Agave Nectar

621361_458467351Agave nectar is one of my favorite unrefined sweeteners to use in baking. I first learned about it early this year and was an immediate convert. It’s a liquid sweetener that’s about 1.4 times sweeter than sugar and thinner than honey, or “less viscous,” if you want to get technical.

Agave nectar is made from the Mexican agave plant, which sort of looks like a cactus. Fun fact – it’s actually the same plant from which tequila is made. Can you say agave margarita?! Even though agave nectar has been used by natives for thousands of years for flavoring and medicinal purposes, it didn’t really become commercially available until the 1990s. To produce agave nectar, juice is extracted from the agave plant when it’s about 7-10 years old – and up to 12 feet tall! Harvesters cut off the top of the plant and cap it with a stone. The pressure from the stone causes all of the plant’s juices to collect in the center, so the harvesters can go in and ladle it out. The juice is then filtered and heated, which turns its carbohydrates into sugars. And voila! Agave nectar.

Agave nectar ranges in color – from light to amber to dark – based on how much it’s been filtered. The darker the color, the less it’s been filtered. The darker colors also have the strongest, most distinct flavors – sort of caramel-y. The lighter colors add a mild, neutral sweetness.

I think the best thing agave nectar’s got going for itself is that it’s the lowest natural sweetener on the Glycemic Index. What does that mean? Basically, the lower something is on the Glycemic Index, the slower it’s processed in your body. So you don’t get the same “sugar rush” and subsequent crash with agave nectar as you would with, say, regular white sugar. It also still contains the agave plant’s iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Ah, the benefits of unrefined sweeteners!

To substitute agave nectar for sugar in baking, I use 3/4 cup agave nectar for every 1 cup sugar – you don’t need as much since it’s sweeter. I also reduce other liquids in the recipe by…a little bit. Um, yeah, I totally have no science for that one. Some people say you should reduce your oven temperature by 25*F, but I’m of the opinion that no two ovens are alike, so I usually just ignore this and keep my eye on the goods while they’re in there. If I’m substituting agave nectar for another liquid sweetener, I use the exact same amount – easy!

Madhava and Wholesome Sweeteners are two brands of agave nectar I’ve tried. And my Baking with Agave Nectar cookbook gives me lots of ideas for ways to use them. It offers over 100 recipes with agave nectar in the starring role. And – bonus for some of you! – a lot of them are vegan and gluten-free as well.

If you’re super interested in all this and want to learn more, this site has a lot of good info.

Have you ever baked with agave nectar? Any favorite recipes to share?


18 Responses to “Agave Nectar”

  1. 1 VeggieGirl November 4, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I LOVE using agave nectar!! Thanks for including such beneficial information!!

  2. 2 sweetandnatural November 4, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    VeggieGirl – I love it too! It’s so versatile, right?

  3. 3 VeggieGirl November 4, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Indeed it is!! And tasty 😀

  4. 4 Andrea November 5, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I haven’t tried agave nectar yet, but I’ve been reading about it recently too and can’t wait to give it a whirl! 🙂 One of my other favorite liquid sweeteners is fruit juice concentrate, specifically Fruit Sweet. Have you ever used it?

  5. 5 sweetandnatural November 5, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Andrea – I’ve never used fruit juice concentrate, but I’m now adding it to my list of ingredients to try! Do you have a favorite way to use it?

  6. 6 Andrea November 5, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    I’ve made many of the recipes in Mani Niall’s book ( I especially love his muffins. Its used in the same way it sounds like you use the agave nectar, so you could probably try it in your recipes pretty easily. For a long time I could only find the Fruit Sweet at specialty health food stores, but now Whole Foods carries it too. Have fun!

  7. 7 HangryPants November 6, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks for this! I have never had agave nectar, but am so curious. I wish I could get a small sample to try before I buy.

  8. 8 sweetandnatural November 6, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    HangryPants – I think I’ve only had light agave nectar, but it’s kind of like a subtly sweet, runnier honey. I want to try dark next b/c it’s supposed to have more flavor and I’m curious about that. I wonder if I’d be able to tell the difference between the two in something I bake.

  9. 9 debby101 April 19, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Thanks for the info. I usually get the bulk agave nectar in 5 gallon. It is more economical and I use it in everything.

  10. 10 Amber January 6, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    I am glad I found your blog. I haven’t tried Agave nectar yet, but I want to. I’ve recently discovered coconut sugar (or palm sugar). It is made from the sap of certain coconut/palm trees. It is a natural sugar that has been used for years and has a low glycemic index similar to Agave nectar. The difference is that it is not a syrup but is evaporated into granules like sugar. I use Big Tree Farms SweetTree Organic Evaporated Palm Sugar. I buy it from

  11. 11 LynnP January 15, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    I was all set to try this then I went to ANOTHER blog and read a 3-page manifesto about it that made me wish for a pack of aspartame to suck on. This is all so confusing! I am diabetic and I am off the aspartame, still trying to sort through the sucralose hype, and at my wit’s end. Your recipes are the BEST, though. I have decided to use real butter and natural sweeteners in all my cooking from now on, just in moderation. I think you’re a culinary genious, sweetheart!

  12. 12 Baciod January 25, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I love agave nectar and raw almonds. Sooo yummy. Thanks for the info.

  13. 13 barns July 23, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    I just came across this recent information regarding agave nectar. Could you kindly comment on this?

  14. 16 Green coffee Advance Review April 22, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I seldom drop remarks, but i did a few searching and wound up here
    Agave Nectar | sweet + natural. And I actually do have 2
    questions for you if it’s allright. Is it just me or does it seem like some of the remarks come across like they are left by brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are posting at additional social sites, I’d like to keep up with anything new you have to post.
    Would you list of the complete urls of all your community pages like your linkedin profile,
    Facebook page or twitter feed?

  1. 1 She Says: Busy as a Bee | Hangry Pants Trackback on May 2, 2009 at 7:58 am
  2. 2 Grocery & Gourmet Food ›”agave nectar recipes” | Best Vegan Recipies Trackback on October 9, 2011 at 10:33 pm
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