What Can I Substitute for Honey?

Posted on 17 May 2012 13:44

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There are lots of ideas for substituting honey for other sugars in recipes. This is because honey is viewed as a health food and many people think that it is just chock full of extra nutrients, and even healing powers. Well, this is not the kind of blog where I debate those kinds of issues but let's just say the press on honey is a wee bit exaggerated. What do you substitute for honey in a recipe?

Now, honey is a liquid, so you may find a recipe that calls for honey and know that you can't just substitute granulated sugar for it. Well, this is not exactly true.

The Basic Sugar Substitute for Honey

Actually, you can substitute plain table sugar for honey. You just need to add water. The standard conversion is 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar added to 1 cup of water. Mix until the sugar largely dissolves and use the resulting syrup in place of honey in your recipe.

This will not impart the flavor that honey would have given, but it will replace the sweetness. Most of the other substitutes will give a different flavor and this is just fine for many recipes…it's all a matter of taste. Beware that all sugars have varying degrees of sweetness.

Brown Rice Syrup Honey Substitute

If you just don't like honey but would like a liquid "sugar substitute" like honey, brown rice syrup is a good choice. It can be used in coffee and tea without giving such a strong taste as honey gives, as it is much milder. The syrup is stickier than honey, usually, but it can be used to replace honey cup for cup.

Maple Syrup

For something completely different, maple syrup can be used. You'll need 100% pure maple syrup for the best results. Maple syrup tastes nothing like honey. I actually do not like maple syrup on pancakes and such, but I prefer it over honey in recipes.

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is said to be a great substitute for honey as well, although I've never personally tried it. Agave nectar is made from the same cactus plant as Agave tequila is made from. It is very sweet and viscous and will brown faster than sugar in baked goods so beware that your baked products may appear to be more cooked through than they are due to this browning effect.

Wholesome Sweeteners Blue Agave Nectar

Wholesome Sweeteners Blue Agave Nectar

Agave is available in light and dark forms. Use the light version to replace honey cup for cup. The dark version is more like molasses.

Agave nectar can also replace granulated sugar, much like honey. Use about 75% of the sugar called for in the recipe and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 25 to 30%. Also, like honey, it may be best to reduce the cooking temperature by 25 degrees and cook longer. It will not crystallize like sugar so it may not work great for cookies or other baked goods where crystallization helps create the desired texture.

You can't get agave nectar, you say? Actually, chances are, you can. Your large chain grocery store may carry one or two of the several brands that are now available. The stuff is becoming quite popular. Look in the syrup section. Some brands available are Wholesome Sweeteners, Madhava, and Ohgave! No, I wasn't yelling at you, the exclamation point is part of Ohgave's name.

1. Shepard, Jules E. Dowler. Free for All Cooking: 150 Easy Gluten-free, Allergy-friendly Recipes the Whole Family Can Enjoy. Cambridge: Da Capo Lifelong, 2010.
2. Kramer, Allyson. Great Gluten-free Vegan Eats: Cut out the Gluten and Enjoy an Even Healthier Vegan Diet : With 101 Recipes for Fabulous, Allergy-free Fare. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds, 2012.
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