What is Monk Fruit Sugar?

What Is Monk Fruit Sugar?

I admit it! I love sugar! And anything that is sweet. But as I am also on a keto diet, and a lot of my normal fruit intake is limited, I have found monk fruit sugar as a wonderful sugar-free alternative.

Monk fruit was first discovered by Buddhist monks in China in the 13th century. Though it was used in Chinese medicine for centuries it has only been the last while that they have figured out how to extract the sweet sugar properties from the monk fruit so it could be used as a sugar substitute.

I love sugar and anything I make I do not want it to taste sugar-free or have a really bad after taste. That is why I really love monk fruit sugar and have used the monk fruit sugar in a lot in my recipes. If you are like me and trying to cut out sugar, monk fruit sugar is like a gift from the gods. Or as some Chinese say – the fruit of the immortals.

Monk fruit sugar is from a small green round melon fruit that is grown on a vine in China and Thailand. The scientific name is siraitia grosvenorii.

As Monk Fruit is also used for medicine in Vietnam, I asked someone to get me some so that I could personally see it. Below is the photo of a dried monk fruit. The inner part is the sweet part and many times the Chinese and Vietnamese will boil this if they are sick. I had them boil it for me and actually it did not taste bad. It tasted a lot like hot sugar water.

The Monk Fruit Used To Make Monk Fruit Sugar
The Monk Fruit Used To Make Monk Fruit Sugar

A Bit of Monk Fruit History

I feel it is always good to know a bit about anything you are putting into your mouth. Monk Fruit has a very interesting history.

Monk Fruit And the Buddhist Monks

The monk fruit is first known to appear in Chinese records during the 13th century when some Chinese monks discovered this sweet fruit in the Guilin mountains of Guangxi Province, China. As the monk fruit is quite difficult to grow it never made it into the mainstream for Chinese medicine, but can still be found in many parts of China and Vietnam today.

These 13th Century Chinese monks understood this monk fruit was something special. it was able to sweeten their food while at the same time it was said to have special healing properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, the monk fruit was used for a cough and sore throat. I was told by my Chinese staff that today they boil the monk fruit to make soup or hot drink if they are getting a sore throat or cold.

The monk fruit was also thought to be an aid to help with longevity and long life. This is why it also has the names of the immortals’ fruit. 

One reason many call monk fruit the immortals’ fruit is because there are some who believe it gives them longevity. In the part of China that the monk fruit is grown and used, there are many residents in the locality who live to be over 100 years old.

It was these 13th Chinese monks and the people in this area that gave the monk fruit its name. In Vietnam, the fruit is called “quả la hán” which means Buddhist fruit or longevity fruit.

National Geographics and Monk Fruit

Dr. George Weidman Groff was a professor at Lingnan University in Guangdong. China in the early 1930s. He was up in Guilin Province in China to do an agricultural survey when he came across the monk fruit or as the Chinese call it “luo han guo” (罗汉果) when translated means monk fruit. Dr. Groff had been looking for this monk fruit for quite some time as he had heard about this mysterious sweet fruit.

In 1937 the National Geographic Society gave a grant to Dr. George Weidman Groff, to go into the heartland of Guangxi Province, China to find this mysterious monk fruit. He was able to obtain some photographs of the fruit and brought back some samples to the National Geographic Society in the United States.

Bringing Monk Fruit Sugar to Market

Even though monk fruit has been used as part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years, the sugary commercial version is quite new to the market. This is because the actual monk fruit had some interfering flavors that rendered the monk fruit completely useless to be used as a sweetener or sugar alternative. The Japanese started to look at how they could extract the sugar from the fruit. In 1995, Procter and Gamble patented a process to get rid of these interfering flavors so the sugars from the fruit could be extracted and used.

It was not until much later that the monk fruit would be able to actually be grown commercially and processed into the monk fruit sugar that we have today. One reason for this is because the fruit is quite difficult to grow and does not grow much in the wild. The fruit is hard to harvest as it grows mainly on the hillsides and has very specific temperature requirements.

