A good corn syrup substitute may come in handy, whether you are making candy, caramel, marshmallows, or baked goods like pecan pie! Perhaps you need a healthy substitution or you simply don't have any on hand, either way, we have plenty of ingredients that can be used in its place (including a recipe for homemade corn syrup)!
Easy Alternatives For Corn Syrup
When looking for a substitute, the two key things to consider are how will the substitute change the flavor or texture of the final product. In some recipes, slight changes in taste and texture will not be noticeable – especially depending on the ingredient being substituted.
However, corn syrup is an ingredient that is quite specific to getting the right taste and texture in many recipes. Popularly used in making candy, the neutral taste of corn syrup allows the flavors of the candy to stand out. Moreover, its extra sweet taste is also needed.
In addition to taste, corn syrup is essential to achieving the right texture in many recipes. One of the reasons it is essential to candy making is because it keeps sugar from crystallizing when heated.
While the most popular use of corn syrup is in candy making, it is also used for other baked goods (my fellow pecan pie lovers know this).
In some of these recipes, the neutral taste and consistency of corn syrup may not be as important as in candy recipes. Therefore, when looking for a substitute for corn syrup choose one that is best for your specific recipe.
The Best Corn Syrup Substitutes
Choosing the best substitute will depend on your recipe, as well as what you have available. Moreover, it may depend on your dietary preferences.
Sometimes the best substitute is the one you have on hand. It’s the one you can grab when you are mid-recipe and realize you just didn’t quite have enough corn syrup.
Other times, the best recipe may be the one that fits your health goals better than corn syrup. Whatever your need for a substitute, there’s at least one below that will be your best!
1. White Sugar
Most baking households have a bag of white sugar in the pantry. Therefore, it is one of the easiest and quickest substitutes for corn syrup.
In addition, the neutral sweet taste of sugar mimics that of corn syrup. While the taste will be almost identical, the consistency of white sugar is different than corn syrup. You can easily change that though with a bit of water.
Dissolve 1 cup of white sugar in a ⅓ cup of water to replace 1 cup of corn syrup. No need to heat it up, the sugar will dissolve easily in room temperature water. Just make sure it is fully dissolved before adding it to your recipe.
This sugar and water mixture is a great replacement for corn syrup in baking. However, it is not ideal for candy making because the sugar will crystallize when heated.
If you are making candy, try the recipe below for making corn syrup at home.
2. DIY Corn Syrup
When baking, a simple water and sugar mixture is great. Since sugar and water will crystallize, you want to add a couple of extra steps and ingredients before using the mixture for candy making.
To make your own corn syrup at home, follow the directions below:
- 2 cups of white sugar
- ¾ cup of water
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- A pinch of salt
Add all ingredients to a saucepan and stir together. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer. To avoid sugar crystals, stir the ingredients together in the beginning and then remove the spoon.
Gently swirl the pot while it simmers to keep the mixture from burning.
Simmer for about 3 minutes, or until it creates a thick syrupy texture. Remove from heat and let cool. Use immediately or transfer to a container with a lid and refrigerate for up to 2 months.
Homemade corn syrup can be used in a 1:1 ratio for any recipe that calls for corn syrup.
This DIY corn syrup is not quite as sweet as store-bought corn syrup. However, you will not notice it much in most recipes.
Furthermore, this is a great choice for those who want to use corn syrup but do not want to use a corn-based product.
3. Golden Syrup
Made from sugar, water, and lemon juice or citric acid, golden syrup has many of the qualities of corn syrup - without being a corn by-product. Its sweet and buttery flavor is the base for many sweet treats in the UK.
While it is gaining popularity around the world, unless you regularly cook recipes from the UK you probably don’t have this ingredient on hand. If you are interested in trying it out though, you can easily find it online.
You may also be able to find it at a specialty grocery store in your town.
Since golden syrup does not crystallize easily, you can use this in candy making and baking. Use a straight across 1:1 ratio in place of the corn syrup.
Being made from corn is one of the main reasons people prefer not to use corn syrup. If your goal is to find a natural sweetener that has not been processed, honey is a great choice.
One of nature’s oldest sweeteners, honey works well in many baking recipes.
Honey has a similar consistency to corn syrup and its golden color compliments many recipes that call for corn syrup. However, while it offers a similar texture and sweetness it also adds its own distinct taste.
Therefore, it may not work well for all recipes.
In addition, honey does not prevent crystallization, so it is not a good choice for candy making.
Swap out corn syrup for honey in an easy 1:1 exchange in baking.
5. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is another well-known sweetener from nature. It is thinner than corn syrup and has a much richer and distinctive taste. It also has a deep brown color.
While these qualities are not suited to substitute for corn syrup in candy making, they work well in many baked recipes. Just make sure you are using 100% real maple syrup (not store-bought processed syrup).
Try swapping out corn syrup in your baked goods with an equal 1:1 ratio of maple syrup.
Depending on the brand of syrup you have, it may be sweeter than corn syrup. If you think this is the case, start with ¾ the amount and add more as needed.
6. Agave Nectar
Another natural option that has gained popularity in recent years is agave nectar. Agave has a more neutral taste than honey. So, it can be a nice alternative to corn syrup when you don’t want to impact the flavor.
Like honey, it does not prevent crystallization though. Therefore, this is another good choice for baking but not for candy making.
While corn syrup is known for being sweet, agave nectar is known for being even sweeter! This can make finding the right exchange ratio a bit tricky.
I suggest starting with ¾ of what the recipe calls for and tasting your batter. If it’s not quite sweet enough, add more agave nectar (up to a 1:1 exchange).
Due to the ratio variables, as well as agave nectar being thinner than corn syrup, the texture of the baked good may be slightly different.
7. Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is a substitute that most home cooks will not have on hand. If you are looking for a long-term corn syrup substitute though, this is one to consider. Especially if you want a substitute that is lower in sugar.
A popular sweetener for those who are managing their blood sugar, brown rice syrup is a great choice for replacing corn syrup in many recipes. It has a similar consistency and quality to corn syrup.
It even prevents crystallization, making it an option for candy making.
Before rushing out and using it for all your recipes though, be aware that it has a distinctively different taste and color than corn syrup. Brown rice syrup has a rich and nutty flavor. It is also less sweet than corn syrup.
In addition, its rich brown color will impact the overall appearance of certain recipes (especially candies).
Even with its differences, brown rice syrup is still an easy substitute with a simple 1:1 ratio for any recipe.
Even though molasses is made from sugar, the process of cooking the sugar to make molasses creates a sweetener that ranks lower on the glycemic index. Therefore, it is sometimes suggested as an alternative to sugar and corn syrup in baking.
Molasses comes in different flavors: light, dark, and black strap. Blackstrap molasses is the lowest on the glycemic index; however, it is also the least sweet and has the richest color and flavor.
While the varying levels of sweetness and color from molasses will shift the color and taste of baked goods, it can work as a corn syrup alternative in many baked recipes.
Use your choice of molasses in a 1:1 exchange for corn syrup.
9. Dark Corn Syrup
Most recipes that call for corn syrup are referring to light corn syrup. Light corn syrup is a clear corn syrup that has a neutral taste and color. Therefore, it is the most popular choice for candy making and baking.
There is a dark corn syrup though. Dark corn syrup has a richer flavor, it is sometimes even a bit salty. It is also a darker color.
While the richness in color and taste is not ideal for some recipes, it can work in many. Therefore, if you have some dark corn syrup leftover from another recipe (or can’t find any regular light corn syrup at the store) you can use it as a substitute.
Use dark corn syrup in a straight 1:1 ratio for corn syrup in your recipe.
With so many easy options you are bound to find the perfect alternative to corn syrup! Leave a comment below and tell us what recipe you are making with corn syrup or a corn syrup substitute!
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📖 Recipe Card
Best Corn Syrup Substitute: Sugar, Homemade Corn Syrup (+More Great Alternatives!)
Option 1 (Quick & Easy) - Sugar
- 1 cup sugar
- ⅓ cup water
Option 1 (Quick & Easy) - Sugar
- Measure out your sugar and add water, stir until completely dissolved. Use in an equal 1:1 ratio as corn syrup called for in your recipe.1 cup sugar, ⅓ cup water
Option 2 (Best For Candy Making) - Homemade Corn Syrup
- Measure all of your ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil at medium-high heat. Stir only enough to combine, then remove your spoon and instead lift and swirl the syrup to prevent burning while it heats.2 cups sugar, ¾ cup water, ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar, 1 pinch salt
- Reduce heat and simmer the syrup until it begins to thicken, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before using or storing. Use in an equal 1:1 ratio as corn syrup called for in your recipe.
- The homemade corn syrup recipe yields approximately 1 ½ cups of corn syrup.
- Add up to 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to your corn syrup if desired (for better flavor) especially in baked goods or icings. Do not use in candy making.
- The lemon juice will also be beneficial if you plan on storing your corn syrup, as it prevents crystallization from happening.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!