As veganism continues to grow in popularity, you will likely see agave nectar listed in the ingredients list for a number of recipes. The liquid sweetener is commonly used as a vegan substitute for honey.
It can be difficult to find agave nectar, particularly in smaller towns. There is no need for concern, as this article will take you through the 10 best substitutes for agave nectar so you never need to worry again.
The substitutes listed will all have different sugar contents and GIs to agave nectar. For most people, this is not an issue, but if you are cooking for diabetics it is vital that you make them aware to ensure they suffer no adverse effects.
What Is Agave Nectar?
This is a liquid sweetener that is extracted from a number of species of agave plant. The plants are allowed to mature for 7 to 14 years before the leaves are cut off and the juice is drained from the core of the plant.
This juice is then filtered, heated, and concentrated to produce the final result.
These plants are typically found growing in South Africa and Mexico. It is a slightly thinner consistency than honey, although visually very similar. It is also referred to as agave syrup and maguey syrup.
Agave nectar has a low GI (glycemic index) making it a better choice for diabetics. That being said, it is about 30% sweeter than regular sugar, so less will be required to achieve the same flavor result.
Honey is a go-to replacement for agave nectar in most instances. As we have mentioned, honey is not vegan and so this is not an appropriate substitute for vegan dishes. In all other instances, honey will work well as a substitute for agave nectar.
The consistency of honey is slightly thicker than agave nectar, so bear this in mind. You should replace agave nectar with honey in equal volumes. It is an ideal choice for baking and marinades.
This is also known as brown rice malt, brown rice syrup, and rice malt. It is produced from brown rice and originates from China. The brown rice undergoes an enzymic treatment and then is thickened to produce the sweet syrup.
This is considered by many people to be healthier than other sweeteners as it has lower levels of fructose and higher levels of glucose. That being said, it has a high GI and almost double the calories found in equivalent quantities of white sugar.
Rice syrup is not as sweet as agave nectar, and you may need to use up to double the quantity to replicate the sweetness of agave.
Date syrup also has a number of other names, including Silan, date nectar, and date honey. It is very thick and relatively dark in color. It is less sweet than agave but will add tones of caramel and vanilla to whatever you are making.
Date syrup can be made simply at home. All you need to do is pit and soak some dates for 30 minutes. You will then bring them to a boil in a pan of water, before reducing the heat and simmering for an hour.
The syrup is then strained and decanted, ready for use.
This is also referred to as coconut palm sugar, after the plant that it comes from. It is made from the sap of the plant which is collected and heated until most of the water has evaporated off.
Coconut sugar is typically brown in color and the granule size can vary a lot.
There are a number of nutrients found within coconut sugar, such as zinc, calcium, potassium, iron, and inulin. Inulin is believed to slow the absorption of glucose, giving coconut sugar a lower GI than white sugar.
Stevia is a commonly used sweetener extracted from the plant Stevia rebaudiana. Extracts are taken from the leaves of the plant and then these undergo a lot of refining to produce a compound known as rebaudioside A.
These products are typically around 200 times sweeter than white sugar.
The big benefit of using stevia is that it falls into the category of nonnutritive sweeteners. This means that it is incredibly low in calories, making it a great sugar or agave substitute for people trying to watch their weight.
In diabetics, stevia is believed to be useful for maintaining a stable and consistent blood glucose level.
This is a type of inverted sugar syrup that has been refined a number of times. This is a common ingredient used in baking, desserts, and other sweet dishes. It is visually and texturally similar to honey, making it a common replacement.
The flavor profiles of golden syrup and agave nectar are very similar. They are both mild and incredibly sweet products.
As agave nectar is predominantly fructose while golden syrup is a combination of fructose and glucose, you may need to use more golden syrup than the recipe calls for to replicate the same taste.
A liquid sugar that we all know and love, maple syrup is a staple in the cupboards of many homes across the world. Maple syrup has a much stronger flavor profile than agave nectar, and you should bear this in mind when choosing a substitute.
Maple syrup can replace agave nectar in equal volumes, although it is likely that the resultant product will be less sweet than if agave nectar was used. You can add extra syrup to make up for this, but still try to keep the sweetness levels in check.
This is a runny, sugary liquid commonly used by bartenders when cocktails are made. This can be made at home easily by simply combining white sugar and water over a low heat.
You should use equal volumes of both ingredients and simply heat until all of the sugar granules have been dissolved. This syrup mixture can be stored in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to one month.
This is the perfect agave nectar substitute for cocktails.
This is a liquid sweetener made from corn (or maize) starch. It is also known by the name of glucose syrup and is commonly used in the production of confectionery as it gives a soft texture, enhances the flavor profile, and reduces crystallization.
It is not the same as high-fructose corn syrup. This is a more processed version where much of the glucose has been converted through the use of enzymes into fructose.
Corn syrup is typically used as a cheaper alternative to maple or agave syrups and is commonly colored and flavored to make the comparison closer.
This is produced as a byproduct of the refining process of sugar cane. The juice is extracted from sugar cane and then boiled. This produces cane syrup, and a second boiling process is undergone to produce molasses.
A third and final boil produces a thick, viscous, and dark-colored liquid – the blackstrap molasses.
This sugar substitute has the lowest sugar content of any sweetener and is packed full of nutrients too. Some of the most notable include iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and vitamin B6.
You can use this substance in equal quantities to the volume of agave nectar that the recipe calls for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Agave Nectar Healthier Than Honey?
While many people believe that agave nectar is healthier than honey, this is not the case. Both substances are high in sugar but remain marketed as a healthier sweetener that has been refined less than white sugar or corn syrup.
Both honey and agave nectar are naturally occurring sweeteners, however, they are not equal. The GI (glycemic index) of agave is about ⅓ of that of honey.
In real terms, this means that eating a spoonful of agave nectar will raise your blood sugar levels much less than honey would. This can be useful for diabetics in particular.
Honey contains about 40% fructose whereas agave nectar contains 75-90% fructose. This is believed to be linked to a number of health problems and your fructose intake should be limited.
Honey also contains a large number of antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients. These are not found in agave nectar. On balance, it is safe to say that honey takes a slight edge over agave nectar when it comes to health.
What Does Agave Nectar Taste Like?
Agave nectar is a very mild-flavored sweetener. It is unlikely to impact the flavor profile of the dishes it is used in, making it a great multipurpose sweetener. It is very sweet and reminiscent of honey.
The color of agave nectar can range from a light gold to a deep, dark amber color. The darker the hue of the agave nectar, the more similar the flavor profile becomes to honey.
Is Agave Nectar The Same As Agave Syrup?
Yes, these 2 terms are used interchangeably and refer to the same product. Some retailers will use the term agave nectar for products that are 100% agave nectar, and use the term agave syrup for products with additional extras added.