Stevia vs Sugar: What’s the Difference?

If you have a sweet tooth, there are a lot of sugar alternatives to choose from these days. Back in the day, if you didn’t want sugar but still wanted something sweet you basically had to choose between the stuff in the pink packet or the stuff in the blue packet. Sometimes, if the place was real classy there was stuff in a yellow packet as well. Now, the sugar alternatives stretch far beyond saccharin and aspartame. New plant-based options abound, one of the most popular of which is stevia. But how does stevia stack up against sugar? Is stevia sugar? Does it taste like sugar? Let’s get to the bottom of sugar vs stevia!

Stevia vs sugar: what’s the difference?

Stevia and sugar can both be used to sweeten the things we eat and drink, but they are very different. Stevia is not sugar. Sugar is usually made from sugar cane or sugar beets and is a carbohydrate. It registers in our bodies as four calories per gram. Stevia, on the other hand, is a sugar alternative that is made from the steviol glycoside molecules extracted from leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. People have used that plant as a sweetener for centuries, although stevia is just now gaining popularity in the U.S. Stevia is about 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. And it is basically considered to be calorie-free. Stevia can pass through us without our bodies metabolizing it, so it does not raise blood sugar levels.

Sugar vs stevia: Does stevia taste like sugar?

Stevia is sweet like sugar and can be used in recipes as a sugar substitute, but it does taste a little different than sugar. Some people really hate those stevia associated flavors. Stevia can sometimes have a bitter aftertaste, or a metallic or licorice-like flavor. Also, there can be flavor differences between brands of stevia. 

What’s the stevia to sugar ratio?

Since stevia is so much sweeter than plain sugar, you don’t have to use as much. But if you’re trying to substitute stevia for sugar in a recipe, what is the ratio? That simple question can get a little complicated to answer. You see, not all the stevia out there is pure stevia. Some brands sell straight up, pure stevia in liquid or powdered form, but sometimes stevia is mixed with filler and other sweeteners. If you have something labeled pure stevia extract, the conversion is about one teaspoon of liquid or powdered stevia to one cup of sugar. One cup of sugar is equal to 1/4 teaspoon of powdered stevia or 6-9 drops of liquid. And one teaspoon of sugar is the equivalent of about 1/16 teaspoon of stevia powder of 2 to 4 drops of liquid. Those little tabletop packets of stevia you may see at restaurants for coffee or tea are often mixed with other substances so that they can feel equal in weight to the sugar packets. In those cases, the stevia is mixed with sugar alcohols, other sweeteners, and natural flavor. These can change the flavor and add calories. It’s important to check the labels to know what you’re getting.

If you are looking for a good sugar substitute, give stevia a try. But try a couple of different brands and types in order to find something that really clicks with you. I don’t use any type of sweetener because I’m already too sweet as it is. That’s what my mom always tells me. Thanks mom!

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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