Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
With so many natural sweeteners out there it can be hard to know which one to choose. Two of the most popular options are monk fruit and stevia and you might be wondering, what’s the difference? Here are some key things to know when deciding which one to use.
What is monk fruit?
Monk fruit (also known as Buddha fruit and luo han guo) is a small, round fruit native to Southeast Asia. Monk fruit is quite perishable so you can find it dried or in the form of a sweetener made by crushing the flesh and extracting it into a powder or a liquid.
With zero calories and a low score on the glycemic index, it’s a popular sweetener among those following low-sugar or low-carbohydrate diets. Monk fruit actually gets its sweetness from compounds called mogrosides that have antioxidant activities. This sweetener (also called monk fruit extract) comes in a variety of options including granulated, powdered and liquid. It’s 100 to 250 times sweeter than table sugar, so you’ll want to use it sparingly.
Liquid vs. granulated monk fruit
Liquid monk fruit sweeteners are made from concentrated monk fruit extract, sometimes mixed with water. Monk fruit liquid sweetener is best for adding to coffee, tea and smoothies. There are also some liquid sweeteners on the market that combine both stevia and monk fruit.
Some products combine monk fruit sweetener with other sweeteners such as inulin fiber, erythritol and dextrose. This can reduce the intensity of the sweetness, and also act as a bulking agent. Some granulated blends actually work as a one to one replacement for sugar, which is helpful when you’re looking to substitute it in baked goods.
What is stevia?
Stevia is considered a natural sweetener, derived from the stevia rebaudiana plant in South America. Like monk fruit, it is also considered sweeter than sugar (up to 400 times as sweet), with the sweetness coming from the leaves of the stevia plant. In addition to being a natural sweetener, stevia has similar advantages to monk fruit, including zero carbohydrates, zero calories and zero sugar, and is available in many forms.
Liquid vs granulated stevia
Stevia can be purchased in liquid, granulated and powdered form with liquid being most popular. Like monk fruit, the liquid is best for adding to coffee, tea and smoothies. The granulated or powdered varieties work well for baking.
Both monk fruit and stevia are natural sweeteners that don’t impact your blood sugar levels.
From a digestion perspective, stevia may cause digestive upset such as bloating or nausea in certain people. On the other hand, if you have an allergy to any members of the gourd family of plants, then you might want to steer clear of monk fruit.
But for most people, the difference between the two comes down to taste. Stevia tends to have a slightly bitter aftertaste, while monk fruit may have slightly less flavor. Bottom line: Try them both and see which one you prefer.