What is Agave Syrup?

How to Use This Versatile Vegan Friendly Sweetener

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Agave Syrup. Photo Credit: Allyson Kramer

Agave syrup is a common ingredient often found in vegan cooking, baking, and candy making. Agave syrup is also referred to as agave “nectar”, yet both terms define the sweet syrup that comes from the agave plant. Agave makes a great honey substitute for vegans, boasting a similar sweetness with a slightly thinner texture than honey.  It makes a fabulous addition to your vegan pantry, as it has multiple applications.

Agave nectar, or syrup, is obtained from the extracted juice of agave plant leaves. The syrup usually comes from the sap of the agave tequilana plant or agave salmiana plant. Raw agave, which hasn’t been heated to temperatures above 117 ºF is a common ingredient in "raw vegan" recipes. It is considered by some people to be a healthier choice than refined white sugar, as it has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar. Yet, agave still contains high amounts of fructose and should be consumed in moderation.

Agave is 1.6 times sweeter than sugar and can be used in place of sugar, molasses, or honey. It is a perfect addition to recipes where just a touch of sweetness is needed, such as in dressings and cold beverages like sweetened iced tea. You can also use agave as syrup on its own to top foods like oatmeal, pancakes, or waffles.

Agave syrup is available in a few varieties, from light to dark in both color and flavor.

Dark agave is wonderful for imparting a strong color (and flavor) to baked goods and dark desserts, such as chocolate pudding. Light agave works nicely when you want a touch of sweetness, but not a lot of color, as in vegan cheesecakes. Be mindful when baking with agave in place of sugar that the baked goods made with agave will appear darker than those baked with sugar cane or beet sugar.

Agave syrup can also be used as a replacement for corn syrup in many candy recipes, such as vegan caramels and toffee. It can easily be flavored and used as a sweetener for coffee, or cocktails, as one would use simple syrup. Add a whole vanilla bean to a bottle of light agave and let rest for 1 month. Shake gently to create a lovely vanilla flavored simple syrup that you can add to teas, coffee, and more.

Seek out agave in natural foods stores in or in the natural foods sections of most grocery stores. Agave syrup is shelf stable and usually is located along with other alternative sweeteners such as brown rice syrup and coconut palm sugar. Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place or in your refrigerator to retain freshness.