Agave syrup recently emerged as a trendy sweetener and was promoted as being healthier than sugar. It is an effective sweetener that has a number of valuable benefits, but is it the same as sugar in terms of its flavor? Can be it used as a sugar substitute? The answers to these questions and more in our SPICEography Showdown: Agave vs. Sugar.
How do agave syrup and sugar differ from each other in flavor?
The flavor difference between the types of agave syrup can be likened to the difference between white and brown sugar or between light and dark corn syrup. Light agave syrup offers a neutral flavor with mild caramel notes, while dark agave syrup offers a stronger caramel flavor. In much the same way, white sugar offers only sweetness with no background notes but brown sugar offers sweetness accompanied by the caramel flavor notes that come from its molasses content.
Agave syrup and sugar are also different in terms of how sweet they are. Some types of agave syrup are much sweeter than sugar. Light agave syrup is slightly less sweet than sugar, while dark agave syrup is considerably sweeter.
Can you use one in place of the other?
You can use agave syrup and sugar in place of each other as long as you keep in mind the fact that agave syrup is both a liquid and sweeter than sugar.
You can use agave syrup as a substitute for sugar in dishes where the liquid consistency will not be an issue and you can take steps to compensate for it in other dishes. Those steps include decreasing the amount of liquid in the dish to keep the ratio of dry to liquid ingredients about the same. Reduce the liquids by between 1/4 and 1/3 cup for every 2/3 cup of agave syrup you use in the recipe.
In order to keep the resulting dish from being too sweet, follow this formula when using agave syrup as a sugar substitute: 2/3 cups of agave syrup for every cup of sugar that the recipe requires.
Simply reverse the steps above to use sugar in place of agave syrup. Increase the liquids and add a cup of sugar for every 2/3 cup of agave syrup that the recipe requires.
When should you use agave syrup and when should you use sugar?
Because of its neutral flavor and the fact that it is a liquid, light agave syrup is a good sweetener for cocktails and lightly flavored beverages. The fact that it is a liquid means that it does not take time to dissolve the way that sugar crystals will. In addition to being able to provide neutral sweetness, the fact that it is a liquid means that you can use it in applications where sugar crystals may not be ideal. For example, agave syrup can be used as a topping for pancakes and French toast. In other words, you can use it as a maple syrup substitute as well. Dark agave syrup makes a decent alternative to brown sugar and be beneficial in applications where you prefer a syrupy texture, but also want the molasses flavor notes brought by brown sugar.
Use sugar if you want a crystalline sweetener over a liquid one. You may also want to opt for sugar as your everyday sweetener if you are concerned about your health. Because agave syrup contains more fructose, there is evidence that it can increase your risk for weight-gain even more than sugar. Excessive agave syrup consumption may also result in increased insulin resistance and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.