For certified sweet tooths like me, baking is the perfect pastime to quench our craving for saccharine treats. Isn’t it great when you can just whip up a batch of cookies or a red velvet cake at a moment’s notice?
When it comes to baking, one important ingredient we have to get right is the type of sweetener to use. Of course, there’s always the trusty white sugar, but many avid bakers are now turning to more natural alternatives, particularly liquid sweeteners, which I’ve been using more and more of late.
One liquid sweetener called golden syrup is just another reason for us to move to the UK. Unfortunately, it’s not something we can easily find elsewhere. This is why any serious baker should know how to find replacements for ingredients that aren’t available.
The good news is it’s easy to find a golden syrup substitute if you know what to look for. You may even have one hiding in your kitchen right now. There may be few alternatives to golden syrup but all of them are super tasty in their own right.
But First, What Is This Thing Called Golden Syrup?
Before we proceed, let’s get to know golden syrup a bit. This liquid sweetener is more common in places like London and the Caribbean, but a little harder to find outside these locations. Also known as light treacle, golden syrup is a by-product of sugar cane refinement and has a thicker and darker appearance than corn syrup.
Vegans and vegetarians use golden syrup to replace honey, most likely because it comes from sugar cane instead of farm bees. It’s definitely sweeter than sugar and its interesting grassy origins give it an undeniable rich flavor. Its taste is even compared to caramel with a hint of acid. This is why it’s wise to use a slightly smaller amount of golden syrup than you would with white sugar.
What Are the Most Famous Golden Syrup Brands in the World?
It’s safe to say that golden syrup was invented in the UK, which is why the most popular golden syrup brand is from there. Lyle’s Golden Syrup is synonymous to golden syrup itself. It was founded in 1883 after the Lyle Family accidentally discovered that they could sell the sweet, liquid by-product of their sugarcane refinery business.
To this day, Lyle’s Golden Syrup remains the most popular brand of golden syrup in the British Isles. They use it for many kinds of dessert, such as cakes, flapjacks, pudding, and the famous treacle tart, Harry Potter’s favorite treat. Using golden syrup instead of maple or corn syrup gives any recipe a fuller, sweeter, and more heavenly taste.
Other countries have their own golden syrup brands. Australia has CSR Limited as the main manufacturer, while Germany boasts of its golden syrup product, Zuckerrübensirup.
Where Can We Buy Golden Syrup in the US?
It’s true that golden syrup is more omnipresent in the UK than in US soil, but they do exist in some American stores. Specifically, some World Market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Walmart stores offer Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
If you can’t find this brand in a regular baking shelf, try looking in the international section of the store. For a more guaranteed supply, visit Amazon’s website. You’ll surely find it there.
Wait. Is Golden Syrup Same as Golden Eagle Syrup?
The quick answer is no. While they have similar-sounding names, golden syrup (and, by association, Lyle’s) and Golden Eagle Syrup are two different brands with distinct ingredients.
Lyle’s Golden Syrup is made by breaking down the liquid sucrose from sugar cane into two simpler forms, fructose and glucose, and combining them again into golden syrup. It’s a pretty simple process involving cane sugar.
On the other hand, the Golden Eagle Syrup from Fayette, Alabama, is a mixture of corn syrup, cane sugar syrup, honey, high fructose corn syrup, and cane molasses. So, no, they don’t have the same ingredients, but they do serve a similar purpose as food sweeteners. If you’re thinking of using it as a replacement for golden syrup, you can definitely do that but expect some difference in taste.
What Are the Best Substitutes For Golden Syrup?
If you have time to spare to buy it online or search at your local store, I recommend that you give golden syrup a try. This product has a 136-year history for a reason; it’s absolutely delicious. But until you get your hands on a Lyle’s tin can, a golden syrup substitute will have to do for now. Here are 5 of the best ones:
Golden syrup is often mistaken for honey by those who see it for the first time, but honey has a slightly stronger flavor than golden syrup — most likely because of the variety of flowers that bees get their nectar from. The main advantage of using honey is that it’s easily found in most stores.
If you’re wondering if honey is healthier than sugar, then the answer is not necessarily. Natural sweeteners like honey have the same nutritional content as sugar (meaning not so much), and they’re both broken down into glucose and fructose. However, honey has a lower glycemic index than sugar, so it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels at the same rate as sugar.
If you decide on using honey, make sure not to use too much heat as honey gets easily burned. Overall, honey is an obvious substitute for golden syrup, one that doesn’t make too much of a difference in taste.
Light Corn Syrup
Corn syrup is a staple in our modern diet, so it’s another easy alternative for golden syrup. For one, it’s not as rich and sweet as honey, so it’s ideal for those looking for a lighter option.
