Golden syrup is a classic ingredient with so many uses. It’s practically a staple for every kitchen cupboard here in the UK!
It’s a common ingredient because it has a lovely buttery caramelised flavour, making it great for sweetening dishes whilst adding moisture too. It’s a rich golden liquid with a delicious sweetness.
Chances are, if you’re here, you’ve probably got a great recipe that you’re keen to make. The issue is that it has golden syrup as an ingredient, and you don’t have any or you’re not a big fan of the flavour.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! See the list below for some of the best ingredient substitutions for golden syrup.
There are also some substitutes that aren’t as good as others but are still worth a mention in case you can’t get hold of some of the better ones.
All the substitutes listed below are for the same amount as golden syrup, i.e. 1 cup of golden syrup = 1 cup of substitute, unless stated otherwise.
What is golden syrup?
Golden syrup, also called light treacle or golden treacle, is what’s known as an invert sugar. This is a mixture of glucose and fructose in liquid form. It’s stable during baking and will not crystallize.
It has a thick, treacle-like consistency at room temperature but has a more subtle flavour in comparison to treacle, honey and maple syrup. The colour is usually a deep golden amber.
Golden syrup is made in the process of refining sugar cane or sugar beets.
This syrup is also usually suitable for vegetarians and vegans, nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and safe for those pregnant or breastfeeding.
The most famous brand is Tate & Lyle’s golden syrup, which I highly recommend as a delicious syrup if you can get your hands on it. Golden syrup is widely available in grocery stores in many countries such as Great Britain, but in some places, you may have to go to specialty stores to find it.
Uses for golden syrup
Golden syrup is perfect for sweetening desserts and other treats. It’s a great topping for treats. For example, drizzled over pancakes and waffles, or even on top of ice cream. It has uses in candy making too.
It also makes a key ingredient in some of my favourite dessert recipes, many of which are real dessert classics like sticky toffee pudding, treacle sponge pudding, treacle tart and pecan pie! This syrup is also used for biscuit-making (cookies) such as gingerbread.
Homemade golden syrup
Ok, so this solution won’t be for everyone, but one substitution for golden syrup is actually homemade golden syrup. If you can’t find any golden syrup in the store, you can make your own version of it at home.
It’s a surprisingly easy process and you only need water, sugar and lemon with a little bit of heat and patience. You basically heat the ingredients in a saucepan on a low heat for a long time, and boom, there’s your syrup!
Why not try this homemade golden syrup recipe by International Desserts Blog to make your own?
Light corn syrup
The best substitution for golden syrup is a light corn syrup, also called maize syrup. It’s a refined sugar syrup made from corn starch and usually flavoured with vanilla too.
This is usually a bit thinner than golden syrup but should add the same sweetness, with only a slightly different flavour and lighter colour. Light corn syrup tends to have a mild flavor making it a great alternative.
However, if you’re not able to get light corn syrup, read on for some more options. I know it’s very difficult to find high fructose corn syrup here in the UK for example.
Brown rice syrup
One of the next best alternatives for golden syrup is brown rice syrup. It’s made from brown rice (sorry, probably an obvious one!), specifically by cooking it and then breaking it down into a sweet liquid that’s then reduced further. It has a light amber colour and a slightly nutty flavor to its sweetness.
Despite being slightly thinner than golden syrup, it’s an excellent replacement.
Another good substitution is using agave nectar instead of golden syrup. Agave nectar, also known as agave syrup or maguey syrup is made from the sap of various varieties of the blue-agave plant. It’s often considered to have health benefits, partially due to the low Glycemic Index (GI) of the syrup.
Agave nectar has a similar level of sweetness to golden syrup but tends to be a thinner consistency. It can be quite a neutral flavour of sweetness so it’s another great alternative to golden syrup.
Honey is an all-natural syrup that is made by bees. They produce it by collecting nectar from plants and doesn’t need to be processed before consuming it or baking with it. Honey is considered to have a range of health benefits too, such as being anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and potentially helping with hayfever allergies.
Honey can come in different forms, either firmly set or a runny liquid.
It’s a frequently used alternative to golden syrup as it’s very widely available in most food stores. The runny honey variety is closer to golden syrup than the set type but is usually a thinner liquid than golden syrup.
However, honey has a unique flavor, which can change the flavour of your baked goods more than golden syrup would. For this reason, honey is good to add sweetness, but as it will change the flavour of your desserts, it’s not considered to be the best substitute for golden syrup.
Maple syrup is a sweet syrup created from the sap of maple trees, famously very popular in Canada and frequently used as a pancake syrup. It is a sweet amber liquid with a distinct taste.
Maple syrup is usually a thinner consistency than golden syrup. Using maple syrup instead of golden syrup will change the flavour of your dessert, so it’s a useful swap but not considered to be one of the better options.
Be sure to use high-quality real maple syrup (Grade A) for a great taste!
Sugar (brown and white)
White granulated sugar is made from refined sugarcane. It’s a very common ingredient in most desserts and often a kitchen staple. It has a simple sweetness without much additional distinct taste.
Brown sugar is often considered to be a less refined version of granulated white sugar. It has a rich caramel-like flavour similar to golden syrup, but isn’t as buttery in its taste.
Sugar can be used to replace golden syrup in some cases, but definitely not all. As sugar crystals will form at very high temperatures it can be useful for many baked goods but not candy making.
As sugar isn’t a liquid, it will have an impact on the consistency of your dish, so it’s best to dissolve the sugar in warm water (¼ of the volume of the golden syrup being replaced).
If possible, it would be best to combine white sugar and brown sugar in equal measure to replace golden syrup. For example, replace 1 cup of golden syrup with ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup brown sugar, dissolved in ¼ cup warm water.
Sugar isn’t one of the best substitutions but can be useful in a pinch. Though it's good to note that if you're planning to use sugar anyway, it could be good to make your own homemade golden syrup with the sugar instead (see homemade section above).
Dark treacle, often called dark molasses, black molasses or black treacle, has a thick consistency and dark color. The classic British treacle tart used to be made with the black treacle before golden syrup became the more popular choice.
Using it will darken the colour of your desserts a lot and it has a stronger flavour than golden syrup, meaning it's ok but isn’t the best choice for a substitute. If you are going to use molasses, try to avoid blackstrap molasses, which are often the most strongly flavoured and can even add a bitter flavor. The best type to use is light molasses where possible.
There are many different types of artificial sweeteners available, such as solid sweetener tablets (like you’d use in coffee), powdered sweeteners and liquid sweeteners. They’re not the best substitutes for golden syrup as there is a vast taste difference, but you can use liquid sweetener if you want to reduce the actual sugar and calories consumed.
Another point to note is that liquid sweeteners, such as liquid stevia, are generally a lot sweeter than golden syrup. As such, you may need to reduce the amount of liquid you use depending on the brand of sweetener. This is often quite difficult to judge, but some brands will have instructions for sugar substitution on them. If you need to use quite a bit less sweetener, such as half, then you will need to add more liquid to your recipe. Try using more of the liquids already in the ingredient list.
To sum it up, the best golden syrup substitutes are light corn syrup and brown rice syrup. However, agave nectar, honey and maple syrup are also quite good alternatives.
Making your own homemade version of golden syrup is also a great option!
Sugar (with water), molasses and liquid sweeteners can also be used if needed too, but the above are all much better options!
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