The popularity of agave has increased exponentially over the last few years and soon we will be offered agave products as an alternative to sugar not only in private places but also while we are eating our lunch in a restaurant or drinking a coffee in a cafeteria. Because of its low GI (Glycemic Index), many are now looking for additional information about baking with agave or simply how they can successfully substitute agave for honey, sugar or other sweeteners. In Mexico and the United States there exist over 130 types of agave used for creating various agave products, which are then used in desserts, baking, foods and beverages.
The agave plant has been used for centuries in the above-mentioned regions, but due to its recent increase in popularity, three types of products have generally been cultivated and sold as a substitute for sugar, honey or other sweeteners. These are: Agave Nectar or Syrup, Agave Sweet Powder, and Agave Inulin Powder. Each of these types has its own particularities and are better suited to different food types. Read here a good guide on different types of agave.
Agave Nectar (Syrup)
Agave Nectar is a thick and very sweet syrup. It looks and tastes very similar to honey, which is why substituting agave nectar for honey is not very difficult. There are 3 main types of Agave Nectar on the market: light, amber and dark Agave Nectar. The difference between these three lies in their flavor and consistency. Light Agave Syrup tends to have a more subtle, neutral taste and fits well in places where you don’t want your sweetener to alter the taste of your food too much. The amber Agave Nectar is more robust and intense, while the dark flavor has a strong flavour, which is more suited to times when you would like a strong taste, such as when applying the sweetener directly on top of foods.
In terms of more industrial uses for Agave Nectar, it can be successfully used in the confectionery industry for making candies, marshmallows or chocolate. It can also be used for sweetening jams and marmalades or to add a touch of sweetness in cocktails, juices, coffees or teas, due to the fact that it dissolves very quickly in cold or hot mixtures. Furthermore, if you are thinking of baking with Agave Nectar instead of sugar, it works very well in cookies, bread, cakes and many other varieties of desserts. Agave Nectar can also be used in the dairy industry for regular, almond, coconut or rice milk, as well as being great for seasonings and dressings.
In terms of more domestic, personal usage, Agave Nectar is also a great direct substitute in baking and general home cooking. Even though it can replace sugar and honey without altering the flavor, you should take into consideration some proportions. It is roughly 1.4 times sweeter than sugar, so this should be considered when using it. For instance, one cup of honey or maple syrup is equivalent to one cup of agave syrup. You will need to replace one cup of rice or corn syrups with ½ cup of agave nectar. On the other hand, if you are interested in using agave nectar instead of sugar, you will use 2/3 cup of agave nectar for one cup of white or brown sugar, but you will need to reduce the other liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup. One other aspect you should take into consideration if you decide to shift to baking with Agave is that due to the fact that the Agave Nectar bakes more quickly than sugar, it would be recommended to reduce the baking temperature by 25°F. Here is another great guide on substituting Agave Nectar for other sweeteners.
Agave Sweet Powder
Agave Sweet Powder can be considered the granulated version of Agave Nectar. The production process follows the same steps as for the syrup with the only difference that once the nectar is obtained, it is dried to remove all the moisture from it, and is then transformed into a granulated powder. Similar to agave nectar, it can be used as a natural and low-glycemic sweetener. More details on Agave’s low-glycemic properties can be found in this glycemic index chart of sweeteners. It dissolves very quickly in any hot or cold drinks and it can be very easily used in baking recipes. One important aspect that needs to be taken into consideration when it is used in baking is the fact that it thickens the texture of the mixture you want to create. Therefore, it would be advisable to pay attention to proportions, and increase liquids where necessary. In addition, the powder used in desserts and other baking recipes helps in keeping the products moisturized for a longer period of time.
Last but not least, Agave Inulin is sold as a powder as well, being a nutritious alternative to sugar with a mild and clean sweet flavor. It is extracted from the agave plant and has a very low GI. Due to the fact that it does not create spikes in blood sugar, it can be considered a good alternative for someone who suffers from diabetes. When using agave inulin powder, it dissolves very fast in cold or hot water. Therefore, you can add one teaspoon of inulin in your coffee or tea without worrying that it will not dissolve or change the taste of your drink. Aside from its high solubility, when it is used in beverages it increases the sensation of satiety and can be valuable for fiber enrichment. In addition, Agave inulin powder used in bakery products functions as a water binder and a prebiotic. At Naturel West we supply only natural, organic inulin powder, to ensure the highest quality.