Note: Prices quoted in this article have changed since I first wrote it in 2009. I am currently updating the prices and other product information.
Often when I develop recipes I use a liquid form of sucralose as the sweetener. Why? Because sucralose, the artificial sweetener in Splenda, is so incredibly concentrated (600 times the sweetness of sugar) that it needs a "carrier" to dilute it in order to be useful. Unfortunately, the carrier in powdered Splenda is made up of dextrose and maltodextrin, fancy words for "sugar" and "sugar", so a packet of Splenda has about one gram of carbohydrate, and a cup of Splenda granular has 24 grams of carb. Additionally, some of the powdered sweeteners, particularly the bulk types, have an "off-flavor" which many people find objectionable, particularly in baking.
While the new Splenda Quick Pack has much less sugar (1 teaspoon, at 3.3 grams of carbohydrate), it is not so practical for sweetening small amounts of food, such as a cup of tea, since one pack equals the sweetness of a cup of sugar.
Perhaps the best alternative to the powders is simply to dissolve the sucralose in water, which has zero carbs. Since the manufacturer of Splenda has held back on making a liquid form available (despite numerous letter-writing campaigns and petitions), a cottage industry has grown to provide sucralose in liquid forms.
The bad news is that these alternatives are not available in most stores and have to be ordered online. The good news is that not only will you save carbs by using them (and avoid off-flavors), in most cases you will also save money.
Issues with Liquid SucraloseThe full-strength liquid, as it comes to the manufacturers, is very concentrated. This has two potential problems. The first is that one drop of liquid can be over a teaspoon of "sugar-sweetness" -- not good if you want less in your coffee or tea. The other is that the concentrated liquid tends to create crystals in dispensers over time, clogging them up. Different suppliers have dealt with this in different ways.
Here are some forms of liquid sucralose available online and some of the pros and cons of each:
SweetzfreeSweetzfree is full-strenth liquid sweetener, with each drop providing the sugar equivalent of about 1½ teaspoons. This is great for recipes requiring a larger amount of sweetener. The smaller size doesn't usually clog. The dispenser on the largest sizes doesn't clog, but drops tend to collect on the outside which crystalize if not removed. Twice in the course of using the largest size I had to remove a "shell" of crystalized sucralose from the applicator. However, this "shell" was handy for sweetening a pitcher of iced tea.
Sweetzfree comes in several sizes. The largest is 4 oz., which gives the sweetness of 96 cups of sugar for $64 (including shipping). This works out to about 67 cents per cup of sugar equivalent.
Shop for Sweetzfree Here
EZ-SweetzThis company solves the crystalization problem by selling the full-strength solution in small containers of up to half an ounce each. I have used one and had absolutely no clogging problems. You can buy the containers singly, or in packs of three or six. EZ-Sweetz is readily available at sites such as Amazon, Netrition, and the manufacturer's Web site. With the shipping, a six-pack of this EZ-Sweetz works out to between 57 cents and 63 cents for a cup of sugar equivalent.
FiberfitContains both sucralose and a little soluble fiber in a 4 oz. container. Much less concentrated, 1 teaspoon of Fiberfit gives you 8 teaspoons of sugar equivalent. At $5.29 for 4 oz at Netrition.com, this works out to $1.32 per cup of sugar equivalent. The 16 oz. size for $18 is a slightly better deal -- $1.12 per cup of sugar equivalent. (Note: Fiberfit now has a zero carb powder, but I haven’t tried it.)
Shop for Fiberfit Here
Sugar-Free SyrupsSyrups developed to flavor coffees, such as Da Vinci and Torani brands, can be used as sweeteners. Da Vinci makes an unflavored version called “simple syrup.” The drawback is that this is the least concentrated way to get sucralose. It measures about cup for cup, and that’s a lot of liquid in many recipes. At $7.49 per bottle from Netrition.com, it comes out to about 78 cents per cup of sugar equivalent. Torini and Da Vinci syrups are also available in some regular stores, such as Smart and Final.
Shop for Sugar-Free Syrups Here