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Agave nectar in baking?

Caitlin McGrath Nov 5, 2007 10:57 AM

Can anyone share experience or guidelines on using agave nectar baking? Is it at all suitable for baking? I'm curious to know how it behaves versus, say, honey in terms of moisture, and what its relative sweetness is under heat. I've only seen it (and only experienced it) used in liquid or "raw" preparations - maybe there's a reason for that...

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  1. k
    kellypw RE: Caitlin McGrath Nov 19, 2007 06:04 AM

    So far I've had very good results with substituting agave nectar with any liquid equivalent (honey, maple syrup, the dreaded corn syrup) - I use slightly less than the liquid sweetener I'm substituting for honey or maple syrup- if a recipe calls for 1/2 c I use a little more than 1/3 c - it's a little sweeter. For corn syrup, I use equal amounts

    I'm not a huge baker, so I've yet to try substituting it for sugar in cookies - however, if I were to try, I would probably decrease by a bit some of the other liquid going into a recipe.

    I very much like using agave nectar - knowing that it's natural, low GI and I really like the taste. And there's no funny aftertaste or texture issues as there are in other substitutes. Good luck, and please post any findings.

    1. NYCkaren RE: Caitlin McGrath Nov 19, 2007 07:44 AM

      I've substituted it for honey in a muffin recipe. Worked fine!

      1. m
        mz733l RE: Caitlin McGrath Jan 21, 2008 08:19 PM

        Agave nectar is perfectly suitable for baking. I have been using agave nectar for a couple of years. It doesn't make crispy chewy cookies. Cookies turn out more cake-like. It is very similar to baking with honey. Some say to reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees, but it doesn't seem to make a difference by doing that. Pretty much any recipe calling for sugar can be replaced with agave nectar. Also, agave nectar can be mixed with other alternative sweeteners like Stevia or xylitol with good results.

        1. goodhealthgourmet RE: Caitlin McGrath Jan 21, 2008 08:35 PM

          agave is the only sugar i use regularly in baking. it works beautifully once you get the hang of it.

          the flavor of light agave is relatively similar to honey, with a slight caramel finish. the dark amber agave has more of a mild molasses flavor [without bitterness].

          agave is nearly twice as sweet as table sugar, so use half as much...and adjust wet ingredients accordingly, as you're replacing a dry ingredient with a liquid. volume-wise, it's pretty much the same as using corn syrup or simple syrup instead of granulated sugar, and in terms of viscosity, it's a bit thinner than honey.

          reducing the baking temp by 25 degrees can help depending on the recipe.

          i'll be curious to hear how it works out for you...

          23 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
            MikeG RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 22, 2008 02:55 AM

            After seeing it mentioned here a few times recently, it caught my eye the other day in a store and was taken aback (and put it right back) when I saw the price tag - at least $9/lb and I think the bottle was actually a half pound making. This store is more expensive than some but not usually insane. Is it always that expensive? If so, why do you use it, especially exclusively? Is it just a taste preference, or is it supposed to be that much "better for you" than honey or other less expensive sweeteners?

            1. re: MikeG
              goodhealthgourmet RE: MikeG Jan 22, 2008 08:11 AM

              well i'm a unique case because i have a specialty baking business, so i insist on using it due to the nature of my products. but i buy it in bulk at a restaurant supply store, so it only costs me about $3 per pound.

              it is typically very expensive, but i personally think it's worth it if you don't use it all that much.i was already using it personally at home before i started using it professionally. then again, if you've ever seen some of my other posts, i'm a little bit [ok, a lot] nuts about health & nutrition, and a purist about my food & ingredients.

              1. re: MikeG
                paulj RE: MikeG Jan 22, 2008 12:41 PM

                Trader Joes just started carrying it, priced in the $3-4 range for a 12oz bottle.

