Home cooks looking to cut calories in their baked goods can turn to stevia, a natural sweetener, to replace sugar. Be mindful that the sweetened food bears many of the same outcomes as sugar. Stevia will not pack on calories, but it can trick the body into eating more, so be aware of how much food you are consuming.
Varieties of Stevia
Stevia can be purchased in three forms: liquid, powder and granular. Liquid stevia is especially potent. Powdered stevia, though similar in texture to confectioners’ sugar, often has a bitter aftertaste and is generally less sweet. Granular stevia is the most similar to granular white sugar, but it’s still sweeter and should not be used in a one-to-one conversion.
Although it’s a good alternative for sweet treats on a diet, stevia was found to negatively impact blood sugar levels in diabetics. And, even though the natural sweetener registers zero on the glycemic index, according to a 2016 study, blood sugar in some diabetics spiked higher when eating stevia. However, the FDA has approved the use of certain stevia extracts, which it generally recognizes as safe.
What Types of Stevia Are Good for Baking?
Liquid stevia can be purchased in different flavors, but avoid the kind that contains alcohol. Like other extracts, such as imitation vanilla, alcohol tends to leave an aftertaste. Liquid stevia is easily incorporated into wet mixes and batters, but any recipe that calls for ¼ cup of sugar or less is also an opportunity to use liquid stevia.
Powdered stevia should generally be avoided when baking because the conversion requires so much to achieve the same sweetness while mitigating the bitter aftertaste. Granular stevia, however, works well in baked goods and can be added in almost any recipe that sugar is called for. Granular stevia is best used in recipes that call for more than 1/4 cup of sugar. Note that stevia does not caramelize, so do not replace sugar with granular stevia in recipes when you are making a dish like creme brulee, because the stevia will not brown and harden.
How Much Stevia Do I Use?
Depending on the type of stevia used, the natural sweetener can be 30 to 300 times sweeter than sugar; therefore, a lot less stevia is required for most baking recipes. Understanding conversions of stevia to sugar is important to ensure that recipes are not too sweet.
Generally, 1 tablespoon of granulated stevia is equal to ½ cup of sugar; therefore, 2 tablespoons of stevia replaces 1 cup of sugar. To put this into perspective, one packet of stevia is roughly one-tenth of a tablespoon of stevia. This means that to replace a cup of sugar, you’ll need 20 packets of stevia.
To use liquid stevia as a replacement for a tablespoon of sugar, simply add 15 drops or 3 milliliters. For measurements closer to a quarter cup, add 1/2 teaspoon. A half-cup of sugar can be replaced by a full teaspoon of liquid stevia.
To meet your needs with even more ease, you can purchase blends of baking stevia at the grocery store. Such blends are made specifically for baking, therefore eliminating the bitter aftertaste. These products also generally come with a conversion chart of sugar to stevia on their label that tells you how to convert that particular brand and type.
For conversions of powdered or granular stevia to liquid form, keep in mind that 1 teaspoon of liquid is the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of sugar. Liquid stevia is generally always more potent than powdered or granulated stevia, so use an easy hand when adding to batters, baking recipes and drinks like coffee.