Stevia is widely considered to be a great sugar alternative. It is both an effective sweetener and healthier than sugar. That said, there are quite a few differences between stevia and sugar. It is easy to ruin a recipe by simply switching out sugar for stevia if you are unaware of how to use the latter. Follow the dos and don’ts below for the best results with stevia.
Do use the right amount of stevia when you are replacing sugar.
If you have done no research on stevia and have failed to read the instructions on the package, you could quite easily make the mistake that it is a 1:1 substitute for sugar. After all, it is a white powder with a similar appearance. This would be a mistake since undiluted stevia is many times sweeter than sugar.
Stevia’s sweetness is so concentrated that you can use about a 1/2 teaspoon of it to replace a cup of sugar. In some cases, you may be able to use as little as 1/3 teaspoon to replace a cup of sugar depending on your preferred level of sweetness. Note: some stevia products use bulking agents that make stevia a 1:1 equivalent of sugar.
Do use stevia to sweeten the right applications.
Because stevia does not have the same simple sweetness of plain refined sugar, you may get better results when you use it in dishes that have assertive flavors. You may detect a little bitterness from stevia in a mild dish that a strong flavor like coffee or chocolate may hide.
Do find a way to make up the missing bulk if you are using undiluted stevia.
When you replace sugar with stevia, you lose a lot of bulk. That bulk can affect the texture of baked goods as well as the consistency of jams and jellies. Because its sweetness is so much more concentrated than that of sugar, the volume of undiluted stevia is a lot less and this can throw the balance of other ingredients off.
Along with the stevia, you may need to add a neutral ingredient in some cases. Which ingredient you use depends on the recipe but your options can include increasing the amount of something that is already in the recipe or adding substitutes like egg whites, yogurt or crushed pineapple. Generally speaking, you will want to add about 1/3 cup of filler or bulk to make up for the missing sugar. In a jam or jelly, use a gelling agent like pectin to make the texture sufficiently syrupy. When replacing sugar, it helps to know the texture of the batter or dough should be when it is made with sugar so that you can better replicate it when using stevia.
Do include a small amount of sugar if you need caramelization.
Stevia does not caramelize, so a small amount of sugar may be necessary to give your dish the golden-brown color that comes when sugar is cooked.
Don’t expect stevia to work perfectly in an icing.
Unlike in baked goods and sauces, sugar’s structural role in icing makes it difficult to replace. It is impossible for undiluted stevia to play this same role. Your options are to use another sweetener for your icing, use a premade icing or opt for another style of topping — such as a fruit sauce — that you can sweeten with stevia.