                1. re: paulj
                  krissywats RE: paulj Jan 22, 2008 10:26 PM

                  What? Where? Which TJs? I asked at the one in Queens and they said 'no, but I'll put in the request for you - lot's of people ask about it'.

                  FYI to the OP: I can't remember the name of the bakery but they were voted #1 in some mag for their baked goods in NYC (cakes, cupcakes, cookies) and they only use agave (plus no wheat and no dairy which I found fascinating and all coconut oil).

                  1. re: krissywats
                    goodhealthgourmet RE: krissywats Jan 22, 2008 10:48 PM

                    please tell me you're not talking about babycakes bakery. i recently tried their stuff, and it was truly awful.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                      krissywats RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 22, 2008 11:00 PM

                      Actually I think it was babycakes. I haven't tried there stuff but have heard from several friends they are fantastic. I'm sorry to hear a bad report. What were your problems with their products? And forgive me, but since you have a specialty baking business, are you biased against a competitor? (I ask that with all the respect in the world)

                      1. re: krissywats
                        goodhealthgourmet RE: krissywats Jan 22, 2008 11:59 PM

                        not biased, just very critical :) seriously though, right now i do so much baking for other people...and sometimes it would be nice to pick something up that someone else made instead of having to bake it myself! anyway, after hearing a lot of "buzz," both positive and negative, i wanted to see for myself what all the hype was about. so i sampled 7 or 8 different items with a friend, and neither of us wanted to swallow even one bite. they were all extremely dry [yet greasy at the same time] and pretty tasteless, and all the cupcakes, muffins and quick breads tasted pretty much the same. plus, the brownies were really bitter.

                        i was really disappointed - i actually wanted it to be good, because there's so much bad gluten-free stuff out there. it sucks for those of us who can't eat traditional baked goods.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                          krissywats RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 23, 2008 10:02 AM

                          that's so ODD - not just magazine reviews but individual reviews online are really great. People are kinda' koo-koo for cocoa puffs about this place. Of course there is the occasional review where someone doesn't like it. What I keep hearing, though, is that their chocolate chip cookie is amazing. I guess I'll have to try for myself at some point.

                          1. re: krissywats
                            goodhealthgourmet RE: krissywats Jan 23, 2008 10:25 AM

                            actually, the chocolate chip cookie was the only thing that wasn't bad...but it wasn't very GOOD either. the flavor was okay, but the texture was off - much too airy & spongy, not enough body/substance.

                            it's tough, because i'm guessing a lot of the positive reviews are coming from celiacs who haven't had the "real thing" for a very long time, and are just grateful to be able to eat something sweet that won't make them sick.

                            it's not just babycakes...pretty much all the gluten-free baked goods i've tried have been sub-standard...so i decided to rectify that by creating good ones :) now i just have to make sure the rest of the gluten-free world beyond my personal circle can eventually benefit and partake!

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                              jsaimd RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 23, 2008 10:50 AM

                              Post away with your recipes : ). Your criticism of Babycakes reminds me of the Crave bakery here in the Bay Area - people raves, but as my husband says - they have been Celiac too long...

                              I am going to pick up some agave next time I am at TJs. I think I would really enjoy the taste...

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                krissywats RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 23, 2008 12:16 PM

                                That's interesting - I thought about clarifying above that I actually ignored the reviews from 'I've been a vegan for 20 years and these are great". The reviews I paid attention to were people that said they are constantly looking for the best cupcake/baked goods/cookie/etc and that this was it. I saw a lot of those too.

                                Interestingly, I read one review that said because Babycakes does not use seperate equipment for each type of product they make, none of their products can be considered completely safe for celiacs.

                                I wonder if in the beginning they were possibly great and are suffering the growing pains of more mass production because of all the good press? Just a though.

                      2. re: krissywats
                        paulj RE: krissywats Jan 22, 2008 11:51 PM

                        Seattle area TJ
                        The bottle has the Monrovia CA address (as opposed to Needham, MA). I don't know if that has anything to do with distribution patterns.

