It is known by many names and sometimes we still don’t know what it is. Sometimes we randomly stumble across a recipe that requires it. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about rice syrup. No, not rice vinegar, rice syrup.
This is a very popular ingredient in many Asian dishes, but in the more Western kitchen, it isn’t used as often, almost like peanut sauce or even oyster sauce. So, what if you can’t find any or what if you simply don’t want to buy some for one recipe. Well, lucky for you, we have some great alternatives!
So, what are the best substitutes for rice syrup? The best substitutes for rice syrup are corn syrup and maple syrup, followed by honey, simple syrup, barley malt syrup, molasses, and date syrup, depending on use. All have a similar syrup consistency and can function similarly in a recipe.
Each has its own characteristics and reasons why they make a good substitution. In this article, we will be looking at some substitutions and how to use them, followed by our most recommended products you can conveniently find online.
What Is Rice Syrup?
This syrup has many names depending on where you come from. It goes by brown rice syrup, brown malt rice syrup, rice malt, or simply rice syrup. These are all the same product, even though different brands will have different versions and variations.
Rice syrup is a sweetener made from rice starch. The rice starch is cooked with enzymes to break them down after which the liquid is strained and then reduced to create a thick syrup.
Brown rice syrup is made from brown rice varieties and ‘normal’ rice syrup is made from white rice varietals.
This syrup consist of three main sugars: maltotriose, maltose, and glucose. What this basically means is that the syrup itself acts like glucose when you ingest it.
Unlike its more nutritious rice form, the syrup produced from it does not contain a lot of nutrients. It has minuscule amounts of potassium and calcium.
It is very high in sugars and therefore in calories as well. This means you should be mindful of the amounts you consume and use in food.
This syrup, like all very sweet and concentrated sugary products, can cause spikes in blood sugar levels and can even contribute to obesity and many other health problems.
Functions Of Rice Syrup In Food
Rice syrups functions in the same way many other syrups do. The main difference is mostly in its flavor.
Rice syrup performs one, if not multiple, functions in a recipe:
- It adds sweetness to any dish, be it savory or sweet. It can be used in baked goods, candies, marinades, glazes, sauces and much, much more.
- It adds color to food and helps promote the Maillard reaction (browning of food). Although brown rice syrup itself isn’t always very dark, when baking or broiling, the sugar caramelizes and causes the food to become darker (golden brown).
- It acts as a binding agent because of its stickiness. This is especially important when making glazes that should stick to food and not run down from it. Because of its already thick consistency, it works perfectly.
- It adds flavor. Although syrup is often too sweet to distinguish it from others, many syrups do still have a unique taste. Rice syrup is one of those along with maple syrup. It adds another, albeit slight, flavor cue.
Best Rice Syrup Substitutes By Use
When choosing a substitute for rice syrup, the best way to look at it is functionality. If you need syrup that will instantly add color, then choose a darker one, but if you only need it to help bind something or add sweetness, almost any sugary syrup will do.
Corn Syrup – Best Overall Substitute
Corn syrup is the best and ultimate substitution for rice syrup. This is because it has an equal sweetness to it and a very similar consistency.
Although corn syrup is much lighter in color, almost translucent, it still performs all the functions rice syrup does. It can help bind food together, help add sweetness, flavor and also browns nicely.
Corn syrup has a slight grain-like flavor, just like rice syrup does – another benefit. It is also easily accessible and very affordable, unlike many other types of syrup.
You can use corn syrup as a substitution in equal parts, that is a 1:1 substitution.
Unlike other substitutions that only require a ¼ cup or even ¾ cup, this 1:1 ratio means that the recipe won’t be significantly affected at all by just replacing rice syrup with corn syrup.
You won’t have to adjust wet or dry ingredients to get similar textures, consistencies or quantities).
Maple Syrup – Second Best Overall Choice
Good old maple syrup always seems to come to the rescue and rightfully so. Maple syrup is an excellent choice and the only reason corn syrup outdoes it is because of the price tag.
Maple syrup is often more expensive than corn syrup, and even rice syrup, but if you have some on hand and are in a pinch, it will work astonishingly well.
Unlike corn syrup, maple syrup is dark in color just like rice syrup and has a unique flavor that can be imparted into the food, though it will taste different from either corn or rice syrup.
Maple syrup is generally sweeter and thinner than rice syrup so you only need to use ¾ cup for every 1 cup of rice syrup, if you only require sweetness to your recipe.
