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If you’ve given up honey out of concern for bees or are just looking for a healthier alternative sweetener, you’ve probably run across agave syrup. If you’re wondering what is agave syrup and why it’s so popular, we have your answers.
Agave syrup (or nectar, as it is also called), comes from the agave plant, which is grown and harvested primarily in Mexico. In the same way maple syrup is harvested from trees, the liquid syrup is extracted from the cactus-like plant’s core, then heated to change the complex carbohydrates into simple sugars before being bottled and sold for human consumption.
Agave’s low-glycemic index — lower than maple syrup, honey, and even barley malt — means it won’t cause a spike in human blood sugar levels, and therefore won’t give you a sugar crash the way the standard white stuff does. It has a subtle flavor, and unlike honey, it easily dissolves in both hot and cold liquids. In recipes calling for honey, it can be used as a foolproof substitute in equal measure. (One cup agave = one cup honey.)
You can also swap in agave for sugar in baked goods. Use slightly less — 2/3 cup agave for every cup of sugar — and decrease the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup. You’ll also want to reduce the baking temperature by 25 degrees since agave is more sensitive to heat and burns easier than sugar.
My favorite way to use agave? Drizzled over slices of toasted baguette that have been spread with a rich, salty olive tapenade. The unexpected savory-sweet combination is delicious and leaves you wanting more.