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Sweetening with Stevia

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2009

There's now a natural low-calorie sugar substitute at the supermarket called Truvia made from the stevia plant. Is this product an acceptable stand-in for sugar in beverages and cooking?

The stevia plant, a member of the sunflower family, is native to South and Central America and Mexico. The plant contains stevioside and rebaudioside, compounds that are up to 300 times sweeter than granulated sugar. Some people complain that stevia imparts a bitter taste to foods and beverages. When we sweetened iced tea with Truvia, which is made from the leaves of the stevia plant, we had to agree. Tasters quickly picked up on a disagreeable aftertaste.

For further evaluation, we replaced granulated sugar with Truvia in our recipes for sugar cookies and teriyaki sauce, following the conversion chart on the package, which recommends using about 1/3 cup of Truvia for every cup of sugar. As we mixed the cookie dough, problems became apparent even before the cookies made it into the oven. The Truvia dough was much drier than the dough made with granulated sugar. Once baked, the cookies made with Truvia had not spread nearly as much as the true sugar cookies. And forget about eating these impostors. Tasters complained of a chalky texture and a mouth-puckering bitterness that lingered long after samples were gone.

The Truvia teriyaki sauce didn’t fare much better. While the sauce made with granulated sugar had reduced down to a beautifully thick glaze, easily able to coat and stick to chicken, the sauce made with Truvia was thin, lacking the cling of its competitor. The Truvia also imparted a bitter aftertaste to the sauce, albeit more subdued than it was in the cookies. In summary, we don’t recommend Truvia as a sugar substitute—for the best results, stick with the real thing.

BITTERSWEET SUBSTITUTERecipes made with this stevia-based sweetener had an unacceptable bitter aftertaste.