I Tried 6 Zero Cal Sweeteners and Only One Tasted Like Sugar

As I sat down to a plate dotted with small piles of white powder I asked myself, “How did I get here?” I dabbed my finger into one of the mini mountains and examined the grains, then stuck it into my mouth. Cue Requiem for a Dream pupil dilating montage. 

No, I didn’t pick up a cocaine habit. I was alternating between licks of sugar and zero calorie sweetener in an effort to find one that tasted like the real thing. I did it for you. So, the least you could do is read on to find out how six top sweeteners compare to real-deal sugar. 

Here, six zero calorie sweeteners, ranked from least-like sugar to most-like sugar.

Stevia in the Raw

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If I were judging by packaging, I would have thought that Stevia in the Raw would taste the most like sugar. I like In the Raw Sugar very much, so I assumed this would be similar. Boy, was I mistaken. One tiny taste flooded my mouth with a flavor so sweet it turned bitter. It’s hard to describe and I really can’t recommend you try it to experience it yourself. I care too much about the sanctity of your tastebuds.

Truvia

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I like a cheap chocolate Santa as much as the next grown woman craving something sweet at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday in January, but I don’t like it enough to want that extremely specific fake chocolate flavor concentrated into a powder. That’s what Truvia tastes like—with some added bitterness at the end. I do have to give Truvia props for the big, sugar-like grains, though.  

Splenda

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If you think sugar is sweet, just rub some Splenda on your gums. It is SWEET. And that sweetness lasts and lasts and lasts, finishing with a hint of sharp, metallic artificiality—like licking aluminum. If you do decide to swap Splenda in for sugar, do not use a one-to-one ratio. Cut the measurement by half at least.

Sweet ‘N Low

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Many sweeteners dissolve the second they hit your tongue. But real sugar doesn’t do that and neither does Sweet ‘N Low. It’s very fine and powdery, but in your mouth the texture comes across as grainy—like sugar. The flavor betrays its artificiality, though. It’s a bit like an old Diet Coke and the aftertaste lasts far too long.

Whole Earth Stevia & Monk Fruit

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Whole Earth smartly tempers the cheap-chocolate flavor of Stevia with monk fruit. It starts out with an authentically sugary flavor but then finishes with the faux cocoa taste. It’s not bad—I didn’t mind eating it on its own—but it just doesn’t taste like real sugar.

Equal

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I would never have guessed that Equal, a sweetener that’s seemingly been around forever and never cared to really update its look or bend to any trend, would be the best, most sugar-like sweetener of the bunch. The sweetness is wonderfully mild and rounded. It’s not sharp at all. There are still telltale traits that give it away as an imposter—it’s much finer than sugar and dissolves much more quickly—but the flavor is there. If you’re looking for a zero cal sweetener that tastes like sugar, take it from me, a person who spent an afternoon eating straight sweetener in between bites of real sugar, Equal is the one to pick.


About the Author

Justine Sterling

Justine Sterling is the editor-in-chief of Sporked. She has been writing about food and beverages for well over a decade and is an avid at-home cook and snacker. Don’t worry, she’s not a food snob. Sure, she loves a fresh-shucked oyster. But she also will leap at whatever new product Reese’s releases and loves a Tostitos Hint of Lime, even if there is no actual lime in the ingredients.

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  • I just bought the monk fruit sweetener by lakanto and I haven’t used it in anything yet but tasting it plain, I liked it???? bought it to make a sugar free dessert for a coworker and it’s actually tasty!!! less sweet than sugar slightly and a little finer, but man I did not dislike the taste whatsoever. and i’m EXTREMELY sensitive to fake sugars like splenda (🤢) having been diabetic for about 6 months once upon a time bc of steroids. anyways i’m def gonna buy equal asap!

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