Canning 101: Can You Preserve With Artificial Sweeteners?

March 10, 2015


A couple weeks ago, I wrote a Canning 101 post about the different roles that sugar plays in preserving. This was my attempt to conclusively answer the questions I regularly get from people wanting to reduce the amount of sugar in their preserves.

There was one thing I didn’t address in that post and that was question of artificial sweeteners, like Splenda, Equal, Truvia, or xylitol. Personally, I don’t work with artificial sweeteners much simply because I don’t like the way they taste. I do understand, though, that for some folks it is necessary to use these products as a way to cut back on sugar. So here we go.

First, let’s talk about the situations in which artificial sweeteners aren’t going to work. When you make jam in the traditional manner, you are relying on the fact that as you cook, the sugar you added to the fruit is going to thicken as heat is applied, eventually thickening to the point where it bonds with the conventional pectin (either natural or added). If you remove the sugar from the equation, the jam is never going to set.

Sure, you might be able to boil it down into something to stir into yogurt, but it’s not going to be jam. What’s more, lots of the artificial sweeteners become bitter during extended cooking, so if you added your sweetener at the beginning of the cooking and then boiled the heck out of the fruit for 45 minutes, the finished product may well be inedible.

What this really means is that you can’t take a traditional recipe for jam, swap in Splenda and think you’re going to get anywhere near the same result. I know this might feel frustrating to some of you, but truly, this advice will save you buckets of aggravation in the long run.

So, here’s what you can do. You can use pectin that was designed to work in low or no-sugar environments. There are a couple different versions out there. Ball makes a special modified pectin and the package insert will be able to guide you through the process of creating serviceable jams.

Pomona’s Pectin is another good option. Known as low methoxyl pectin, it’s requires both a pectin made from citrus peels and a calcium solution. Instead of needing sugar to trigger the set, the calcium activates the pectin. This means that you can make spreadable preserves with whatever sweetener you choose, including a wide range of artificial sweeteners.

Another option is to start making fruit butters rather than jams and jellies. When you make a fruit butter, you cook a fruit puree at low temperature for a long period of time. In doing so, you remove much of the moisture, and concentrate the natural sugars in the fruit. You can then either leave it as-is (though the juice of a lemon or two will help preserve the color and brighten the flavor) or adjust it slightly with the artificial sweetener of your choice.

Just remember, as discussed in this blog post, when you reduce or remove sugar, shelf life and the quality once open shortens. I combat this by making low sugar or sugar-free preserves in small batches and canning them in four ounce jars, to ensure that they are as good and fresh as I can make them.

Sharing is caring!

Posted in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

68 thoughts on "Canning 101: Can You Preserve With Artificial Sweeteners?"

  • Yep. You simply cannot expectthe same chemical reaction when different chemicals are used in the formula.

  • Another good low sugar pectin is Dutch Gel All Natural Lite. It’s my favorite. I get it in bulk at my local Amish store.

  • I make a lot of sugar-free jams & jellies. First, I use Pomona Pectin. The sweeteners & use are concentrated stevia & agave. Some diabetics can handle agave, some can’t. You’re correct about the shelf-like & the opened life not being as long. I make small batches, and tell everyone to use within a month once opened.

      1. For a 4 cup batch of fruit, I use 1/4 teaspoon concentrated stevia, and agave to taste – 1 to 2 cups.

        1. Do you mind sharing the full recipe & instructions? So excited to find a recipe to fit a paleo diet. Thanks!

  • Another point to consider when using artificial sweeteners is that most of them are many times the sweetness of sugar – and therefore only a small fraction of the quantity of sugar in a recipe can be used, as well as not being sufficiently heat-stable. I’ve been making (and selling) sugar-free jams using Pomona’s Pectin and xylitol. Pure xylitol is measured equally to sugar, although additional pectin must be used, as well. The xylitol does not become bitter during prolonged cooking, and the resulting jams last very nearly as long on the shelf and in the refrigerator as those made with sugar.

    1. Type I diabetes comes to mind.

      Part of why I make jams is to avoid corn syrup, the other to make them lower in sugar than commercial products. Still, mine have plenty of the sweet stuff. Sugar-free jams never taste quite right to me.

  • Truvia and xylitol are a natural sugar substitutes, not artificial sweeteners. Truvia is a brand of stevia-based sugar substitute.

    I’ve seen recipes that use fruit juice concentrate as another alternative to sugar.

  • I am new to canning, so with that being said, I have a couple of questions. One. I tried to make strawberry jam but did not use the pectin. I did use real sugar. I followed someone’s advice who said I did not need the pectin. As you probably already guessed, I have a runny syrup type of Jam. The question is this: Will the jam last as long without the pectin? Question two. I made a salsa today, and as I was taking the jars out of the canner, I was tipping them to get the excess water off. Some the lids stared to pop right away. The question is this: Do I have to toss those jars that I tipped where the lid popped?

    Thanks for your response .

    1. Pectin doesn’t play any role in safety, so your runny strawberry preserves are entirely safe. All the pectin would have done would have been to help make a firmer product.

      And your salsa is fine. If the jars sealed, all is well. The popping is a good sign. It means the jars sealed.

