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Sweetener Review: Erythritol | Is it Really "Natural" and The Perfect Sweetener?

Updated: Mar 15

Sweeteners containing erythritol, pronounced Ah-REETH-ra-tall, in pure form or as the predominant ingredient are overwhelmingly available in the United States. Erythritol is promoted as the perfect "natural" zero-calorie sweetener, being tooth-friendly, well-tolerated in the digestive system (unlike other polyols), and offering no effect on blood sugar levels. As opposed to other zero-calorie sweeteners, it provides the much-needed "bulk" to recipes. However, it's less sweet, much more expensive than table sugar, and creates a cooling sensation when dissolved in our mouths.

In my quest to discover all sweeteners containing erythritol, I found that most products combine it with high–intensity sweeteners to compensate for the reduced sweetness. Stevia, monk fruit, or sucralose are used in 150 sweeteners listed at the end of this post. To minimize the cooling effect, in some products, erythritol is blended with low-digestible sweeteners, such as polyols, rare sugars, and soluble fibers.

In this post, I answer the most frequently asked questions about erythritol in the following areas:

- chemistry

- source

- production methods

- appearance

- taste

- digestion & metabolism

- type of sweetener

- tooth-friendliness

- culinary roles

- safety (2023 new study)

- price.

There is A LOT of information here. Scroll down to explore it all or, if you are short on time, refer to the pros & cons at the end of this post. Visit my Erythritol Page here.

Erythritol Sweetener Review

Is Erythritol a Chemical?

Yes. Chemically speaking, erythritol is a type of carbohydrate called polyol.

  • From our chemistry class, polyol means "containing many -OH groups" (hydroxyl or alcohol group). Polyols' names end in -ol such as in sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, maltitol, and isomaltitol.

Erythritol Molecule

Compared to other polyols,

erythritol is very unique due to the small size of its molecule.

What is Erythritol Made From?

  • Erythritol is found in fruits, mushrooms, and fermented foods (wine, sake, soy sauce, miso paste) but only in minuscule amounts, so none of the natural sources are used to produce the store-bought erythritol. The erythritol content in one pound of melons, grapes, or pears is less than 0.02 grams. A quart of wine and sake has about 0.3 grams and 1.5 grams, respectively. As natural sources contain very small amounts of erythritol, production on a large scale from them is not cost-effective.

  • The store-bought erythritol is made from corn or, in one case, from apples and pears. Those sources are used because they produce erythritol more economically, with higher purity and more consistency. The production process starts by converting them into a sugar (glucose or fructose) and then to erythritol. The majority of erythritol I list at the end of this post is manufactured in China. China generally sources most of the corn from Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.

Is Erythritol Natural or Artificial?

Read more about it on two previous blog posts titled: Natural Sweetener: Not What You Might Think and 5 Misconceptions About Natural Sweeteners.

Is Erythritol Natural or Artificial?

  • Erythritol is widely promoted as a natural sweetener for being found in nature, but it is, in fact, a synthetic sweetener. A sweetener that does not occur in the plant from which it is manufactured is a synthetic sweetener. Note that synthetic is not the same as artificial, which means "not found in Nature" [Read about artificial sweeteners HERE]. Erythritol made from corn would not be considered artificial as it’s indistinguishable from the erythritol found in fruits, but it’s not natural either. It’s synthetic. Or, in the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) view, a natural sweetener "manufactured artificially".

  • Erythritol is not directly isolated or extracted from a plant. It is obtained through processes that chemically change or break down components of the starting material. A sugar (glucose or fructose) is converted into erythritol by fermentation or an electrochemical process.

  • To be produced on an industrial scale, all polyols are artificially made from natural sources (sugars), but only some of them can be labeled as "natural". Not all polyols are found in nature, but erythritol is found in nature AND is derived from a natural source. As a result, according to the FDA, it may be labeled as "natural." More on that in a previous post: What does a natural sweetener mean to the FDA?

  • Erythritol made by fermentation from corn: It starts with glucose obtained from starch. The steps can be seen here. Cornstarch is first converted to liquefied starch and then broken down into glucose through the use of enzymes. Glucose is fermented using microorganisms such as Aureobasidium or Moniliella sp. Genetically engineered yeasts may be used. A top erythritol producer in the U.S. claims to use a yeast found in nature.

