An important aspect of all cooking is the ability to balance flavors. One way to do this is to control the sweetness of a dish. The conventional way to go about doing this is by using sugar, but you can substitute honey as a natural sweetener.
Besides having a tremendous amount of health benefits, honey is a great substitute due to its ease of being able to be added into products. There are countless honey recipes out there and it is due to the flexibility of flavor and sweetness honey has.
Honey is much sweeter than sugar. A good ratio for conversion is ⅔ cup of honey for every 1 cup of sugar (white sugar) needed in a recipe. The ratio for honey to brown sugar is ¾ cup of honey to 1 cup of brown sugar. The smaller amount of honey in a recipe may change final weights and outcomes so it is best to monitor when making the change.
Reasons For Using Honey Over Sugar
Health Benefits of Honey
It is no secret that many of us are trying to cut down on sugar due to the rise of heart disease in the past few decades. While honey raises blood sugar levels equally to sugar, it does happen at a much slower rate. Honey also helps with sugar consumption, adding in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that would otherwise be empty calories with sugar.
Aside from its nutritional value, honey also carries antibacterial properties. The acidity of honey allows it to be void of any possibility of going bad at room temperature, making it a shelf stable product even after opening. This common ingredient has been used for generations to help with ailments and its shelf stability is why it is so popular.
The basic composition of honey is carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars and small amounts of water and some protein. The maximum moisture content for honey needs to be less than 20% in order for it to be considered “honey”.
There is some debate as to whether raw honey is better for you than processed honey. While the raw ingredient itself contains more nutrients, honey is only to be consumed in moderation due to its sugar content. The impact is minimal due to how little we should consume daily.
Running Out Of Sugar
The other reason one may consider using honey over sugar is due to not having any sugar in their pantry when they need it. As stated before, less honey is needed compared to the cups of sugar you may use in a baked good. Using too much honey as a sugar substitution will lead the product to be much sweeter than intended.
When working with honey instead of sugar, it is best to review the original recipe for which type of sugar is needed.
Types of Recipes to Use Honey Instead of Sugar
There are countless applications in which honey can be substituted for sugar. The main goal is to sweeten the product. The biggest factors when making the change is the color and water level honey will add to a recipe. We will discuss below how honey may affect certain recipes.
Salad dressings often call for some sugar in order to balance the acidity of the vinegar used. When using honey in place of sugar in a salad dressing, it is best to remember the water content of honey is greater than sugar.
Around one fifth of the liquid in a dressing should be reduced when using honey instead of sugar to help keep the emulsion. An incorrect ratio in dressings can lead them to split, so keeping a keen eye out when measuring is a must.
With baking, the other aspect honey can add is a variation of color. It is recommended to lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees when using honey, as it will caramelize quicker than sugar and yield a darker end product when finished baking. Another trick is to add a little bit of baking soda when baking with honey to counteract the acidity and help with over-browning.
When baking, smaller amounts of sweeteners can often be used. In keeping with the ⅔ ratio of honey to sugar, for every 1 tablespoon of sugar added to a recipe, ⅔ tablespoons of honey or 2 teaspoons of honey should be added.
Some favorite recipes of mine that use honey instead of sugar are yeast breads, cakes, cookies, and even truffles. When using honey, be sure to reduce around 15% of the liquid in a baked recipe. Otherwise, the recipe will be too wet and may not turn out as needed.
Honey is a great substitute in drinks, especially cocktails, as it is already in a liquid state. The most common drinks that you can sweeten with honey are teas, smoothies and shakes. Instead of using an artificial sweetener, using honey offers a healthier alternative with some of the great properties discussed above.
When canning, honey can be a great option. It should really only be used for fruits, as there will be some color and sweetness imparted onto them. Some canned fruits that utilize honey include canned peaches, strawberries, blueberries, jams, apples, and any other fruit that can withstand the canning process.
Honey does offer an additional layer of food safety as its acidity is great for not growing bacteria. It is important to also note that when using honey in canning, honey may change the gelling nature of a jam or jelly. Accounting for the extra acidity and water level is required.
Types Of Honey
There are many varieties of honey to choose from when making your substitution. A lot of the choice of what kind of honey you chose really comes down to desired taste, texture and where you want the source of the honey to be from. Below are some common types you can find.
Raw honey is the honey straight from the beehive, strained of all physical objects and bottled for use. It has shown to have anti-inflammatory and even anti-cancer properties. It is also known to offer some great nutrients to your diet when consumed regularly over table sugar. It is a great choice for that pure honey flavor with all of the great health benefits.
Clover honey is a popular kind of honey. It is collected directly by bees from clover flowers. It is often lighter in color than regular honey. It also has a milder flavor, which would be great in a baked good in order to provide sweetness but not the overpowering honey flavor.
The most accessible and cost-saving honey you can find, this honey is what you will find in little bear-shaped bottles on grocery store shelves. There does exist a variety in brands, an example being the Canadian favorite Billy Bee Honey. Processed honey may contain other ingredients, thus not making it pure honey, however it will work in various recipes.
Pros and Cons Of Using Honey Over Sugar
At first glance, honey seems like a no-brainer to use over sugar. It is a natural sweetener, after all, and does have some amazing properties that can definitely add to a recipe. But there are some drawbacks when using honey as a replacement for sugar that should be noted.
- Amazing health benefits when compared to granulated sugar
- May add color, flavor, and liquid content to the recipe (this can actually be a pro or a con)
- Antibacterial and shelf-stable at room temperature
- Can add color to recipes when not needed
- Can add too much water content to a given recipe
- Can be more difficult to use when cleaning up after a recipe
- Is generally more expensive than sugar
So What If I’m Out Of Sugar And Honey?
It is quite possible you could run out of the two sweeteners mentioned in this blog post. It is also fair to say that you may not want to use honey in your recipe, either due to personal preference or wanting to try something new. Below are a few sweeteners you can use instead of honey when needing to make a sweetener substitution.
The ratio of brown sugar to white sugar is 1 to 1. The difference you may find is that brown sugar caramelized faster and more often. It also has a very different texture than white sugar. Best in certain baked goods, brown sugar is a solid substitute but can change texture and color greatly.
Light Corn Syrup
For every 8 oz of sugar used in a recipe, 10 oz of corn syrup should be added in. Corn Syrup is a great option in baked goods due to its lack of color and liquid state. It is quite unhealthy compared to honey and is not a great substitute for health reasons so use cautiously.
When you are out of sugar, molasses can be a great substitute in certain baked goods or sauce applications. Use ⅓ more molasses than you would sugar in recipes when substituting. Blackstrap molasses is a product that will also add health benefits such as helping digestion and hair health when used.
Molasses has a very strong and unique flavor, however, so this substitution is only recommended in small amounts and for certain types of recipes.
When you are creating a recipe, sweetness will often play a leading role. While sugar may be the first ingredient to grab at first glance, honey is also a great addition that can offer a slightly different flavor.
The color and flavor of honey add some great qualities to a finished recipe. The health benefits when consumed regularly are just great additions to any diet. And the versatility you will have knowing how to use sugar and honey as sweeteners opens up your own potential as a home chef!
Do you have any other tried and true substitution recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!