Erythritol is widely known as the zero-calorie sweetener, a perfect sugar substitute. Directly extracted from nature, Erythritol has low calories and is often used for low-carb baking by keto dieters.
Despite its multiple advantages, there's one big downside for most consumers - the cooling effect. In its powdered form, Erythritol absorbs energy from its surroundings and lends the mouth a cooling effect, much like when you suck on a mint.
However, there's a simple way out for those who can't stand this minty aftertaste - combining Erythritol with some high-intensity sweeteners like Stevia or the low digestible ones like Inulin.
But, there's more to the infamous mint-like sweetener that you just have to know!
Why Does Erythritol Taste Cold? The Cooling Effect of Erythritol Demystified!
The mystery of Erythritol isn't very complex. It's a bit anticlimactic once you realize that it is a sugar alcohol. These compounds aren't technically sugars or alcohols but a different type of carbohydrate altogether.
Usually, polyols or sugar alcohols are partially or completely indigestible. This is why they're said to have no net carbs. Since the human body can't metabolize them, no carbohydrates or sugars are created.
That said, Erythritol itself has about 0.24 calories per gram. So, it's not completely clean, but it is much better off than the other sugar alcohols you can use in its place.
The nature of sugar alcohol is also what causes the cooling sensation. As mentioned earlier, the compound absorbs energy from its surroundings (in this case, your mouth and the air in it) as it dissolves.
This reaction causes the minty, cooling sensation usually associated with such sweeteners - mostly Erythritol.
What Is the Taste of Erythritol?
There are two parts to the taste of Erythritol. It can't be explained in a single sentence and often differs in intensity from person to person. But, there's a consensus among keto-dieters regarding the taste of Erythritol.
As expected, the first layer of this minty compound is its sweetness. As a sugar substitute, it's bound to be sweet, but it's not as sugary as one might expect. The sweetness can be explained by the perception of sweetness a person has. Or rather the intensity over time - once the taste subsides is when the cooling taste (the aftertaste) sets in.
Generally, it is a milder sweetness than regular table sugar. You'll need to add more Erythritol than you would table sugar. But, when you add the other sweeteners, it compensates! You'll not get the cooling effect, but you'll get the exact sweetness you've been missing.
If you're using Erythritol for food, you're usually getting it in powder form. When it dissolves in your mouth, there's a noticeable cooling sensation. Technically, it is known as the 'high negative heat of solution.'
The cooling sensation isn't immediately noticeable. Most dieters who are new to keto or Erythritol tend to be caught unawares. It can be the greatest feeling to eat a sweet dessert and immediately feel a cooling sensation right after. Most people are even put off the substitute completely!
But, it's a common effect seen with all polyols or sugar alcohols. However, all Erythritol has the longest and highest cooling effect that needs to be nullified with high-intensity sweeteners.
Is Erythritol a Natural or Artificial Sweetener?
Despite being well-known and often marketed as a natural sweetener, Erythritol is a synthetic sweetener!
The confusion and further marketing deception happen because the mindset of 'if it comes from a plant, it's natural' still exists widely. Since Erythritol is found in plants and extracted from them, it's classified as a natural sweetener - even by the FDA!
However, a small difference on a production level makes it a synthetic sweetener.
To be produced on a large scale, Erythritol requires the compound to be indirectly extracted or isolated from a plant (usually corn).
Let's break down the process into easy-to-understand steps:
- You get some corn and extract the glucose you find in the starch. This process takes place with the help of enzymes.
- Microorganisms like Aureobasidium or Moniliella are used to ferment glucose and produce Erythritol.
Another process involves the use of electrochemical:
- An electrolytic cell is used (much like a sieve) for sugar.
- The sugar used is corn sugar, so the same glucose is extracted but without enzymes, making it more efficient and cost-effective.
How to Neutralize the Cooling Effect of Erythritol
Despite Erythritol's less than palatable cooling effect, all hope is not lost. When combined with high-intensity sweeteners like Stevia and Monk Fruit, Erythritol retains all the good parts, improves the sweetness, and doesn't leave a minty aftertaste.
It's always best to go for a good quality brand like It's Just or Purisure. Truvia is one of the best brands of Stevia available.
If high-intensity sweeteners aren't your thing, then low-digestible sweeteners like xylitol and Inulin are a great alternative. Sweeteners like xylitol don't have any aftertaste, unlike Stevia or Monk Fruit, so if you're particularly sensitive to taste - these low-digestible sweeteners are a better option.
But, the sweetener you choose to neutralize the effect of Erythritol depends entirely on you or the brand you prefer. Whether you're looking for something more organic, prefer a certain flavor, or brand - the high-intensity or low-digestible sweetener you choose differs.
Usually, Erythritol comes combined with high-intensity sugars like Stevia, which saves you the hassle of mixing it up yourself. If you're not happy with the sweetness, aftertaste, or texture, you can combine the ingredients yourself!
If you're not up for combining different sugar alcohols, you could also just try mixing it with water. When you're making something like tea, this works great as it'll easily get rid of the minty taste while sweetening your tea with ease!
The downside to this trick is that it won't work for many keto recipes. Unless you like your chocolate chip cookies and bread a little minty, it's not a foolproof method of easing up the aftertaste.
Erythritol Alternatives: Other Keto Sweeteners With a Cooling Effect
There's more than one sugar substitute on the market. So, it's only reasonable that there are multiple alternatives to sugar substitutes! Erythritol has several alternatives if you're just not feeling the cooling aftertaste.
