Anyone that regularly visits a coffee shop nowadays know that there's unlimited options of additive ingredients that can be added to your drink order. An additive that you may be hearing more and more of is stevia, and for good reason. You may watch others take a frothy drink to the counter and sprinkle the granular powder into it. It looks like sugar. It sounds like sugar. You’ve even heard it tastes like sugar too! But what’s the hype? Aren’t fake sugars the culinary equivalent to smoking a pack a day?
Today we’re diving into what exactly stevia is and how to use it in your own cooking.
The reason stevia, a natural sweetener, is gaining so much attention today is not so much what it adds to cooking, but what it doesn’t; it’s calorie free! Unlike other calorie-free sweeteners created in a lab, it is derived from a plant. That means no weird chemicals or headaches. The plant is part of the Asteraceae family, which is related to daisy and ragweed.
This sweetener replacement is sold as both a liquid or powdered, but beware: stevia is 200 to 400 times more sweeter than sugar of the same concentration. In its natural form, it is plant-based, but many of the products sold in stores are very processed and sometimes mixed with other ingredients. The brand Truvia, for example, mixes stevia extract with sugar alcohols, which can cause problems for some people.
For your own uses, stevia is best for adding a pinch of sweetness to your regular coffee, smoothies, etc. Generally, it can be used any time you would traditionally use sugar. Stevia.com recommends replacing 1 TBSP of sugar with 1 to 1 ½ TSP of a stevia baking blend. Our recommendation? Check the label of the specific brand you’re using and follow its directions for replacing sugar. It’s also important to be conscious of the fact that it can affect the texture and taste differently than sugar. It may take some experimentation when first testing the new ingredient. Stevia is known to have a slightly bitter taste, especially when used in large quantities in powder form.
An all-natural, calorie free sweetener is a YES in our College Chefs books! However it is important to look out for additives in various brands touting “stevia” on their label.
The difference in taste isn’t for everyone, but for those looking to cut back on sugar and calories, it’s a great alternative!