Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Kalyn's Kitchen Picks: Agave Nectar

Agave NectarIt's been a long time since I discovered a new product that rocked my world in the way agave nectar has done, so it seemed like a natural to be featured for Kalyn's Kitchen Picks, where I tell you about products I love. If you've somehow missed me raving about it, agave nectar is a 100% natural sweetener that's low on the glycemic index. It's South Beach Diet friendly, vegan, and reported to be safe for diabetics as well.   (Edit 2011:  I am told that not all sources agree that this is safe for diabetics; if you're diabetic, I would recommend following the advice of your doctor.)

The sweet taste in agave nectar comes from natural fructose, the same sweetener found in fruit, not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup which has chemically produced fructose.  In recent years concerns have arisen concerning chemically produced agave nectar.  I still believe the brand mentioned in this post is safe for most people, particuarly in the small amounts in which I use it.  You may want to read Agave Myth Buster and Is Agave Nectar Safe, both of which speak specifically to this brand.  Also food expert Ellie Krieger says moderate amounts of agave nectar are not harmful.

Agave nectar comes in two types, light and amber. The light variety tastes like sugar and the amber one tastes more like honey. I've tried both types and think they both taste great, with no aftertaste or "too sweet" taste like some artificial sweeteners have. Agave is sweeter than sugar or honey and also more liquid, so recipes will need to be adjusted, but more and more food bloggers are reporting good results substituting this ingredient in recipes. Agave nectar is available online if you can't find it where you live, although I think it's pretty widely available. In Salt Lake I can find it at Whole Foods as well as my regular grocery store. Keep reading to see ways I've used agave nectar, and recipes from other bloggers who are using it.

South Beach Suggestions:
I looked up fructose in The South Beach Diet Good Fats, Good Carbs Guide, my favorite little book to check ingredients, and it's considered "good." However since fructose is found in fruit, and fruit isn't allowed on phase one, I'd limit use of agave nectar to phase two and three. Agave does have carbs, and a small amount of glucose, so it needs to be counted in the daily amount of carbs you're eating if you're a South Beach Dieter, especially for phase two.

Recipes where I've Used Agave Nectar:
Greek Yogurt with Agave Nectar and Pecans
Sweet and Sour Broccoli Salad
Sugar-Free Coleslaw with Agave Nectar
Greek Yogurt Dessert with Hazelnut Agave Nectar and Shaved Dark Chocolate 
Agave-Sweetened 100% Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread 
Roasted Carrots with Agave-Balsamic Glaze 
Low-Sugar Double Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

More About Agave Nectar on the Web
The Awesome Agave from Shake off the Sugar
I write about Agave at Blogher (and recipe links)
About Agave from Friends of Animals
Agave Nectar from Wikipedia

More Bloggers Cooking with Agave Nectar:
(Recipes from other blogs may or may not be South Beach Diet friendly, check ingredients.)
Oil and Agave Dressing for Salad from A Veggie Venture
Cranberry Orange Muffins from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Vegan Coconut Bars from Karina's Kitchen
Grilled Chicken and Pepper Tamales from Eddybles
Kiwi Gelato from Coconut and Lime
Three ways to use agave nectar from Nika's Culinaria
Gluten-Free, Sugar Free Hamantaschen by Gluten Free Bay
Agave Sweetened Ice Cream from David Lebovitz
counter customizable free hit

24 comments:

Alanna said...

This is good stuff! But thanks for the reminder - I just forwarded the link to everyone I know with diabetes.

Dianne said...

Thanks for this post! I've just got to get some of this and try it out, especially if I can get it with the consistency of honey!

:)

Nicole said...

I'm gonna head out today to see if I can find some of this stuff. I finally picked up Heidi's cookbook (Super Natural Cooking) when I was in New York and I was reading a section about agave nectar yesterday. I also remember you had mentioned in Chicago that it's good on yogurt (I am off to search your blog to find that particular post now). Thanks for more great information!

bee said...

i dicovered tis recently and add it to everything.

Maria said...

I have never tried using Agave Nectar. I will look for it at Wild Oats. Thanks!

Kelly Mahoney said...