It works great for marinades and sauces, where the recipe doesn’t necessarily require a specific consistency.
For recipes, especially baked goods, that definitely use rice syrup to add moisture, this might be more difficult.
Depending on what the item is, you can just remove ¼ cup of flour from the dry ingredients and use the same amount of maple syrup as you would rice syrup to balance out the final texture (prevent the lack of moisture form resulting in a dry product).
You can also just add the maple syrup in equal amounts, but then risk having an overly sweet product and a moister product.
Honey – For Browning, Sweetness, & Consistency
Honey is another excellent substitute for most syrup products. Honey is naturally sweet and can have a naturally darker color.
It is also one of the best browning syrups and will add tons of color to your food. Plus, it has a very similar consistency to that of rice syrup and corn syrup.
Because of its sweetness, people generally prefer to use less honey when substituting rice syrup, ¾ cup of honey per 1 cup of rice syrup should do.
Luckily, honey has a very thick consistency, meaning the moisture and final texture of the product won’t be affected too much, unlike with the runnier maple syrup.
Honey however can have a relatively neutral flavor when used in foods and therefore won’t add its own unique flavor as the previous substitutes would. This can be good or bad depending on what you want the syrup to do.
Simple Syrup – For Sweetness
This is a very easy substitute although it mostly works for the adding sweetness element of rice syrup.
Simple syrup is basically just melted sugar or a combination of sugar and water. What makes it great as a substitution is that it provides a ton of concentrated sweetness.
When making your own simple syrup, you can also adjust the consistency to get the same as rice syrups’ but if you buy it, you may not get lucky.
What makes it not so great is that it doesn’t brown as well once inside a recipe. Yes, simple syrups do get dark (and very dark at that) when cooked directly on the stovetop, but within other things it only browns nicely when direct heat is applied.
However, this problem is easily solvable when making your own at home. When cooking and reducing the simple syrup at home, you can cook it until it becomes dark before using it.
However, if you can’t add boiling hot sugar syrup to the recipe, this solution won’t work. Once it cools down it becomes very hard, if not rock solid.
Barley Malt Syrup – Strong, Sweet Flavors
We love a good barley malt syrup and feel that it is definitely underrated. This product has amazing flavor and color.
It will work great with most savory dishes because of its very dark color. When using it for baked goods (that are meant to be pale) it will only result in darker shades.
However, when used for sweetness purposes, like in glaze, it will do amazing! It is very sweet so you also only have to use ¾ cup of barley syrup per 1 cup of rice syrup.
It sometimes has a much thicker consistency than rice syrup, but you can quickly heat it to make it runnier and use it while semi-warm.
Just be aware that some malt syrups are very deep in flavor, almost like molasses that has a slight bitterness to it, so you might want to thin it with simple syrup or add less of it.
If you don’t want to add flavor to your product, opt for a more neutral-tasting substitute instead.
Molasses – Depth, Flavor, & Savory Dishes
Molasses is a very strongly flavored sugar syrup that is almost bitter. It works fantastic with all savory dishes that have saltiness to it.
Although it does get used in sweet dishes, its use is very limited and most recipes that result in brown end products like granola bars or brownies, etc.
Molasses does add depth to any dish and its thickness also acts as an excellent binding agent.
Molasses should be used in smaller quantities, about ½ cup molasses per 1 cup of rice syrup. This is only because of its strong flavor.
To make sure the recipe doesn’t change too much, add a simple sugar syrup (a combination of sugar and water) to make up the rest of the quantity required.
Alternatively, you can use corn syrup instead of simple syrup. If you are making sauces, glazes, marinades and braising liquids, this change in quantity might not even affect the recipe other than product a bit less.
Date Syrup – Sweetness & Versatility
Our last recommendation would have to be a date syrup. If you’ve never tried these, do yourself this favor – your life will forever be changed.
Date syrup is, obviously, made from dates. It is also sometimes labeled as “Silan” or “Date Nectar” and can be easily found at a drug store or health shop.
Date syrup does come in various consistencies and textures. Some are very runny while others are very thick, almost paste-like. Some are very shiny and a translucent brown while others are a textured caramel.
Some people will immediately stay away from this substitute, but we would urge you to embrace it. All these options mean you can choose exactly what you need.
You can choose a more syrup-like version that can be used in equal parts, or you can use a paste to create interesting texture differences. You can truly play around with this one.
