Many recipes include honey as an ingredient. It is not just limited to being an addition to your favorite hot drink or drizzled atop of your oats in the morning. It can be an integral part of many sweet and savory recipes.
Honey has long been a staple in many kitchens and recipes, celebrated for its natural sweetness and numerous health benefits. However, there are times when a substitute for honey is needed, whether it’s due to personal preference, dietary restrictions, or simply running out of this golden delight.
In recent years, a variety of alternatives have emerged on the market, offering similar sweetness and versatility as honey. This article will explore the numerous honey substitutes available, including vegan and allergy-friendly options, as well as the ways these alternatives can be used in cooking and baking.
Honey is one of the foods that is older than written history. The first evidence we have of honey was found in Babylonian and Sumerian cuneiform writings from about 2,100 B.C. Cuneiform was the first written language, and honey showed up.
Before the cuneiform writings, honey showed up in pictograms, which was a form of writing with pictures. Spanish caves from 7,000 B.C. show images of both bees and beekeeping. This tells us that people have been eating honey for a long time, probably since the beginning of mankind’s history on the planet. Can you imagine the first person who ever tasted honey, how wondrous it must have been?
Honey, as delicious as it is, presents issues for several different people. Honey, as it is made by bees, is actually not suitable for vegans. This means that vegans will need to find a honey alternative for any recipes that include it.
As well as this, honey allergies are very common. For example, if a person is allergic to bees, it is likely that they will avoid honey. Those with bad pollen allergies may also choose to avoid honey.
Sometimes, it may simply be the case that a recipe has called for the addition of honey but you do not have any at home, or cannot stand the taste. In this case, you may be searching for a suitable alternative.
Whatever your reason for wanting to find a substitute for honey, this article has got your back! In this article, we are going to be exploring some of the best honey substitutes around, telling you what would work best in what recipe.
We will be including plenty of vegan alternatives here, as we suspect that in this article we are appealing to a largely vegan (or honey-allergic) audience.
That being said, most of the alternatives to honey are very easy to get your hands on, even as a non-vegan, and you may even find some of them in your pantry already!
One of the best substitutes for honey is molasses. The best types of molasses to go for are light and dark molasses.
Whatever you do, do not be lulled into using blackstrap molasses. The flavor will be far too strong to be used as a honey alternative, and will likely overpower your recipe.
Typically, molasses is suitable for vegans, but as with anything we recommend checking the packaging first to certify that it is suitable for you.
Light molasses will be the best of the two. You can use it in the same amount as that of honey. So, if your recipe calls for one teaspoon of honey, use the same amount of light molasses.
If you only have dark molasses you may need less of it. Try half a teaspoon for every teaspoon of honey needed, and add more if you feel like you need it after tasting.
Agave nectar is a great vegan alternative to honey, and can also be used as a sugar replacement for those wanting to cut out sugar from their diets.
As such, it is a great addition to the diet of a diabetic person where actual sugar needs to be avoided.
You need much less agave syrup than honey. Try using around 25% less agave syrup than honey.
For example, if your recipe calls for a teaspoon of honey, you could try using around three-quarters of a teaspoon of agave nectar.
Corn syrup is known for its high sugar content, and it is used in many of our most favorite processed treats. You can use both the light and dark versions in place of honey.
Light corn syrup may be the best option if you want to ensure that you will have a subtle taste. Dark corn syrup does have a slightly more overpowering taste, and so it might be a good idea to use less of this in place of honey.
Try using one teaspoon of light corn syrup for one teaspoon of honey, or half a teaspoon of dark corn syrup for every teaspoon of honey.
You can always taste it as you go along to check if it has the desired sweetness needed.
Brown sugar and water
A simple mixture of brown sugar and water is a great replacement for honey if you have nothing else in your home. Make it so that there is more sugar than water to get the same texture and consistency as honey.
This may mean mixing it into a paste. You will need more brown sugar than that of honey, and the best way to work out how much you will need is to add it in teaspoon by teaspoon, tasting the recipe in between each addition so you get your required taste.
You could also use plain brown sugar without water if you wanted to. This would work just as well, especially in baked recipes, or in sauces where the sugar will be able to dissolve in the heat.
Barley Malt Syrup
Barley malt syrup is most often used as a substitute for molasses. They have a very similar flavor, but barley malt syrup is less intense and does not have the same bitter aftertaste that some molasses can give.
That being said, it can also be used as an alternative for honey if you are in a cinch. It is made from malted barley that has been soaked and has sprouted. This means that the taste is slightly fermented.
Because of this, the taste of barley malt syrup is very distinct. It can give a new depth to many of your favorite honey recipes and works well in barbecue sauces and sweet dishes.
You can use it as a ratio of 1:1, replacing one teaspoon of honey with the same of barley malt syrup.
Coconut syrup or nectar
Coconut syrup is made from the raw nectar of the coconut flower. It is a natural syrup that is very sweet. You can use it as a natural and vegan alternative for honey in all of your recipes.
Bear in mind that some coconut syrup brands use palm oil, which is a product that many vegans avoid because of the exploitative measures and methods that are used to get palm oil. Ensure you buy syrup without palm oil.
You can use it in the same amount as honey. So, with this in mind, you would use one teaspoon of coconut nectar syrup for one teaspoon of honey in your recipes. It works especially well in sweet dishes thanks to its slight coconut taste.
Everyone’s favorite pancake and waffle topping just had to feature on our list of honey alternatives! Maple syrup is a vegan alternative to honey and can be used to great effect in many honey containing recipes.
You are not just limited to using it in sweet recipes though. We love using maple syrup in barbecue sauce recipes instead of honey. It can add depth and pairs well with ribs and wings!
