How to Make Stevia Extract

Susan Pridmore lives with her husband just outside San Francisco and writes The Wimpy Vegetarian blog. Shortly after cooking her way through culinary school she moved her diet to mostly vegetarian, to the horror of her resolutely mostly carnivore husband. She creates and publishes “omnitarian” recipes for people feeding both vegetarians and omnivores at the table, and for folks just wanting to add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to their diets. She writes a monthly column for The Weiser Kitchen called Steak and Kale, and will be writing a column for Food52 later in the fall. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

This is a guest post for October Unprocessed. If this is your first time here, welcome! …and it’s not too late to join in!

How to make your own Stevia Extract

I’m a drug addict. Some days it’s all I think about, that white stuff that makes me feel so good. But it’s not just the ubiquitous white granulated crystals that we all have stashed away. I’m equal opportunity. Molasses, coconut sugar, date sugar, honey, maple and agave syrup, c’mon over. I have an entire shelf dedicated to you guys. Sugar may be one of the biggest addictions today and we hook the kids when they’re young, barely old enough to walk.

At some point this year, about the time I realized two desserts a day were no longer enough to satisfy me, I faced the sober truth that I had a problem. No amount of healthy greens and grains – and I eat a lot of kale and quinoa – was going to offset this much sugar. I decided to eliminate sugar from my diet for one week, and because this is the age of social media, I found a buddy group through a Twitter party so I wouldn’t be traveling alone. I figured I could do anything for a week.

It wasn’t easy. Sugar is added to more foods than you would imagine. I was overwhelmingly aware of nightly bombardments of sugar-infused TV commercials after dinner. And all those sugar and chocolate treats deliberately placed within easy reach for the impulse buy while I waited to put my kale on the conveyor belt at the grocery store was just mean.

I wavered. Completely eliminating sugar just wasn’t realistic. I hopped online to research alternative sugars. Stevia shot to the top of the list with its carb- and calorie-free benefits. But like anything else connected with food these days, there was controversy. A lot of stevia on the grocery shelves is highly processed, with much of it mixed with various forms of sugar like dextrose. I couldn’t win.

And then I found a couple of plants at the nursery. You’d have thought I found a suitcase of money. I was that excited.

My first experiment was to dry some leaves and whirl them in a spice grinder. I added a pinch of the stevia powder to my morning yogurt and was thrilled with the result. It doesn’t take much to do the trick since the leaves are 30 – 50 times sweeter than sugar, and the sweetest part of the leaf is a mind-boggling 300 times sweeter.

The down side was the powder didn’t melt in my tea and I was tired of leaf bits in my mouth. It was just a little too natural. I needed to make stevia extract. It took two ingredients and 36 hours, but most of that time was spent sleeping, hanging out with friends, and writing.

The big question is always “How does it taste?” I’ll be honest, there’s a faintly bitter aftertaste, similar to some sugar substitutes, but less than I noticed in the powdered form. Whether I notice it at all is completely dependent on the food or drink I add it to. I notice a little aftertaste in my tea, although it’s not objectionable, but not at all in my plain yogurt or salad dressings. I should emphasize: the aftertaste can be managed somewhat through the amount of time the leaves steep in alcohol, and by the level heat applied at the end.

I can’t say I’ve completely kicked sugar. It’s work in progress, like most things. But when I get sugar cravings in the afternoons or evenings, I reach for a cup of tea sweetened with my stevia extract and some fruit. Often, that’s all I need. I’m down to only a couple of desserts a week, a huge improvement. Well, except for the month of October, of course, when we all take the October Unprocessed Challenge with Andrew.

Here’s how to make your own at home.

Homemade Stevia Extract
Author: 
 
Making your own stevia extract couldn’t be easier. But first you need a stevia plant. I’ve heard you can buy the leaves in some specialty stores, but have yet to see them. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve seen them out there. As a note, some people use both the leaves and stems, but I feel the stems add to the bitter aftertaste. I strongly recommend only using the leaves.
Ingredients
  • Enough stevia leaves to fill a jar (don’t pack them too tightly, but they should be scrunched in)
  • Enough vodka to cover the leaves
Instructions
  1. Wash the leaves, dry them, and stuff them into a clean jar. Fill the jar, loosely packing the leaves. The more leaves you have, the less time it will take to infuse the liquid.
  2. Pour enough vodka into the jar to completely cover the leaves. Vodka is commonly used for many extracts because of its neutral flavor. Place a lid on the jar and set it on the counter for at least 24 hours. Test the liquid for sweetness. You’ll taste alcohol too, but just focus on the sweetness level. Continue to steep the leaves until you reach the amount of sweetness you want, but don’t go past 48 hours. Longer than 48 hours results in a dominant bitter flavor. I steep my leaves for 30 - 36 hours.
  3. Place four layers of cheesecloth or a couple of coffee filters over the jar and strain the liquid into a small pot on the stove. Discard the leaves.
  4. Warm the liquid over medium-low heat, being careful not to bring it to a boil. I keep it at barely a simmer with an occasional bubble or two. You’ll notice the alcohol burning off right away. Continue heating the liquid for 30 minutes. The extract will darken to pale amber, and dark particles will be apparent.
  5. Strain the liquid again and pour into a small jar. The extract can be refrigerated for up to three months, so be sure to label the jar.

