Stevia – What it Is and How to Use It

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What is Stevia? Find out about Stevia and How to use this low carb sweetener.

Stevia is quite the “sweetener in the news” these days.

It used to be something most hadn’t heard about, but now it’s showing up all over the place–in bottled drinks, in the sweetener section of your grocery store, and on blogs (such as mine :).)

But what is stevia, what are the different forms it’s available in, and how can you use it?

I get loads of questions about stevia from readers.  Mostly it’s about how to use it, how to measure it, etc. So–in the hopes of having a helpful “go to” resource for all of you, here is more about this amazingly sweet plant and how you can use it.

What is Stevia?

Stevia Rebaudiana is a plant in the stevia group of plants that grows wild in Paraguay and Brazil. The glucosides in the leaves are the extremely sweet part of the plant.

Stevia:

– is super sweet (the leaves are about 10-15 times as sweet as sugar while the extract is about 300 times as sweet as sugar)

– has no calories,

doesn’t feed candida (read What is Candida-The Beginning of My Sugar-Free Life),

– has a glycemic index of zero (meaning it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels), making it a sweetener of choice for those who suffer from candida, or who have sugar metabolism issues, like diabetes.

Mercola even thinks it’s a great sweetener, and if you are familiar with him, you know how picky he can be about things.  (Source)

There are some who have questions about stevia’s safety.  I have done quite a bit of research into this and I feel very comfortable using it. More of that in a future post. For now, let’s focus on what the various forms of stevia are and how you can use them.

NOTE: Product links in this post are affiliate links. If you purchase after clicking on them I might make a commission.  I so appreciate your support of my blog.

Different Forms of Stevia

The plant – plain and simple

The stevia leaves can be dried, crushed, and used as a sweetener. They are sweeter than sugar, but the “licorice-y” aftertaste is stronger than that of the pure white powder extract.  You can also buy stevia in this powdered form.

I have never used this form. I hope to grow stevia myself soon and get more experience with this and also make stevia extract with it!

Green Stevia Drops

This is a liquid form of stevia, but it is not refined.  Approximately 1 Tablespoon of this is the equivalent of 1 cup of sugar.  It has a stronger aftertaste than the refined powder with a more “licorice-y” taste.

I personally haven’t used this form either but hope to try it soon.

Stevia Blends

NuNaturals Packets

These typically come in convenient packets that make it easy to take with you and add to your favorite beverages while on the run. They also come in baking blends so you can easily use them 1:1 for baking.

I never buy these, for several reasons.

a.  Most of them have fillers that are not what I want in my body (natural flavors, etc.).

b.  They are a expensive compared to using the pure extract powder.

Remember, I am cheap – er – frugal.  I would rather carry around my little container of stevia extract powder in my purse with a little stainless steel scoop and use that.  See below for scoop info.

c.  The packets are just more garbage to add to landfills.  As much as we can, we try to be a “no throw away” family. If everyone does their part we can clean up this world little by little.

Liquid Stevia Drops

Root Beer Drops

These drops have become really popular over the past several years. They come in many varieties–both plain and flavored.

You can get mint, lemon, orange, chocolate, and even fancy flavors such as English ToffeeRoot Beer, Hazelnut and Vanilla Cream!  We love these drops and get them occasionally.  My kids love having a treat of flavored water.  The root beer and chocolate drops are their current favorites.

If you are trying to get your family off of soft drinks, these drops are a great thing to bring into your household. You could buy sparkling water and add these to it.  And if you’re advanced in your fermentation skills, you could add these to your “fizzed” water kefirs or kombuchas.

I have a recipe for Homemade Liquid Stevia Drops that is a super frugal way to make your own stevia drops for use in recipes, beverages, or hot cereals.

Pure Stevia Extract Powder

NuStevia 1 oz Spice Jar w Cap

This is the form of stevia that I most often use.

