Agave vs Maple Syrup: What’s the Difference?

Agave syrup and maple syrup are both liquid sweeteners that you’ve likely seen at the grocery store. 

Both are delicious and can be used to sweeten pancakes, cocktails, and more. 

However, there are some key differences in flavor and nutrition that may influence which one you decide to use.

In this article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between agave and maple syrup, in terms of nutrition, taste, available forms, prices, and uses. 

Agave vs Maple Syrup: What's the Difference?

What is agave syrup?

Agave syrup (also called agave nectar) is a liquid sweetener made from the sap of the agave plant, a type of succulent that grows in the desert areas of North and Central America (1).

Sap is collected from the pineapple-shaped core of the agave plant, then filtered and heated until most of its naturally-occurring fiber breaks down into sugars. The end result is an amber-colored syrup (1).

Agave syrup has a mild, sweet taste with a hint of caramel flavor. Syrups that are darker in color will have a stronger, more molasses-like flavor.

You can find agave syrup at most supermarkets, health food stores, and online retailers. It is typically sold in bottles or jars, either in the baking aisle or the natural foods section.

Agave syrup is a popular replacement for white sugar in baking and cooking, and can also be drizzled over pancakes or used to sweeten beverages such as coffee and tea.

What is maple syrup?

Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees, primarily those that grow in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada (2).

It is made by boiling large amounts of maple tree sap until most of the water has evaporated, leaving behind a thick, amber-colored syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup (2).

Maple syrup has a distinct, sweet and slightly earthy flavor with notes of caramel and vanilla. The exact flavor varies depending on the color of the syrup, with lighter colors having a milder taste and darker colors having a more robust flavor.

You can find maple syrup at most grocery stores, often in the breakfast aisle. Don’t confuse it with pancake syrup, which is made of corn syrup and maple flavoring. Look for products labeled “pure maple syrup” to be sure you’re getting the real thing. 

Maple syrup is most commonly used as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and French toast. It’s also excellent as a sweetener for baked goods, salad dressings, and glazed meats.

Agave vs maple syrup

Agave tastes mild and sweet, with notes of caramel, while maple syrup has a more distinct, sweet and earthy flavor with undertones of vanilla and caramel.

Both syrups are high in carbs (mainly sugar) and low in fat and protein. Agave is higher in fructose and has a lower glycemic index, while maple syrup is mostly made up of sucrose.

Neither syrup is especially rich in vitamins and minerals, but maple syrup does provide more than 20% of the Daily Value for riboflavin and manganese.

Maple syrup and agave are both classified by their color. Lighter-colored syrups are generally milder, while darker syrups have bolder, more intense flavors.

Here’s a more detailed review of how they compare in flavor, nutrition, available forms, prices, and recommended uses:

Flavor comparison

Agave syrup has a mild, sweet taste with just a hint of caramel flavor. Its neutral sweetness makes it ideal for use in lighter foods and beverages, like fruit salads, smoothies, and iced tea.  

Maple syrup has a unique, sweet and earthy flavor with notes of vanilla and caramel. It is typically darker and thicker than agave syrup and pairs well with rich flavors like bacon, chocolate, and nuts.

For both agave and maple syrup, the flavor depends on the color. Lighter syrups have a milder flavor, while darker syrups are bolder and can easily overpower the other flavors in a dish.

While both syrups are sweet, they have distinct flavors and pair well with different foods. That being said, they can both be used interchangeably as sweeteners in a variety of recipes if you like their taste.

Nutrition comparison

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the calorie and macronutrient content of agave and maple syrup, based on a 1-tablespoon serving size (3, 4):

NutrientAgave nectar (1 tablespoon)Maple syrup (1 tablespoon)
Protein<0.5 grams<0.5 grams
Fat<0.5 grams<0.5 grams
Carbohydrates16 grams13 grams
Fiber<0.5 grams0 grams
Total sugars14 grams12 grams
Sucrose0 grams11.7 grams
Glucose2.6 grams0.3 gram
Fructose11.5 grams0.1 gram


Agave syrup contains slightly more calories than maple syrup, with 64 calories per tablespoon compared to 52 calories per tablespoon for maple syrup.

