There are many reasons why you might want to cut down on or cut out corn syrup from your diet. Corn syrup adds very little nutrition to food, but contains many calories and can also spike blood sugar levels. This can lead to obesity, diabetes and other related health concerns. Many people are allergic to corn and need to avoid all derivatives from it, including corn syrup (in which case they should be vigilant about checking labels, as corn syrup is often added to other sweeteners as a stabilizer). And sometimes there just isn't any corn syrup in the cupboard, but a recipe is calling for it. So what can be used as a corn syrup substitute?
Qualities of Corn Syrup
Corn syrup is used in baking and other recipes for several different reasons. Corn syrup is sweet but not as sweet as other sweeteners like honey, and will not crystallize when it cools, which makes it ideal for use in icings and certain candies. It has very little flavor aside from sweetness, which is useful for some recipes and it is also hygroscopic, which means that it attracts water and adds moisture to baked goods. However, there are substitutes for corn syrup that also have these qualities.
Simple Corn Syrup Substitution Recipe
Corn syrup can be replaced by a sugar syrup. Combine one cup of pure cane sugar with 1/4 cup of water and heat over a low flame. Cool and use directly in a recipe. If preferred, cover the pan for three minutes to help remove sugar crystals, then add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice or cream of tartar to the pan and stir frequently until it reaches the soft ball stage (a drop of the syrup will form a ball when immersed in cold water). Cool and store in a sealed container at room temperature. It should keep for up to two months.
Alternatively, add granulated or brown sugar to a recipe that calls for corn syrup, cup for cup, then increase the amount of liquids used in the recipe by 1/4 of the amount of sugar added.
Healthy Substitutions for Corn Syrup
Honey is one of the best substitutions for corn syrup because it is also hygroscopic. Therefore, it will help retain the moisture of baked goods. However, it is sweeter than corn syrup, and also adds a slightly different flavor, so it is not a perfect substitute. It should be used in the same amounts called for by the recipe.
Brown rice syrup, also known as bran rice syrup can be used as a substitute for corn syrup, although it can be difficult to find. It contains more complex sugars than corn syrup which provide less of a spike in blood sugar, and so are better for you.
Corn syrup can also be substituted by maple flavored syrup (which is often simply corn syrup with flavoring), golden syrup, agave nectar or light molasses.