  • Erythritol made by an electrochemical process from corn sugar: It involves passing sugar through an electrolytic cell. The process is claimed to cost less, be more efficient, faster, and powered with green, sustainable energy. Find the description of this process here. According to the producer, the fermentation method can take several days, but their method takes less than one hour and produces little to no waste.

  • Erythritol made by fermentation from pears: This is a newer method that uses fruits that have brown spots or off colors and can't be sold in stores. The process starts by extracting fructose from apples and pears, which is then fermented. Read more about it here.

  • All brands, except one, are made from corn: Hoosier Hill Farm is the only brand of erythritol made in the United States from corn grown here. Get Chia is made in France from pears. All remaining products are made in China from non-GMO corn. Please scroll down to the end of this post to check them out.

  • In all processes, the final crystalline product is an identical 99.5% pure erythritol. The chemical structure of the synthetic erythritol is exactly the same as its naturally occurring counterpart [erythritol that is intrinsic and intact in the plant]. It tastes and smells the same, and is digested and metabolized via the same pathway in the body. It is safe for us too.

  • Certified organic erythritol: Organic erythritol must be sourced from a plant grown according to USDA's organic standards (National Organic Program or NOP) and have no genetically modified organisms (GMO). Read more about it here.

What is the Difference Between Granulated and Powdered Erythritol?

All twenty products listed at the end of this post contain over 99.5 percent pure erythritol, no matter where they come from. The difference is their crystals might be coarse or fine.

  • Coarse crystal is labeled as granular, granulated, or crystalline erythritol. It looks a lot like table sugar. It is the most commonly used filler in sugar substitutes sold in stores.

  • Fine crystal is labeled as powdered or confectioners erythritol. As the name implies, it looks a lot like powdered sugar. Fine crystals dissolve more quickly than granulated erythritol.

  • The crystals are white, brilliant, odorless, and non-hygroscopic (don't readily absorb moisture from the air).

  • When erythritol crystals are dissolved in water, it results in a clear, low viscosity, and colorless solution.

  • Erythritol does not dissolve as quickly as table sugar. At room temperature, we can dissolve 37g in 100g of water or 61 percent w/w for a saturated solution. As opposed to table sugar, which has a solubility of 130g in 100g of water.

What does Erythritol Taste Like?


  • Erythritol has a pleasant sweetness profile similar to table sugar (sucrose) with slight acidity and bitterness but no detectable aftertaste. Each sweetener has a specific taste profile, which means the sweetness sensation begins, peaks, and lingers differently for each sweetener. The "sweetness intensity over time" is how quickly the sweet taste is perceived (registered with our brain) and how long the taste perception lasts in our mouth. When the sweet taste subsides, what is left is called the aftertaste.

  • Erythritol has a mild sweetness advertised as 60 to 70% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose). It means that to get the same sweetness level as table sugar, you will need to add more erythritol. Taste preference varies so, start with 1 1/3 teaspoon to replace 1 teaspoon of sugar and add more until you reach your optimum sweetness level. See the conversion chart below.

How to measure erythritol?

  • Keep in mind that the perceived sweetness of erythritol varies depending on the temperature, pH level, interaction with other ingredients, and the amount of erythritol you add. If you eat erythritol simply dissolved in water (at room temperature), expect to add 30 to 40 percent more than sugar, but if you add it to your iced tea, hot coffee, lemonade, yogurt, cereal, or fruit, you will need some experimentation to find the right sweetness.

  • Erythritol is less sweet than sugar, so most products in stores blend it with other sweeteners. In almost 150 products, erythritol has been blended with high-intensity sweeteners, such as stevia, monk fruit, or sucralose. Some products are as sweet as sugar. Others are up to 10 times sweeter than sugar. In all of those products, you are essentially having erythritol with just a hint of high-intensity sweeteners (HIS). The weight ratio in some sweeteners is 200 to 2000 (erythritol) to about 1 (HIS), which means that although 99% of the weight comes from erythritol, 70 to 99% of the sweetness comes from the high-intensity sweetener. Explore all blends here.

Cooling Effect

  • Erythritol in powder form creates a cooling sensation when dissolved in the mouth (the technical term is "a high negative heat of solution").