Both agave and maple syrup are higher in calories than white (granulated) sugar, which has 49 calories per tablespoon (5).


Like other sweeteners, agave syrup and maple syrup are both low in protein, with less than 0.5 grams per tablespoon.


Both maple and agave syrup are considered fat-free sweeteners, because they contain only trace amounts of fat (<0.5 grams per tablespoon). 


Agave nectar contains more carbohydrates than maple syrup, with 16 grams per tablespoon compared to 13 grams in maple syrup. 

In terms of sugar content, maple syrup is 98% sucrose (also known as table sugar). When digested, sucrose breaks down into 50% glucose and 50% fructose. 

Agave syrup, on the other hand, is about 80% fructose and 20% glucose. Fructose is digested and absorbed more slowly than other sugars, so it results in a more gradual increase in blood sugar and a lower glycemic index (6).

The glycemic index measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels compared to pure glucose. Foods with a high glycemic index can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels (7).

Agave syrup has a glycemic index of 13, while maple syrup’s glycemic index is 54. Both syrups have a lower glycemic index than table sugar (8).

Many people prefer agave syrup over other sweeteners because of its very low glycemic index. However, some research has linked diets high in fructose with insulin resistance and liver disease, so it is important to keep that in consideration as well (9, 10).

If you’re only using agave syrup occasionally, there’s likely no reason to be concerned. But if you use it as your primary sweetener, you may want to reconsider.

Overall, agave syrup may be a better choice for anyone who needs to manage their blood sugar, as long as it is used in moderation.

Vitamins and minerals

Here’s an overview of the vitamin and mineral content of agave and maple syrup, based on a 1-tablespoon serving (3, 4):

NutrientAgave syrup (1 tablespoon)Maple syrup (1 tablespoon)
Vitamin A2 mcg RAE (<1% DV)0 mcg (0% DV)
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)0.02 mg (2% DV)0.01 mg (1% DV)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)0.03 mg (2% DV)0.3 mg (23% DV)
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)0.1 mg (1% DV)0.02 mg (<1% DV)
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)Not listed0.01 mg (<1% DV)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)0.05 mg (3% DV)0 mg (0% DV)
Vitamin B9 (Folate)6 mcg (2% DV)0 mcg (0% DV)
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)0 mcg (0% DV)0 mcg (0% DV)
Vitamin C4 mg (4% DV)0 mg (0% DV)
Vitamin D0 mcg (0% DV)0 mcg (0% DV)
Vitamin E0.2 mg (1% DV)0 mg (0% DV)
Vitamin K5 mcg (4% DV)0 mcg (0% DV)
Choline3 mg (1% DV)0.3 mg (<1% DV)
Sodium<1 mg (<1% DV)2 mg (<1% DV)
Potassium<1 mg (<1% DV)42 mg (1% DV)
Calcium<1 mg (<1% DV)20 mg (2% DV)
Phosphorus<1 mg (<1% DV)<1 mg (<1% DV)
Magnesium<1 mg (<1% DV)4 mg (1% DV)
Iron<0.05 mg (<1% DV)<0.05 mg (<1% DV)
Zinc0.003 mg (<1% DV)0.3 mg (3% DV)
Copper0.003 mg (<1% DV)0.004 mg (<1% DV)
Manganese0 mg (0% DV)0.6 mg (26% DV)
Selenium0.4 mcg (1% DV)0.1 mcg (<1% DV)

Both maple syrup and agave syrup offer little nutritional value aside from sugars and calories. They contain less than 5% of the Daily Value (DV) of most vitamins and minerals per tablespoon serving. 

However, maple syrup is uniquely high in riboflavin (vitamin B2) and manganese, providing 23% DV and 26% DV of each, respectively. Agave syrup provides minimal amounts of these nutrients.

If you’re interested in getting significant quantities of micronutrients out of your sweetener, maple syrup is the better choice over agave syrup.


