Rice syrup is sometimes called brown rice syrup. It is made from rice treated with enzymes and has a thick and sticky consistency similar to that of honey. Rice syrup is a trendy alternative sweetener but may not be as widely available as other liquid sweeteners. If you can’t find it or are out, here are some good rice syrup substitutes:
Your best bet: Agave nectar
Also called agave syrup, agave nectar comes from the agave plant. The plant is in the same family as the plant used to make tequila. Agave nectar has been a popular alternative sweetener for some time now and has a similar consistency as rice syrup. Both sweeteners are viscous and can work in a variety of beverages and baked goods.
Agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, which makes it considerably sweeter than rice syrup which is about half as sweet as sugar. You will want to use about a third of the amount of agave nectar that your recipe specifies for rice syrup.
Note that while both are effective sweeteners, agave nectar consists of fructose. Because fructose is metabolized in the liver, it can have serious negative health effects including elevated triglyceride levels and an increased risk of fatty liver disease.
A decent second choice: Corn syrup
Corn syrup is a corn product as the name suggests. It is made from corn starch. It is a viscous liquid sweetener with a similar sweetening power to rice syrup. Like rice syrup, it is a vegan sweetener that contains no animal products.
The processes for making corn and rice syrups are similar since they are made by treating grains with enzymes to cause starches to become sugar. You can use light corn syrup in many of the Asian desserts that require rice syrup.
Corn syrup is an acceptable substitute for rice syrup; however, it is not perfect since its flavor is closer to neutral than rice syrup’s flavor. Note that even though it is thick and viscous, it is thinner than rice syrup and may not be as effective as a binder in some baked goods. Light corn syrup is often flavored with vanilla. While this flavor profile is usually unobtrusive, it may not be a good option for all savory dishes.
In a pinch: Honey
One of the world’s oldest sweeteners, honey is also one of the best rice syrup substitutes. It has a similar color and viscosity to rice syrup, which is why it can work in savory and sweet recipes that require rice syrup. Honey is considered twice as sweet as rice syrup, so you will want to cut your recipe’s rice syrup requirement in half when using honey as a substitute.
While honey’s flavor profile can vary depending on where the bees get their nectar, most honey will have a mildly floral taste and a strong sweetness. The flavor profile is mild enough that it won’t be an issue in most recipes that use rice syrup. The two sweeteners are similar enough that rice syrup has been used to dilute honey so that it can be sold at a higher profit.
Maple syrup can provide some of the buttery caramel notes that you would get from rice syrup. If you live in North America, it will also probably be easier to find in your local grocery store. Maple syrup is slightly sweeter than rice syrup but the sweetness levels are similar enough that you can probably get away with using it as a 1:1 substitute.