                        1. re: paulj
                          krissywats RE: paulj Jan 23, 2008 10:03 AM

                          Yes, that may be. They also may have a higher demand in Seattle than in Queens, NY for Agave.

                    2. re: MikeG
                      oakjoan RE: MikeG Apr 9, 2008 08:47 PM

                      Just after I posted this I saw that somebody else talks about the Trader Joe's. I just bought a small bottle cause I wanted to try it. Good to know it's not a bank-breaker.

                      1. re: MikeG
                        almara RE: MikeG May 30, 2010 01:05 PM

                        I have two kids whom are addicted to sugar. I have replaced sugar in my home with agave nectar. If you go to amazon.com you can by a case of 12 bottles of 11.5 oz of organic light agave nectar for 31dollars close to 40 with shipping. free shipping if you shop for 100 dollars or more. I have seen 420z for 11 dollars. the trick is to buy a large amount at one time. the price goes down. it is that much better for you than other sweeteners. I would use honey the same way but its taste is more distinctive and doesnt dissolve as easily. honey is great for you unless you are diabetic. it has potassium and b vitamins in it. and the more unprocessed the more healing magic it has. I am just learning how to use agave nectar and now have a recipe for chocolate syrup. that means chocolate milk without sugar!

                        1. re: almara
                          goodhealthgourmet RE: almara May 30, 2010 06:01 PM

                          @almara, i'm afraid you've been misinformed. agave IS SUGAR. and it's not "that much better for you than other sweeteners." assuming you buy a pure, unadulterated product that hasn't been cut with cheap corn syrup (as most commercially available brands actually are), the glycemic index *is* lower than other sugars, but it's still sugar.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                            omnidora RE: goodhealthgourmet Jun 21, 2010 03:42 PM

                            Hi Goodhealthgourmet. I tried agave for awhile and I've switched back to honey. I find that it tastes sort of infantile and corn syrupy (!!) and I'm quite suspicious of the whole agave trend. Honey is also a form of sugar, I think, but seems to be less harmful. Also, I just don't care for the taste of the agave syrup and have a limited appetite for refined white sugar.

                            1. re: omnidora
                              goodhealthgourmet RE: omnidora Jun 21, 2010 03:49 PM

                              hey whatever works for you. i only use raw, organic agave, but it's a heck of a lot more expensive than the stuff you can find in every store these days...i've also started playing with coconut palm sugar - it's my new favorite (unfortunately also quite costly, but you can't put a price on good health!)

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                mcf RE: goodhealthgourmet Jun 21, 2010 06:00 PM

                                Since it's fructose, agave is likely to have the same unfortunate triglyceride raising effect that fructose does. This is the single most predictive independent marker for increased CVD risk of all lipids.

                                I think sweeteners should be used rarely, sparingly and with great skepticism, in the case of agave claims, especially.

                                1. re: mcf
                                  goodhealthgourmet RE: mcf Jun 21, 2010 06:42 PM

                                  i'm with you on this, which is why, as i said, i'm playing more with coconut palm sugar these days. lower in fructose, great flavor, low GI...and i'm hardly one who needs to be told to use sugar - in any form - sparingly ;)

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                    mcf RE: goodhealthgourmet Jun 22, 2010 11:48 AM

                                    Since they never tested beyond 2 hours or as often during the second hour, there's really no way to know how it affects blood glucose and insulin levels in real life conditions. No testing by those without a financial stake in the product.

                                    Dreamfields pasta, frex, makes the same claims based on such testing, but those of us who keep testing for hours after trying it find that blood glucose spikes anywhere from 3-5 hours post meal and stays up a looooong time due to the slower digestion. Could be the same thing here, hard to say.