  • I still seal my jellies with paraffin wax. i got nervous when i water bathed them cause some popped and others didn,t. my friend told me that was ok cause they were probably all ready about the same time, it turned out good,but makes me nervous

  • I am new to canning and I want to use Mionkfruit; Can Monkfruit be used in canning? What are natural organic thickening agents?

    1. Monkfruit falls into the same category as the other artificial sweeteners discussed in this article. I’d suggest you look into Pomona’s Pectin, which is the best low/no sugar pectin mentioned in this post.

  • I sure anyone using xylitol makes sure their label clearly warn that xylitol is in your product. As xylitol is DEADLY TO DOGS. There should be a large warning on front of products.

  • Actually xylitol and erythritol, both natural sugar alchohols, have almost exactly the same preservation properties as sugar.

  • I want to make chow chow with end of the year tomatoes for my mother who is diabetic. Can I used Swerve in the recipe and still can this in a hot water bath? I am most interested in the chow chow being safe and having a long shelf life.

    1. Sweeteners aren’t integral to the way the pickles work and the vinegar is what makes it safe for canning, so you should be okay.

    1. Using a non-sugar sweetener is like canning the fruit in water. It doesn’t help with keeping the fruit at all and so the quality, texture and color will degrade rapidly.

  • Thank you for the replies about canning items that *aren’t* jams and sweets. I came here looking for an answer, similar to the chowchow question, for canned “coleslaw” (the one where you basically just use cabbage, vinegar, seasonings, and a bit of sugar…) so this answered my question in that regard.

  • I made hot pepper Jelly with erythritol/monk fruit sweetener and the next day, the sugar started crystallizing. Is there any way to fix it or prevent it next time?

    1. I don’t have any experience canning with those sweeteners, so I can’t speak to the issue you’re having. So sorry!

  • Monk fruit with erythritol needs water/liquid that is over twice the volume of the sweetener to not recrystallize. 1:<2 Monk:liquid

  • Thank you so much for your help! I’m About to make apple/pear jelly and was going to use monk fruit as the sweetener. Hope it works out ok!

  • Can I use monk fruit instead of sugar in canning and do you know the conversion for that if it is safe. Thanks.

    1. Monkfruit is a non-sugar sweetener like all the others discussed in this blog post. So same reasonings apply.

    1. I’m not familiar with any recipes for stewed tomatoes that require sugar. If you’re working with a recipe that requires a sweetener, I’d probably just leave it out.

  • Im getting ready to make some bread and butter pickles and was wondering of Swerve can be used instead of sugar? Last year I tried Monkfruit and it crystallized upon heating to seal!? I don’t eat sugar and would prefer a subsitute..Like you I don’t after taste and prefer those made from plant.

    1. I have no knowledge of how Swerve behaves in preserving so I really can’t advise you. So sorry!

  • I’ve not canned yet using artificial sweeteners, however I have read xylitol, which is a natural sweetener, does well. I also read that to avoid the crystallization that may occur, to be extremely sure that there are no undisolved xylitol crystals that come into contact with the canning liquid (as on the sides of the pan or on the spoon used to make the syrup) or it will tend to crystallize at some point. I’m not sure if this means it will never crystallize or not. I am preparing my first foray in this area.

    1. I have no experience canning with xylitol. I’d love it if you’d let us know how it goes once you’ve done it!

  • I was given a Ball Jam & Jelly maker. Has anyone had experience making jam with allulose in one of these appliances?
    I followed a Ball Blue Book recipe for canning raspberry jam without sugar using Ball Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin. The end result was an extremely tart, thin spread. I plan to stir in some Stevia after opening each jar. Any other suggestions?

  • Xylitol is not an artificial sweetener. It is an all natural product made from Birch. Unless you don’t do your research and buy one made from corn or worse, made in China, who knows what that would actually be. It tastes exactly like sugar and can be used and 1:1 ratio.

  • i live in australia and when i make jam i cut down on the sugar and seal the metal jars in the microwave and each one has been great. the rules are max of 3 jars must not touch the walls or each other and within 5 minutes if the jam was hot going in they came out beautifully. it is to hot cooking in the summer so quick is great. i do all sorts of sizes and love it (i must admit when i had a new microwave i was very careful and stood back for a minute NONE has BROKEN ever. all the best c fitzgerald

  • Re Splenda, Equal, Truvia, or xylitol

    What about allulose? Would this option maintain preservation effects of sugar?

  • Hello!! I am so happy to have found you. I love that even though you don’t prefer the low sugar/alternate sugar options you have taken into consideration those of us who don’t have a lot of choice. I have a terrible reaction to sugar and am frightful of ever becoming diabetic – so have been using Stevia for over 25 years and now Swerve (erythrital) for baking.

    I love that you’ve taken the time to really investigate and come up with applicable solutions for those of us who don’t have as much experience. You are my new low- no sugar mentor. 🤩

  • Does Monk fruit fall into the same category as artificial sweeteners or can I use it in my process to make / can blackberry jam?

    Thank you!

  • Allulose has many of sugar’s qualities. It thickens browns and caramelizes like sugar. It 70 % as sweet as sugar so you might want to get a blend with some monk fruit or stevia. Allulose is as close as you can get to sugar.

  • I have tried using erythritol when making jam, but as soon as the jam goes into the fridge, it starts to grow crystals.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. How frustrating that must be that it crystallizes so quickly!