Stevia is an herb/shrub native to subtropical and tropical South America and Central America. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves (about 300 times sweeter than sugar). As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.
Stevia has been said to have many health benefits, such as: weight control (it controls cravings), can be used during pregnancy, it is known to be beneficial to the pancreas, does not contribute to tooth decay, can reduce high blood pressure, assists digestion, and so on.
Unlike most artificial sweeteners, Stevia does not break down and can withstand high temperatures while cooking and cold temperatures when frozen.
Stevia can be purchased in either powder or liquid form.
- Powdered stevia comes in a high-concentrated pure extract and a spoonable version (1:1 ratio replacement for sugar). NOTE: Beware of “spoonable” stevia versions, as they have other, usually questionable, ingredients added to cut the sweetness and help with flow-rate.
- Liquid stevia is highly concentrated and comes in regular (plain) and flavors. The flavored versions can add a touch of variety to your foods/beverages. NOTE: Be sure to look for “natural flavors” and stay away from flavoring additives that you’re unsure of.
Stevia can be used safely and effectively as a substitute for sugar in most recipes where sugar and low calorie sweeteners would be normally used.
Baking with Stevia
When baking with stevia, follow the instructions/suggestions from the maker of the stevia brand you are using. They all vary in strength/potency, so there is not one specific sugar-to-stevia conversion chart available. Unless you are using a special stevia baking blend, you will need to make-up for the volume lost through replacing sugar in a recipe.
The bulk or consistency that sugar normally would add can be replaced with applesauce, fruit puree, canned pumpkin, yogurt, or any ingredient that will taste right with your recipe and add moisture.
Choosing A Stevia Brand
Everyone is different and their tastes are different. So what stevia I like, you may not care for. I have used all three of the following brands and they all are good in their own ways. Lately I have been using NuNaturals brand stevia and find they are less bitter in most things, and the taste is more pure so I tend to use less than compared to other brands. But please, try different brands for yourself……decide what works for you. All brands have different potency levels, so you will have to follow their instructions on converting.