                                    It sounds as if the only reason to use it is that it tastes really good. Not necessarily a bad thing. :-)

                          2. re: almara
                            omnidora RE: almara Jun 21, 2010 03:44 PM

                            @almara, why not learn to enjoy the distinctive taste of honey? (After you've polished off the bulk supply of nectar, that is.) And honey can be dissolved easily enough if you just take the extra second to do this or that. Can you make choc syrup with honey?

                        2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                          AmberWild RE: goodhealthgourmet Sep 17, 2009 06:30 AM

                          How might you adjust the wet ingredients properly. I have a banana bread recipe that I tried this with and it always comes out dry. I've tried one less egg, then another time a little less water, etc. but the result is still the same!

                        3. p
                          pamsoffer RE: Caitlin McGrath Apr 13, 2009 06:43 PM

                          I dont eat sugar... but I love to bake and agave works great! The only thing is that if you bake cookies (say chocolate chip) and substitute agave for sugar they turn out more like cakey/sconey things (which are 99% of the time still amazing). But breads, like banana bread, and cookies like shortbread cookies work really well.
                          Oh and I generally use like 1/2 of the amount of sweetener called for (if the recipe uses sugar). Also I haven't noticed any difference in temperature, but for some recipes i have noticed a difference in time, so you just have to keep an eye on whatever you are baking.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: pamsoffer
                            BarbaraBusybee RE: pamsoffer Apr 25, 2009 02:49 PM

                            I am new to all this. I am experementing with nonchemicaly created sweeteners and have a bit of the nector. I want to back cookies bad but hate cakie cookies. Any way around it.

                            1. re: BarbaraBusybee
                              Densible RE: BarbaraBusybee Apr 25, 2009 09:21 PM

                              Try substituting a portion of the sugar called for in the recipe. Use organic raw sugar for the rest? I use agave in a recipe for NY cheesecake and it was the best cheesecake I have ever made...and I get the agave from TJ's.

                              1. re: Densible
                                bambikohaku RE: Densible Sep 1, 2009 08:38 AM

                                Can everyone please explain to me the aversion to using conventional sugars?

                                1. re: bambikohaku
                                  AmberWild RE: bambikohaku Sep 17, 2009 06:28 AM

                                  One reason is because sugar spike your blood sugar, while agave doesn't. It has a low glycemic (I think that's how you spell it) index, so it's not as harmful to the body as regular sugar. You're only supposed to have a small amount of sugar in your blood stream at a time. Either 1 tsp or 1 Tbsp., I forget. Anyhow, it's supposed to be minimal, and you get about that much from eating regular food like fruit or carbs. So adding extra sugar to your diet isn't the best for you.

                                  1. re: AmberWild
                                    omnidora RE: AmberWild Dec 17, 2009 06:08 PM

                                    I bought some agave syrup and it's not bad, though I may revert to honey when the bottle runs out. I hope this doesn't sound paranoid, but how do we know the stuff is for real? I've been wondering if it is a giant scam! It's been suggested to me that agave nectar may simply be a repackaged corn syrup. How do they make it, has anyone seen it being produced, do I sound like a conspiracy theorist? It's such a trendy product and I'm beginning to wonder... Thing is, it does have a great consistency for cooking. Maybe there's a way to get honey to that consistency?

                                    1. re: omnidora
                                      HillJ RE: omnidora Dec 17, 2009 06:37 PM


                                      How agave is made, how to use it, etc.

                                      1. re: HillJ
                                        omnidora RE: HillJ Dec 29, 2009 09:42 PM

                                        Ahhhh thanks. I'll take a look HillJ. I am still suspicious of the stuff - so I bought some honey and switched over. But I have the agave as a back up.

                          2. s
                            SailorChic RE: Caitlin McGrath Sep 12, 2010 08:18 AM

                            I have found it to be great in sweet breads once you get used to the baking times. Super cheap at Ocean State Job Lot. I find it there regularly for less then $2 for 12 oz. They had big jugs too. I think I worked it out to $1.97 per 16 oz. in volume.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: SailorChic
                              goodhealthgourmet RE: SailorChic Sep 12, 2010 10:29 AM

                              if it's that cheap, there's no way it's pure agave - it's one of the substandard products that's been cut with corn syrup to keep the price down.

