• BUYING GUIDE •
On my quest to discover all zero-calorie stevia sweeteners in stores across the United States, I found about 200 products. See here the complete list and how they compare.
First, What is Stevia?
Sweeteners commonly referred to as stevia contain extracts from the leaf of a shrub called Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni). The stevia plant has been cultivated and used to sweeten drinks for centuries by South Americans. Currently, China is by far the top grower globally; other countries include Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, and the United States.
Chemically speaking, the sweet components of the stevia leaf are steviol glycosides. They have an intensely sweet taste 25 to 450 times that of table sugar. The stevia leaf contains more than forty steviol glycosides, and the most abundant are shown in the image below.
When you buy stevia sweeteners, they will have one steviol glycoside or several. The most commonly used is rebaudioside A (reb A or rebiana). Pure reb A is 250 to 450 times sweeter than table sugar with a characteristic slightly bitter, licorice-like aftertaste. Reb D and reb M are considered the "better-tasting" and "more sugar-like" stevia. Some brands that contain them include Splenda Naturals, Whole Earth, Wholesome, Stevita Naturals. The best tasting sweeteners have blends of a variety of steviol glycosides. The stevioside's bitter aftertaste is more intense than Reb A.
STEVIA BRANDS & PRODUCTS
There is A LOT to see here. Scroll down to explore it all or, if you are short on time, make your choice below:
Stevia | Pure ExtractStevia leaf extracts are food ingredients with GRAS status. The leaf extracts go through a great deal of processing and purification until they become palatable and free of impurities. They provides zero calories and are 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. Find here a variety of brands of pure stevia leaf extract.
Stevia | LiquidStevia leaf extracts are food ingredients with GRAS status. The leaf extracts go through a great deal of processing and purification until they become palatable and free of impurities. They provides zero calories and are 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. Find here brands of liquid stevia. The most common carriers include glycerine, erythitol, alcohol, and cellulose. Some are sold as dietary supplements and allow health claims on labels.
Stevia | with ErythritolStevia leaf extracts are food ingredients with GRAS status. The leaf extracts go through a great deal of processing and purification until they become palatable and free of impurities. They provides zero calories and are 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. Find here a variety of brands of stevia-erythritol blend.
Stevia | with InulinStevia leaf extracts are food ingredients with GRAS status. The leaf extracts go through a great deal of processing and purification until they become palatable and free of impurities. They provides zero calories and are 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. Find here a variety of brands of stevia-inulin blend.
Stevia | with SugarsStevia leaf extracts are food ingredients with GRAS status. The leaf extracts go through a great deal of processing and purification until they become palatable and free of impurities. They provides zero calories and are 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. Find here brands of stevia-carbohydrates blends. Most common carbohydrates include maltodextrin, glucose, and cellulose.
Stevia | with MaltodextrinMaltodextrin-based sweeteners that measure like sugar on a 1:1 ratio are included with 'blends with less sugar'. Maltodextrin is not a sugar, but is broken down into sugars (maltose & glucose) in our mouth, stomach, and small intestine, being absorbed as pure glucose.
Stevia | with Monk FruitStevia is the term used to refer to steviol glycosides (highly refined extracts from the leaves of the stevia plant)
Monk fruit is the term used to refer to mogrosides (extracts obtained from the luo han guo fruit)
Stevia | Dried LeafThe whole-leaf Stevia is dried, cut, and turn into a green powder. It has a very mild sweet taste and does not dissolve well. Extracts (highly refined with > or = 95% purity) from the leaf are approved by the FDA but the leaves itself are not due to inadequate toxicological information.
Is There a Stevia Without Any Additives or Fillers?
About 25 products contain pure stevia leaf extract—without any additives or fillers. They are super sweet, so a little goes a long way. Many products come with their own little measuring spoons. Start with the amount recommended by the seller and adjust to taste.
Can you bake with pure stevia or substitute it for sugar? Yes, but keep in mind that they don't offer bulk (volume and weight). They don't contribute to texture, shelf life, moisture retention, color, and aroma. And that's why the vast majority of the stevia sweeteners you find in stores are not going to be pure leaf extract. Keep scrolling down to see how most products mix extracts with a filler.
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Does Stevia Come In Liquid Form?
