Since most types of sweeteners – such as honey and sugar – are off-limits to vegans, it can sometimes be difficult to find vegan-friendly sweeteners to add to your favorite recipes.
This is where agave comes in.
Luckily for vegans, this herbal sweetener is extracted from the agave plant and isn’t composed using any animal products.
Agave contains a very distinct taste that could be considered closer to corn syrup or light honey than sugar (in fact, agave is even sweeter than table sugar!), and can be found in both light and dark varieties.
Agave is great for vegan baking, desserts, and drinks since during the manufacturing process it is filtered more and with less heat, providing a smoother texture with a more neutral flavor.
On the other hand, black agave (otherwise known as amber agave) consists of a much stronger, richer flavor that can sometimes taste more like caramel, molasses, or brown sugar.
Additionally, it also has a thicker texture.
With this in mind, this article will explore everything you need to know about whether agave is vegan or not.
Why Is Agave Considered Vegan?
Simply put, agave is made using agave plants. These accumulate nonstructural carbohydrates found in the sap of their core and stems that are extracted to give us sweet syrup.
There are various ways of making agave syrup. The most traditional method is to directly heat the sap in pots using a heat source until all the water has evaporated.
The result will be a thick syrup with concentrated sugars.
Alternatively, you can use a semi-industrial process that involves high-pressure heat while simultaneously controlling variables such as temperature and pH.
The last process is very industrial. Here, the whole agave pine is used with much more sophisticated technology to extract the carbohydrates and hydrolysis through acids or enzymes, rather than heat.
Since all the ingredients are vegan-friendly and no animals are used in the production, agave is thus considered suitable for vegans.
When looking for agave syrup, it should always be 100% pure agave and never contain any other sugar sources or additives.
Did You Know?
That agave syrup derived from the same types of plants used to make tequila?
The agave plant leaves, a byproduct in the production of tequila, are rich in bioactive elements that are known to contain antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
The plants themselves have been shown to respond favorably to climate change, whereby they have evolved to survive extreme drought and heat.
Additionally, they control soil erosion while being a great source of food for many pollinator species.
As a result, researchers are beginning to look into agave plants as a natural source of food and bioenergy.
The Long-Nosed Bat Controversy
The Mexican long-nosed bat, which is listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the states of Texas and New Mexico, and the Mexican Endangered Species Act, are crucial pollinators who rely on agave plant flowers for food.
Many activists have criticized large-scale agave harvesting companies as contributors to the decline in the bat species. However, conservationists have maintained that the reasons for this decline are not entirely clear.
Recovery efforts are underway for the conservation of these bats with over 50,000 agave plants planted in Northern Mexico, hoping to rebuild the bats’ natural habitat once again.
Products That Include Agave
Agave syrup can be an ingredient found within many recipes that call for added sugar, this include, but is not limited to, baked goods and beverages.
In its purest form, agave is completely vegan. Therefore, those following a vegan diet only need to look at the ingredients list to determine whether or not it is suitable. In most cases, it is.
Agave syrup is commonly used as a sugar substitute in candies such as marshmallows, chocolate, and gum, as well as baked treats, including sweet bread, cookies, and cakes.
You may also find it in cereals, granolas, jams, energy bars, and snack bars (Also Check Out How To Make Vegan Almond Bounty Bars).
Many people prefer to include agave in their morning cups of coffee or tea as opposed to honey or sugar. However, it is also used commercially in various sodas (Check out Is Coke Vegan here), energy drinks, and juice.
Likewise, it is a popular natural sweetener to include in fresh juices and smoothies, too. Although, in recent years, it has also gained traction in the craft of cocktails since the syrup pairs naturally with tequila.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find some frequently asked questions regarding agave and its role in a vegan diet.
Is Raw Agave Vegan?
Generally, agave goes through a heating process during production.
Although some varieties of agave undergo a raw production process whereby high temperatures aren’t contributed to the final product – you’ll find these labeled as such.
Likewise, both types of agave are 100% vegan.
Can You Substitute Agave For Honey?
In most recipes, you can typically use honey and agave interchangeably since they are extremely similar in both texture and taste.
How To Store Agave?
Contrary to popular belief, agave does not need to be refrigerated. As long as it is stored away from direct sunlight, it will remain fresh.
Agave is a strange but wonderful plant. On the outside, it may look harsh and fierce, but on the inside is where you’ll find its delicious sweetness.
The beauty of agave is that not only is it 100% vegan but it is also incredibly versatile.
Whether you are adding a touch of sweetness to your morning coffee, looking to spruce up your next smoothie, or even want to add a sweet twist to your cocktail, then agave is the answer you’re looking for.
Finding an alternative to honey and sugar has never been easier.
Hopefully, this guide has informed you on everything you need to know about agave and whether or not it is suitable for vegans.