The Best Substitutes For Rice Syrup
Now that we have discussed the best types of substitutes, we have gone the extra mile and even provide you with a list of the best products you can find:
|Substitutes Best For
|Karo Light Corn Syrup
|Maple Grove Farms Pure Maple Syrup
|Nature Nate’s Organic, Raw, Unfiltered Honey
|Browning, sweetness, consistency
|NuNaturals Stevia Simple Syrup
|Barry Farms Barley Malt Syrup
|Strong, sweet flavors
|Brer Rabbit Mild Unsulphured Molasses
|Depth, flavor, and savory dishes
|D’vash Date Syrup
We also have a full review of each so you can be sure you’re getting the right substitute for your cooking needs.
1. Karo Light Corn Syrup
This is the best and arguably the most trusted household corn syrup available on the market. We have been using Karo Light Corn Syrup for years, and it has persisted through many trials.
This is a diverse product that will make an excellent substitution for rice syrup. It has a neutral color, although the flavor does have added vanilla.
This is only a bonus for us as vanilla is definitely an enhancer of flavors and works especially well in sweet and baked products.
2. Maple Grove Farms Pure Maple Syrup
There is nothing we love more than 100% pure maple syrup – gone with the “maple-flavored products” and imitation maple syrup. We want pure and we want it now!
Maple Groves has been producing Grade A syrup for years and they are surprisingly affordable for such a great product. They also supply various sizes so you can even buy in bulk – you know you’ll use it all in a few weeks anyway.
This product’s color is very similar to that of brown rice syrup and the consistency is what you know maple syrup to be. This means a ¾ cup of maple syrup for every 1 cup rice syrup will swap perfectly.
3. Nature Nate’s Organic, Raw, & Unfiltered Honey
We have a very strong belief that all honey should be organically farmed and unfiltered to keep all their natural nutrients. Also, save the bees!
This honey has the purest honey flavor we have ever tasted and will be a fantastic addition to any recipe. It has a neutral color (very similar to rice syrup) and has the smoothest unaltered texture we’ve ever come across.
Their honey doesn’t contain any pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics or get thinned with corn syrup.
The price is obviously a bit more expensive, but for such a quality honey, we’d rather pay this price than basically paying for honey-flavored corn syrup.
4. NuNaturals NuStevia Simple Syrup
Okay, so this product isn’t made from sugar, but rather stevia. We thought it would be good to include a product like this for people trying to cut back on sugar or who cannot consume it for dietary reasons.
Stevia is a plant-based sweetener that is just as sweet (if not sweeter) than sugar. It forms a perfect sugar-free simple syrup. You probably won’t even be able to tell the difference between your homemade one and this stevia one.
It is also very affordable choice and may be a better option for your diet than any of the other substitutions (you know, considering it is a syrup that doesn’t contain sugar).
5. Barry Farms Barley Malt Syrup
Barley malt syrup is usually very hard to come by in-store and even online for that matter. Luckily, as always, Amazon saves the day!
We have found an excellent quality barley malt syrup from Barry Farms. Usually, these syrups, if you are lucky enough to come across some, are sold in bulk and unfortunately, not many recipes require it.
This one is sold in a convenient 22 fluid ounce bottle that is easy to use and easy to store. And the best part, after hours of searching you would think the scarcity would cause it to be unaffordable – but not this product.
6. Brer Rabbit Mild Unsulphured Molasses
Remember how we previously mentioned that molasses has a very strong flavor, we’ll even though this one says “mild”, don’t be fooled. It is still pretty strong. However, you can up the ratio to ¾ cup for every cup of rice syrup.
It definitely has a milder taste than traditional molasses and that’s why we love it for a rice syrup substitution. It is still very dark in color so that should still be kept in mind when using in certain recipes.
This is a very affordable molasses and is highly reviewed, so make sure to try it, even if it’s not as perfect of a substitution.
7. D’vash Date Syrup
We love functional packaging and this date syrup is no exception in its squeezy bottle! We’re not saying the product itself is less important, since as you will shortly see it’s amazing, but the packaging is sometimes a make-or-break for us.
You can’t even use a great product sometimes if the packaging is badly conceived. But this conveniently packaged date syrup is perfect for easy use and cleaning.
The syrup itself is also amazing. It is 100% vegan which might sound like a silly statement, but you would be surprised to know how much syrup contains animal products.
The dates used are 100% GMO-free and the syrup doesn’t contain any gluten thickeners.
It has a very dark color and a unique flavor that will elevate your food. It makes a great rice syrup substitute and you won’t regret buying this product.
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