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                nomadchowwoman RE: goodhealthgourmet Sep 12, 2010 11:56 AM

                                I have a question about using it in granola. I make granola, usually using equal parts of maple syrup and honey. The last time I made granola, I subbed agave nectar for the honey. While the end product tasted pretty much the same as it usually does, the granola clumped, and while I broke it up every time I got into it, it was always all stuck together when I went back to it. This had never happened before, and since using agave nectar was the only thing I did differently, I'm wondering if it's possible that it caused the excessive stickiness. Do you know, ghg? It doesn't seem as though it should, but I haven't used it enough to understand its characteristics.

                                1. re: nomadchowwoman
                                  goodhealthgourmet RE: nomadchowwoman Sep 12, 2010 12:17 PM

                                  any chance your oven temp was inaccurate, you took it out too early, or it was a humid day? the only real reason i can think of that would contribute to that kind of stickiness would be underbaking/excess moisture.

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                    nomadchowwoman RE: goodhealthgourmet Sep 12, 2010 12:23 PM

                                    Probably humidity--although it's almost always humid here--b/c oven temp is same, and I baked it the same amt. of time as always. But maybe I left it out to cool longer than usual and it picked up some of the humidity. Thx. It didn't seem like it would be the agave nectar.

                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman
                                      paulj RE: nomadchowwoman Sep 12, 2010 01:05 PM

                                      a different ratio of fructose to glucose could make a difference in stickiness. Supposedly lightly processed agave is very high in fructose, though it is unclear what refining does to the mix.

                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                      melnix RE: goodhealthgourmet Sep 22, 2010 07:25 AM

                                      hi ghg, I am new to Agave Nectar, and have only used it making bread to replace the honey I was using. I am wondering if you would see any issues with using it to can my peaches? I can't think of a reason it would cause issue...thanks!

                                      1. re: melnix
                                        John VanDenBerg RE: melnix Sep 30, 2010 10:55 AM

                                        Hi Melnix, I used it to freeze peaches - I used per eight quarts of peeled and sliced peaches, 2 T vitamin C powder, 2 T lemon juice, and 2/3 cup agave nectar, mixed this and froze. This worked wonderfully, and they tasted light, clean and flower like

                                  2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                    Melis3279 RE: goodhealthgourmet Jul 2, 2011 07:03 PM

                                    I've gotten 100% pure agave nectar inexpensively in both my local supermarket and trader joes. Madhava, for one, is pretty cheap (to me anyway - not sure what your definition of cheap is though). I doubt they are packaging it as 100% pure and certified organic (although we all know that term is used pretty loosely sometimes) if its really a mixture of corn syrup and nectar and other things. I find that agave nectar is not a taste for everyone. I can't use it in everything although I suspect one could just get used to it and notice it less - kinda like that artificial, chemical aftertaste you get in diet drinks - drink them enough and you won't notice it anymore after a while. I haven't used it enough to do that yet. Personally, I'd rather just maintain a healthy diet much of the time and be able to enjoy a great slice of cake made with ordinary sugar once a while. I leave the agave nectar to more basic, everyday uses - like sweetening up a drink, oatmeal or a pancake instead of piling on all the unnecessary sugars throughout a typical day - also where I won't notice the flavor.

                                    1. re: Melis3279
                                      goodhealthgourmet RE: Melis3279 Jul 2, 2011 07:33 PM

                                      i was responding specifically to the prices SailorChic quoted - Madhava may have come down in price over the past couple of years, but i can't imagine that you'll find it for $1.97/pint *anywhere*...that would mean paying less than $6 for one of their large 46-oz jugs. and the Wholesome Sweeteners at TJ's is $2.99 for 11.25 oz, which calculates to $4.25/pint.

