Barley malt syrup is a popular sweetener made from malted barley grain. It is often marketed as being healthier than other sweeteners and can provide a pleasant nutty flavor along with its sweetness. It is not always easy to find and is not always the best sweetening option. If your recipe calls for it, and you can’t use it for whatever reason, here are some effective barley malt syrup substitutes:
Your best bet: Honey
One of the world’s oldest sweeteners, honey has the virtue of tasting sweet and having a similar consistency to that of barley malt syrup. It is a thick and viscous sweetener with a color that can range from amber to a dark molasses brown that is similar to the color of barley malt syrup. Honey is often recommended as a barley malt syrup substitute in bagel recipes.
One common reason that people replace barley malt syrup is that they want a gluten-free sweetener. Honey contains no gluten. Another reason to choose honey if you need a barley malt syrup substitute is the fact that it is widely available. Honey is about twice as sweet as barley malt syrup, so you will need to use half as much honey to get the same degree of sweetness.
Honey is not a perfect barley malt syrup substitute since it doesn’t taste exactly like it; however, its floral flavor should still work as an alternative. It has another major downside in that it has a higher glycemic index than barley malt syrup. It is also not a completely vegan alternative.
A decent second choice: Rice syrup
Sometimes called rice malt syrup, rice syrup is made with rice that has had its starches converted to sugar by various enzymes. It is used in a variety of Asian recipes. Another grain-based sweetener with an amber color, rice syrup has a similar level of sweetness to barley malt syrup. It has a caramel note that can stand in for the malted flavor of barley malt syrup.
Rice syrup is also a good barley malt syrup substitute for making bagels. Because it contains no animal products, rice syrup is suitable for vegans; many vegans avoid honey.
Despite the similarities, rice syrup is not as strongly flavored as barley malt syrup and that may be noticeable in some recipes.
In a pinch: Maple syrup
Maple syrup is the sap of the maple tree reduced to a thick syrup. The distinctive maple note of maple syrup is a good stand-in for barley malt syrup’s flavor. You can use it in many of the same recipes, especially the dessert ones. It can give you a similarly rich and deep nuttiness.
Maple syrup does have a distinctive flavor profile that is not quite the same as the barley malt syrup taste. It is also relatively thin compared to the other substitutes on this list.
Molasses has a lot in common with barley malt syrup; in fact, the two sweeteners are often compared to each other. It can provide a similar color and viscosity along with a strong caramel flavor that can stand in for the maltiness of barley malt syrup. Molasses does have a much stronger flavor than barley malt syrup, which means that you may need to use less of it to avoid overpowering your dishes.