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How to Substitute Honey for Sugar



How to Substitute Honey for Sugar

How to Substitute Honey for Sugar

The flavor, color and aroma of honey will vary depending on the type of flowers the bees use when gathering the nectar they use to make their honey. The fructose provides the sweet flavor in honey, while the nectar adds its characteristic taste. A popular variety is orange blossom honey, which of course, gets its name from the orange blossoms the bees use in gathering their nectar. Each flower will provide a fruity or floral essence to the resulting honey and these little nuances are then transferred to the recipe and finished product.

Generally, the lighter a honey’s color, the milder its flavor will be. If you want a stronger flavor for a particular recipe, use a darker or stronger flavored honey. However, if you want a milder or more delicate flavor, use a lighter colored or milder flavored honey.

When it comes to using honey in place of sugar in your recipes, the substitutions and adjustments necessary will depend on the recipe and what you are making. In some recipes, you can simply use 1 c. of honey for each cup of cane sugar; however, this is a matter of personal taste. Some people prefer to use a little less honey and lean more towards a ratio of 1/2 c. to 3/4 c. honey for each cup of sugar they are replacing. In fact, if you are substituting honey for more than one cup of cane sugar, you will probably want to reduce the amount of honey to a ratio closer to 2/3 to 3/4 cup of honey per cup of sugar or else your finished product may be too sweet. Because honey adds additional liquid to a recipe, you will also need to reduce the amount of some other liquid by ¼ c. for every 1 c. of honey that is used.

When making baked goods you will need to add 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of baking soda for every 1 c. of honey you use to help balance honey’s natural acidity. You will also want to lower the temperature stated in your recipe by 25º F in order to prevent over-browning.

Things you will want to keep in mind when making substitutions:

  1. Honey adds additional moisture that is not present in regular sugar.
  2. Honey weighs more per cup and is more dense, which can make baked goods heavier.
  3. Honey brings its own unique flavor to a finished product.
  4. Honey brings acidity to a recipe.
  5. Honey causes baked goods to brown more quickly.

If you substitute honey for sugar in most baked goods, the finished product will usually end up soggy and sticky. However, by looking at the other ingredients in a recipe, we can evaluate which ingredients will help absorb some of the extra moisture from the honey and simply increase those ingredients to help compensate. Or, we can go the other way and look at which ingredients bring moisture to the recipe and reduce some of those liquids.

Density: 1 c. of honey weighs 12 oz, 1 c. of granulated sugar weighs 8 oz. and 1 c. of brown sugar weighs 6 oz. So, if you substitute equal parts of honey for brown sugar, you are essentially adding twice as much food, but that’s not all; because honey is sweeter than brown sugar, you are also adding more sweetness to the final product. However, maple syrup weighs 11 oz. per cup and honey is only slightly sweeter, so you could substitute approximately 10% less honey than syrup.

Flavor:  Honey adds its own flavor to a recipe. It generally has a light and pleasant flavor, but it can interfere with the desired taste in a recipe. There really isn’t anything you can do about it except choose a honey that you find acceptable.

Acidity:  Honey adds acidity to a recipe. If you are working with a recipe that is sensitive to this additional acid, you can neutralize it by adding a little baking soda. Adding 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of baking soda for every cup of honey is usually necessary in baked goods and will help give them a little more rise.

Faster Browning: To prevent baked goods from over-browning; lower the oven temperature about 25° F and watch carefully.

General Recommendations:

These recommendations are only a suggestion since the type and properties of any other ingredients in a recipe will affect how different sweeteners affect the final product. In order to get the type of results you are looking for, you may need to experiment a little, but these ratios should work well and still provide delicious results!

Baked Goods

Use 3/4 c. honey in place of 1 c. cane sugar. Reduce other liquids in the recipe by 1/4 c. for every 1 c. of honey used. Lower the oven temperature by 25° F and watch the time carefully to avoid over-browning.

Other Cooking:

Substitute 7/8 c. of honey for every 1 c. of granulated sugar; there is usually no need to adjust other liquids in the recipe.  



Substituting Honey for Other Types of Sweeteners

Molasses: You can use equal parts honey for molasses; however the resulting color and flavor will be a little lighter. The reverse is also true if you choose to substitute molasses for honey.

Corn Syrup: When substituting honey for corn syrup you can use the exact same amount; however, you will want to reduce other sweetening ingredients in the recipe because honey is much sweeter than corn syrup.

Dark Brown Sugar or Brown Sugar: Follow the recommendations for substituting honey for regular cane sugar, except substitute some molasses for part of the honey in order to retain this unique flavor. (Brown sugar is simply regular white sugar where some of the molasses has been left in during the refining process). However, brown sugar also attracts more moisture, so it helps keep baked goods from drying out too quickly. Also, the molasses that remains in the brown sugar adds additional moisture as well as a different taste.

Raw Sugar or soft brown sugar: Raw sugar is basically very much like dark brown sugar except that it has smaller crystals as well as having more of the molasses retained during processing. You can follow the guidelines given above for substituting honey for brown sugar. If you want to substitute raw sugar in place of brown sugar or regular cane sugar, use approximately 20% more of the raw sugar.

Treacle: This is the generic name the British have for molasses or any other syrup that is made during the process of refining cane sugar. Other common names used are Black Treacle, Golden Syrup, Molasses and Blackstrap. When substituting honey for treacle use the same guidelines above that are given for molasses.

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2 comments to How to Substitute Honey for Sugar

  • This is helpful, but would be more helpful if you had a printer-friendly version.

    • Debbie

      Thanks Barbara. Many of our recipes have now been converted to a printer-friendly version. We will continue to update recipes in order to make our site more useful for our visitors. We appreciate your feedback.

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