Sugar Vs. Honey: SPICEography Showdown

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Sugar and honey have a lot in common in that they are both known for being sweet and are widely used to make other food items sweeter. They also have some significant differences. In this installment of SPICEography Showdown, we will compare their flavors as well as how well these two sweeteners work as substitutes for each other. 

How does the flavor of sugar differ from the flavor of honey?

There are many types of sugar with very varied flavor profiles. Honey is also varied; the flavor and appearance can differ significantly across different regions, depending on the type of flowers used to make it as well as other factors like temperature and moisture.

When it comes to the most common forms of each, the flavor difference is dramatic as the most widely used sugar is simply sweet. There are no additional flavor notes beyond sweetness with white sugar while the flavor of brown sugar consists of subtle caramel and butterscotch notes along with the sweetness. Honey has stronger floral notes that will stand out in many applications. This is not always a good thing as the flavor of honey may not be a good fit with coffee or chocolate flavors.

Sugar’s sweetness is relatively consistent; honey’s sweetness is more variable in that some honey varieties are sweeter than others. The level of sweetness is another significant difference as sugar is generally not as sweet as honey. Most honey is estimated to be between two and three times as sweet as sugar, which means that adjustments will have to be made when using it in order to keep dishes from being overly sweet.

Can you use sugar in place of honey and vice versa?

You can use sugar and honey interchangeably in many recipes as long as you take a few factors into account: the liquid consistency of honey relative to the crystalline nature of sugar, honey’s acidity and its extra sweetness.

You will have to increase the amount of liquid in a recipe when using sugar in place of honey and decrease it when using honey in place of sugar. The formula to use when replacing sugar with honey is to remove a quarter cup of liquid for every one cup of honey you add to the recipe. When using sugar in place of honey, you will need to increase the liquids by the same amount.

The baking temperature should also be lower to keep items from caramelizing too quickly. Cakes and pastries sweetened with honey have a tendency to take on a deeper brown color in less time when compared to items sweetened with sugar. Prevent excessive browning by reducing the temperature of the oven by 25 degrees.

In order to counter honey’s acidity, add an alkaline ingredient to balance it. Your best bet will be baking soda.

When should you use sugar and when should you use honey?

Use sugar in place of honey when you need sweetness without honey’s other qualities. It is also the better option if you need a dry ingredient rather than a liquid. Honey is better than sugar if you need honey’s flavor or a liquid sweetener. Honey also has various benefits that go beyond merely being an effective sweetener. It is absorbed by the body more slowly than sugar, which may make it a little better for people who have trouble processing sugar. In addition to that, it may be beneficial for providing relief from seasonal allergies. These are benefits that sugar cannot provide.