If possible, buy the ‘light’ variety as there’s still some controversy on whether high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is worse than table sugar. The verdict so far is neither is better than the other as they both have a negative effect on health, especially when consumed excessively. To be on the safe side, I suggest choosing light corn syrup like Karo Lite as it has no HFCS.
Choose corn syrup especially if you already have it in your cupboards and if you’re looking for something that’s not overwhelmingly sweet.
Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees and formed by boiling the sap. It’s one in a small group of sweeteners considered to be actually good for your health. One study found that this sweet delight has antibacterial, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties that help boost your body’s protection. So yeah, it’s a healthy sweetener.
Another advantage is you can use it for a long time. You can store for a year, and it won’t go bad. When using maple syrup for your lovely desserts, try to find the darker, richer variety.
Maple used to be graded according to sweetness and color as Grade A, B, or C, but new guidelines now give the same Grade A to all maple syrups, though with different descriptions. If you want the light variety for your pancakes or waffles, buy a Grade A with the description “Golden Color and Delicate Taste.” Also, what used to be Grade B is now “Grade A” with a “Dark Color and Robust Flavor.” This is what you should buy if you want a rich maple taste in your food.
For best results, you can combine honey and maple syrup to give your cooking a more interesting texture and taste.
Molasses, also called black treacle, is another excellent golden syrup substitute. Like golden syrup, molasses is derived from sugar cane except it is not inverted, so it has a darker color than golden syrup.
What’s interesting about molasses is that it’s touted as another healthy sweetener similar to maple. In particular, blackstrap molasses, its darkest form, is said to be a good source of calcium and iron—except it has a stronger bitter taste that might not go well with all recipes.
If you want something milder, you can always look for light molasses or adjust the amount of sweetener that you pour into your baked goods. British folks love using black treacle for cakes, puddings, and drinks, and you can too!
How to Make Homemade Golden Syrup
Perhaps, the last alternative to golden syrup is one that you make on your own. Follow these steps for a homemade golden syrup substitute:
- Heat a quarter of a cup (1/4) of sugar on a pan.
- Spread the sugar evenly on the pan’s bottom. Shaking will help.
- Combine one teaspoon (1) of water on half a teaspoon (1/2) of vinegar in a separate container. Then pour the mixture on the sugar.
- Turn to a low-heat setting. Let it cook for about 5 minutes.
- Turn up to medium heat and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Wait for it to form into a caramel-like liquid.
- Stir only after it settles (meaning, no more bubbles).
- Continue stirring the syrup after removing the pan.
Voila! You now have your own homemade syrup that can be used as an alternative to golden syrup’s sweetly addictive taste.
Tips When Using a Replacement for Golden Syrup
By now, I hope you already have an idea which substitute you want to use. Regardless of what you choose, you need to know a few tips and tricks to make sure you use your golden syrup substitute well:
Remember the “three-quarter rule.”
When baking with a liquid sweetener like golden syrup or any similar syrup, this means that if a recipe asks for one cup (1) of granulated sugar, you should use only ¾ cup of any liquid sweetener like corn syrup and honey. This takes into account that these natural sweeteners tend to have higher calories and more concentrated content than sugar.
Turn the heat down.
When baking a cake or a batch of cookies, lower the oven’s temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burning a perfectly good batch.
Expect some difference.
Most of the syrup substitutes on the list will produce a different texture and taste from that of golden syrup. Some will have a sweeter test, while some like molasses may get bitter. The key is to make adjustments. You can reduce the amount of syrup or dilute with water to achieve a similar consistency as golden syrup.
Store it well.
Use a dark jar, or any dark container, for storing your chosen syrup as the light outside can alter the color of some syrups, namely honey. The storage location will depend on the type of syrup you’re handling. For instance, honey doesn’t need to be stored in a fridge instead it thrives on being left alone on a shelf or maybe a basement.
Natural sweeteners like honey and corn syrup are still sugar. They are high in calories and carbohydrates that may increase body weight or cause some health conditions to worsen. So take care not to overdo them.
Golden syrup has a long history of delighting lovers of sweets in many parts of the world. It’s great for virtually any baked good—be it cakes, puddings, pies, cookies, and muffins. If you haven’t experienced yet the unique taste of golden syrup, this might be the perfect time to stock up on some this tin-clad sweetness.
But if it’s not available where you are, no need to fret. You have several other options that are just as great as golden syrup. Although they may not have the exact same taste as the British favorite ‘goldie,’ these golden syrup substitutes do have distinctive flavors that can take your baking to a whole new level. Plus, some of them have health benefits that you won’t find in other sweeteners—not even in golden syrup.
What are you waiting for? Now’s the time to add an awesome syrupy taste to your favorite desserts.