6 Good Ol’ Corn Syrup Substitutes
Without knowing it, you have more than likely consumed corn syrup in the last week. Corn syrup and its molecular cousin, High-Fructose Corn Syrup are in a LOT of the foods we commonly consume.
That’s because corn syrup serves so many functions in the manufacturing world, including thickening, candy-making, softening, adding volume, and of course, enhancing flavor by way of sweetening! Corn syrup is super sweet!
On the Brix scale (a measurement system used to measure sweetness on a scale of 0-100, 100 being pure white sugar,) corn syrup rates between 75-80. Its exact rating depends on the brand, age, and type of corn used.
Corn syrup comes in many different thicknesses and colors, the most popular being a very thick, pale yellow version that is used most commonly for baking and candy-making. It also comes in clear (often flavored with vanilla) and dark (which has a natural caramel flavor).
Corn syrup has many benefits but the main three are that corn is widely available, therefore corn syrup is cheap to make. Corn syrup is also fairly neutral in flavor and is also always in a liquid form unlike a lot of sweeteners which range between a solid or a paste, so corn syrup is coveted for this reason and is the main ingredient in many candy recipes.
The downside of corn syrup is that it is incredibly high in sugar, and highly processed, so it certainly should be consumed in moderation. Because it is a somewhat sneaky ingredient in many processed foods (including some that would surprise you!) it is hard to know just how much corn syrup (sugar) you might be consuming on any given day.
If you’re cooking at home and run into a recipe that requires corn syrup, there may be some better options out there. Check out the following alternatives and be sure to tell us which ones you tried!
1. Maple Syrup
One of the most beloved naturally sourced sweeteners on the market, and our favorite corn syrup substitute.
Maple syrup is much less sweet than corn syrup (between 55-65 on the Brix scale) and is often considered to be healthier due to its lack of chemical manufacturing.
Maple syrup is simply sap from a maple tree that has been cooked down until thick. It makes an excellent substitute for corn syrup because it is also always in its liquid form, However, it is not a good substitute for candy making as it crystallizes and acts quite differently under heat and with certain compounds.
The only downside to maple syrup is that it can be quite expensive and needs to be stored in the fridge after opening. Also, if you are needing clear corn syrup, maple syrup will not work because of its brownish hue.
2. Make Your Own Corn Syrup Substitute
A great way to substitute corn syrup in your recipes is with a simple syrup made from plain white sugar (or brown sugar) and water.
To achieve a corn syrup-like thickness, you will need to measure 4 parts sugar and 1 part water and cook until it reaches a boil.
Let cool and use this super thick, super sweet concoction anywhere you’d use corn syrup! You can also use a dash of maple syrup to achieve that pale golden color that corn syrup is known for, and you can also make this same recipe using sugar-free alternative to achieve the same sweetness.
3. Other Grain Sweeteners
Tapioca syrup or brown rice syrup (both 78 Brix, respectively) can make excellent substitutions for corn syrup!
Both of these options are likely harder to find (check your health food store) and likely to be more expensive but are worth a try if you’re seeking something that is a little less sweet, and less processed than corn.
Both can be used as a 1:1 ratio but also do not make good substitutes if you are candy-making. Baked goods and other recipes should be fine, though, and you might find these sweeteners add a little more depth of flavor! Barley malt is another option but much harder to find.
Probably the most delicious substitute on this list, honey is a great alternative to corn syrup for the same reason maple syrup is! Honey is all-natural and contains no chemical compounds, especially raw or unpasteurized honey. Honey is also a liquid while at room temperature and never goes bad!
Honey is even sweeter than corn syrup though (80-85 on the Brix meter), so take note of this if you’re substituting in a baked good.
Honey is also known to take on the flavors of where the bees are fed, so make sure you read labels… or better yet… taste test your honey before using it as a straight 1:1 substitute for corn syrup, which has no distinct flavor.
5. Treacle or Molasses
Treacle is a popular British pantry item that is very sweet and very dark in color. It is described as deep, robust, and sometimes even bitter, so it is not a perfect substitute for corn syrup (or any sweetener for that matter!) but it will work in some cases, especially where dark corn syrup is called for.
Another alternative to dark corn syrup is molasses. Molasses is a byproduct of brown sugar production and is super sweet.
Treacle and molasses are great substitutes for dark corn syrup.
Molasses is thicker than (well, just about any liquid!) so you may need to thin it out with some water if you’re using it in a baked good to achieve the same results.
It will definitely add more character to whatever you’re cooking than good ol’ corn syrup, so make sure that is what you want before you choose this option.
Sourced straight from the agave plant (and the prime ingredient in tequila!), agave is most similar to honey on this list. However, agave contains one important factor that only sugar can offer – agave will not crystallize, meaning it can be used 1:1 with corn syrup when making candy recipes!
Most candy-makers aren’t likely to use agave because of the added cost, but it’s here if you want to try it!
All of these substitutions will work just fine in place of corn syrup and some of them may even improve your recipe! Be prepared to pay slightly more for any of these items.
Corn syrup has a bit of a bad rep, so it is important to note that corn syrup is NOT the same thing as high fructose corn syrup. They actually couldn’t be more different!
Corn syrup is fine to use as long as you are aware of how much you’re consuming! HFCS, not so much! If sugar isn’t your thing though, you can also substitute corn syrup with sugar-free alternatives such as stevia, monk fruit, or blends like Splenda. Either way, it is important to remember: corn syrup is sweet… so only eat it as a treat!