Agave vs Honey: What’s the Difference?

Honey bees are easily one of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. They dance to communicate, for one thing, which is dope as hell. They live in sophisticated colonies where every bee has a specified role. If they string you, they die, which lends them an air of tragic nobility. Plus, they make honey! It’s really remarkable that a bug makes such a delicious treat. Of course, what with colony collapse syndrome, bees have been having a hell of a time lately. So maybe you’re looking to help relieve the pressure on bees. Or perhaps you’re looking to go vegan and remove all animal byproducts from your diet. Or, hey, maybe you just don’t like the taste of honey. In any of these situations, you may likely have turned to agave as an alternative. But what is the difference between agave and honey? Can you substitute agave for honey? Let’s find out.

What is honey?

Honey, as we know, is made by bees—they gather nectar from flowers and plants, bring it back to the hive, pass it from mouth to mouth to reduce its water content (pretty gross, if you ask me), place it in honeycombs, fan it with their wings (which is, conversely, almost too cute to be real) and seal it up with beeswax to be enjoyed by the rest of the hive during the winter or by sneaky beekeepers anytime. Oh yeah, and also honey never goes bad, which is another wild thing that seems made up. 

What is agave syrup?

Agave syrup, on the other hand, is liquid made from the agave plant, which is a succulent related to the yucca plant found mostly in the Caribbean and Mexico. Agave is probably most famous for being the stuff they make tequila and mezcal out of, and while there are many varieties of the agave plant, the one most commonly used for alcohol and sweetener is blue agave. The nectar is harvested from the plant’s core, liquified and then reduced down to become agave syrup. The syrup comes in light, amber, and dark varieties. Light has the mildest flavor profile which makes it a good option if you’re substituting it out for sugar. The dark variety has a much stronger, caramel-y taste and can be enjoyed out of the bottle on pancakes and the like. 

Agave vs honey: nutrition

From a nutritional standpoint, there’s a similar calorie count in agave syrup as compared to honey—both contain about 63 calories per tablespoon. However, agave syrup has significantly less sucrose and more fructose. Because it’s easier for the body to process fructose than sucrose, agave is less likely to spike your blood sugar and there may be less negative health effects associated with consuming it.  

Can you substitute agave for honey? 

Yes! It can be used in equal measure to honey. And you can also substitute agave for sugar in recipes—substitute ⅔ cup of agave for every cup of sugar, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by a quarter of a cup. Again, light syrup is recommended unless you want the stronger flavor notes. 

best honey

Best Honey

Now that you know the difference between agave and honey, find out all about the best honey you can buy at the grocery store.

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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