                                      moot point for me anyway as i stopped using agave altogether a couple of years ago.

                                      1. re: Melis3279
                                        mcf RE: Melis3279 Jul 3, 2011 09:12 AM

                                        Agave nectar *is* a pile of unnecessary and unhealthy sugars...

                                  3. s
                                    shereesss RE: Caitlin McGrath Dec 26, 2010 10:57 AM

                                    Costco in westbury ny carries organic agave. They sell 2 bottles (23.5 oz/bottle) for $7.75.

                                    I only bake during winter. I bought the bottles this year to substitute powder / brown sugar in my recipes. For the first one, substituting powder sugar didn't work out so well. When I saw how wet the dough mix was, I ended up 'shaping' my cookies by a spoon. The cookies did turn out softer in texture as others had posted here. Initially I thought the cookies wasn't baked fully and left them in the oven for a longer time.

                                    I ended making a different cookie at the same time. Seeing the texture and outcome of the first cookie, I decided to use brown sugar / agave combination for the second recipe. It was better for the second one but I did notice the cookies were not as crisp / crunchy.

                                    I will try agave again when I bake next time and continue to fine tune the ingredient and baking time. I should add that instead of butter, I have been using olive oil - which makes a wetter dough mix.

                                    1. s
                                      samj530 RE: Caitlin McGrath Aug 3, 2011 12:48 PM

                                      Funny, some people love to trash us sugar eaters :) My husband is a serious cookie monster. I have done a lot of research trying to find a sugar substitute that didn't start it's life created as a pesticide & made with chlorine (splenda/sucralose), potentially carcinogenic/migraine inducing (aspartame) , cool-to-the-tongue (sugar alcohols) or medicinal (stevia). I have insulin resistance & cannot have sugars that raise my blood sugar, so agave works really well for me. When first trying the agave out, I tested my blood sugar before eating, after eating and several times later. No serious spike. The taste is clean. It makes baked goods moist like sugar, too. It pairs really well with oat flour. As for the triglyceride affect, when you are eating lower fat, particularly low saturated fats, that shouldn't be a problem. You cannot eat sweets all day loaded with butter and expect you cholesterol levels to stay low or drop if you have diabetes. It is about balance!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: samj530
                                        Melis3279 RE: samj530 Aug 3, 2011 08:44 PM

                                        I agree. Its hard to argue with the food police though. They know everything, like to inform everyone and suffer from food paranoia. I can't find much joy in being so controlled by food or denying yourself so many things. I'm pretty darn healthy and yet I indulge and enjoy sweets and other things from time to time. Everything in moderation! I use agave nectar for certain things because it has a lower glycemic index than ordinary white sugar not because I think its a magic sweetner. So if I have it on hand and like my coffee sweetened, I'll use it. I don't care if its another "unecessary sugar" since, for example, I prefer to lightly sweeten my coffee! I also use raw sugar in certain things. And sometimes I even use white sugar, particularly when baking. Personally, I'd rather use sugar or agave than to use artificial sweetner. But. what can I say, I like sweets. Not about to die denying myself or my kid birthday cake. Yeah, yeah, yeah, sugar is evil. We know. So are a lot of other things - alcohol (and yet there are studies showing that people who drink occasionally generally live longer than those who don't! Go figure!), caffiene (although coffee actually has some health benefits!), meat, dairy, fat, sugar substitutes...all of which have positives and negatives....and yet, again, those who consume all of these things in moderation can live a long and healthy life.

                                        1. re: samj530
                                          magiesmom RE: samj530 Aug 4, 2011 05:22 AM

                                          Another nice alternative that meets your criteria is coconut palm sugar, which tastes better and subs more easily in baking.

                                          1. re: samj530
                                            mcf RE: samj530 Aug 5, 2011 08:40 AM

                                            The "triglyceride effect" is most pronounced in people who eat low fat, actually.

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