5 Honey Substitutes You’ll BEE Loving
Honey is likely the oldest sweetener in the world and is certainly one of the most loved, and the one with the most variety. And it’s all thanks to the bees!
Bees (specifically honeybees) gather nectar from flowers and plants, and then refine that nectar into honey during a complicated (and all-natural) process that we won’t get into here, but let’s just say… the result is delicious!
Honey is a golden, amber thick liquid that has a pH of around 3.9. It is super sweet and has been used in many applications over time, such as an antibiotic, and cough suppressant, to help control seasonal allergies. Honey has been celebrated throughout history for its flavor and long shelf life and is consumed all over the world!
There are many types of honey including raw honey, pasteurized honey, floral honey, filtered honey, and creamed honey. For this list, we are talking about your typical, run-of-the-mill Billy Bee honey—pourable from its container and used on everything from toast to cereal, to sweet tea and cocktails.
There are plenty of people who love honey for all the reasons we’ve listed here. But there are also lots of people who don’t consume honey because honey is an animal product. Many vegans do not consume honey or products made with honey. It is also not suitable for very young children or pregnant women (unless it’s been pasteurized) and can cause some allergies to flare up.
Here are 5 great honey substitutes that can get the same sweetness without the honey!
1. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is always a favorite substitute for honey lovers because, like honey, maple syrup is all-natural!
Maple syrup is boiled sap collected from a maple tree. Simple as that! It makes an excellent substitute for honey because it is also always in its liquid form and is usually readily available and around the same price point.
The upside of using maple syrup in your recipes instead of honey is that they will then be suitable for those who do not ingest animal products (which technically, honey is produced by bees!).
However, maple syrup is much darker than honey and must also be refrigerated after opening, and of course, has a distinct maple flavor which may not always be ideal.
2. White or Brown Sugar
Both brown and white sugar are two of the cheapest sugars on the market. They of course are both powders, so if you need a liquid form of sweetener, you will need to dissolve them in water. But if you’re baking or just adding a bit of sweetness to something, then white or brown sugar make an excellent option!
Both white and brown sugar, while cheap, are heavily processed, which is basically the opposite of honey, so take note of this when preparing your recipe.
You will need about a 2:1 ratio of sugar to honey in any recipe to accommodate the change from solid to liquid. White sugar is very neutral in flavor whereas brown sugar does have a distinct flavor that many people love. Either of these sugars will work great in place of honey and will work in just about any recipe.
3. Barley Malt
Barley malt syrup is made from sprouted, malted barley and is super sweet and deep in flavor! It is a thick, brown, sticky liquid that of course has a distinct “malty” flavor that is most similar to brown sugar.
People like to use this as a sweetener because it is less sweet than sugar (only about a third as sweet as white sugar and half as sweet as honey) so it is a good option for anyone looking to reduce their sugar intake.
It is also considered less processed than sugar; while it does go through quite a lot in its processing, it is all fairly natural.
It is most commonly used in China in the production of sweets, but can be found in any health food store and is worth trying if honey isn’t your thing! It is entirely plant-based and shouldn’t be too expensive. It is also sold in powdered form which can be mixed with water and used as a quick honey substitute if you need one.
The only downside to barley malt is that it contains barley and is therefore not considered gluten free! It is also a fermented food, which is important to note for certain dietary restrictions.
4. Date Syrup or Paste
This option is more of a DIY honey substitute… and once you try it, we think you’ll be going back for more! Dried dates are a super sweet and healthy snack that is high in fiber and carbs, and low in fat. They are shelf stable, fairly inexpensive, and come in pitted bricks or sold whole either pitted or with pits.
Either way, you can soak 1 cup of dates in 1 cup of hot water for about 30 minutes. Strain and blend to make a super rich, creamy date paste (make sure to remove any pits!). You can also add more water to this and make date syrup, which can be used 1:1 with honey as a replacement in baked goods, desserts, or just about anything!
The only thing to keep in mind is that date syrup or paste will be quite dark in color, and may discolor anything you are making.
5. Monk Fruit Sweetener
Monk fruit is a small, round, exotic fruit native to China. In Chinese medicine, monk fruit is used to help heal wounds, but it is also used to make an intensely sweet sweetener, which is now enjoyed worldwide. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar or honey, and therefore, you only need to use a very small amount.
Because of this, it is popular in keto circles, or those following a low-carb diet. These days, monk fruit is fairly popular and easy to find in North America—check your health food or specialty store.
You will only need a very small amount of monk fruit powder to sweeten whatever it is that you are making, so keep this in mind when adjusting any recipe. Check the labels of your monk fruit for ratios and conversions.
Honey is a superfood! There’s no way around it. By eating honey from your local area, you can treat seasonal allergies! Egyptians were buried with honey as it was considered the nectar of the Gods! Either way you look at it, honey is pretty special! However, these days honey production has a bit of a bad reputation in some areas. It can be very mass-produced and there are ethical questions about what this is doing to the bee population.
Beekeeping is a very stressful and skilled job that is often not paid fairly in mass-produced honey circles. So if you are buying honey, it is important to consider these things. You might consider buying locally-made honey from a small farm in your area.
Go out and talk to the farmers… better yet, go out and talk to the bees! Find out where your honey is coming from. If honey still doesn’t sit right with you, you are welcome to try out any of the options from this list, and we think you’ll find something sweet enough to curb any honey cravings