Stevia – What it Is and How to Use It

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Stevia - What Stevia Is and How to Use It. Find out about the different forms of stevia, which ones I recommend, and how to measure it.

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 bought my first container of stevia extract, it came with a teeny plastic scoop in the container 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. Do all of them have a licorice-y aftertaste? I really dislike that and it has prevented me from using truvia or other ones that I have found.

  2. Sandi in MN says:

    Adrienne thanks for posting this. I use NuNaturals Pure Stevia Extract too. My kids love it to make their own lemonade either with kefir water or just lemon water. I am currently out :( and miss having it in my green tea every morning. I’ll have to check out your recipe to make my own Stevia drops.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I like the KAL brand for taste. It is powdered have you ever tried that brand?

    • KAL is the first brand I tried. I never found out about their extraction procedure. Do you know about that? I linked to it in the post.

  4. Great info Adrienne! I, too, have a set of stainless steel spoons – a dash, pinch and smidgen – that decrease in the same proportion as measuring spoons. So the smidgen is 1/32 t. (I don’t have the smallest one in your set.) I have not used stevia for baking as sugar also adds bulk in recipes.
    Have you tried xylitol? That is what my doctor recommends. Xylitol also has health benefits and is recommended for diabetics to regulate insulin. It is used 1:1 for sugar so bulk is the same. I haven’t found any yet but I hope to. I would love to make muffins and granola bars again to take with me in case I need to eat when I am on the go.

  5. Has anyone used Rapadura before? Or Panela? There’s another called Jaggery but apparently it’s not quite the same as the other two. I’ve never used them, but am interested in knowing where the best, cheapest place is to get them.

    • Rapadura is apparently just like Sucanat. It is lower glycemic index than white sugar but still about 80 out of 100. Panela is apparently the same. From what I’ve read, jaggery is similar but heated at a higher temp. You can get sucanat at Country Life Natural Foods fairly reasonably if you are in the midwest or order for delivery.

  6. Kimberly says:

    I LOVE the flavored stevia from SweetLeaf. I use the chocolate in my coffee with real cream. My kiddos love to put chocolate and vanilla creme flavors in their milk for yummy chocolate milk!

    • MMMMM :).

      • Something interesting has happened with NuNaturals’ NuStevia Pure Stevia Extract in the last month. According to their own customer service representatives (or maybe their owner – I don’t remember), the company who was providing them with the secret proprietary additive that they were adding to Pure Stevia Extract decided to stop selling to NuNaturals and is now selling this product to another company. I sure wish I knew which company it was. Anyway, there was a shortage everywhere in ordering the NuStevia Pure Extract, and when NuNaturals began stocking the online stores and brick/mortar stores again a few weeks later, it is with a different product. One customer service rep told someone on the phone that instead of using whole leaf stevia now, they are using cut leaf stevia, and that they have had to switch to a new provider for their source of “natural flavors”. Thus, you’ll notice that your new bottles of NuStevia Pure Extract will be slightly cream in color, instead of white. The volume in the container will be higher, and you’ll need to use more of the product to get the same sweetness as you enjoyed before. Some people who are relying on this product while using the new Trim Healthy Mama book are very disappointed with the new taste of NuStevia Pure Extract. I have a new bottle and an old bottle in my cupboard, and there is definitely a difference between the color and volume. I haven’t tasted/used the new bottle yet, so I can’t speak to the difference in taste, but some people using Trim Healthy Mama have said that they are switching to the KAL or NOW brands because the taste of the new stevia is so poor that they can’t get used to it.

        I was very disappointed to hear this, so when I do open and begin to use my new bottle, I’ll call the company to let them know if the product isn’t useable.

        • I am confused about this. The Pure Extract from NN that I have has no Natural Flavors in it. I have addressed this in previous comments. Can you send me a link somewhere?

          • Oh, you’re right, Adrienne. The 1-lb. package apparently doesn’t have any natural flavors, but the 1 oz. container does. But interestingly, many of the gals on the Trim Healthy Mama Facebook page are saying that the taste of their new 1-lb. packages is now awful, definitely not the same stuff it’s always been.

            So something completely different is being done…something in the processing, or ??? I’ll try to find the direct quotes that different gals told us after calling NuNaturals and speaking directly to them.

            Okay, here’s what one person shared: NuNaturals said they are no longer making the product that we all know and love. They are now making a “food grade” sweetener – instead of a food supplement – and calling it the same thing. Whole leaf stevia can only be labeled as dietary supplement-due to govt regulations. They desire to have product that can be labeled and sold as “FOOD”, and in the meantime it will mean some change. He encouraged me to keep trying it in different amounts, etc and see if I can get used to it and enjoy it. If not, they will certainly refund my money. They think it tastes the same. When asked if they will bring back the old product, their answer is, “Not at this time.” When asked if enough people requested the OLD product, would they be willing to bring it back? He said that the man who owns the company will certainly “listen” to what his costumers request, and that if we wanted to let him know of our concerns, we could contact him. If any of you are interested in contacting the company yourself to request the old NuNaturals, you can call them at 1-800-753-4372 or email them info@nunaturals dot com

            Expiration dates of April 2016 and later, plus 2017, and 2018 are the new product.