Hey we have that out here! Tequila is made exclusively out of blue agave and a popular drink is a tequila shot with a prickly pear fruit chaser.

SusanV said...

Thanks for the link to my muffins, Kalyn!

Like most vegans, I've been using agave nectar for years as a honey substitute. Recently our local natural food store has started carrying the raw agave (tastes even better than the regular) in bulk, so now I can refill my agave bottle rather than recycling it. It is MUCH cheaper to buy it in bulk, so it's really worth it to look around and see if it's available in your area.

Kalyn said...

Alanna, thanks. It would be a great alternative for those folks, used in moderation.

Dianne, it's not quite as thick as honey, but the taste of the amber type is very similar.

Nicole, interesting. I'll have to look for Heidi's book. I really love the flavor of it.

Bee, it's good isn't it!

Maria, I think you'll like it.

Kelly, I've been reading about how tequila is made from that plant!

Susan, you're welcome for the link and thanks for the tip about buying it in bulk. I'll have to check on that.

Truffle said...

This sounds wonderful! I'm so glad it's available online so I can get some here. Thanks for letting us know. It's always exciting having something new to try.

Karina Allrich said...

I'm an agave fan, too. Especially since I discovered I am allergic to the sweetener stevia [in the aster family!].

I love that it has no funny aftertaste.

xoxo

Karina

Amy said...

I've been seeing this pop up a few times now. Thanks for the great info, I'll have to pick some up!

Karen said...

thanks for the idea!
have a lot of diabetic relatives.
this might be a good alternative.

Deborah Dowd said...

How cool- my husband is a diabetic, and frankly I have never heard of this! Thanks for the tip Kalyn!

Anonymous said...

This is great news. I've been looking for a substitute for honey with my hot tea.

Jan Zeiger said...

We love the stuff!

Jen said...

Hi there! I love your blog. In the interest of "lively debate" though, I was curious about your comment that high fructose corn syrup is chemically produced. I'm reading Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, and by his investigation, it seems that this is naturally occurring fructose, though it is artificially extracted. Also, I've been reading a bit on how fructose is not actually good for you. This link http://www.living-foods.com/articles/agave.html
seems to suggest that it's not. Just some things to consider.

I am interested in the agave, but I first would like to know if it's just another miracle product with negative effects in the long-term. Thanks for introducing me to it, though!

Jen said...

P.S. For an even more in-depth discussion of the health hazards of a diet high in fructose, see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose

Kalyn said...

Hi Jen,
Lively discussion is always welcome. I personally think Agave nectar is healthy in the amounts I'm using it. It's not something I've researched extensively by any means, but I think when I said "chemically produced" I was referring to the same process he's calling "artificially extracted."
Regarding the Wikipedia entry, I'n not advocating a diet "high in fructose." This is a product I use for only a few things, and personally I'm sold on it.

I also think you can find things on the web to support any point of view you want to take, so everyone has to make up their own mind about these things. Thanks for weighing in.

Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer said...

I just discovered this amazing product and love it - We just used it in a dip that we submitted to Noble Pigs "Ho" Down and it was amazing - At my store they only had the light version now that I know there are 2 different ones out there I will keep my eyes open.

brookelmt said...

I've recently started using Agave Nectar instead of Maple Syrup. The cost of "real" Maple Syrup is so astronomical (even at Costco) compared to the cost of Agave bought in bulk at Sunflower Market, it's a no-brainer. My husband and son didn't really notice a difference although the Agave doesn't have that maple flavor.

Cheryl said...

Kalyn, I am wondering if you can use agave nectar as a substitute for sugar in jams, jellies, preserves. I have not run across any recipes for that yet. Seems to me that should not be a problem. Any suggestions?

Kalyn said...

Cheryl, I can't think of any reason why it wouldn't work, and I just entered "jam with agave nectar" into Food Blog Search and I see there are some food bloggers trying it. That would be a good place to look for recipes.

Anonymous said...

After you open the Agave Nectar, must you store it in the refrigerator or is a kitchen cupboard ok?

Thanks for all your great information!

Kalyn said...

Agave doesn't need to be refrigerated. Glad you're enjoying the blog.

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