Erythritol is a naturally-occurring sugar alcohol that’s ideal for general use. It’s nearly as sweet as sugar, almost calorie-free, and relatively easy to digest.
Here’s how it stacks up against other common sweeteners1:
|name||relative sweetness||calories to replace 1g sugar|
|aspartame (in Equal)||~200x||~.02|
|sucralose (in Splenda)||~500x||~0|
|saccharin (in Sweet'n Low)||~300x||~0|
|reb A (a stevia extract)||~200x||~0|
|xylitol (in Trident gum)||1x||2.4|
Sweetness and energy density only tell part of the story, however. There’s many other factors to consider, like heat tolerance, cooling effect, and texture. Ease of digestion is also important: most sugar alcohols cause bloating and diarrhea in even moderate amounts.
Erythritol has a good blend of all these properties. I use it in place of sugar in most of my cooking, and accept the reduced sweetness. One exception is very sweet desserts: for these I either pair it with citrus juice or a small amount of sugar.
Note that while erythritol is relatively new, using it straight is somewhat old fashioned. The state of the art seems to be Truvia, which is erythritol combined with a stevia extract. Its cost is comparable to straight erythritol2, but also includes undisclosed “natural flavors” that producers have been cagey about3. That’s enough to turn me off from it for now.
Truvia ~$11/19.6oz at Walmart yields 160 2-tsp sugar replacements with 3/4 tsp servings, while Erythritol ~$11/2.5lbs on Amazon yields 170 at 3.3 tsp servings ↩