Light Corn Syrup: A Versatile Grain-Based Sweetener

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Light corn syrup is a variant of corn syrup, which is sugar from corn that has been made into a liquid. While corn – also called maize – was first domesticated in Mexico thousands of years ago, it wasn’t until the 19th century that someone figured out how to extract sugar from it. The person to come up with this process was a chemist from Germany who worked as the Director of the Head Pharmacy in St Petersburg, Russia. His name was Gottlieb Kirchhoff, and he came up with a process to convert corn starch into sugar using heat from sulfuric acid.

Light corn syrup is a version of corn syrup invented by the Corn Products Refining Company based in New York and Chicago. Both light and dark corn syrups were introduced at the same time in 1902 and sold under the Karo name. 

Light corn syrup is corn syrup that has been processed to be colorless and clear. It also has ingredients added to it for flavor. These were the first corn syrups to be sold in individual containers. Until these corn syrups came along, customers had to bring their own containers to the grocery store to be filled.

Note: Light corn syrup is a different product from lite corn syrup. Lite corn syrup refers to a blend of glucose and sucralose without fructose.

Light corn syrup flavor profile

Light corn syrup has vanilla and salt added to it to enhance its flavor profile. As a result, it is primarily sweet with a hint of floral fragrance from the vanilla. The salt helps to balance out the sweetness and enhances the other flavors in desserts and candies.

Health benefits of light corn syrup

Unlike plain sugar, light corn syrup does contain a few nutrients beyond its concentrated carbohydrates. Those nutrients include:

  • Thiamin: A small serving of light corn syrup provides a significant amount of thiamin, also known as vitamin B1.
  • Minerals: You can get important minerals like zinc and calcium from light corn syrup.

Because of the health concerns associated with excessive sugar consumption, it is not recommended that you use light corn syrup to treat or prevent any health condition.

Health concerns

In recent years, much has been said about the health risks of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It should be noted that light corn syrup has different properties from HFCS though both are made from corn. The sugar in light corn syrup is maltose (which consists of two joined glucose molecules) without any added fructose. 

While glucose is believed to have fewer adverse health effects than fructose, it should still be consumed in moderation. In HFCS, some of the glucose has been made into fructose. The main application of HFCS is in commercial food products.

Common uses

Among the best ways to use corn syrup is in frozen treats like popsicles, sorbets, and ice creams. When added to the mixes along with sugar, light corn syrup can keep large and jagged crystals from forming. The result is that the preparation remains smooth even after being frozen. 

Light corn syrup can help to keep ice cream and sorbets soft and smooth even after extended time in the freezer. Light corn syrup is also an essential ingredient in an American favorite: pecan pie. It blends into the filling easily and enhances its texture and flavor. It is also necessary for the right consistency in many jam and jelly recipes.


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