Hard candy

Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are both made from corn starch, but are different products. They are sugars added to processed foods that can bring your sugar intake above a healthy and natural level. Many homemade candies, stunning toppers and dessert recipes call for corn syrup in varying amounts. Making a sugar cage without corn syrup of DIY lollipops without that ingredient can be tricky, but there are substitutes that will yield a similar result without such a high level of added sugar to your diet. If using a corn syrup other than high fructose corn syrup, stick with Karo syrup, or at least check the label to ensure there isn't any high fructose corn syrup added to the corn syrup, which does happen. Otherwise, try a corn syrup substitute in your recipes.

Hard Candy Corn Syrup Substitutes

Homemade Candy Substitute

Water, sugar and cream of tartar can be used to simulate corn syrup when mixed and cooked at high heat in the oven to melt the ingredients together. Once melted, colored and shaped, the water, sugar and cream of tartar will harden into homemade candy.

Dark Corn Syrup Substitute

To simulate dark corn syrup to add to a recipe for hard homemade candy, combine dark brown sugar with hot water. Molasses can also work, but it needs to be thinned with a light corn syrup substitute.

Light Corn Syrup Substitute

Light corn syrup substitute is the simplest substitution because it only calls for two ingredients: water and white granulated sugar. Combine one and a quarter cups white sugar with a quarter cup of hot water to make one cup light corn syrup substitute. For any of these substitutions, it's important to melt a significantly larger quantity of sugar into a small amount of water to achieve the thick texture. An equal amount of water and sugar would only make a simple syrup.

All-Natural Substitute

Finally, honey and fruit juice can be used to make a thick, sweet syrup-like substitute that will harden when heated and melted together. Again, there must be much more honey than fruit juice to ensure that the mixture will not be too liquid. You want it to harden into a solid for hard candy.

Lollipop Recipe Without Corn Syrup

Total Time: 45 minutes | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 12 DIY Lollipops


  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 2 drops orange food coloring
  • clear plastic candy molds
  • 12 paper lollipop sticks
  • 12 small pieces candied ginger


  1. Spray the candy molds with nonstick cooking spray.

  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, water and lemon juice until evenly combined.

  3. Pour into a medium saucepan.

  4. Place the saucepan over high heat. If using a gas stove, the flames should not lap over the sides of the saucepan.

  5. Stir the syrup as it heats and use a candy thermometer to watch it come to a boil as it reaches 305 F. Use a fork to pick out any crystals that form on the edges of the pan.

  6. When the candy syrup reaches 305 F, stir in the orange extract and food coloring quickly.

  7. Remove from heat. Do not stir again after the extract is evenly distributed.

  8. Use cold water to cool the underside of the pan and place it on a thick cotton kitchen towel to let the pan cool and the syrup slightly thicken.

  9. Once the syrup has thickened, but not hardened, pour the syrup into the prepared candy molds.

  10. Place a lollipop stick in each. It should lie flat, pointing toward the outside of the candy mold, rather than up toward the ceiling at the center of the candy.

  11. After a minute or two, drop a piece of candied ginger into the syrup so that it is at the center of the lollipop. Otherwise, wait longer until the candy is harder, but still sticky, to use the candied ginger as decoration on the exterior of the DIY lollipop.

  12. To speed up the hardening of the lollipops, place them in the fridge for an hour or so.

Lemon juice can be substituted for cream of tartar because both are acids that help to form a corn syrup substitute. If using cream of tartar, much less of it is required. Add only about an eighth of a teaspoon of cream of tartar if using in this recipe instead of lemon juice.