 

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35 Comments on "How to Make Stevia Extract"

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Erika
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

You rock, Susan! I’m so impressed you made your own stevia extract. Such a great way to reduce your sugar intake and reduce waste by growing/making your own pantry items at the same time. I’m definitely trying this…someday!

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Thanks so much Erika!! Having these stevia plants have been so fun. And so practical for reducing sugar. The whole sugar reduction is just so hard!

Liz Schmitt
Member
2 years 9 months ago

You are an amazing cook and culinary scientist! But I AM making dessert for you next Friday evening 😉

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Oh thanks so much Liz!!! I can’t wait to see you and Larry, and I’m absolutely having dessert. It’s my reward for being so good 🙂 !! And Myles will be so grateful…

Anne from Pintesting
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

I’ve heard of people making vanilla stevia for their coffee and such. Maybe adding a vanilla bean to the mix would get rid of the bitterness? Just a thought…

Letty Flatt
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

I love the idea to add vanilla bean to the mix. Now if I would find some leaves, I can for sure come up with the vodka!

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

I love that vanilla idea too, Letty! I got my stevia plants at the nursery and they’re still going strong. I’ve heard that you can find them in some health food stores, but I’ve yet to find them there.

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

That’s a GREAT idea Anne! I’m going to try that on my next batch. It makes sense to me that it would work.

kathryn
Guest
kathryn
2 years 9 months ago

Interesting. I have a whole board on Pinterest devoted to extracts and infused liquors. I’m gonna add this recipe. I can plant Stevia now where I live so I should be reaping the benefits in a few weeks.

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Yay!! I hope you have as much fun with the plants as I have 🙂

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

BTW, Kathryn, I’m going to look for your Board. I definitely want to follow it!

Sara
Guest
Sara
2 years 9 months ago

Awesome! Where can I purchase stevia leaves? Thanks!

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

I got my stevia plant at my local nursery back in June, Sara. I’ve heard you can buy leaves at health food stores, but I haven’t seen any at mine. Another option could be to ask your local nursery to order some plants.

Veggie Val
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Ooh! Another fun veggie site to follow! Yay! And thanks for the tips about stevia. I grow, use it and make other extracts, just haven’t gotten around to making thatparticular extract yet.
And @Kathryn: My Going Veggie boards look forward to following your infusion boards. Thanks!

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Definitely try this one, Veggie Val – it sounds like you’re a pro at making extracts! It’s such a quick one, in comparison to making vanilla extract 🙂

Coreen
Guest
Coreen
2 years 9 months ago

Just like making vanilla! Did you find the huge deal on vanilla beans on Amazon a few months ago?

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Oh Coreen, I wish!! I made a bunch of vanilla extract earlier in the summer and still have a bunch for gifts this year, but would have loved to have jumped on the Amazon deal! I’ll keep my eyes peeled for another one. Thanks for the tip.

Kimberly @ Real Homestead Mom
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Make sure you swish your leaves around several times per day. I let mine steep for two days, but no longer. Plants are available online, if you can’t find one locally. They’re very hardy too:)

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Great point Kimberly. I turned mine over a few times during the 36-hour soak. And you’re right, steeping too long is not good. It yields a much more bitter extract. And thanks for the tip on buying the plants online. Mine is still going strong!

Renee
Guest
Renee
2 years 9 months ago

I live in Michigan and our weather is cooling off quickly! I have a stevia plant in my garden. Do you think I could dig it up and have it flourish inside over the winter?

Susan Pridmore
Member
2 years 9 months ago

I would definitely give it a shot, Renee. Stevia plants are really hardy and forgiving. I would put it in a sunny room so it can get some direct sunlight every day. It doesn’t want 100% sun, but it needs some. I would love to hear how it works for you!

Renee
Guest
Renee
2 years 9 months ago

I think I’ll try it! Thank you. I’ll try to remember where to let you know how it does over the winter!!!

Melody
Guest
Melody
2 years 9 months ago

Thank you so much for this post! I recently got some ground stevia leaves from a gentleman at our local farmer’s market. He had already dried and processed the leaves to a powder. Would your method work with my stevia powder?

As for the taste, I couldn’t believe how sweet just a few leaf crumbles were. I don’t know if there’s varieties of stevia leaf, but what this gentleman was offering tasted a bit like sweet tea with mint.

ehnonymoose
Guest
ehnonymoose
2 years 9 months ago

I got my stevia leaf at Mountainroseherbs.com

Brighid
Guest
Brighid
2 years 9 months ago

Amazing timing! I have a couple stevia plants but other than doing more than snatching a leaf here or there, I haven’t done anything with them. By next week they’ll be dead. Tomorrow they’ll begin a new journey to being stevia extract!

Brighid
Guest
Brighid
2 years 8 months ago

I made it, following the directions as close as possible. I really, really wanted to like it. But it tasted like vodka. Nasty! I wonder what went wrong…

Theresa Hogereheide
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

I wonder if it would be less bitter if I did a vegetable glycerine extraction.

mjskit
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

O.K. – You’ve convince me to find some stevia plants for next year. I eat way too much sugar and the powder and the extract sound like a great way to cut back. Thanks for sharing this!

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