Can I use agave syrup instead of agave nectar?

Agave nectar and agave syrup are both sweeteners made from the agave plant. While they share some similarities, there are some key differences between the two that impact how they can be used in recipes.

What is Agave Nectar?

Agave nectar, sometimes called agave syrup, is a liquid sweetener made from the juice of agave plants. Blue agave plants grown in Mexico are the main source of agave nectar.

To make agave nectar, the agave juice is filtered and heated to break down its complex sugars into simple sugars. The end result is a sweet, syrupy liquid that contains mostly fructose sugar.

Agave nectar has a mild, neutral taste that makes it versatile for sweetening drinks, baking, and more. It also has a relatively low glycemic index, meaning it does not spike blood sugar levels as dramatically as regular sugar.

What is Agave Syrup?

While agave nectar and agave syrup come from the same plant source, they are processed differently.

Agave syrup is made by extracting and filtering the sap from the agave plant, but without extensive heating or refinement. This means agave syrup contains more complex sugars and agave plant compounds compared to more processed agave nectar.

The flavor of agave syrup is more robust, with more caramelized, earthy notes compared to the milder agave nectar. The texture is also thicker and viscosity higher.

Nutrition Comparison

Here is a nutrition comparison between the two sweeteners per tablespoon (21 grams) serving:

Nutrient Agave nectar Agave syrup
Calories 60 52
Carbs 16 g 13 g
Sugars 15 g 12 g

As you can see, agave nectar is slightly higher in calories and carbohydrates, including sugars, compared to agave syrup. The glycemic index is also higher for agave nectar at 15-30 compared to agave syrup which is 11-30.

Flavor Differences

In terms of flavor profile, agave syrup has a more pronounced, complex flavor compared to more subtle agave nectar:

  • Agave syrup: Robust, earthy, caramelized flavor
  • Agave nectar: Mild, neutral, subtly sweet flavor

Agave syrup works well in recipes where you want the agave flavor to come through. Meanwhile, agave nectar blends in more seamlessly without altering other flavors as significantly.

Sweetness Differences

Agave nectar is slightly sweeter than agave syrup. Here is a sweetness comparison:

  • Agave nectar: 1.4-1.6 times sweeter than sugar
  • Agave syrup: 1.2 times sweeter than sugar

So you may need to use a bit more agave syrup to achieve the desired sweetness level in a recipe.

Moisture Content

Agave nectar’s moisture content is lower than agave syrup. Agave nectar is about 70% sugars while agave syrup contains 85-90% sugars.

The higher moisture content gives agave syrup more viscosity and thickness. Agave nectar will blend into liquids and batters more seamlessly.

Baking and Cooking Differences

The differences in flavor, sweetness, and moisture impact how the two can be swapped in recipes.

In batters and doughs, agave syrup may slightly alter the texture and moisture level, so you may need to adjust other liquids or leavening agents to account for this. The flavors may also come through more strongly.

In drinks, agave syrup may result in a slightly thicker, less neutral sweetness compared to agave nectar.

For simply sweetening items like oatmeal, yogurt, or desserts, agave syrup can work but you may need a bit more volume to achieve the desired sweetness level.

Storage Differences

Agave nectar and agave syrup also have slightly different storage requirements:

  • Agave nectar: Store in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place. Can be stored for about 1 year.
  • Agave syrup: Best stored in the refrigerator after opening. Will keep for 6-8 months.

The higher moisture content of agave syrup means it is more prone to mold growth, so refrigeration helps extend its shelf life after opening.

Price Differences

Agave syrup tends to be more expensive than agave nectar. Here are some average prices:

  • Agave nectar: approximately $4-$8 per 16 oz bottle
  • Agave syrup: approximately $6-$12 per 16 oz bottle

This is likely due to the less extensive processing methods used to make agave syrup, resulting in higher production costs.

Is One Healthier?

In terms of health impacts, agave syrup would be considered the slightly healthier option between the two.

Agave syrup contains more beneficial compounds from the agave plant since it is less processed. It has a lower glycemic index, meaning it impacts blood sugar levels less significantly. It also contains prebiotic fiber that may benefit digestive health.

However, both should still be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Despite having some potential benefits over regular sugar, they are still high in calories and sugars.


In summary:

  • Agave nectar has a milder, more neutral flavor compared to the more robust, caramelized agave syrup.
  • Agave nectar is slightly sweeter and has a lower viscosity and moisture content.
  • Agave syrup may impact recipe textures slightly more and requires refrigerated storage. It also costs more on average.
  • While agave syrup has some additional health benefits, both sweeteners should be used sparingly.

When swapping between agave nectar and agave syrup, you may need to adjust amounts or other ingredients in a recipe. For optimal results, use agave syrup in recipes where its flavor will complement other ingredients rather than recipes where neutral sweetness is key.

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