Swapping granulated sugar with something healthier has become a lot easier in recent years. Once relegated to pink and blue packets of zero-calorie sweeteners at coffee bars, baking aisles are now populated by sugar alternatives including stevia, xylitol, erythritol, and monk fruit.

What Is Monk Fruit?

Monk fruit, or luohan guo, is a type of small, green gourd native to Thailand and northern China. Records show that it was cultivated by monks as early as the 13th century in Guangxi in the mountains of Guilin. It grows on vines and thrives in the misty mountain region, protected from excessive sunlight by shade from the trees. The scientific name for the plant is called siraitia grosvenorii, after National Geographic Society president Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, who in the 1930s helped fund a trip to where monk fruit is cultivated.

While it’s a recent entry into the lineup of low-calorie sweeteners now on the market, monk fruit has been used as a medicinal herb used to treat coughs and sore throats. It is also believed to promote a longer life. The fruit itself is unpleasant to eat. Instead, it is dried and used to make extract, granulated sweetener, powdered sweetener, and syrup. Some monk fruit sweeteners are made with a mix of sugar alternatives, so be sure to read the label if you’re avoiding certain types.

What Is Monk Fruit, and How to Cook With It
Is monk fruit better than sugar? | Lakanto

Monk Fruit vs Sugar

Is monk fruit healthier than sugar? As far as nutrition content goes, monk fruit contains zero calories compared to 16 calories in a teaspoon of sugar.

“Granulated sugar in moderation is safe for most, but you should be careful with how much you consume because it does not contain any nutritional value,” Jeni Hollifield, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at HealthyGroceryGirl.com, tells LIVEKINDLY. “It is full of empty calories, raises blood sugar, and may contribute to chronic disease.”

Monk fruit sweetener contains zero carbohydrates, zero sodium, and zero fat. It’s also keto-friendly.

“Monk fruit extract may be a good alternative to granulated sugar for those with diabetes due to it keeping blood sugar levels stable,” Hollifield continues. “No long-term studies have been done on monk fruit sweetener meaning there isn’t any evidence to its benefits on chronic disease.”

Monk fruit gets its sweetness from the antioxidant mogrosides, which may reduce oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body) according to a 2013 study from the “Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research.”

However, if you’re looking for a sweetener with a little more nutritional value, monk fruit might not be ideal. “Monk fruit sweetener does provide some antioxidants, but it has very little, if any micronutrients,” says Hollifield. “Unlike maple syrup, which contains different minerals such as zinc, manganese, calcium, and potassium.”

How to Cook With Monk Fruit

Remember: monk fruit is 100 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way if you’re adding it to coffee, tea, smoothies, or oatmeal. It is also easy to use when you want to counterbalance the acidity of tomato sauces or if you’re making a marinade that calls for syrup.

Can You Bake With Monk Fruit?

Baking with monk fruit is a little more complicated; using it as a 1:1 replacement for sugar can have disastrous, overly sweet results. It’s not surprising why so many liken baking to a form of science. Every ingredient serves a purpose. Sugar affects texture; it bonds with water, helping baked goods stay moist. It also helps with the structure of cakes, brownies, cookies, and more by taking water away from protein and starches. Not only that, but sugar also plays a role in leavening, adding flavor, and giving baked cookies that satisfying browned-around-the-edges crunch. This is why playing around with ingredients can easily lead to a failed batch of cookies.

Not all hope is lost: you can still make desserts with monk fruit sweetener. And each type works best in different desserts.

Powdered monk fruit sweetener has right texture for making sugar-free glazes and dairy-free buttercream frosting.

Monk fruit syrup works best in desserts that already call for liquid sweeteners, including baked goods, raw vegan desserts, dairy-free mousse, and others.

Granulated monk fruit sweetener works best in baked goods. If you’re looking to replace regular sugar in a recipe, you might have to spend some time experimenting in the kitchen figuring out how much monk fruit sweetener you can use before a baked good becomes overly-sweet. Don’t be discouraged by baking failures—have fun with it. Or, try these sugar-free vegan recipes sweetened with monk fruit.

What Is Monk Fruit, and How to Cook With It
No eggs, no dairy, and no sugar. | Big Man’s World

1. Sugar-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

These soft and chewy vegan sugar-free cookies can be made with granulated monk fruit and sugar-free brown sugar, which is made from other alternative sweeteners that you might see population baking aisles: erythritol, stevia, malt extract, and tagatose. Looking for sugar-free vegan chocolate chips? Try these dark chocolate baking chips.

Get the recipe here.

What Is Monk Fruit, and How to Cook With It
These sugar-free blondies are also flourless. | Clean and Delicious

2. Sugar-Free Blondies

Chickpeas—yes, chickpeas—replace flour in these sugar-free and vegan blondies. Trust us, you don’t even taste the beans; they give the blondies a surprising and delightfully fudgy texture.

Get the recipe here.

What Is Monk Fruit, and How to Cook With It
Fudgy and irresistible. | Sweet as Honey

3. Sugar-Free Brownies

These low-carb brownies are made with almond flour and are sugar-free, thanks to monk fruit sweetener. They have a deliciously fudgy texture and taste even better when topped with a sprinkle of sea salt and sliced almonds. Use chia seeds instead of eggs to make it vegan. To learn more about how to use chia seeds in baked goods, see here.

Get the recipe here.

What Is Monk Fruit, and How to Cook With It
Healthy dessert done right. | VegAnnie

4. Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Pie

This sugar-free peanut butter pie has a light, silky texture thanks to silken tofu. It’s low-fat, too because it uses peanut flour instead of peanut butter.

Get the recipe here.

What Is Monk Fruit, and How to Cook With It
What’s a cupcake without frosting? | Cassidy’s Craveable Creations

5. Sugar-Free Keto Buttercream Frosting

This keto-friendly, sugar-free vegan frosting is the finishing touch for any cake, cupcake, or brownie.

Get the recipe here.

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What Is Monk Fruit, and How to Cook With It

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