Meet Monk Fruit
You may know monk fruit by its Chinese name, luo han guo. Native to Thailand and China, this green fruit, which resembles a melon, got its nickname when monks first used it in the thirteenth century. Monk fruit’s antioxidants and healing properties have made it a popular medicinal plant for thousands of years.
Although naturally sweet (three hundred times sweeter than cane sugar), the fruit has competing bitter flavors that have made it difficult to use as a sweetener. Today, though, manufacturers have determined how to mitigate the bitter aspect of the sweet fruit.
To process monk fruit, explains Diane Welland, registered dietitian and author, the fruits are crushed and pure water is added, and then the soluble components of the fruit are extracted—similar to the extraction of tea from tea leaves. Then the pure liquid is passed through resins, which capture or bind the sweet compounds (mogrosides) and separate them from all other soluble compounds. “This is not a chemical modification and the resins act as sieves, just capturing the sweet molecules,” she says.
Ready to experiment with monk fruit? The following tips will help you purchase and use the sugar alternative.
- Check the ingredients on monk fruit sweeteners. Some manufacturers add sugar alcohols and even sugar.
- Monk fruit is primarily available in powder form, but some liquids are entering the market.
- You can bake with monk fruit. Welland recommends Monk Fruit In The Raw baker’s bag, which allows you to easily swap out the sugar for Monk Fruit In The Raw. For recipes that brown or rise, she suggests doing fifty-fifty with sugar and Monk Fruit In The Raw.