Liquid stevia sweeteners are blends of leaf extract and water. Flavors, preservatives, or both are often added to improve taste and maintain freshness. Some products have other ingredients (glycerin, erythritol, or maltodextrin) to mask off-flavors. Stevia simple syrup contains gums to make it viscous.
Stevia drops and syrups are mainly recommended for sweetening purposes as they provide no bulk (volume and mass) to our recipes. Liquid stevia works best in foods that don't require sugars for texture, shelf life, moisture retention, color, and aroma. They offer a convenient way to sweeten coffee, tea, and other drinks on-the-go.
What Can You Do With Dried Stevia Leaf?
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve the use of whole-leaf stevia or crude stevia extracts as ingredients in foods, as you can see in this FDA guidance. However, it is legal to sell whole dried leaves, which are also available ground to a green powder. You can use it to sweeten your hot beverages. To substitute one teaspoon of sugar, steep 1/2 to 1/4 teaspoon of the green powder or 6 to 7 leaves per cup of tea or coffee. The leaves have a characteristic bitter, licorice-like aftertaste.
Why is Stevia Combined with Erythritol?
I'm often asked, Why is stevia mixed with erythritol and other fillers? The reason is stevia extracts in pure form are super sweet. A good rule of thumb is one teaspoon of table sugar is generally equivalent to just 1/64 of a teaspoon of pure stevia. Because pure leaf extracts provide sweet taste with tiny volume and weight, sugar substitutes often require fillers or bulking agents so they can have an overall resemblance to table sugar. The basic idea is that something is needed to fill in that empty space.... keep reading >>>
The most common bulking agent in stevia sweeteners is erythritol. Others include maltodextrin, glucose, inulin, xylitol, and allulose. Bulking agents not only improve the taste of stevia extracts but also make it easier for you to measure sugar substitutes at home. Instead of having to measure or weigh minuscule amounts of product, you can use measuring tools you have in your kitchen.
Common questions I get include: How do I substitute stevia for sugar? How much stevia equals one teaspoon (cup or tablespoon) of sugar? The answer depends on the product you are using.
Some stevia sweeteners are 1:1 sugar replacement, i.e., spoon for spoon, they are as sweet as table sugar. Others are 2:1 (2 teaspoons of sugar is as sweet as 1 teaspoon of monk fruit) up to 10:1. To find out how sweet a product is, you need to pay attention not only to the brand but also the type of product.
For example, the Truvía brand has several types of stevia sweeteners with different sweetness levels—Organic Liquid, Nectar, Packets, Spoonable, Sticks, Sweet Complete, Confectioners, Cane Sugar Blend, Brown Sugar Blend, Baker's Bag. On this page, all infographics list the amount of each product needed to replace 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Do all stevia sweeteners have erythritol? No, but most do. I've found about 60 stevia erythritol blends and list them here. Erythritol (Ah-REETH-ra-tall) is currently one of the most popular sweeteners. It is promoted as "natural," zero-calories, tooth-friendly, well-tolerated in the digestive system, and zero effect on blood sugar levels. However, it's less sweet than table sugar and creates a cooling (cold) sensation when dissolved in the mouth—which feels like we are sucking a mint [but without the mint flavor]. When blended with stevia leaf extracts, erythritol's taste is improved.
I wrote extensively about erythritol in two blog posts: Erythritol: Powdered vs. Granulated and Sweetener Review: Erythritol | Is it Really "Natural" and The Perfect Sweetener?. I also have a page called Erythritol Buying Guide, where I showcase all sweeteners containing erythritol in stores in 2020.
Stevia leaf extract, stevia extract, steviol glycoside is not just one ingredient. It might be reb A, reb D, reb M, or stevioside. The best tasting sweeteners have blends of a variety of steviol glycosides. All stevia sweeteners have a distinct flavor and work best when combined with stronger ingredients such as coffee, chocolate, or citrus fruits.
Note that synthetic extracts (read about it here) may also be called stevia. They are not directly isolated from the leaf, meaning they are produced by one of the following processes: (1) bypass the leaf altogether, and use sugars which are converted into synthetic reb D and/or reb M, or (2) extracts from the leaf are enzymatically modified to produce reb D and/or reb M.
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