Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Recipe Update: Sugar-Free Coleslaw with Agave Nectar

Sugar-Free Coleslaw with AgaveYou might remember my squeals of delight a few days ago when I finally used agave nectar for the first time. After I stopped kicking myself for not trying this type of natural low-glycemic sweetener earlier, I realized there were a lot of recipes where I'd been using Splenda where it might be fun to try substituting agave. It's not that I'm anti-Splenda, I'm not, and I remain convinced it's safe when used in small amounts. But agave has a great flavor, and it's a good low-glycemic alternative for people who don't want to use Splenda.

Since I'd been craving coleslaw that was the first recipe I decided to experiment with. Sources I've found say to use 3/4 as much Agave Nectar as you would sugar in a recipe, and slightly reduce the liquid. However, I was converting from Splenda to agave, and I didn't find any help with that online. Even though the package says to substitute Splenda in equal parts for sugar, I've always considered Splenda to taste a little sweeter than sugar. I ended up going by taste, and used just slightly more agave than the amount of Splenda I'd used. I did reduce the amounts of mayo and buttermilk a tiny bit also. If you're comparing this with my Splenda coleslaw recipe, be sure to note that this recipe is for half the amount of dressing.

Sugar-Free Coleslaw with Agave Nectar
(Makes 4 servings, recipe originally created by Kalyn using Splenda; this version adapted to use agave.)

1 pkg. (16 oz.) coleslaw mix
(or 1 small head cabbage, sliced thinly and a small amount grated carrot)
1/3 cup finely chopped onion

Dressing Ingredients:
3/4 cup mayo or light mayo
1/4 cup buttermilk (can use milk)
1 1/2 T white vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. celery seed (or more)
1/2 tsp. Vege-Sal or pinch of salt
3 T light agave nectar

In small bowl, combine mayo, buttermilk, vinegar, lemon juice, onion powder, celery seed, Vege-Sal, and agave nectar. Whisk together until well combined. (You can taste and see if you'd like it to be a bit sweeter; if so add a bit more agave.)

Put coleslaw mix in large bowl. Add finely chopped onion and mix well. Pour over about half of dressing and mix, then add more dressing until it is as moist as you'd like. You will probably not need all the dressing.

Chill salad a few hours, then stir to combine again before serving.

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South Beach Suggestions:
I haven't been able to find any information about agave on phase one of the South Beach Diet, but I would recommend against it for phase one because it does contain the same type of carbs found in fruit. The sweet component of agave is fructose (natural fructose, not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup, which contains chemical fructose.) Fructose is considered a "good" ingredient according to The South Beach Diet Good Fats, Good Carbs Guide. Full fat mayo or reduced-fat mayo are both a "limited" food for South Beach, so this should be a once in a while treat.

More Coleslaw Variations To Try:
(Recipes from other blogs may or may not be South Beach friendly, check ingredients.)
Blue Cheese Coleslaw
Confetti Coleslaw from Christine Cooks
Cowboy Coleslaw from A Veggie Venture
Coleslaw with Cilantro and Jalapenos from Homesick Texan
Sesame Orange Coleslaw from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Cranberry Coleslaw from Coffee and Cornbread
Not Your Average Coleslaw from Beyond Salmon
Minted Coleslaw from Chubby Hubbycounter customizable free hit
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More to Chew On:


  1. Good subsitution idea! This coleslaw looks great!

  2. We just might have to try this with some broccoli slaw - it looks delicious!

  3. Agave Nectar is my favorite sweetener. This coleslaw recipe looks excellent.

  4. Hi Kalyn,
    I bought some agave when my vegan son came to visit. It's a great sugar substitute. Your slaw looks wonderful.

  5. Thanks everybody. I remain sold on agave nectar, it's great.

  6. I went to the Writing at the Kitchen Table site and found that she has reversed her recommendation on Agave Nectar. It appears that high fructose is not healthy although the GI is low. There appears to be a lot of conflicting opinions.

  7. Yvonne, I went to Writing at the Kitchen Table, but I don't see the reference you're referring to? Maybe you could leave the link if you see this.

    I don't claim that I've extensively researched agave nectar, nor am I a food scientist. But in the reading I've done, I only saw one place where they cautioned that if you're trying to eat a low-glycemic diet you should know that when you eat agave nectar combined with some foods it increases the glycemic index of the agave. That, plus my own experience eating it made me revise my opinion and consider it to be for phase 2 or 3 only for South Beach dieters. But I don't see how it could be regarded as "not healthy." The fructose in agave nectar is the same type of natural fructose that's in fruit, according to all the sources I read. I saw numerous sites saying it was safe for diabetics, and didn't see any sites with any cautions except the one I mentioned above.

  8. Kalyn,

    Sorry I gave incomplete information. I went from Writing at the Kitchen Table to a site she referenced called That is where I found the negative information regarding algave nectar.

  9. Yvonne, when I'm learning about new things based on internet research, I give more weight to the consensus of opinion than anything else. I think there's a lot of difference of opinion on the internet on nearly every topic, and I don't believe everything I read. In this case, one of the "experts" she quotes is someone I don't have a lot of faith in. If you enter "dangers of agave" or "is agave safe" into Google, you'll find literally hundreds of places saying it safe and very few cautioning against using it.

    I remain convinced that it's not harmful, especially in the very small amounts I'm using it. Obviously, this is something everyone will have to make up their own mind about. People who have any concern at all about agave can just use sugar or Splenda in this recipe.

  10. Thank you Kalyn,

    I had come to pretty much the same conclusion. In moderation it is probably fine. I am relatively new to the GI and rely on others for the science of ingredients etc.

    Along that vein, I want to thank you for this wonderful blog. I have lost 35 lbs so far on SB and you have been my main source of inspiration and information.

  11. Yvonne, it's wonderful you're having so much success losing weight by eating low-glycemic foods. And thank you for the nice words about my blog! You just made my day!


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