Need a healthy corn syrup substitute? Read on for the 10 best substitutes that you most likely already have in your pantry!

Top view of maple syrup, agave nectar, and honey poured in clear glass bowls.

What is corn syrup?

Corn syrup is a syrup made from corn starch. Its main purpose is to soften and thicken foods and beverages for additional volume and sweetness. Corn syrup also stops sugar from crystallizing. 

Top view of Karo light corn syrup.
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The Best Corn Syrup Substitutes

Here are 10 of the best corn syrup substitutes and healthier alternatives that you’ll most likely already have in your kitchen! The good thing about this list is that it all depends on your personal preference of how you want your final product to be. So, taste the alternative before you add it into your sweet treat, and go from there.

Maple syrup in a glass bowl on the countertop with the original container in the background.

1. Maple Syrup

If you love pancakes and waffles on a regular basis, then you’ll definitely be able to use your maple syrup as a corn syrup substitute! It is a natural sweetener, and it prevents crystallization, making it a great substitute for hard candy. Use a 1:1 ratio when using this alternative!

2. Golden Syrup (Light Treacle)

Golden syrup does not have a strong flavor, but it is very buttery. This corn syrup alternative is similar in consistency, so use a 1:1 ratio. It might be hard to find it in stores, but look for the Lyle’s brand, as it’s the most common one out there. You can most definitely use this in hard candy recipes and baked goods.

Honey in a glass bowl on the countertop with the original container in the background.

3. Honey

Some people say honey is the best substitute because it’s a natural sweetener, making it healthier than corn syrup. You can simply use a 1:1 ratio when subbing this out. Honey does crystalize, so this wouldn’t be a good option for creating candies or glazes.

On the other hand, when it comes to baked goods, honey will not disappoint. It locks in moisture, and when mixed with other ingredients, the taste does not impact the overall flavor of your baked goods.

4. Cane Syrup

Cane syrup can take place of corn syrup without a problem. It has a thick consistency, a more distinct flavor, and is rich in taste. You can use the exact measurement that the recipe calls for, but don’t use it on hard candies. Baked goods is the way to go with this one!

Agave nectar in a glass bowl on the countertop with the original container in the background.

5. Agave Nectar

Agave nectar (also known as agave syrup) is a good choice because it has a similar consistency to corn syrup. This alternative also technically does not contain sugar, even though it’s still a natural sweetener! It has a neutral flavor, so it’s the best option for baked goods. It’s not the best at preventing sugar crystallization, so hard candies would be a no-go with this one. 

​6. Dissolved Sugar

Dissolved sugar is the closest substitute to the taste and flavor of corn syrup. Simply dissolving sugar in water on the stovetop will do the trick. Don’t let it reach high temperatures over 230°F or it’ll crystallize. Let it sit for a few minutes to thicken up, though its consistency will not be as thick as corn syrup. This substitute is great in cakes and cupcakes.

*Try out our Simple Syrup recipe for this option!*

Maple syrup, honey, corn syrup, and agave nectar lined up on a countertop.

7. Date Honey

Date honey is a great option even though it’s the most uncommon corn syrup substitute. It is darker and sweeter than corn syrup, so use ½ of what the recipe calls for and go from there based off personal preference. This is a great option for cakes and baked goods, not hard candy. 

8. Glucose Syrup

​Even though corn syrup is a form of glucose syrup, you can turn to other glucose syrups derived from potatoes or wheat. They’ll match corn syrup’s consistency, and the flavor is mild and won’t affect the overall flavor of your sweet treat. 

9. Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup has a nutty flavor—similar to when you’re eating a bowl of brown rice. It’s important to keep in mind that this syrup has the highest sugar content of almost all corn syrup substitutes. Since it’s basically the same consistency as corn syrup, you’ll be able to use the same amount that the recipe calls for. It also does prevent crystallization, so hard candies can easily be made with this one.

10. Light Molasses

Light molasses is not the best choice, but you can use it if you’re desperate. Definitely use light molasses over dark molasses because the light resembles corn syrup better. This substitute will impact the overall taste of the recipe you’re using, but a 1:1 ratio should do the trick. 

Corn syrup in a glass bowl on the countertop with the original container in the background.
How is corn syrup made?

Corn syrup is made in two steps: (1) separating corn starch from corn and (2) converting corn starch into corn syrup.
Simply put, corn kernels are soaked and each part of the kernel (the germ, starch, fiber) are all separated to be used for different products. For corn syrup, the germ is heated and pressed to release corn oil that is added to a protein mixture, called mill starch. These 2 components are mixed together in preparation to become corn syrup.
This wet starch is then added to hydrochloric acid and heated under pressure. As the heat and acid break down the starch molecules, sugar is created. The longer you allow this hydrolysis process go, the sweeter the corn syrup will be.

How long does corn syrup last?

Corn syrup can technically last indefinitely if it’s stored properly in a cool, dry place. And that’s the easy part—storing it properly means to keep it in its original container with the lid tightly screwed on. But, if your corn syrup starts to look cloudy or foamy and smell foul or alcoholic, toss it because that means it hasn’t been stored properly. 

What is the healthiest substitute for corn syrup?

There can’t be one simple answer to the healthiest alternative for corn syrup since all substitutes technically have sugar. 
Agave nectar does not contain sugar because it’s made from fluid in blue agave plant, so this could one answer.
But, maple syrup is another healthy option because it is a natural sweetener. It also contains calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and iron—great micronutrients that our bodies need.

What do you make with corn syrup? 

Corn syrup is used for all things sweet and thick. Candy recipes, jams, jellies, frostings, pies like pecan pie, cookies, cakes… Do you see where this is going? It’s a sweetener and provides textures that plain sugar can’t create.
For example, if you want a chewier cookie, add corn syrup (Costco’s chocolate chip cookie buckets contain corn syrup and they last for weeks because of this ingredient!). If you’d like a thick caramel to dip pretzel stick in, corn syrup is your answer. If you would like a popcorn ball that doesn’t break apart after the first bite, yep, you got it: corn syrup

Corn Syrup vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup

While some people use corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup interchangeably, they are not the same thing.

High-fructose is unhealthier than corn syrup because it’s made from glucose and fructose, which our bodies don’t process as well since they’re double-bonded. It is much sweeter because that glucose is processed, turning some of it into fructose. This type of syrup is mainly used by processed food manufacturers, and you can’t buy it in stores. 

While corn syrup is made from corn starch, it’s broken down into individual glucose molecules making it 100% glucose. Our bodies digest it better, but that does not mean that corn syrup is healthy. But, it is an ingredient that you can pick up in the baking aisle at your nearest grocery store.

Pieces of pie are shown on the counter for a holiday dessert.

​Tasty Corn Syrup Alternative Recipes

Looking to satisfy your sweet tooth? Try these recipes, some of which you can try use to try the above corn syrup substitutions!

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