If you love mixing cocktails, you might have come across agave nectar and simple syrup.
Now, your question might be: are they the same liquid sweetener? The answer is no.
While these liquid sweeteners have many differences, they have plenty of stark differences.
So which should you choose: Agave nectar vs. simple syrup?
Short Answer: It depends on your cooking and health needs. To know more about this, keep on reading!
- What’s Agave Nectar?
- What’s a Simple Syrup?
- How Are They Made?
- Their Nutritional Content
- How Do We Use Them?
- What Are The Similarities Between Agave Nectar and Simple syrup?
- Agave Nectar Vs. Simple Syrup: Which is Better?
- Can You Substitute Agave Nectar with Simple Syrup (and Vice Versa)?
- The Bottom Line
We’ll also share with you the following information:
- Their Similarities Revealed
- Their Differences Revealed
- Which liquid sweetener is better?
- Can you substitute the two liquid sweeteners with one another (and how do you do it)?
So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive into the sweet world of agave nectar and simple syrup!
What’s Agave Nectar?
Agave nectar is a liquid sweetener harvested from the agave plant, a succulent that is commonly found in Mexico.
Did You Know?
The agave plant is also the plant used to make tequila. (*)
A unique flavor characterizes agave nectar. It’s 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, and its sweetness level is comparable to honey. However, it has a more neutral taste than honey.
What makes it quite different is it has hints of caramel and a slightly nutty flavor. Additionally, it’s a lot thinner than most sweeteners and does not have the bitter aftertaste that artificial sweeteners are known to have.
The intensity of flavor of agave nectar depends on its grade, which is as follows:
Lighter Grade Agave Nectar
It has an extra mild flavor with a light to transparent color.
Amber Agave Nectar
Its flavor is stronger than that of the lighter grade—almost the same sweetness as honey. Because of this, it’s the most versatile grade of agave nectar.
This grade has an amber color from its name, which also works well with different types of drinks.
Dark Agave Nectar
This has the most intense flavor among the three (almost like molasses) and the darkest color too.
Since its flavor is already quite potent, this should be used sparingly in different recipes.
What’s a Simple Syrup?
Simple syrup is a liquid sweetener made of only two ingredients—sugar and water.
While the classic recipe for simple syrup involves only these two ingredients, you can still find a few variations. The types of simple syrup are categorized based on the type of sugar used. The two most common ones are as follows:
Classic Simple Syrup
This contains table sugar and is transparent and colorless so that it won’t change the color of your recipes.
This one features a light brown raw sugar known as Demara sugar. It has a richer flavor than the classic simple syrup. However, it has a brownish shade that can alter the color of your drinks.
These are simple syrups infused with other ingredients to give them a unique flavor. Some of the most common flavors are orange flower, lavender, lime, lemon, green tea, coffee, berries, and many more.
How Are They Made?
Agave nectar is harvested from agave plants about 7 to 10 years old. First, the piñas of the plants are collected, and their juice or sap is extracted. After the extraction, the sap is filtered and heated slowly at very low temperatures until all carbohydrates are already broken down into sugar.
To preserve the nutrition and integrity of agave nectar, the sap is heated at a temperature of not more than 117 degrees Fahrenheit.
Simple sugar is named as such because it’s pretty easy to do! All you need to do is combine the sugar and water. But, of course, the ratio depends on what type of simple syrup you’re making.
When making standard simple syrup, you can mix equal parts of sugar and water. You can add sugar to water on a 1:2 ratio for a richer simple syrup.
After mixing the two ingredients, you can proceed with doing the following steps:
Step 1. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.
Step 2. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes or until the syrup is already clear and the sugar has fully dissolved in the water.
Step 3. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool down.
Pro Tip: If you plan to make a flavored simple syrup, here’s the additional step you need to take: add the desired flavorings into the pan while the syrup is still hot and cover it.
You can remove the added ingredient when the syrup has already completely cooled down.
Their Nutritional Content
A teaspoon of agave nectar contains the following nutrients:
- 20 calories
- 5 grams of carbohydrates
- 0.01 grams of protein
- Vitamin C and other B vitamins
- Potassium, Selenium, and Calcium
Agave nectar contains mainly fructose with a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t increase blood sugar levels. (*) However, it’s important to note that the consumption of high amounts of fructose can increase triglycerides in the blood, which is associated with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. (*)
While a 30ml serving of simple syrup contains the following nutrients:
- 50 calories
- 14 grams of carbohydrates
- 14 grams of sugar
Unlike the agave nectar, the syrup doesn’t contain vitamins and minerals.
How Do We Use Them?
Agave Nectar has a wide range of uses. You can mix it in different beverages, including cocktails, coffees, and juices.
But that’s not all. You can also use it as a sweetener for waffles and pancakes. It’s also a popular alternative to sugar and honey in certain baked goods.
Last but not least, agave nectar, especially the dark grade, is also used in preparing meat marinades and glazes.
Did You Know?
Contrary to popular belief, agave nectar and agave syrup are two different products. Agave nectar contains pure agave nectar, while agave syrup is agave nectar plus other ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. Of the two, it’s agave nectar that’s the healthier option. (*)
On the other hand, the simple syrup’s a liquid sweetener, it’s commonly used in sweetening different types of drinks like lemonades, juices, coffees, iced teas, cocktails, and many more. It can also be drizzled over different desserts like ice creams, chocolates, and fruit salads.
It’s simply used to moisten layers of cake when it comes to baked goods, but it’s not really a common ingredient in baked goods.
What Are The Similarities Between Agave Nectar and Simple syrup?
If agave nectar and simple syrup have one thing in common, it’s the fact that they are both liquid sweeteners, and they can be used in different types of drinks, beverages, and desserts,
Despite their similarities, these two sweeteners still have a few key differences that you should be aware of to determine which type of sweetener is best for your needs.
Agave Nectar Vs. Simple Syrup: Which is Better?
To be honest, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this. Instead, the best liquid sweetener you should use must depend on your health and cooking needs.
If you’re preparing either cold or hot drinks, you can use both. But when it comes to baked goods and meat marinades and glazes, agave nectar is the better option since simple sugar is not suitable for such recipes.
With regards to your health needs, please keep in mind that agave nectar contains fructose which won’t increase your blood sugar levels, but it can impact your triglycerides. On the other hand, simple syrup contains glucose to affects your blood sugar levels significantly, but it won’t affect your triglyceride levels.
It also has vitamins and minerals that you can’t find in simple syrup.
Can You Substitute Agave Nectar with Simple Syrup (and Vice Versa)?
When it comes to cocktails and drinks, you can substitute simple syrup and agave nectar with one another.
When doing so, you must keep in mind the difference in their sweetness level. As a rule of thumb, agave nectar is twice as sweet as simple syrup. So, with that in mind, make sure that the amount of agave nectar you use should only be half of the amount of simple syrup that the recipe calls for.
The Bottom Line
Which should you choose– Agave nectar vs. simple syrup? Both are unique liquid sweeteners. They can be used interchangeably when preparing drinks, coffees, and cocktails.
The only exceptions would be marinades, glazes, and baked goods since the agave nectar would be the best type of sweetener for such dishes.
We hope that our simple guide has helped you find the suitable liquid sweetener for you. If you have more tips about these incredible liquid sweeteners, please share them in the comments section!