With a true proliferation of keto products available to us today, there is never any shortage of food choices–but it can be very confusing, especially when it comes to keto-friendly sweeteners.
In Keto Sweeteners Part One, I discussed granulated sweeteners and how they perform in cooking and baking. Today, let’s talk about three sweeteners that are derived from plants that are considered medicinal in their native food systems.
Monk fruit and Stevia
Monk fruit and stevia are great sweeteners to use in addition to your favorite granulated sweeteners; in fact, they may already be included in granulated sweetener blends you may be using. Stevia and monk fruit extracts are highly concentrated liquids which only take a few drops to sweeten almost anything–coffee and tea, fat bombs, gelatin-based desserts, yogurt, smoothies, keto hot cereals, and more.
They can also work with other sweeteners to round out the sweetness. Be aware that some products labeled as monk fruit and stevia use another sweetener as the carrier, sometimes even sugar! Always read labels and remember that true stevia and monk fruit are only available as potent liquids or very fine powders.
Yacon syrup is a true syrup that is minimally processed. It is good for cooking, baking, sweetening hot drinks, and topping foods like keto hot cereal or pancakes. It can be combined with other sweeteners in baking to round out flavors, and it also contributes to texture, moisture, and mouth feel. It still isn’t a common store ingredient so you may have to special order it, but so far I haven’t seen any adulterated or misleading products based on it.
Read on for more information about all three sweeteners and some simple recipes to try them out.
More information about Monk fruit, Stevia and Yacon syrup
Monk fruit concentrate is extracted from a fruit–luo han guo–long used in traditional Chinese medicine for its health benefits. It has no carbohydrates and doesn’t raise blood sugar. The extract is made into a concentrated liquid that can be used by the drop to sweeten quickly and conveniently.
It is very sweet with a slightly medicinal aftertaste. You will only need a drop or two to sweeten most drinks. It can be more expensive than some sweeteners.
Stevia rebaudiana is a plant native to South America that is also known for its medicinal properties. It also has zero carbohydrates and doesn’t raise blood glucose. The plant in its natural form is very sweet but also has a strong flavor that is bitter and reminiscent of licorice.
The extract used to make stevia concentrates is made from the sweet compounds alone, but it still has a somewhat unique flavor that can be off-putting to some. Stevia concentrates also come in a wide variety of flavors that can be used to flavor plain soda water, plain yogurt, desserts, and drinks.
The flavors help to mask some of stevia’s bitter aftertaste as well. Like monk fruit, it is often used to increase the sweetness in granulated sweetener blends and a whole host of commercial sugar-free products.
Yacon syrup is extracted from the yacon root native to the Andes mountains in South America. This plant has also been used medicinally for centuries in its native habitat. It has a mildly sweet, somewhat floral, fruity flavor, with no distinguishable aftertaste.
It does have some digestible carbohydrates, so it does influence blood sugar, but most of the sugars are fructans that are beneficial to gut bacteria and can’t be digested.
The syrup is low on the glycemic index and low in carbs in general. It is expensive, so it’s best used judiciously. Most manufacturers recommend a teaspoon to two teaspoons a day. If you miss honey in your tea or molasses in your baked goods, this is a great sweetener to try.
Cocoa Whipped Cream
Yield: 2 cups
Prep time: 5 minutes
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Stevia drops to taste
- Beat whip cream in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until it is beginning to thicken and hold the track of the beaters.
- Sprinkle the cocoa powder over the top and add the stevia.
- Continue to whip until it holds stiff peaks.
“Honey” Mustard Sauce
Yield: 3/4 cup
Prep time: 5 minutes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons strong mustard like deli mustard or hot mustard
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3-4 drops liquid monk fruit extract, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
- Mix mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, monk fruit, and salt together. Taste and add more monk fruit if desired. Seal tightly in a jar or container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Kettle Cooked Walnuts
Yield: 1 cup
Prep time: 10 minutes
1 tablespoon yacon syrup
1 teaspoon coconut oil or ghee
1 cup walnuts or pecans
salt to taste
- Heat yacon syrup and coconut oil in a small non-stick pan over medium heat until bubbling.
- Carefully add walnuts; the syrup will be extremely hot, so use caution. Stir and shake until they are coated and beginning to brown slightly. When the syrup starts to look dry and dull, carefully pour the walnuts out on a tray lined with lightly oiled tin foil or parchment paper and sprinkle with salt.
- Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. If the glaze softens, the walnuts can be re-crisped by warming in a 200 F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.