            An email reply contained this message:

            “We are going to write about the change on our website and should be posted soon. We had to make the change to begin a process that will allow us to market our Stevia products as sweeteners and not as dietary supplements. The reasons we need to do this are very complex.

            One of the differences with our extract is that the volume by weight is different. A teaspoon of our former extract weighed 2.7 grams per teaspoon. Our current extract weighs 1.7 grams per teaspoon. To get the same sweetness, you would need to use 2 teaspoons (3.4 grams/ tsp) of our current extract. Just under 1/8 of a tsp should taste as sweet as 2 tsp of sugar. Factoring the increase in volume and the .7 grams more that you would use to get the same sweetening power, this does represent a price increase to you as a consumer. I wish this was not the case but it is within the same limits that other products on the market cost. While there are no pure Reb-A products currently being marketed (we do have plans to do this for those who don’t mind the aftertaste of Reb-A), the cost to get the same sweetening power of 3.4 grams of our powder would cost about 40% more and with a distinct upper pallet, dry lingering aftertaste with a pure Reb-A product.

            We believe that our extract is still the best tasting extract of all Stevia products being sold. I have been using our current extract for over 4 months now (way before we started marketing it) and find great pleasure using it everyday. I believe that if you continue to use our current extract, you will find that “sweet spot” also. The new extract neutralizes bitterness in your food or beverage on your first sip or bite, followed by a very nice lingering sweetness. With each sip or bite, the sweetness builds.

            Our motivation is not profit. In fact, it cost us more to produce the extract that we are now using, so we are making less money on the Stevia products now.

            We are passionate about our Stevia products and are committed to improving them. We believe in their present form, NuStevia is still the best tasting Stevia product on the market. If you should find a better product on the market, please let me know what your preference is. I have have used all the well known brands and still believe ours is the best. I hope after trying them you agree.

            Be Well,

            Warren Sablosky
            NuNaturals, Inc. “

            • Thanks. I will try to look into this this week.

            • My 1 pound container says 2/2016. I hope it’s the old version….it’s not creamy in color at all and measures like the book says.

              • I just got off the phone w/ NN. I am going to send an email to find out more. They said they had to make a switch to a food grade, more pure stevia and that they always have had natural flavors in their stevia, which is news to me. They did say that the flavor is a plant extract, so I am not concerned about that. I will up date as I get more info and I am going to try to get a sample to see what is going on. Thanks everyone!

          • Hi! I bought the NuNaturals Pure White Stevia Extract in powder form that you recommend and was surprised to see Natural Flavors as an extra ingredient. I bought it from amazon about 3 months ago. Maybe call them and ask about that? Your very good at finding things out :)

            • I heard something changed. I will call and find out what is going on. There’s a comment in my board here that has a little bit of info but not all that I am looking for.

  7. ToriAnn says:

    Where do you buy your brand of stevia in bulk?

    • I couldn’t find the 1 lb size anymore…but I found 2.2 pounds at Iherb. Here is the link and if you use my code: RUR466, you will get $10 off our first order of $40 or more or $5 off your order less than $40. It’s my referral code. Hope that helps! They are out of stock right now but you can sign up to get notified when it’s back in stock.

  8. I have two big stevia plants that I am hoping to dry and use. They are taking off and getting huge so I think it should be soon too! You should plant your own plant – they are really easy to grow!

  9. Thanks for linking up, Adrienne! I look forward to hearing what you find out about the new NuNaturals….you’re excellent at research so I know you’ll get to the bottom of this ASAP. :-)

  10. About a year ago, I got so excited about using stevia that I bought several different brands in every form that you mentioned above. Unfortunately, I got very dizzy every time that I used any form of stevia. I’ve heard that is pretty common. I’m bummed because stevia isn’t cheap and I have lots of it in my cabinets at home.

    • I’ve heard that from some. Rare, but I have heard it. Have you tried NuNaturals or Wisdom Naturals? They are the most natural and sometimes folks have reactions to the additives or extraction methods. Also, are you allergic to ragweed? That can be an issue. I would not say that this reaction is common at all. Do you know someone who would like to trade or borrow from you?

  11. We’ve grown Stevia in our garden for many years. And love it. Particularly my wife, who uses it with mint tea.
    We’ve found that our stevia plants have varying degrees of sweetness (not tons, but we can tell a slight difference) and varying degrees of the after-taste. We picked out favorite plant (we’ve grown all our stevia from seed from open-pollinated, heirloom seed companies) and we’ve begun propagating that one by cuttings.
    So for people who want to grow it in a garden, I would recommend growing several plants from seed, testing each one to determine a favorite, and then propagating that one with cuttings. It’s much more economical that way, and then you’re able to choose the plant with the best sweetness/flavor and propagate it yourself. If you buy a single plant from a nursery, it may have more or less sweetness and more or less of an aftertaste, but you’ll only have one plant. And it’s more expensive anyway.

