Even if you're not trying to watch your sugar intake, you've probably heard about agave nectar, also called agave syrup, a product that's now so mainstream you can find it in grocery stores. When I first wrote about agave nectar on BlogHer in 2007, I hadn't tried it yet, but had noticed it was definitely creating some buzz in the natural food world. Since then the popularity of agave has continued to rise. What is agave nectar and why are so many health-conscious cooks using it?
Agave nectar is a type of natural sweetener made from the blue agave plant. It's a liquid sweetener, slightly thinner than honey, and comes in light, amber, and dark varieties. (I've used the light and amber agave, but haven't come across the dark, although I keep reading about it.) At least one company is also making flavored varieties of agave syrup.
There are several things that have made agave popular, starting with the fact that it has a low glycemic index. A sweetener that's low on the glycemic index doesn't raise blood glucose in the same way that a high-glycemic sweetener like sugar would, making Agave Nectar safe for diabetics, and also popular with those who are eating a low glycemic diet for weight loss or to control blood sugar for other reasons. Although the glycemic index of Agave Nectar can vary, many tests have been conducted by manufacturers which show it to be lower-glycemic than sugar.
Agave is also gluten-free and vegan, and people who don't want to use artificial sweeteners are attracted to agave by the fact that it's a natural product, despite attempts to generate controversy about how natural agave really is. Producers of agave were quick to respond to claims that the fructose in agave is not natural, and most consumers seem to agree, with everyone from Dr. Weil to Oprah talking about agave as a natural sweetener in 2008.
One of the most popular uses for agave is in hot and cold drinks, but it's also used in recipes. Although it's not a calorie-free sweetener by any means, agave is much sweeter than sugar, so it takes less to produce the same amount of sweetness. A popular cookbook about Baking with Agave Nectar was one thing that got more people to think about expanding their use of agave in 2008. (Thanks to Marisa at Slashfood whose review of the book is at that link.)
If you haven't tried agave yet, take a look at the recipes I found and what some bloggers are saying about agave, and see if it's something you might want to add to your pantry. If you're a fan of agave, please let us know in the comments how you like to use it.
Bloggers Write About Agave Nectar:
Watching the Increasing Agave Nectar Trend by Deb Schiff, who writes Altered Plates, a blog exclusively about cooking and baking with agave.
Agave Nectar, Not Just for Hippies from Grocery Ninja at Serious Eats
What is Agave Syrup from Baking Bites
Agave Nectar from Green Lemonade
Agave Nectar: Nature's Wonder Sweetener from Just Baking
Baking with Agave Nectar:
Chocolate Chip Espresso Cookies from Karina's Kitchen (pictured above)
Chocolate Agave Layer Cake from Baking Bites
Spelt Carrot Muffins from Veggie Meal Plans
Agave and Honey Oatmeal Cookies from Cookie Madness
Agave and Honey Oatmeal M&M Cookies from The Recipe Girl
Other Desserts with Agave Nectar:
Mango Yogurt Ice with Agave Nectar from Cooking from A to Z
Agave Sweetened Chocolate Ice Cream from David Lebovitz
Grilled Peaches with Balsamic and Granola from The Perfect Pantry
Agave Frozen Yogurt from Mighty Foods
Main Dishes or Side Dishes with Agave Nectar
Easy Agave and Lime Salmon from Karina's Kitchen
Ginger Baked Tofu with Agave-Peanut Sauce from Book of Yum
Roasted Carrots with Agave-Balsamic Glaze from Kalyn's Kitchen
Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa from 101 Cookbooks
Just for Fun with Agave Nectar:
Margarita with Agave Nectar from Baking Bites (pictured above)
Homemade Agave Nectar Ketchup from The Kitchn
Amazing Black Bean Brownies from 101 Cookbooks
Poppy Seed Pancakes from 101 Cookbooks
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