Why people don’t like stevia
People often tell me that they don’t like stevia. When I hear this, I tell them that not all brands of stevia are created equal. Some brands have a strong aftertaste. Others blend easily into food without being noticed. Some brands have a cleaner taste. I’ll tell you my recommendations for brands in a minute. However, two other issues with stevia must be addressed. I think they are responsible for the unpleasant experiences that many people associate with using stevia.
Why you need to measure carefully
Many people just pour or sprinkle stevia in without realizing the error in doing this. Stevia can vary from 50 to 100 times sweeter than sugar to 100 to 300 times sweeter. Because it is so concentrated, it’s imperative that you methodically measure before adding it. A tiny bit goes a long way and just a tad too much can overpowder a dish. Measuring carefully and adding stevia in tiny increments (if you don’t have a recipe to guide you or if the recipe offers a range for how much to add) allows you to know whether you need to add more of it to a recipe. Once you find the amount that works in a recipe, you can make note of it so that you can repeat your success the next time around and you can share your recipe with others and ensure their success with it.
What form of stevia are you using?
When people tell me they don’t like stevia, I usually ask them whether it was the taste that put them off or whether they experienced digestive stress from it. I also ask what kind, meaning what form, and what brand of stevia they’ve been using.
I find that many people have been using stevia packets that have added fillers and starches added. These starches help bulk up the stevia so that it measures more like sugar or artificial sweeteners. These plumped up stevia powders can cause digestive distress (usually in the form of GAS and bloating) for many people, particularly if the products contain FOS (fructo oligo saccharides) or inulin, both pre-biotics that can feed the growth of friendly bacteria in your gut. These substances can be problematic for people with sensitive digestion and for those who already eat a diet rich in foods that naturally contain FOS or inulin. Too much of these substances can cause immense discomfort for some. My recipes will not work with plumped up stevia packets. The fillers change the concentration and alter the amount that you need to add to a recipe.
Pure stevia extract powder and clear stevia extract liquid
I look for pure stevia extract powder with nothing adding (no fillers, no starches) or clear stevia extract liquid. These are my preferred forms. Of these, the clear stevia extract liquid is now my first choice. You can add it a drop at a time, as needed, and it dissolves more readily into foods than the powder.
What brand of stevia are you using?
Beyond that, there are several companies that make pure stevia extract powder and clear stevia extract liquid that have clean, clear tastes that I and many others have found pleasing (you still need to measure to avoid using too much stevia though!). These brands include Nu Naturals, Kal, and SweetLeaf Brands. I have spoken with other people who concur that they have great results with one or more of these brands. Bear in mind that some of these companies also makes stevia powders with added starches, FOS, or inulin, SO it is not enough to just look for these brands. It is also imperative that you look for specific products within this brand lines.
Why use stevia?
Using stevia in desserts can allow you to cut the total sugar load, whether you’re using honey, maple syrup, coconut palm sugar, or granulated sugar, by 30 to 50%. Cutting out this much sugar in any form can make a huge difference the amount of calories coming in. It can make a big difference on your blood sugar level and on the immune stress caused by whatrever caloric sweeteners you are ingesting. Using stevia (I prefer the liquid clear kind) in ice tea and smoothies can allow you to eliminate all caloric sweeteners and artificial sweeteners, thereby giving you a sweet taste without any empty calories.
Granted, pure stevia extract powder and liquid are refined products but the refining serves the purpose of allowing you to enjoy some sweets without adding caloric sweeteners and without resorting to using dangerous artificial sweeteners. For many people this can make a positive difference on many levels, whether you’re dealing with diabetes, low blood sugar issues, candida, obesity or the desire to avoid it, cancer, an autoimmune disorder, or some other issue.
How do you know how much stevia to add
In desserts, it helps to have a chart that tells you how to convert from sugar to honey and from sugar to stevia and how to combine stevia with honey, maple syrup, or soft pitted dates. I have listed such charts in my Ice Dream Cookbook. It also helps to have model recipes to use as a guide. I’ve created these in the same cookbook, including recipes for frozen desserts, cookies, fruit sauces, and chocolate sauces. My Ice Dream Cookbook was the first coconut milk based frozen dessert book on the market. You’ll find some sample recipes from that book on this blog under these category headings: desserts, fruit desserts, frozen desserts, sauces, and cookies.
Here is one of my favorite cookie recipes and one that shows you how to combine stevia and honey skillfully. It’s been popular with my cooking students, clients, and friends and it’s a great way to enjoy a grain free, gluten free macaroon that is sweet without being cloyingly sweet. I hope you try it.
My Favorite Macaroons
Hands-on: 30 minutes/ Cooking: 20 to 25 minutes / Yield: 24 macaroons
These wheat-free, grain-free, dairy-free treats are easy to assemble. The combination of honey and stevia, a noncaloric herbal swetener, reduces the need for refined sugar. The coconut improves immune function, so bar any guilt about making or eating these.
Notes: Test your oven for accuracy with an oven thermometer (the kind that stays in the oven). If your oven runs higher or lower than the temperature it’s set at, you can adjust the temperature accordingly, or have a technician recalibrate it for accuracy. If using liquid egg whites in the recipe below, do not shake the carton before measuring out the amount listed below. Let the measured amount of egg whites come to room temp for 1 to 2 hours before beating.
FYI: Supermarkets rarely sell unsweetened, sulfite-free flaked coconut. Look for it on the baking aisle or in the bulk foods section of natural foods stores, or buy it over the Internet. If you get medium- or large-flaked coconut, pulse it in a blender or food processor to create a fine powder, fluff it up with a fork, then measure out what you need. This recipe can be doubled.
Holiday Prep Tip: Assemble batches up to 2 months ahead. Layer the cookies in metal cookie tins or cardboard gift boxes sold in cake decorating stores, separating each layer with parchment paper. If you plan to freeze them, you can slip cardboard gift boxes in zip-top bags, suck out the air with a straw, seal the bag, and freeze. This will keep the boxes from getting wet or attracting ice crystals.
4 egg whites from large or extra-large eggs (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract powder (one with no fillers or starches made by Nu Naturals or Sweet Leaf) or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon clear stevia extract liquid (Nu Naturals, Kal, or Sweet Leaf)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or alcohol-free vanilla flavoring
2 cups unsweetened, sulfite-free, finely shredded coconut; additional 1/4 to 3/4 cup if needed
Virgin-pressed coconut oil, avocado oil, or palm shortening to grease baking sheets, unless you are using unbleached parchment
1 macaroon (24 per batch): 46 calories, 1 gram protein, 6 grams carbohydrate (1/2 gram fiber), 2 grams fat, 12 milligrams sodium