First on the list has to be Monk Fruit. Also known as Monk Fruit extract, it's a natural, zero-calorie, sweeter than sugar alternative. If some studies are believed, then it's also got multiple antioxidant properties.
It's not a new sugar alternative. Monk Fruit extract has been around for ages, but it's only recently risen in popularity. Apart from its multiple health benefits, it's much sweeter than sugar, making it a great alternative on diets like keto!
The Stevia you find in stores isn't the whole Stevia leaf that you'd use if you had a plant in your backyard. Rather, it's a refined extract made from the plant 200 times sweeter than regular sugar.
Stevia isn't usually used alone. Unlike Monk Fruit, it's most often neutralized Erythritol and mixed with dextrose. Most Stevia brands like Truvia are generally blends of Stevia and Erythritol, so it's still natural but less likely to hurt you with its sweetness.
Inulin is better known as Chicory root and is usually used in combination with high-intensity sweeteners, much like Erythritol needs to be. However, it's a natural sweetener and doesn't affect your blood sugar as much as regular sugar would.
Inulin is a popular replacement for Erythritol since it's got that smooth flavor without the cooling aftertaste. Unlike the minty taste of Erythritol, Inulin tastes more like brown sugar. The lack of aftertaste also means that it's useful for baking and such activities!
When you purchase Inulin in stores, you'll find that it comes combined with Stevia or monk root to increase the sweetness. Like Erythritol, Inulin is only about 70% as sweet as regular sugar!
Unlike the other three sweeteners mentioned above, sucralose (often marketed as Splenda) is an artificial sweetener! It's still no-calorie and a great replacement for sugar in recipes since it is very stable, but it's not a natural option.
Whether baking or freezing, sucralose won't mess up your recipe or texture. It acts exactly like sugar in any situation you subject it to.
Unlike Inulin or Monk Fruit, you'll find sucralose most often used as a tabletop sweetener. Seeing a yellow Splenda packet at a coffee shop isn't uncommon.
Allulose isn't as sweet as 'normal' sugar; it's about 70% as sweet. But, it is naturally occurring, unlike sucralose. It's a common substitute for regular sugar in diets like keto because it has virtually no calories.
Despite the lack of calories and overall sweetness, it's still not a wildly popular sugar substitute. It's still picking up and even approved as 'generally safe' by the FDA.
Do Other Sweeteners Have an Aftertaste Similar to Erythritol?
Sugar alcohols like Erythritol tend to have aftertastes - often cooling. However, none are as 'strong' as Erythritol.
Some of the previous substitutes mentioned above don't have the aftertaste that Erythritol does. They don't have a cooling minty aftertaste which helps cover up. But, they do have their unique issues.
For example, Stevia has an unpleasant bitter aftertaste that makes it unsuitable for regular uses such as coffee at times! The extreme sweetness also makes it unsuitable for baking or coffee without mixing with something like Erythritol.
Since Stevia is also a sugar alcohol, it does have that slight minty taste the compounds are known for. However, it's not nearly as noticeable as the minty aftertaste of Erythritol.
Similarly, Monk Fruit has a licorice aftertaste that isn't particularly bitter or bad. Many find it more palatable than Stevia. But, much like Stevia, Monk Fruit extract is too sweet to be directly mixed into recipes, coffee, or tea.
Instead, it always comes mixed with Erythritol or allulose. There's no minty taste to hate, though!
Unlike Stevia or Monk Fruit, xylitol has virtually no aftertaste! There's no lingering bitterness or mint to take away from your baked goods. However, it's a little less sweet than regular sugar.
So, when you mix it with something like Erythritol, you're not going to compensate for the lack of sweetness - but the aftertaste will go away!
Erythritol may taste like sucking on a mint, but there's no denying the multiple benefits it has for those on keto and otherwise. With virtually no net carbs and a great, mostly natural substitute for sugar - it's undeniably required.
Thankfully, the minty taste caused by various reactions in the mouth can be effectively neutralized by high-intensity sweeteners like Stevia and Monk Fruit. If you're not up for such sweetness, then switching to an alternative like Inulin or sucralose is also an option!
Either way, the mystery of the minty mouth you get after switching to Erythritol is solved!
Both Erythritol and Stevia are great sugar substitutes as they don't raise blood sugar or increase calorie consumption. They add sweetness to any recipe and are used heavily in keto-friendly recipes.
When it comes to choosing one over the other, there's no direct answer. Usually, Stevia comes mixed with Erythritol or vice-versa when bought in stores. Both sweeteners compensate for the different weaknesses they have!
Unlike other sweeteners, Erythritol does not feed or hurt any gut bacteria you have lying around. Some forms of bacteria are essential to your stomach and digestive functioning. While not supporting this type of bacteria, Erythritol does not hurt it either.
So, Erythritol is surprisingly good for your gut health - in moderation!
While sugar is generally the enemy of those on a keto diet or diabetic, Erythritol is surprisingly okay for both. The lack of net carbs and calories makes it an excellent sugar substitute and prevalent in multiple keto recipes.
It was also deemed safe for diabetics to eat (in moderation) by the WHO and FDA.
There are three points to keep in mind when using erythritol in baking:
- Use no more than ½ a cup to prevent crystallizing and dryness in a recipe.
- t's best for same-day recipes.
- It's not as sweet as sugar (only about 60% to 80%), so be mindful of how you use it in recipes.
It is, in fact, a bulking sweetener! Like table sugar, it adds weight and volume to foods while providing the same texture and mouthfeel! So, there's a greater volume, lesser sweetness, but fewer calories!