If you've run out of honey or simply don't want to include it in your diet, there's no need to discard an otherwise tasty-sounding recipe that calls for this bee creation. Brown sugar serves as a viable honey substitute, but as with many ingredient substitutions, it's not a one-for-one replacement.
Honey to Brown Sugar Conversion
Since honey is a liquid and brown sugar is not, using brown sugar as a honey replacement also requires adding more liquid to the ingredients. Substitute each cup of honey for 1 1/4 cups brown sugar plus 1/4 cup water or other liquid called for in the recipe. For instance, if the recipe calls for milk and not water, feel free to use 1/4 cup milk as the liquid portion of the honey substitute.
If the honey in the recipe serves as a binding agent, such as with honey-sesame bars, substitute each cup of honey with 1/2 cup brown sugar plus 3/4 cup corn syrup instead. Otherwise, the final result may not be as sticky or binding as honey. Replacing honey with another syrupy liquid is the best option when honey is a major part of the recipe. This is especially true for recipes such as power bars, energy bars or granola bars.
Since honey tastes different than brown sugar or brown sugar plus corn syrup, replacing honey means your recipe will taste a bit different than it would have if not modified. Honey also tastes sweeter than brown sugar, although one batch of honey may be sweeter than the next since it comes from different hives. In other words, taste the recipe as you're whipping it up to ensure it seems sweet enough. If not, add a little more brown sugar.
Baking Temperature Modifications
If your recipe is for a cake, cookies or other baked goods, you'll also have to modify the baking temperature to ensure your creation completes in approximately the same time it would have with honey in it. Oddly enough, honey has more sugar content in it than an equal amount of a granulated, dry form of sugar. This means the honey version of the recipe will also brown or burn a lot faster while in the oven.
To make up for the lower sugar content when subbing brown sugar for honey, raise the baking temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Check on the baking progress regularly, as other sugary ingredients in the recipe could still cause premature browning or burning. If you'd rather not raise the oven temperature, you don't have to do so. Just expect a slightly longer baking time.
Use Maple Syrup or Molasses
Maple syrup and molasses are also excellent substitutions for honey, especially if you're a fan of their flavors. In either case, brown sugar is still part of the substitution. Replace each cup of honey in a recipe with 3/4 cup maple syrup or molasses plus 1/2 cup brown sugar.
Maple syrup is thinner than honey or molasses, so it could make your blended recipe ingredients a bit runny. If that seems to be the case as you're blending things together, slightly increase the amount of brown sugar if the recipe needs more sweetness. If it's already sweet, slightly increase some of the dry ingredients to make the blended ingredients a little thicker.
As with the brown sugar plus liquid alternatives for honey, using maple syrup or molasses instead of honey will alter the taste of the recipe. Do not use blackstrap molasses, which is far too bitter and dense to use for a honey substitute. Blackstrap molasses has different qualities than true molasses or honey, so baking with it in place of honey leads to unexpected results that may ruin your recipe.
- Joy of Baking: Baking Ingredient Substitution Table
- Hello Flavour: Sugar to Honey Converter
- MyRecipes: Can I Use Sugar Instead of Honey in a Recipe?
- Olive Tomato: Pasteli: Greek Honey-Sesame Bars
- Tablespoon: How to Sweeten with Maple Syrup
- Serious Eats: The Difference Between Blackstrap and True Molasses
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer and avid DIYer. She has written numerous recipes for grocery store chains, as well as articles tool and paint manufacturers and travel sites. She also writes about the best neighborhood restaurants and bars for upscale real-estate firms around the country. Her work also appears on USA Today Travel, Hunker and Landlordology, among other sites.