Candy making requires corn syrup every now and then and so do many other treats because of corn syrup’s anti-crystallization properties.
But because of corn syrup’s harmful effects, many people want to use a substitute instead.
The 3 best corn syrup substitutes are:
- Corn syrup-based Sweetener substitute: Simple syrup made of sugar and water
- Substitutes for corn syrup in candy: honey, golden syrup, lemon juice, vinegar, cream of tartar, baking soda, butter, date honey, birch syrup or cream.
- Substitutes for corn syrup-based flavor enhancers: honey, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, light molasses, maple syrup, malt syrup, sorghum syrup or cane syrup
The Common Uses of Corn Syrup
Before we take a closer look at the corn syrup substitutes, let’s take a look at what corn syrup is usually used for.
To confectioners and candy makers, corn syrup is also called glucose syrup. It is an ingredient that helps:
- add volume
- make the texture softer
- enhance the flavor
- and most importantly, prevent the crystallization of sugar
The most common use of this ingredient in candy making is as an interfering agent to prevent crystallization as the sugar liquefies. It has properties that keep the sugar from re-attaching to each other when melted, so it’s popular in making caramel and other candies.
The Best Corn Syrup Alternative
Corn syrup is used differently in different recipes. As such, it is important to know its’ purpose before choosing its alternative. Here are the best ones you can try for your various treats.
1. Substitutes for when corn syrup is used as a sweetener
Corn syrup doesn’t really alter the flavor of any confection, it just adds more sweetness. If your recipe calls for this ingredient as a sweetener, you can use a homemade simple syrup as a replacement.
For a light-colored corn syrup substitute, dissolve 1 cup granulated sugar in ¼ cup of warm water.
For a dark-colored corn syrup substitute, dissolve 1 cup packed brown sugar in ¼ cup of warm water.
2. Substitutes for when corn syrup is used in candy making
Corn syrup is widely used in candies because it interferes with the crystal formation when sugar liquefies. It keeps the candy from having a sandy or grainy texture. If your recipe calls for corn syrup for this purpose, here are other ingredients you can use in its’ place.
- Golden syrup
- Lemon juice
- Cream of tartar
- Baking soda
- Date honey
- Birch syrup
Depending on the recipe, check which of these ingredients with obtrusive properties will work best as a substitute.
For example, in caramel making, you can use cream of tartar or baking soda to create the perfect texture you’re looking for.
However, if you’re working on getting that nice gloss for your chocolate mixture, you may want to use honey as a substitute.
3. Substitutes for when corn syrup is used as a flavor enhancer
While corn syrup may not have a distinct flavor, it’s used in a surprisingly larger number of recipes, not as an interfering agent, but to “add” flavor. For this purpose, you can use any of the following instead.
- Agave nectar
- Brown rice syrup
- Light molasses
- Maple syrup
- Malt syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Cane syrup
Because corn syrup is used differently in different recipes, you don’t have to stick to a single alternative. While cream of tartar is one of the best alternatives when it comes to preventing crystallization, you may also use other non-artificial ingredients such as baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar among others.
For all other purposes, there are many other ingredients you can use such as honey, simple syrup and agave nectar. The important thing here is that you know what the corn syrup is for in a recipe so you will know what to best replace it with.
On the other hand, you don’t have to avoid corn syrup entirely. If a recipe only calls for a teaspoon or two of corn syrup for a serving of 12, it doesn’t really make a significant difference in terms of proportion. It’s not so bad when used sparingly just like other artificial ingredients.