Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener that's 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, per a May 2015 report in Nutrition Today. But it doesn't raise blood sugar levels like sugar does (which also means it's safe for people with diabetes), per a March-April 2020 report in Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine.
While you can find stevia packets in many grocery aisles, you can also grow the plant at home.
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Stevia leaf is a hardy zone 9 to 11 perennial herb, perfect for your windowsill garden. You can purchase the plant as a seedling and use the leaves fresh from the plant or dry them for later use.
Buy Stevia Seeds
$2.69 on True Leaf Market
What to Do With Fresh Stevia Leaves
- Use them to sweeten tea: Pinch 1 to 4 leaves from the top of a branch to sweeten a cup of tea. Taking leaves from the top will encourage side growth and a bushier plant. Steep the fresh leaves along with your tea bag in 1 cup of hot water.
- Chew two fresh leaves to curb sugar cravings: The sweet taste will remain in your mouth for up to an hour.
- Add it to smoothies: Instead of adding caloric honey or maple syrup to your smoothies, turn to zero-cal stevia. Start by adding a quarter of the leaf to your smoothie, and test the sweetness, adding more of the leaf if you'd like a sweeter taste.
- Turn it into powder or syrup: Look to the instructions below for how to make stevia powder and syrup. You can then use the powder and syrup in many different ways.
How to Make Dry Stevia Leaf Powder
Things You'll Need
Mortar and pestle
1. Dry the Leaves
You can cut whole branches from the plant and hang the branch upside down in a dark, cool area until the leaves are dry.
Alternatively, dry individual leaves between sheets of paper towel. When you can crumble the leaf easily, that means they're fully dried.
2. Grind Them Into Powder
Grind the dry leaves with a mortar and pestle until you have a fine powder. Dry leaves are sweeter than fresh, and one teaspoon of stevia powder is as sweet as about 10 teaspoons of sugar.
You can then use the powder to make stevia syrup if you prefer a liquid sweetener.
How to Make Stevia Syrup
Things You'll Need
2 cups water
1. Boil Water and Add Stevia Powder
Boil 2 cups of distilled water in a medium pot. Add 1 teaspoon of your dry leaf powder and reduce the temperature to a simmer.
2. Let It Simmer
Simmer the mixture until it has reduced and thickened to the consistency of syrup. Use a wooden spoon to stir it occasionally.
3. Strain It
Strain the syrup through a cheesecloth once it has cooled. Store the syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator to increase its shelf life.
How to Use Stevia Powder or Syrup
You can use stevia just as you'd use regular sugar. Here are a few ways to use stevia leaf powder or syrup:
- Add it to drinks like sparkling water, tea or coffee
- Use it in smoothies instead of honey, agave, maple syrup or another sweetener
- Add it to plain, no-sugar breakfast cereal for flavor
- Sprinkle it onto nut butter
- Use it in baking for lower-calorie treats
Stevia has a faint licorice flavor and a slight bitter aftertaste, so keep that in mind when you're baking with it. Experiment with your particular stevia plant, as different plants have different sweetness levels.