Making Low sugar Jams & Spreads with Agar

low sugar fruit jam Rhubarb marmalade, perfect with croissants!

I didn't know anything about agar and cared little for low sugar fruit jams when I first made this recipe after a week's holiday at l’Ile aux Coudres in Quebec, Canada.

Ile aux Coudres is a charming little island in the Gulf of St-Lawrence, 6km from the main land. It is home to about 1200 people, all French speaking. Formerly, porpoise fishing was practiced on a broad basis, supplemented by some boat construction. Today tourism is the main industry, and the place is known for its historical sites, tourist accommodations, and craftsmen.


ile aux coudres

(Pictures from www.tourisme-charlevois.com)

To get to l’Ile aux Coudres, one needs to take the ferry from St-Joseph de la Rive (a small locality on the mainland). This is where I had my first taste (and obtained the recipe) of the  Rhubarb, Orange & Walnut jam. We stayed overnight in a very comfortable and quaint B & B decorated with all things maritime and in the morning, a scrumptious breakfast of fruits, breads, jams & cheese with lovely juices & coffee was served. The rhubarb jam was delicious: a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, the crunchiness of the nuts and the golden colour of the peels & ginger. It was the perfect garnish for a warm croissant or French stick ! But is was no low sugar fruit jam!

Unlike pectin, Agar doesn't need sugar to form a gel

So, I transformed the original recipe to make a low sugar fruit jam and keep the colour vibrant. I didn’t want to cook it long because the rhubarb breaks down and Agar, a natural red seaweed extract, made it possible to get the right texture even though rhubarb is low in natural pectin. Agar is flavourless and becomes gelatinous when it's dissolved in liquid, heated, and then cooled. It doesn't require sugar to set and gels more firmly than gelatine just at room temperature.  Click the link for tips about using agar.

Here’s the recipe for the marmalade:


Ingredients for the jam


(Makes 4 x 150ml jars)
450g of fresh rhubarb cut into 3cm pieces
300ml orange juice (without pulp)
300g caster sugar
2g Pacific Harvest Agar powder (1 flat tbsp)
50g store-bought glace citrus peels (or the finely grated zest of one orange)
3cm piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
30g chopped macadamia nuts


Swell & dissolve the Agar

First, mix the juice and the sugar in a pot and sprinkle with the agar. Stir to combine with a whisk and let stand for 10 minutes for the agar to re-hydrate. This is a very important step, because it activates the agar’s gelling capabilities.

Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook gently until the sugar and the agar have dissolved.

Add the ginger and zest

Add the grated ginger and citrus peel/zest.

Continue to cook for 25 minutes to increase the syrup density.

Roasting the nuts for extra flavour

While the syrup is simmering, chop the macadamia nuts and slowly roast them in a pan. Careful ! Macadamia nuts burn easily…but roasting them to a nice golden brown releases their flavour.

Simmer the rhubarb

Add the cut rhubarb and the nuts to the syrup and continue simmering for another 5 minutes, just long enough for the rhubarb to soften and get bright colours.

Ladle into hot canning jars, seal and cool down. You may have to turn the jars a few times during the cooling process so the ingredients disperse evenly. The marmalade will set at room temperature.

Now…time to taste !  Enjoy 🙂

Click the link to read about NZ Agar.

Gourmet Tips:

For low sugar fruit jams/marmalade, Agar is a positive alternative to pectin because it doesn't require sugar to gel. So you could do a jam/marmalade totally without sugar if you wanted, but a little sugar helps the caramelisation of fruits which adds both to the flavour & texture. So choose a healthy sugar like coconut sugar. Do not worry if you find that you need to adjust your recipe when you make it for the first time. You can put everything back in the pot and adjust the quantities. Read about other applications for NZ Agar: egg replacement , in raw foods or to convert from gelatine.

Wellness Tips:

Low sugar fruit jams is a good start to a healthier diet. Agar provides much more than texture: it is considered to be a functional food in term of its beneficial contribution to balanced nutrition. It has virtually no calories and is fat-free, is very high in fibre (75-80%) and has a beneficial effect on digestion & gut health. It contains minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin Bs, while being very low sodium. It has a good satiating ability (as agar’s indigestible fibre absorbs and retains water resulting in a feeling of fullness) and a purifying action on the body, making it great for weight reduction. Agar also has a mild laxative effect. Click to read more about Agar's benefits.

Fresh rhubarb stalks

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