To learn more about the monk fruit and how it is processed into sugar you can watch this very informative video by Lakanto.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9Q_TrNlJdY
Lakanto – Monk Fruit Sugar

8 Reasons Why We Love the Monk Fruit Sugar

Here is the reason why we love the monk fruit sugar:

  • Zero Calories – Monk Fruit has zero calories. This is similar to other sugar substitutes like Stevia but Monk Fruit is more like regular sugar.
  • Natural Sugar – Monk fruit is considered a natural sugar as the sugar is extracted from an ancient Chinese fruit called the monk fruit.
  • No bad after taste – Some sweeteners we have an after taste to them. No matter what you do, you always know it is a sweetener and things do not taste as good as real sugar. I find that monk fruit does not have the bad after taste.
  • Sweeter than sugar – Monk fruit is about 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar so I find I just need to use a bit of it. Even if the package says you can use it 1:1 as regular sugar, I still find the natural taste of it sweeter than regular white sugar.
  • Gluten-Free – Monk fruit is 100% gluten-free. And YES, it can be used on a Keto diet.
  • Vegan – Monk fruit is also 100% vegan.
  • Non-GMO – Lakanto’s monk sugar is not genetically modified which makes it a great natural choice for a sugar substitute. Many of the other Monk Fruit Sugars you buy are the same.
  • Healthy sugar alternative – If anyone has ever eaten any sugar-free candy as I have, and then about an hour or so later the bloating. gas and diarrhea will start, you know that not all sugar-free alternatives are equal and some are just downright unhealthy. With the monk fruit, I have never had this problem, so I find it to be a very good healthy sugar-free alternative.

Monk fruit obtains its sweetness not from its natural sugar, but because of the natural antioxidants that the monk fruit contains. 

Where To Buy Monk Fruit Sugar

There are many places you can buy monk fruit. Many grocery stores and online platforms now carry it. We like to buy it from Walmart.com as they offer a very good price. You can find out more about buying monk fruit sugar from Walmart.com by clicking here.

The Three Kinds of Sugar
Three Kinds of Sugar

Other White Sugar Alternatives

f we do not use a sugar-like monk fruit sugar here are two other sugars I also use:

  • Cane Sugar – Cane sugar is a sugar that is produced from sugarcane. It is still sugar but is less refined and also better for you than regular white sugar. I like to use cane sugar in my ice cream as it gives it a kind of almost caramel taste. If you do not want to use monk fruit sugar you can consider using sugarcane for the same proportions, but know that cane sugar is still a sugar and you can not have it on a keto diet.
  • Coconut Sugar – Coconut Sugar is another kind of sugar that is extracted from coconuts. Unlike white sugar coconut sugar does contain some nutrients so it thought to be slightly better for you than white sugar.

Both cane and coconut sugars are better than regular white sugar for your health, but they also have calories and they are not sugarfree. Whereas, monk fruit sugar has zero calories.

I have found Monk Fruit sugar to be a better sugar alternative for me than Stevia. I have used Stevia a lot in the past but I have found the taste of monk fruit sugar to be a better alternative to stevia.

Advice On Baking and Other Sweets with Monk Fruit Sugar

I have found when using Monk Fruit that it has done very well in a Chocolate Mousse recipe. I hardly noticed any difference from my monk fruit sugarfree chocolate mousse recipe and the one I made with regular white sugar. When I served it for a dinner party, my guests also did not notice it and what was great about it was that it was a 100% Keto chocolate mousse.

I have also used it to make some cheesecake with an almond flour crust. The cheesecake turned out very good. Good enough that I feel I could make it again and serve it to dinner guests.

When I use monk fruit sugar with my ice cream recipe and my ice cream was very good but it froze rock solid. So it is wonderful to use as long as you understand this about the ice cream and monk fruit sugar.

I tried to make my Swedish Grandmother’s brownies with monk fruit sugar and I would have to say that failed, so I am still working on that recipe.

So even though monk fruit sugar advertises on the package that it can be used just like sugar, it does not always react the same as regular white sugar in your recipes. You cannot always just take it over as a 1:1 serving as they advertise. First of all, it is sweeter than regular sugar and second, it does not always react the same as real sugar will when you are making a recipe.

Disclaimer – I am not a doctor, nor am I a monk fruit sugar expert. If you are not sure about using monk fruit as a sugar substitute or in your food, ask your doctor or health care provider.

We feel like monk fruit is a wonderful alternative to sugar. It has the natural sweetness of sugar and at least when I use it, I do not miss my sugar at all. If you are on a keto diet or looking at how to cut sugar out of your diet, monk fruit is definitely a sugar alternative you should consider.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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What Is Monk Fruit Sugar?