Low-sugar sweetener that tastes like the real thing

I have long been on the lookout for the perfect non-sugar sweetener to use in baking. Most of the sweeteners available in the grocery store – such as Splenda, Truvia, Nectresse, and Purevia – have aftertastes that interfere with the flavor of the final product.

Xylitol is different. It tastes exactly like sugar. There’s no weird aftertaste and you don’t have to convert any of your measurements. Just substitute it one-to-one for sugar.

Looks just like sugar.
Looks just like sugar.

After I discovered xylitol, I was left wondering what to do with all the other non-sugar sweeteners in my cabinet.

Through a little experimentation, I figured out how to mix them together in proportions that eliminated the weird aftertastes of stevia and Splenda. Here’s my recipe:

This mix can be used one-for-one to replace sugar in recipes that do not call for the use of yeast. It’s great for muffins, cakes, and pies. Don’t use it in yeast breads or when homebrewing wine or beer. Yeast does not react properly with the sweeteners and your dough will not rise/liquid will not ferment.

Xylitol and erythritol are sugar alcohols derived from plants. They look and taste just like white sugar. Xylitol is made by adding hydrogen to carbohydrate molecules; it has 25% fewer calories than sugar and is just as sweet. Erythritol is made through a fermentation process; it has virtually no calories (about 2 calories per tablespoon) and is about one third less sweet than sugar. Xylitol is available under various brand names, the most common of which is XyloSweet. Erythritol is sold under its own name by various companies. It is also one of the ingredients in Truvia, the best-tasting of the stevia sweeteners.

Sugar alcohols are not the kind of alcohol that will get you drunk. They are similar to carbohydrates, but lower in calories. Ounce for ounce, they have less of an effect on blood glucose then regular sugars do – but they do have some effect. Excessive consumption can lead to spikes in blood sugar, gas and diarrhea. As with any sweet, they should be eaten in moderation and should not be fed to pets.

Now might be a good time to mention that xylitol is not cheap! And I have never seen an amazing coupon or rebate deal on it, the way I have for brandname sweeteners like Truvia or Splenda.

But buying xylitol doesn’t go against my love of frugality. To me, frugality is not about getting me as much as I can for free or super cheap. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good bargain. But being truly frugal means purchasing only things that have value to me and that I will use and benefit from. Splenda tastes weird; no matter how many boxes I can get free after coupon and rebate from Walgreens, I will never truly enjoy anything made with more than a pinch of it. So there’s no point in cooking with large amounts of it, even if it is free.

That said, I keep costs down by buying xylitol in bulk from Amazon or Vitacost and cooking sweets mainly for special occasions (a good idea whether you are cooking with non-sugar sweeteners or with sugar). A five pound bag lasts me a year or two.

(If you want to check out Vitacost, here’s a link for $5 off your first order of $30 or more. You can also get a 3% cash back rebate through Ebates.)

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