Using Agave Nectar in Place of Honey in Baking
I recently saw a bottle of agave nectar in the grocery store. Can I use it in place of honey in baking?
Agave nectar is a liquid sweetener made from the sap of agave plants, succulent desert dwellers native to North America that are also the raw material for tequila. Agave nectar has been on natural foods store shelves for decades, but now industry giant Domino is selling it in the sugar aisle of ordinary supermarkets. It comes in both light and amber varieties.
While agave nectar producers offer sugar substitution information on their packaging, we found in previous tests that it doesn’t deliver comparable results. That’s because, like honey, agave nectar is sweeter than sugar and contains more water. Although it failed in our testing as a stand-in for sugar, would it work in place of honey?
To find out, we made Cook’s Country’s Honey-Wheat Dinner Rolls and a recipe for honey cornbread using amber and light agave nectar in place of the honey. Light agave nectar produced cornbread and rolls that looked similar to the honey versions but, of course, didn’t taste like honey. If honey flavor is not the goal, light agave nectar can substitute for honey. Amber agave nectar, however, produced a very dark cornbread (it has more fructose than the light nectar, so it browns more quickly), which tasters deemed unacceptable. As for the flavor, some found it “earthier” and “more robust” than honey, while others criticized it as “funky.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: You can use light agave nectar in place of honey in baking, but don’t expect honey flavor. Amber agave nectar, however, adds a distinctive potent flavor and can make your baked goods too dark. We don’t recommend it as a honey substitute when baking.