Stevia sweetener from fresh or dried stevia plant leaves is a really good sugar alternative.
In the search for sugar alternatives, fresh and dried stevia leaves are at the very top of my list. Luckily, nature provides. Stevia plant is a perfect sugar substitute. And it’s easy to find too!
Stevia extracts have their pros and cons, whereas, with the leaves, you have nothing to worry about. Its flavor is not extreme in natural form, and it blends well with other ingredients for cooking.
If you’re on a ketogenic or low carb diet, or if you are dealing with a chronic disease such as Type 2 Diabetes, then stevia plant is a wonderful option. If you’ve tried the extract before and didn’t like it, I’d recommend trying stevia sweetener made from brewed leaves.
I try to always use a certified organic brand of dried stevia leaves like these ones:
[amazon box=”B00J8ON86M” template=”horizontal”]
I choose to brew a stevia tea with these and then use that “tea” to replace sugar in our low carb Thai recipes. It works wonders and helps the recipes keep their authentic taste while lowering the overall carbohydrate count.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia sweeteners are the best way to substitute sugar in your cooking. I prefer to use fresh stevia leaves for mine. Stevia plant comes from the “Asteraceae family.” The most popular stevia plant species, stevia rebaudiana, hail from Paraguay and Brazil. In these countries, people have used stevia for centuries within their cooking. An Italian botanist by the name of Moises Santiago Bertoni was the one that brought stevia rebaudiana to fame, but in reality, it was in use long before this.
The Guarani natives called stevia plant, “kaa-he”, which translates into “sweet herb”. In parts of the southwest US, where it grows natively, it is referred to as “candy leaf” (or “Sweet Leaf” if you’re a Black Sabbath fan). If you want to look back into the history of stevia, here’s a good article explaining the history behind the infamous stevia plant and its many uses beyond culinary use.
Is Stevia Good For You?
Yes, in multiple ways. According to the Journal of Medicinal Foot, stevia compounds contain good-for-you phytochemicals, including phenols and flavonoids. This 2017 article also states that these stevia compounds have the potential to naturally treat many of today’s endocrine diseases associated with metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, hypertension).
It also helps you consume less sugar. This is where its real health benefits lie. The harms of added sugars are very well documented and known. Stevia’s strong point is that it allows you to avoid damages sugar can cause. And not only that, using stevia helps you avoid artificial sweeteners, which are just as bad as mounds of cane sugar.
There are no carbs in stevia. It’s a no-calorie sugar substitute solution. Stevia plant has the power to change your eating habits in a very positive way, so I’d say, yes, stevia is very good for you.
Where To Find Stevia Sweetener
Once you’ve attained fresh or dried leaves, you have everything you need. You can find loose leaf stevia online. The extracts are available too if you want to try those out for yourself. They come in powdered and liquid concentrate form.
Different Types of Stevia:
- Stevia dried leaves
- Stevia fresh leaves
- Stevia liquid extract
- Stevia powder extract
IF you are using an extract, use extreme caution. Here’s an estimated sugar to stevia conversion if you go the extract route.
Stevia To Sugar Conversion:
|Sugar Amount||Stevia Powder Extract||Liquid Stevia Extract|
|1 cup||1 tsp||1 tsp|
|1 tbsp||1/4 tsp||5 drops|
|1 tsp||1/16 tsp (tiny pinch)||2 drops|
How To Prepare Stevia Leaves For Cooking
This is what I use in 90% of my cooking that calls for organic sugar. I like to call it “Stevia Tea.” To prepare the stevia tea for your cooking, just brew a pot of stevia loose leaf tea. That’s all it is. Just place the leaves in hot water for a minute or two, then strain. This is what you’ll use to cook with. The water looks dark when its ready.
Brewing leaves to make a flavored stevia water, or “stevia tea”, is an ideal way to replace that bit of sugar many recipes contain. When used lightly, it keeps the recipes intended flavor while avoiding the extra carbs from added sugars.
Stevia Sweetener in our Thai Keto recipes:
Thai food in itself is already nearly perfect. But there are a few ingredient swaps that I think are necessary if you’re shooting for even healthier eating, and fewer carbs. Stevia Tea is a perfect sugar replacement for Thai food recipes.
Many Thai recipes you wouldn’t think have sugar in them, do. A select few of those recipes do best with the organic palm sugar they call for, but most taste identical using a freshly brewed stevia sweetener alternative.
Stevia Vs Sugar
When it comes to cooking with stevia leaves, it’s very easy to do. For some of our recipes, like the laab (Thai Larb Recipe), actually do much better with the organic palm sugar that’s required of them in the authentic version of the recipe. Most recipes, however, do wonderfully with a freshly brewed stevia liquid sugar alternative. As far as baking with stevia, I’m not too experienced. Most of my desserts are “no bake desserts”.
Is Stevia Safe?
Stevia products such as “Stevia In The Raw” contain dextrose. These equal out to 1 packet to 2 tsp of sugar, but if you’re asking, “is stevia safe?” the answer is that because of added ingredients, the extracts are not as safe as all natural leaves. Each brand will have their own spin on the stevia products, from quality to taste to added ingredients.
This is why I stay away from all of them and just use dried leaves. I’m currently growing stevia, so I use fresh leaves in some of my desserts when the couple stevia plants I have are healthy and leafy.
Use stevia with caution.
Because working with stevia extract is a bit like handling dynamite, I prefer to brew fresh or dried stevia leaves as my go-to sugar substitute when cooking with it. You might end up making more than you need when brewing the sweetener. Stevia tea doesn’t store well, so you’re best off dumping out the extra just in case you ponder about just using more in the recipe. Even though it’s not an extract, it can still alter the intended flavor if you use too much.
In my cooking, stevia loose leaf tea has established itself as a solid sugar replacement. I use it over the extracts in our low carb Thai recipes because I know it’s 100% natural, and because it doesn’t alter the flavor of the dish.
It’s great that stevia leaves are so easy to attain.
Here are three more good dried stevia leaf options available on Amazon.
[amazon box=”B00QWTVL88,B06XB48RGY,B01HU4ADJQ” grid=”3″]
Any of these are perfect for brewing a fresh batch of organic stevia non-sugar sweetener tea, for cooking with.
What’s your go-to sugar substitute?
I’m always on the lookout for something new!