In Praise of Sweeteners


For the last few years, I’d always wondered about those “alterative sweeteners” used in place of refined sugar in a lot of vegan recipes. While I regularly used pure maple syrup as a liquid sweetener in my baked goods, “agave nectar” and “brown rice syrup” always sounded so uppity and out of my reach, so I didn’t bother giving them a chance.

Then I realized that I wanted to be uppity, so I tried them.

Brown rice syrup is a great natural sweetener that can be used in place of any other liquid sweetener like honey or maple syrup. It “is derived by culturing rice with enzymes to break down the starches, then straining off the liquid and cooking it until the desired consistency is reached” (source). Tastewise you can’t really tell the difference in baked goods since it’s relatively light, but may work better than maple syrup in recipes where the sweetness should be less pronounced.

While I haven’t used any agave nectar yet, I’ve tasted it plain because I’d heard to it referred to as “honey for vegans” or some such before. And I’ll be damned if this low-glycemic, plant-based sweetener doesn’t have that “nearly-honey” flavor, even when eaten plain. Agave nectar is a favorite sweetener for diabetics because of it’s low glycemic value, though this site warns that “f fructose [which makes up 90% of agave nectar] is consumed after eating a large meal that overly raises the blood sugar or with high glycemic foods, it no longer has a low glycemic value. Strangely enough, it will take on the value of the higher glycemic food.”

There are plenty of other sweeteners left to try, but for now I’m happy with my two new friends, Mr. Brown Rice and Mr. Agave. They promise to be good baking buddies in the months to come.

4 Responses to “In Praise of Sweeteners”

  1. Nathaniel

    Both of those are great, healthy sweeteners. One somewhat similar to rice syrup is barley malt. And, one of my personal favorites is beet syrup. It’s a bit hard to find sometimes, but it makes a wonderful spread on toast and, used in recipes – especially chocolate and/or carob – it fits in very nicely. High in minerals (including iron), as beets are.

    Stevia is great too, but a bit tricky to cook with!

  2. kitchenmage

    I just posted about my current of having very healthy stevia plants and no clue what to do with it! Any ideas?

  3. Joe @ Culinary in the Desert

    I just started using brown rice syrup in some of my baked goods and so far love the results that it gives.

  4. Alexey

    Wow! It is a good article. Very interesting and useful. Thanks.

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