Both agave and maple syrups contain small amounts of antioxidants (11, 12).

Maple syrup has slightly more antioxidant power than agave syrup, but both contain much less antioxidants than you’d get from something like a serving of fresh berries or raw nuts (13).

Special Diets

If you’re following a special diet, you may be wondering whether maple syrup or agave syrup is a better choice for you. 

Dairy free diet

Both maple syrup and agave syrup are naturally dairy-free. 

Gluten free diet

Both maple syrup and agave syrup are naturally gluten free and can be consumed on a gluten free diet.

Ketogenic diet

Neither agave syrup or maple syrup are good fits for the ketogenic diet since they are both high in carbohydrates and low in fat.

Low carbohydrate diet

Agave syrup and maple syrup are made up almost entirely of carbohydrates. They can be included in a low-carbohydrate diet, but usually only in relatively small amounts.

For example, just one tablespoon of these sweeteners could make up more than 10% of your daily carbohydrate intake on a low carb diet.

Low fat diet

Both maple syrup and agave syrup contain almost no fat and can be consumed on a low fat diet.

Low-FODMAP diet

Maple syrup is low-fodmap, but agave syrup is not, according to the Monash University FODMAP Diet app.

Maple syrup is low in fermentable carbohydrates and can be safely consumed on the low-FODMAP diet in portions of up to two tablespoons. 

A 1-tablespoon serving of dark agave syrup is high in both fructose and fructans, while light agave syrup is high in fructose. 

Agave syrup of any type can only be consumed on the low-FODMAP diet in very small amounts (up to 1 teaspoon). 

Low sodium diet

Both maple syrup and agave syrup are low in sodium and can be included in a low sodium diet.

Vegetarian diet

Both maple syrup and agave are plant-based sweeteners that can be eaten on a vegetarian diet.

Vegan diet 

Maple syrup and agave syrup are both vegan, since they come from plants. This makes them a popular alternative to honey (which is made by bees) in the vegan community.

Available forms

Both agave and maple syrup are sold according to their color and flavor. In general, darker syrups have a stronger flavor, while lighter syrups are milder.

1. Maple syrup

There are two main ways that maple syrup is categorized: grade (quality) and class (color).

All maple syrup sold in the United States is Grade A, meaning that it meets certain quality standards related to appearance and flavor (14, 15). 

Often, maple syrup that doesn’t meet the requirements for Grade A is labeled as “processing grade” and can be used in food manufacturing but is not allowed for retail sale.      

Maple syrup is also classified into four different groups based on its color, which changes depending on whether the sap was collected earlier or later in the season (2, 14):

  • Golden (delicate taste)
  • Amber (rich taste)
  • Dark (robust taste)
  • Very Dark (strong taste)

Most maple syrup available at grocery stores is either dark or amber. You can find this information on the front of the bottle.

Golden and amber maple syrup are better to use when your main goal is to add sweetness, while dark and very dark are best for adding flavor.

2. Agave syrup

Agave syrup is also classified based on its color. However, these classifications aren’t regulated by the government, so they’re more difficult to define. 

There are two main agave syrup color classifications that you’ll see at grocery stores:

  • Light (mild, neutral taste)
  • Amber (strong, caramel-like taste)

The difference in color between amber and light agave syrup is due to a variety of factors, such as their nutrient content and how they’re processed (16).

Generally, darker agave syrup has more polyphenols, a group of health-promoting compounds found naturally in plants, and a higher antioxidant capacity (16). 

Some agave syrup products may be further categorized based on the variety of agave and/or the way it is processed:

  • Raw agave syrup is heated below 49°C (120°F), which is much lower than the typical 80-90°C (176-194°F) temperatures used to process agave syrup (1, 17). 
  • Blue agave syrup is made exclusively from the blue agave plant (Agave tequilana), a variety of agave grown in Central Mexico specifically for the tequila industry (1).


Maple syrup is typically at least twice as expensive as agave syrup.

