Honey is one of the most popular sweeteners in existence. It is used in a vast number of desserts, confections, and even some savory dishes. Its distinctive flavor and thick texture are unique, but while nothing can replicate it entirely, there are quite a few things that come close. Here is a look at some of the best honey substitutes.
Your best bet: Maple syrup and sugar
You can use maple syrup as a honey substitute in most recipes. Not only does it provide the requisite sweetness, but it also looks and functions a lot like honey as well. It is vital to use natural maple syrup rather than an imitation product to get as similar a replacement as possible. Natural maple syrup will have a more complex flavor than the imitation ones.
Keep in mind that while maple syrup is a good substitute, it is not perfect since it will have a strong maple taste that is quite different from the taste of honey. Also, maple syrup is not quite as sweet as honey, which is why you will need to add extra sugar to get the same level of sweetness. Replace honey in a recipe with the same amount of maple syrup as well as half as much sugar. Increase the sugar to taste.
A decent second choice: Agave nectar
Much like honey, agave nectar is brown, sweet, and thick. It consists of the water under the agave cactus that is heated and reduced until it becomes a sticky, honey-like concentrate.
Also, like honey, agave nectar burns easily and will cause baked goods to darken quickly. The quick browning is one of the factors that makes it an excellent honey substitute — you won’t have to adjust your recipes’ cooking times or temperatures. Both light and dark agave nectar are available in many grocery stores. Opt for the light version when replacing honey.
Agave nectar is just as sweet as honey, but it doesn’t have honey’s distinctive flavor. Instead, it supplies a neutral sweetness that is similar to that of plain sugar.
Agave nectar works as a 1:1 substitute for honey with no need for additional sugar.
In a pinch: Barley malt syrup
Extracted from sprouted barley, barley malt syrup is generally considered a healthier alternative to honey. It has a similar viscous consistency, which allows it to act like honey in many dishes. It also has a deep brown color, which gives it a similar appearance to darker varieties of honey.
Barley malt syrup is not as sweet as honey, so you will need to add sugar to make your dishes as sweet as honey would make them. Use the syrup as a 1:1 honey substitute and then add sugar to taste.
Sugar has the essential property you need for a honey substitute: sweetness. The big difference will be that sugar consists of granules, meaning that it won’t add liquid to the recipe the way that honey would. You can get around this by increasing the other fluids to compensate.
Sugar’s significant benefit is that it is less expensive than honey. It also won’t brown at a low temperature, so it is better suited for baked goods that must be cooked with high heat.