  • The cooling effect (cold sensation) happens because erythritol absorbs energy from its surrounding (your mouth) as it dissolves, and you feel like sucking a mint.

  • To counter the strong cooling, erythritol is blended with high-intensity sweeteners (stevia, monk fruit) or low-digestible sweeteners (xylitol, inulin).

  • The cooling effect is observed with all polyols, but erythritol has the longest and highest of all. Read here some tips from a sweetener seller on how to minimize this cooling effect.

What are the Side Effects of Erythritol?

Despite what you heard, it does have side effects. The side effects of erythritol are a result of the way it is absorbed in our bodies.

  • Erythritol Goes Through a Fast & Partial Absorption in the Small Intestine: Unlike other commonly available polyols, erythritol is a very small molecule, which is quickly absorbed in the small intestine into the bloodstream. About 60 to 90 % of ingested erythritol is absorbed and is not metabolized. The kidneys remove erythritol from the bloodstream, and it is excreted unchanged [without any decomposition] in the urine. Consumption of erythritol with foods slows down absorption.

  • Bacteria Metabolize Erythritol in the Large Intestine: The erythritol that is not absorbed from the small intestine (10 to 40% of the amount we ingest) passes into the large intestine, where it may be fermented by microbes or excreted in feces. So, even though we cannot metabolize it, bacteria in the lower digestive tract can. The low caloric value attributed to erythritol is because microbes metabolize it, and we obtain their energy indirectly.

  • Gas Production and Flatulence from Erythritol: Studies concluded that the fermented erythritol results in the production of gases (such as methane and carbon dioxide), which are absorbed and contribute energy. Nevertheless, according to an industry-funded study, gas production from erythritol is negligible, and it is very unlikely that bacteria in humans' guts would ferment it.

  • Laxation from Erythritol: When erythritol enters the large intestine, which happens quickly after ingestion, it may act osmotically by drawing water from the body, causing loose stools or diarrhea, and nausea. However, erythritol is advertised as being the only polyol that does not cause laxation, bloating, cramps, or flatulence at normal consumption levels, because only small amounts reach the large intestine. Be aware that if we eat alone on an empty stomach or excessive amounts, erythritol may cause uncomfortable effects such as abdominal pain, nausea, intestinal rumbling and/or increased intestinal movements/cramps/spasms, flatulence, and thirst.

  • The Maximum Dose of Erythritol Depends on a Person's Sensitivity and Varies from Person to Person: Daily consumption of up to 1 gram per kg (0,45 g per lb) of body weight is considered well tolerated when incorporated into foods. It means that a 150-lb person eating up to 68 g or 5.5 tablespoons of erythritol (added to foods throughout the day) should not have gastric discomfort. However, the same and lower doses consumed by simply dissolving it in water or in dry form after fasting might result in laxation and other digestive issues.

  • Erythritol is Not Really Calorie-free: As said above, even though we cannot metabolize erythritol, bacteria in the large intestine can, and we obtain their energy indirectly. If your intake is less than 25g (about 6 teaspoons) per day, the caloric value for erythritol is 0.2 calories per g. If you are a regular well-adapted user, assume 0.4 cal/g (10% that of table sugar). It means 1.2 to 1.6 calories per teaspoon ( = 3g for powdered; 4g for granulated), 60 to 75 calories per cup (48 tsp; 144g to 192g). Since erythritol's caloric value per gram is very low, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for nutrition labels rounded it to zero cal/g. Erythritol is the polyol with the lowest caloric value. To compare with other polyols: Isomalt—2.0, xylitol—2.4, maltitol—2.1, sorbitol—2.6, mannitol—1.6.

  • Erythritol's "Net carbs" and Glycemic Index are Equal to Zero: Technically, erythritol is a carbohydrate and counts towards the "total carbohydrate" on the nutrition facts label, but it offers zero net carbs because it's not available for digestion. Net carbs are digestible carbs that break down into glucose and raise blood sugar levels. One serving of erythritol [which is 1 teaspoon and weighs 4g] contains 4g of non-digestible carbohydrates, which means it offers zero "net carbs" (see the image below on how to calculate it). Since it's not metabolized into glucose, it has a glycemic index of zero and does not impact insulin levels in the body.

How to calculate the net carbs of sweeteners

Difference between the glycemic index of sweeteners