On average, agave syrup costs $0.20 to $0.30 per ounce, while maple syrup prices range from $0.50 to $0.90 (or more).

You can save money on maple syrup by buying from wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s, which offer prices as low as $0.40 per ounce.

1. Drizzled over breakfast foods

Pancakes, waffles, and other breakfast foods are the perfect canvas for experimenting with sweeteners like agave and maple syrup.

Maple syrup is the king of breakfast sweeteners, with its rich, caramel-like flavor that makes every pancake feel like a special occasion. 

Agave syrup is a great choice for those who want to add a touch of sweetness without overpowering other flavors. It pairs perfectly with fresh fruit and yogurt in a breakfast parfait.

2. To replace sugar in baked goods

You can also use agave or maple syrup as a sugar replacement in baked goods such as cakes, brownies, and muffins.

For every 1 cup of white sugar, use ⅔ cup of agave or ¾ cup of maple syrup and reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup. 

Maple syrup adds more flavor and complexity, so it’s ideal for recipes that include rich ingredients, like nuts, chocolate, and warm spices.

Agave syrup may be a better choice for lighter, more delicate baked goods, like fruity muffins, lemon bars, and angel food cake.

3. To sweeten drinks & cocktails

Agave and maple syrup are excellent choices for sweetening beverages, including tea, coffee, lemonade, and cocktails.

Liquid sweeteners, like agave and maple syrup, are often preferred over granulated sugar for sweetening drinks because they dissolve easily in liquids and do not leave a gritty texture. 

This means that you can add them to cold drinks, like iced tea or lemonade, without having to dissolve the sugar separately.

Agave syrup is a great option for those looking to add a touch of sweetness to lighter drinks, like margaritas or mojitos. It pairs perfectly with the bright flavors of citrus and mint.

Maple syrup, on the other hand, is ideal for adding a rich, complex sweetness to darker, boozier drinks, like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. Its earthy, caramel notes complement the oaky, smoky flavors of whiskey or rum beautifully.

4. In salad dressings & marinades

Both maple syrup and agave can be used to add sweetness and balance acidity in salad dressings and meat marinades.

Agave’s mild flavor makes it a great choice for dressings and marinades that you want to remain light and fresh-tasting.

For a more intense flavor, try maple syrup. It pairs especially well with Asian-inspired marinades and dressings featuring soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.

5. On glazed meats and roasted vegetables

When it comes to adding a touch of sweetness to savory dishes, agave and maple syrup are the perfect secret weapons. 

Maple syrup is a classic choice for glazing meats like ham or chicken, adding a rich, caramelized flavor that pairs perfectly with smoky barbecue or roasted garlic.

Drizzling maple syrup over Brussels sprouts is also a delicious way to add a touch of sweetness and depth to this classic vegetable side dish.

Agave syrup is an excellent option for those who want to add a subtle sweetness to roasted vegetables, like carrots or sweet potatoes, without overpowering their natural flavors.

It can also be used in marinades for grilled meats, like pork chops or steak, to add a hint of sweetness that balances out the savory flavors.

Final thoughts

Agave and maple syrup are natural liquid sweeteners. Agave syrup has a mild, honey-like flavor with floral notes, while maple syrup has a rich, earthy flavor with caramel undertones.

Maple syrup and agave are high in carbs and low in protein and fat. Agave is slightly higher in carbs and sugars but has a lower glycemic index than maple syrup.

Both syrups provide less than 5% of the Daily Value (DV) for most vitamins and minerals. However, maple syrup stands out with more than 20% DV for riboflavin and manganese.

Most maple syrup is at least 2 times more expensive than agave syrup, due to its seasonal nature and the labor-intensive process of collecting maple tree sap. 

Whether you’re baking a sweet treat, sitting down to a stack of pancakes, or livening up a savory dish, agave and maple syrup are a fantastic way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Amy Richter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Missouri. She is an experienced nutrition writer and medical advisor for Healthline and Medical News Today.  Amy is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys translating complex science into easy-to-understand articles.

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