It is a super sweet powdery substance that comes in containers from 1 oz up to 1 lb.  I currently buy the 1 lb size to save money (I buy almost everything in bulk). Stevia’s shelf-life is long and that container lasts us about 1 year or more.  And we use stevia a lot.

I use NuNaturals because I like the taste of it the best (some of the stevia powders out there have a stronger aftertaste), plus it is extracted without chemicals.  There are a few other companies out there that extract with just water like NuNaturals, but this one is my choice for taste, strength, and purity.  Other brands I have tried are not as strong so you end up using more which costs more in the long run.

How to Use Stevia

There are tons of recipes using stevia on the internet (and on my blog :).)

You can use stevia to sweeten drinks (like my Sugar-Free Lemonade), or my Rich and Nutritious Coffee Substitute.

Or, you can mix some into warm cereals, or put on top of cold cereals (we don’t eat these much at all, but I do like Erewhon for a healthy option.)  One of our favorites in this Cream of Brown Rice.

Baking with stevia is a little tricky.  Here are some tips that I think will help.

Mix It Up

I find that it’s better to use a mixture of alternative sweeteners to get a smoother “more like sugar” taste.  Plus, stevia on its own has no bulking agents so you will have to add something to your recipe to get it to work something like the original if you are only using stevia.

What I typically do is cut the sweetener in a recipe in half and use one half of a no glycemic index, candida-diet-friendly sweetener (like xylitol in my case.  You of course, can use a sweetener that is appropriate for your health needs) and then use stevia powdered extract for the other half.   See the next section for measuring stevia.

Measuring Stevia

Since the stevia extract powder is about 300 times as sweet as sugar, a little goes a looooong way.  That’s why a 1 lb container lasts a long time.

But it can be pretty tricky measuring something so strong.

When I first started using stevia, I was working on a candida protocol via Whole Approach.  The ladies there were all talking about a “scoop” of stevia.

“Well, what on earth does a scoop of stevia look like?”, I wondered.

I soon found out when I bought my first container of stevia extract–it came with a teeny plastic scoop in the container (it was kind of hidden in the white powder) and it served its purpose well for a long time. However, it eventually broke and I found that few stevia extracts come with such a scoop. I ended up finding the same scoops at soap making companies, but they broke quickly so I had to find a better alternative.

These mini stainless measuring scoops fit the bill perfectly. I only needed one of the scoops, but they are pretty reasonable so I was willing to buy the set.

Norpro Mini Measuring Spoons

The 2nd smallest scoop is 1/32 of a teaspoon (the standard “stevia scoop” size) and it fits nicely in my small stevia container.

I purchased one of the smaller stevia containers (about a 3 oz size) and then refill it with stevia from the 1 pound size. Alternatively, you can of course find some other small container to hold your stevia.  This is the first brand of stevia I bought and it happened to be the right size for everyday use.  (If you choose to buy it, I hope the container is still the same size as it was years ago:).)

Converting for Stevia Use in Recipes

Typically I assume 1 scoop of stevia equals 2 Tablespoons of sugar. But that will depend on the type of stevia you use. I have found that the strengths really vary from brand to brand.

Same goes for the liquid drops.  I’ve found it hard to find a “one size fits all” chart to depend on so I recommend you use stevia “to taste” in your recipes and then keep track of what you like. I use NuNaturals all the time in my recipes so if you are using recipes from my blog, you will know that that brand will work. Perhaps I can figure something out to share in the future, but for now this is how I am using stevia in recipes that don’t call for it.

So–what do you think?

I hope that helps you figure out how to use this super sweet, all natural alternative sweetener and that it makes it easier for you to use it in your family should you need and/or choose to do so.

Do you use stevia? If so, what kind?

