Substitutes For Agave Nectar You Can Use Today

Agave nectar is a unique way of flavoring dishes, it appears in a few different recipes such as cocktails, baking recipes and sometimes for sweetening certain savory dishes as well.

In all these cases, agave nectar likely isn’t something you might have laying around your house, nor may you know what it is.

We’re here to show you that these recipes can still be made, today, you just need to swap your agave nectar for something similar.

These swaps become much easier when you know more about the ingredients, what it brings to a dish, and what it tastes like so that you can make better swaps in the future.

The Best Substitutes For Agave Nectar You Can Use Today

In this article we will cover the flavor of agave nectar, why it is used rather than sugar in certain circumstances, and ultimately what the best substitutions are.

Find this out and more in our article below, so that you can get back to making tasty food or drinks!

What Is Agave Nectar?

Agave nectar, for the purposes of cooking, is basically just a different version of sugar, used for its unique flavor and taste.

Agave nectar comes from the Agave plant, one native to the Southern US and Latin America. Agave sugars are used to make the alcoholic drinks tequila and mezcal when fermented, so they have a unique flavor as well.

Agave nectar is best described as agave syrup and you can imagine it as a syrup from a plant in the same way that maple syrup is.

Both would be made the same way, with the sugary sap of each plant extracted they then process it into a syrup as the fructans are extracted and broken down into fructose by exposing the sap to heat, creating amore sugary and sweet syrup.

Agave nectar mainly tastes quite sweet, and in general has a mild and delicate vegetal flavor. It tastes more sweet than anything else and if you have had sweet things before you know that the sweetness of something generally outweighs most other flavors.

People use agave nectar as it is sweet but doesn’t have an unpleasant aftertaste of artificial sweeteners. Also, vegans who don’t use honey will use agave nectar as an organic and natural sweetener.

There are also grades of agave nectar, the darker it gets the more it has the flavor of caramel or molasses, but most commonly in the US people will  use the original version.

Substitutes For Agave Nectar

So, ideally we are looking for some sort of sweetener that is plant or organically derived which doesn’t carry artificial flavors. Ultimately the point of using agave nectar is to sweeten things rather than necessarily bring a specific flavor.

Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup is a plant derived sweetener that has a lot in common with agave nectar. What they generally have in common is that they are both derived from plants and are processed in a similar way to create the plant derived syrup from the plant’s sap.

Like agave nectar, maple syrup is drawn from the sap of the maple tree, while agave nectar comes from the sap of the agave plant.

Put simply, they both can sweeten a dish or cocktail well in their semi liquid form so are quite similar. However, it must be noted that maple syrup has a stronger and more unique flavor than agave nectar.

Maple syrup has the maple flavor that is syrupy and sweet but also has piney and vegetal notes from the tree that are unique to the maple tree.

Maple syrup is perhaps best used in certain baking applications and recipes whereas in a cocktail the maple syrup might bring some unwanted flavors to the drink that could upset the flavor balance you are trying to achieve.


While not plant derived, due it being organic honey can be quite similar to agave syrup in both texture and sweetness. Honey is somewhat processed from the honeycomb in a similar way to agave, but fundamentally isn’t plant derived but is actually what you might call an animal product.

As a result vegans may choose agave nectar over honey as the former product is not derived from animals.

In any case, if you are looking to sweeten a cake batter, or add some sweetness to a marinade or other savory recipe, then honey is totally fine to use as a substitute.

Honey brings sweetness and the syrupy consistency that agave nectar will. Yet, honey has a much more recognizable and strong flavor than agave nectar, which is worth keeping an eye on.

While this flavor is pleasant it’s not always what you are looking for. For example, in a cocktail adding honey may be pleasant but will add a flavor to your cocktail that you maybe don’t want, as agave nectar is basically just sweet but doesn;t really have a flavor.


Molasses is a syrup that is made during the sugar making process. Like agave it is effectively the sap of the sugar cane, and is processed, like agave nectar, into a type of syrup.

Molasses can be very similar to the darker versions of agave nectar that have a stronger caramel flavor. Molasses is a thick dark syrup and as a result has a very distinct caramel flavor that you would get from dark versions of sugar.

Even regular agave nectar can be similar to molasses, though. If you use a little less molasses than agave nectar in a baking dish it will bring similar sweetness and flavors.

Molasses is strong in flavor so we should be aware of how much we are using in comparison to the rather mild agave nectar. Again, molasses isn’t something you would use in a cocktail anyway but would bring more flavor than agave nectar to a drink that you wouldn’t want.

Cane Sugars

There are various cane sugars out there which can be similar to agave nectar. Consider that most sugars are just sweeteners anyway and things like molasses and agave nectar are basically liquid forms of sugar.

Basically any form of sugar will achieve the same goal that agave nectar can, to sweeten a dish. Agave nectar is neutral in its flavor so if you didn’t have the latter ingredient there’s nothing stopping you using generic white sugar granulated or superfine.

In baking this works similarly to agave; the type of sugar you use can bring a certain texture to a dish while agave nectar generally makes a cake more moist.

Darker sugars with molasses present in them such as demerara, brown sugar, muscovado sugar, will all work similarly to agave but will add a certain taste agave doesn’t have, while still bringing quite a similar texture to a cake that the agave syrup would.

Again, in a cocktail, there’s not much point just adding a bit of sugar simply for sweetness. Maybe a sugar rim can bring the same sweet hit without affecting the cocktails flavor too strongly.

Simple Syrup

As we mentioned, adding granulated sugar to a cocktail just feels wrong. This is basically why people invented simple syrup as it brings a sweet element to a cocktail that blends well with the liquid of the cocktail.

Put simply, simple sugar is really easy to make as well as is literally just sugar dissolved into water, but from there your variations can be endless.

In terms of a cocktail that asks for agave nectar, you can basically do a like for like swap with simple syrup. As agave nectar has such a mild flavor it can be pretty easy to swap with simple syrup, both basically only add sweetness to a drink and not flavor. 

Arguably there is also nothing stopping you adding simple syrup to your cakes or marinades, or any other recipe that asks for agave nectar, as they can be pretty similar. Agave aficionados will suggest that agave does have more flavor than simple syrup, but if the latter term doesn;t apply to you there’s nothing to sweat about.

Final Thoughts

What should be clear from the article is that agave nectar has a mild taste and its main function is to bring sweetness to a drink or recipe.

You ideally want to substitute it for a mild tasting, plant derived, syrup. Honey and maple syrup may be ideal for baking, while simple syrup is the best swap in a cocktail recipe.

The Best Substitutes For Agave Nectar You Can Use Today

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