You can use the same amount of maple syrup as you would honey, meaning one teaspoon of maple syrup can be used where one teaspoon of honey is stated. It is very easy to come by, and it is also likely that you will have some lying around anyway.
Golden syrup is as much a staple in Britain as maple syrup is in the States.
It is used in many of their favorite snacks and desserts such as flapjacks, and even has a whole dessert dedicated to it – golden syrup sponge pudding!
Of course, you can also buy it in America but it is often overshadowed by maple syrup.
Golden syrup has a more subtle taste than maple and is reminiscent of caramel. T works best in sweet recipes as an alternative to honey, so you can use it in all your cake and biscuit recipes.
Again, as with many of the other alternatives on our list, you can use one teaspoon of golden syrup for one teaspoon of honey.
We do not recommend using golden syrup in savory dishes, though, as that caramel flavor is very distinct and could ruin your savory meals.
Rice malt syrup
Rice malt syrup, whether you have heard of it before, or whether it is completely unknown to you, is one of the closest honey alternatives on our list, at least in terms of taste.
It is also known as brown rice syrup. It is a lot more difficult to come by, and the chances of you having it in your pantry or kitchen are slim if you do not even have honey!
However, with that in mind, because it is a great vegan alternative to honey, many vegans may already have it. You can use it part in part with honey. By this we mean you can substitute one teaspoon of honey with the same rice malt syrup.
It is made from brown rice and is also a great option for those who are avoiding processed white sugar, as well as fructose.
However, a downside is that it has a high glycemic index, and can be very expensive in comparison to some of the other alternatives on the list.
If you are very desperate, you can go ahead and use white sugar in place of honey in your recipes.
It will not have the same depth as honey, or indeed, any of the other alternatives on our list, but it will still give you a certain sweet taste. It also dissolves very easily in all recipes, and so you can use it in sweet and savory dishes alike.
We would recommend using slightly more white sugar in your recipes if you are replacing honey with it.
For example, in a recipe that states the use of one teaspoon of honey, try using two teaspoons of white sugar. We would recommend tasting it each time you add more to ensure it does not get too sweet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I substitute brown sugar for honey?
Yes, you can substitute brown sugar for honey with a few caveats. Honey has a different flavor to brown sugar, and will thus alter the taste of your recipe slightly as honey is generally sweeter than brown sugar.
Alongside this, because honey is a liquid and brown sugar is not, using honey as a replacement for brown sugar might require you to add less liquid.
Use ¾ cup of honey for every 1 cup of brown sugar. If there’s other liquid in your recipe, lessen it by 3 to 4 tablespoons per 1 cup substitution.
If there isn’t any additional liquid, add 1 extra tablespoon of flour per ¼ cup of honey.
What is a healthy substitute for honey?
Although natural honey is a lot healthier for you than honey that has been packed with additional sugar, there are other substitutes for honey that are healthy.
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener collected from maple trees and is a great substitute for natural honey in a variety of different recipes.
Pure maple syrup is a healthy substitute if you’re in a bind.
If you’re into pancakes or waffles, then it is likely that you’ll already have this ingredient somewhere in your pantry! That being said, it will differ slightly in flavor to honey.
However, it is worth mentioning that there are a lot of maple syrup imitation products on the market.
These imitations do not cost as much as real maple syrup, but they do typically contain high fructose corn syrup, so this is something to be mindful of when you’re buying maple syrup.
Can I use sugar instead of honey?
Yes, you can use sugar instead of honey, but there are a few things to be mindful of when making the switch.
Namely, honey is a liquid, so if you’re replacing it with sugar you will also need to add some liquid to your recipe.
You can replace 1 cup of honey with 1 1/4 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of liquid. The liquid can be water or a liquid that is already in the recipe, such as milk.
Your recipe won’t be too dissimilar if you decide to switch out honey for sugar.
However, that being said, the flavor and texture won’t be quite the same as honey, but that doesn’t mean that the result won’t be delicious.
To get the texture a little closer to the original recipe, you can try using 1/2 cup of sugar with 3/4 cup corn syrup.
Can I substitute maple syrup for honey?
Yes, you can easily substitute maple syrup for honey if you’re in a bind, bearing in mind that the flavor will slightly differ from the original recipe as it won’t have the maple taste.
To substitute maple syrup for honey in a recipe, some people like to use a 1:1 ratio, however, others use 1 cup of honey and ½ cup of sugar for every 3/4 cup of maple syrup.
This somewhat helps the sweetness to mimic the maple syrup that the recipe will be missing, but this comes down to trial and error as well as personal preference on how sweet you like your recipes.
It is worth noting, however, that both the taste and texture will be affected by the substitution, because maple syrup is significantly thinner than honey, and you’ll need to play around with the rations to properly mimic syrup.
As a result, then, it may produce a slightly different result if you’re used to creating the same recipe with maple syrup.
There you have it! Your ultimate guide to finding a perfect substitute for honey in your recipes.
Whether you have to avoid honey because of a vegan diet or allergy, or whether you have simply run out and need an alternative in a cinch, we are sure you will agree that our article provides a plethora of options.
We hope you have found one that works for you! Let us know what substitute for honey you try out.
Thanks for reading, and happy cooking!
Honey Substitutes Worth Trying
- Agave nectar
- Corn syrup
- Brown sugar and water
- Barley Malt Syrup
- Coconut syrup or nectar
- Maple syrup
- Golden syrup
- Rice malt syrup
- White sugar
- Try our kitchen tested honey substitutes.
Use in or with your favorite recipe.