How to Substitute Agave For Sugar in Home Canning and Cooking
This month's notes: April 2014: Spring is just around the corner. Strawberries are here in Florida, Texas and California, next in late March and April for much of the South, then in May for most of the country and June in cooler northern areas. See how easy it is to make strawberry jam or strawberry-rhubarb jam!
Substituting Agave Nectar / Agave Syrup for Sugar in Home Canning, Cooking, Making Jams, Jellies and Baking
How to use agave in place of sugar in recipes
There are no hard and fast rules to substituting agave and sugar in recipes, but this page should help you quickly decide how much you will want to use in your particular recipe, instead of table or cane sugar. Based on its sweetnesss, and the fact that it is a liquid, rather than solid like granualated cane sugar, most people use 2/3 to 3/4 (two-thirds to three quarters) as much agave as sugar. In other words, for each cup of granualated cane sugar, use 2/3 cup of liquid agave syrup. In general, substituting agave for sugar seems to be a matter of taste. Some people prefer 2/3 cup of agave per cup of white sugar, some 3/4 cup. Also, reduce the amount of other liquids by 1/4 cup for every cup of agave used. Lower the oven temp about 25 degrees F to prevent over-browning and add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of agave to your batter. (Agave is naturally acidic and the baking soda tempers it.)
If you are diabetic, keep in mind that agave does not reduce the calorie or carbohydrate content of the sugar syrup, and thus is not acceptable sugar replacements for people on diabetic diets.
You may also be interested in our page about substituting honey for sugar.
Background: Differences and Considerations Between Agave and Cane Sugar
- Agave adds moisture that table sugar does not have.
- Agave is a bit more dense (weighs more per cup)
- Agave adds a slight bit of its own flavor to the finished product; which might be noticble in mild flavored products
- And agave can cause baked foods to brown more quickly.
Moisture: If you just swap agave for sugar the finished product would likely be rather soggy and sticky. But, if we examine the rest of the ingredients in a recipe, we can determine which items will absorb some of the water in the agave and increase those to compensate. Or we can take the opposite approach and reduce some liquid from the recipe.
Density: A cup of granulated sugar weighs 8 ounces (1/2 lb or 1/4 kg; 250 grams). A cup of agave weighs 12 ounces (3/4 lb or 340 grams). So if you were to substitute agave in a recipe that calls for brown sugar, you’d be adding twice the amount of food. A cup of brown sugar weighs only 6. But a cup of maple syrup weighs 11 ounces and it slightly less sweet than agave; so you should use about 10% less agave than maple syrup.
Flavor: Agave has its own unique flavor, but much milder than honey. General it is a light and pleasing flavor, but if it conflicts with the desired taste of your recipe, there's not much you can do about it. However, most people seem to like the flavor that agave adds!
Faster Browning: Lower the oven temp about 25 degrees F to prevent over-browning and increase the time by 5%
These are general recommendations and since the type, quality and properties of the other ingredients affects how the sweetener acts, you may have to do some trial and error to get the exact substitution for the results you want. But these rations should work and be tasty!
Baking (pies, cakes, cookies, etc.)
- Use 2/3 cup of agave replaces one cup of sugar. Reduce other liquids by one-half cup for each cup of agave you add to the recipe. Lower the oven temp about 25 degrees F to prevent over-browning
Canning (jams, jellies, preserves, chutney's, fruit, etc.) and cooking
- To use agave in place of sugar, use 3/4 cup for every cup of sugar, and don't change the other liquids. According to food labs, agave may be substituted effectively for up to half the sugar called for in a canning syrup recipe.
Substituting agave for other sweeteners
- Molasses: To substitute agave for molasses, use exactly the same amount. The resulting flavor and color will be a but lighter and less heavy. The reverse is true if you swap molasses for agave.
- Corn Syrup: To substitute agave for corn syrup, use exactly the same amount, but reduce any other sweet ingredients, since agave has more sweetening power than corn syrup.
- Brown Sugar (Demerara sugar or dark brown sugar): Follow the equation for plain table sugar under General Recommendations, but also substitute molasses for a portion of the agave to retain the expected flavor - (brown sugar is just white sugar where the molasses have not been completely removed by refining). Brown sugar, on the other hand, attracts moisture, so it will keep baked goods from drying out so quickly. Also, brown sugar has some molasses in it, which adds moisture, and certainly changes the taste.
- Raw Sugar (Soft Brown Sugar): Basically, raw sugar is similar to dark brown sugar, but has much smaller crystals and a higher portion of retained molasses, so follow the guidelines for substituing agave for sugar above. If substituting raw sugar for regular cane sugar or brown sugar, use about 20% more raw sugar.
- Treacle is the British generic name for molasses or any syrup made during the refining of sugar cane. Common names used are Treacle, Black Treacle, Molasses, Golden Syrup and Blackstrap. "Lyle's Golden Syrup" is the most commonly used brand in cooking. Follow the same guidelines for molasses, above.
Substituting plain water for the sugar syrup reduces the calorie content of canned fruit by approximately 205, 280 or 375 calories per pint, assuming 2/3 cup of thin, medium or thick syrup, respectively, is replaced with water. In many cases you can use water instead of sugar or other sweetener, because sugar rarely is used for preservative proprieties... BUT, the products may taste awful with no sweetness! I'll point out (in the recipes on other pages) when it can be done and how much it appears to affect taste.
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