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5 Tasty Honey Substitutes Worth Trying

Lisa Price
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by Lisa Price

Honey is a natural sweetener produced by apiaries across the country. Bees collect nectar from flowers and deposit it into a honeycomb.

Then, evaporation begins within the bee’s hive and the resulting golden liquid produced is honey! Honey has historic origins, with even the ancient Egyptians enjoying its natural sweetness.

Honey
Honey

It is a favorite addition to hot teas and can be delicious when poured on pancakes or waffles, but there are many other uses for honey in all kinds of recipes and beverages. If you don’t have honey in your house or do not enjoy the taste, you can use various substitutes for cooking or baking.

Various common kitchen ingredients can be used as honey substitutions in cooking and baking. Adding natural sweeteners to recipes is an excellent option for health-conscious cooks. Many substitutes exist to use as a honey alternative.

1. Light Corn Syrup

Light Corn Syrup is usually the best honey substitute
Light Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is an excellent substitution for honey, but it has a very high sugar content, so be careful when using that in recipes that call for only a little bit of honey.

Most commonly, corn syrup is used in very sticky desserts like pecan pie or treacle tart. Additionally, non-genetically modified corn syrup is vegan, so it is a fantastic substitute for honey for those with specific diets.

Cooks can use light corn syrup at a one-to-one exchange ratio with honey. However, dark corn syrup, akin to molasses, might have some of the trademark bitterness of a more viscous sweetener, so use it sparingly as a honey alternative. 

If you need help buying corn syrup, refer to our guide on finding corn syrup in grocery store.

2. Agave

Agave Nectar can replace honey in a recipe
Agave

Agave nectar or agave syrup is as sweet and sticky as honey, so it is a perfect substitute for baking cakes or mixing in a tasty cocktail. Notably, agave nectar is a vegan alternative for honey.

The syrup is produced by the blue agave plant grown and sourced in Mexico. Aside from making agave nectar, the agave plant is one of the critical components in distilling tequila!  

3. Molasses

Molasses
Molasses

Molasses is a natural liquid sweetener like honey, but it has a higher viscosity, meaning it is thicker. It is darker in color and is used in much of traditional southern cooking.

Molasses is the key ingredient in gingerbread cookies. It is the ingredient that gives the cookie its distinct brown color.

It can have a bitter taste, so use it with that in mind if you choose to substitute it for honey. Otherwise, molasses can be exchanged for honey at a one-to-one ratio in most recipes.

If you’re having trouble finding molasses, check baking aisle of the grocery store.

4. Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup is another tasty honey alternative
Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is an excellent natural substitute for honey. Maple syrup is a liquid sweetener that is sticky like honey and can be used in recipes at a one-to-one ratio.

Also, maple syrup is vegan, an excellent option for specific nutritional needs. Europe is often a perfect region to substitution for honey in a pinch because most people have some type of syrup stored in the refrigerator.

5. Granulated Sugar

Granulated Sugar
Granulated Sugar

Home cooks can substitute granulated white sugar for honey in a pinch. Either the chef can use the white sugar in its original form or make simple syrup creating a liquid similar to honey from granulated white sugar.

You can substitute granulated white sugar for honey at a one-to-one ratio. Still, the recipe might require additional liquid elsewhere because that is the primary difference between the two options.

To make a simple syrup, heat one part water with two parts white sugar over low heat until the mixture is combined and sticks to the back of a spoon. The simple syrup can be used at nearly a one-to-one rate when substituting honey.

Honey Substitutes in Baking

Various recipes call for honey, especially when making baked goods. For instance, a honey ginger snap, a Portuguese tart, or a honeycomb sponge cake all use the ubiquitous natural sweetener.

Many of the above can substitute for honey in baking, especially when creating special baked goods in the kitchen. For instance, bakers who make olive oil cakes often use honey as the key sweetener, but two tablespoons of sugar or two tablespoons of agave nectar will accomplish the same taste and texture in your cake.

Of the top five substitutes for honey listed above, all are great options for baking, but a word of caution, beware when using molasses because it might change the final flavor of your dish.

Honey Substitutes in Bread

Many options exist to substitute for honey in bread making. When baking, most loaves of bread require a sweet element to feed the yeast to ensure that the bread dough rises, resulting in a fluffy loaf of bread.

Many bread recipes ask the cook to mix honey with warm water before adding the yeast to feed and activate the yeast simultaneously.

Using granulated sugar mixed with warm water in breadmaking will accomplish the same goal as honey. Additionally, using agave nectar is an excellent substitute when baking.

Vegan Honey Substitutes

Most people who practice a vegan diet agree that honey is not a vegan option because to harvest the honey, the bees producing the honey in the honeycomb would have to be disturbed. However, many of the options above are perfectly delicious and a great alternative to honey.

Specifically, maple syrup and agave nectar are both taken from plants and are very similar in nature and taste to honey.

Additionally, white corn syrup can be vegan, but when shopping, pay close attention to the ingredient labels to ensure that no additives were added before bottling. You can use each option in recipes at a one-to-one ratio as a substitute for honey.

Honey Substitutes in Marinades

Home cooks who enjoy grilling and preparing meat dishes will often use a marinade. Honey helps prolong the shelf life of homemade marinades and helps hold moisture inside the meat when it is cooking. By adding about one-fourth cup of honey to any marinade, it will not only last for a longer period but also can add distinct sweetness to your dish and help with exterior caramelization.

All the options listed above can be used in exchange for honey when making marinades at home. Particularly good alternatives for marinade mixtures include molasses and maple syrup since both flavors work well with barbecue-style dishes.

Honey Substitutes in Recipes

Cooks and bakers can substitute for honey in recipes to achieve the same results. From adding granulated sugar to water and yeast in bread making to mixing a fourth cup of molasses into a savory chicken marinade, the utility of the honey alternatives is vast and convenient.

Some key questions arise for people seeking honey substitutes about alternatives, their usefulness, and the ratio by which cooks should use the substitute in specific dishes. 

Can you substitute maple syrup for honey?

Yes! Maple syrup is an effective substitute for honey. Maple syrup has nearly the same consistency and taste as honey, and it is vegan!

Maple syrup is the most versatile honey substitution because it is perfect when baking sweet treats or barbecuing savory dishes. Regardless of whether you are vegan or simply forgot to buy honey during your last visit to the grocery store, maple syrup is certainly one of the best alternatives for honey in any recipe.

Is honey a good substitute for sugar?

Honey is a perfect sugar substitute. Many people tout the health benefits of exchanging honey for sugar in recipes. Indeed, some research discovered that replacing sugar with honey could lower blood sugar levels and reduce weight gain.

Honey is also less processed than granulated white sugar. Furthermore, substituting honey for sugar or vice versa has no real impact on the success of your recipe, regardless of whether it is a fresh loaf of bread or a warm vanilla latte.

Can you substitute agave nectar for honey?

Agave nectar is a plant-based alternative to honey and works well as a substitute in most dishes. The two options are so similar that cooks can use them interchangeably.

When baking, note that agave nectar has a bit more water content than honey, so shift your recipe accordingly, if needed. If in doubt about shifting ratios in a recipe, simply use slightly less agave than honey, and baked goods will come out of the oven perfectly sweet and tasty.

Final Thoughts

Honey is a useful, sweet, and common ingredient in most households, but understanding how and when cooks can use honey substitutions in recipes is essential in developing delicious flavors and creating beautiful baked goods.

For baking, try substituting maple syrup or granulated white sugar as an alternative. When marinating and grilling meats, molasses or maple syrup should be your go-to substitution. In every recipe that calls for honey, agave nectar is a near-perfect option for one-to-one substitutions.

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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