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  1. HELP!!!! I have used NuNaturals pure stevia in that 1 pound container for over a year, went to order more and found that they have changed the formula (and raised the price.) I have started trying other brands. Nothing tastes like the old nunaturals. I used it to sweeten my tea, my smoothies, desserts (when I have them.) EVERYTHING. I am devastated! All the other stevias I’ve tried taste awful. Can anyone please recommend something that tastes like the old nunaturals?! I would pay twice the price to find the good stuff. I’ve already contacted the company and they said they changed the formula due to their supplier changing (or some such thing.) They need to change back! Any suggestions? I’d even use a different sweetner. Anyone know anything about monk fruit (Lo han)? Or erythritol? Thanks in advance!

    • I started using the new formula and now I like it but you need to use more. I am trying other stevias and found one that I think I like. I was hoping to do a post on it. It’s not readily available and I’m not sure I like the powder but I liked their liquids. But the liquids are pricey. The lo han doesn’t work that great. Eryth is OK – about 70% as sweet as sugar. I use xylitol as well. Hard to know – I mix it up.

  2. I have a question… I’m reading reviews for the NuNaturals Pure Extract 16oz powder on Amazon and starting late 2013 everyone started complaining that the product was suddenly different. They’d all used it for years and all said the exact same thing – that it was no longer sweet even if you use 10x the required amount plus it leaves a bad aftertaste. Since you are (or were) a faithful user, can you shed any light on this? Have you purchased any in the past 6 months? If so, is it the same and from where do you get yours?

    Thanks…

  3. Paul Ohlstein says:

    I use NOW liquid stevia extract. 6 drops stevia extract + 2 tsp cocoa powder + 3/8 tsp vanilla extract + 9 oz water + 1 oz skim milk yield one mug of cocoa.

    1 TBSP of tart cherry concentrate + 5 drops liquid stevia extract + 10 oz water yields 1 mug of cherry tea.

    8 oz water + 3/8 cup old fashioned oats + 6 drops liquid stevia extract + 1 TBSP bulgur wheat + 1 TBSP ground flax seeds + 1 tsp molasses + 3 TBSP milk makes my breakfast porridge.

  4. Simone Lewis says:

    I always have digestive issues with foods and I’m trying to be as healthy as I can. I am just super sensitive. I gave up my Diet Coke habit and switched to Vitamin Water Zero. It has Stevia, but I don’t think it agrees with me. I haven’t noticed any problems when I’ve used Stevia before. Have you ever heard of anyone having issues with Stevia? I’ve quit the Vitamin Water, and I’m drinking tea….I know, I need to drink water…I’ll eventually get there. Thank you!

    • I think the Vitamin water has erythritol too. I sometimes have problems with that. I would think that might be your issue but of course I can’t advise.

  5. Alison (Perth WA) says:

    I have Nirvana Stevia Liquid concentrate with a use by date of July 2014. Could you advise if I can still use it and if so for how long considering its already nearly 6 months past the date?
    Many thanks

    Ali

    • Hi there. I am sorry but I can’t make shelf life claims. I would guess it most likely isn’t spoiled – you can call the company and ask them. Thanks for reading!

  6. Hi ladies!
    I use sweet Leaf stevia, Ive tried many other stevia brands and this is my favorite. It also has inulin which is fiber, a little help for me.
    My question is, if a recipe calls for 1 tbs or 1 cup of sugar, any amount, how do I know the amount on liquid stevia? I don’t use powder stevia that often, so Id really appreciate if someone knows or has tried the convert ions before and could share it with me.

  7. Is there a form of Stevia without the after taste? What is it called and where is it sold?
    Regarding Eryithitol. Since it is not brown, the original color of sugar cane, has it been processed?
    If so, how?

    • I am currently trying a bunch of stevias to find one I really like. This one is pretty good. http://amzn.to/19q20KO (affiliate link)

      As far as erythritol is concerned, this is from the internet:

      Sugar is mixed with water and then fermented with a natural culture into erythritol. It is then filtered, allowed to crystallize, and then dried. The finished product is white granules or powder that resembles sugar.

      Hope that helps.

  8. Just had to say Thanks, I Wuv u! LOL! Really needed these carob chips!