Stevia has a centuries-long history of use as a sweetener and medicine in Brazil, Paraguay and other Central and South American countries. Approved as a food additive in the U.S. in 2008, it's an ideal sweetener for adding flavor to your favorite recipes, and you can purchase it in a number of forms.
Purchase liquid Stevia for liquid recipes and to sweeten beverages, such as coffee, tea or cocktails. This form of Stevia extract is suspended in a liquid, usually either alcohol or vegetable glycerine, and has a uniform sweetness. More concentrated extracts may have a slight licorice flavor. Look for liquid Stevia in the supplement aisle of natural food stores, and large grocery and drug stores.
Seek out flavored liquid Stevia for creating zero-calorie soft drinks or to add flavor to beverages or liquid recipes. This form of Stevia comes in such flavors as orange, cinnamon and chocolate. Although some natural food stores carry flavored Stevia, this specialty product can be easier to find online, at stores such as SteviaSmart (see Resources).
Buy Stevia extract powder in either two-serving packets or jars to add to hot drinks, sprinkle on cereal, or use in baking or cooking. Stevia powder can be used in most recipes in place of sugar, except much more sparingly--1/2 tsp. of Stevia powder is as sweet as 1 cup of sugar. Stevia powder is sold alongside other supplements in natural food stores and some grocery stores, and may also be found in the baking aisle alongside other sweeteners.
Find dried Stevia leaves at a bulk herb shop if you prefer the least processed form of Stevia. This type of Stevia can be ground into a powder and used in recipes, or the leaves can be brewed whole as tea.
Order a Stevia plant to have fresh Stevia leaves on hand. The fresh leaves can be finely chopped and added to fruit, salad or dessert recipes, or they can be brewed as a tea. Local nurseries specializing in exotic herbs may carry the plant. If not, purchase a Stevia plant at an online nursery, such as The Grower's Exchange (see Resources).
The level of sweetness varies from Stevia plant to Stevia plant. If you use fresh or dried leaves, experiment with amounts to get the level of sweetness you desire in your recipes.
Don't buy Stevia for use in yeast breads. Since it's not sugar, it won't feed the yeast, and your bread will not rise. It also doesn't work in syrup-based candies because it doesn't melt or thicken.
- Photo by Ethel Aardvark