
Experiment with each recipe to find your own sweet spot, as each recipe (and taster) is different.
Enter “stevia” into my search box to find some recipes where I’ve used stevia successfully (and one NOT so successfully).