  12. I have gone through what feels like every brand of Stevia out there…from the packets, to the liquid to the straight powder. All had varying degrees of sweetness and aftertaste. My functional medicine doctor (naturopath) had me eliminate corn from my diet, which I thought was pretty simple since I avoid it most of the time anyway, but lo and behold, my NuNaturals packets have it (maltodextrin). Note that maltodextrin can also be made from rice, potato or wheat and since I cannot have wheat whatsoever I decided that NuNaturals is no longer okay for me. Pity, because I have 2 canisters for home use and 2 boxes for travel :’(

    I decided to go with the KAL brand and I was shocked at how much stronger it is. A tiny little bit makes my coffee or tea perfect and I, too, make lemonade with it (mineral water, lemon juice and stevia). It’s taken me a while to figure out how much/little to use before it’s too much to handle. I have also learned that it does not work well in baked goods…I’m guessing the liquid version is better than that but I haven’t found a liquid version I like yet. Although I have only tested them in coffee, not in baking/cooking.

    • I never use the packets (and I mentioned that in the post) due to additives. More money plus stuff I don’t want. I thought NN was better tasting than KAL — have you tried the extract from NN? Thanks! NN’s and Wisdom Naturals have liquids I like but I will be trying another one too.

    • KAL stevia has changed and it now contains maldextrin. You can read about the change on Amazon (go to the page for the 3.5oz KAL stevia product and read the many new negative comments). Also, if you can find this in a store, you’ll see it on the label.

  13. GiGi Eats Celebrities says:

    Stevia is my SAVYOR! I don’t know what I would do without it!! Ah that’s right, I probably would have loaded my body with CRAP SPLENDA! NuNaturals is definitely best!

  14. Thanks for the information – I don’t know why, but Stevia still makes me nervous. I have had candida issues in the past though, so if they come back I may consider giving it a go.

  15. I just started using Stevia (in the Raw) as I am on the Ultimate Candida Diet. It’s new to me and I find myself just staying away from products that need sweetened in general because I fear the whole “zero calorie” thing. It just makes me feel like it’s a “diet” product that will lead to some chronic disease. I would love to read some more intensive studies on Stevia.

  16. I have gone through the same process some of the people in the comments have. We ran out of our 1# NN stevia and everyone was out of stock. So I ordered a small shaker to hold us over until people were restocked. It came and was so different! Much weaker but also bitter. I called the company and she talked about changing suppliers and the new product being different. She said they have just come out with a new product, Reb99. She said it is even sweeter than the old product, so use it carefully until you learn quantities. I finally just got it, in a plastic pouch, as they don’t have a container for it yet. Just trying it today. She also sent me a small sample of NN Pure GS extract.
    It is frustrating to have found such a great product and then have it change. I am hoping this new one turns out to be good, as I have never found another one I like as well. I have used KAL, Body Ecology and the Sweet Leaf and have not cared for any of them.
    I look forward to seeing what you think of the new ones, or if you find another stevia you like. I appreciate your blog so much. Thank you!

  17. I agree that it’s better to use stevia, but I’ve yet to find a brand I can trust. Check out the recent reviews on Amazon for NuNaturals and you’ll see what I mean. They’ve changed the product. I’ve seen this happen with the most popular stevia brands. I’m sure that the Frontier brand, which is still green, is much better to use, but I know I won’t be able to stand the taste and I don’t want to waste money trying it and then not liking it. So I keep reading about stevia and trying to find one that most people like, but I still haven’t found it yet.

  18. Hi! I was checking in to see if you were able to find an alternative stevia that does not taste bitter like the reformulated NN brand. I m so bummed out about them changing suppliers. I have used NN for at least 8 years now and having a hard time finding a replacement. Any suggestions or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

  19. Have you seen this?? so hard to know what to buy/use now!! :(

    http://foodbabe.com/2013/04/25/stevia-good-or-bad/

    • I did see that. I am going to have a response to this and the many other stevia posts out there soon. I think a lot of her info is really lacking and slanted. This is the way a lot of info on stevia is out there. Either making claims with no research or only mentioning problematic products w/ no good alternatives besides growing your own plants. Make sure you are subscribed to my blog – you’ll get the update :).http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=wholenewmomfeed

      • So what’s the scoop on NuNaturals? I, like many others, went through the same issue. Loved the old…don’t like the new…but don’t know what’s out there that’s better. Have you tried the new reb99 they have? Is that like the old one by chance?

      • Eagerly awaiting your experiments! Did you find a stevia you liked? I see that you were trying several out and that we should go to your blog, but I’m unable to open your blog. I hope you’ll post your results on here too! Thanks for sharing so much knowledge.

        • Not sure. You can’t open my blog? You are on my blog :). I am using Nu Naturals’ new one but I can’t have stevia for a few more weeks now so I am going to have to take this up at another point :).

    • The problem with the FoodBabe article is that she only wrote about stevia brands that contain extra ingredients. The reality is that there are stevia brands that contain ONLY stevia but for whatever reason, she chose to ignore them in her article.

  20. If it is past its expiration date is it still ok to use?

  21. 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.

  22. 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…

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

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