How to Substitute Honey For Sugar in a Recipe

By Fred Decker

Ordinary granulated sugar is superbly versatile, thanks to its neutral flavor and highly refined purity. But for precisely those reasons, it's not an especially exciting ingredient, either. A natural sweetener such as honey can be much more flavorful, lending complexity to the taste of your treats. Honey also helps baked goods remain moister for longer, a significant secondary benefit. Successfully substituting honey for sugar in a recipe requires consideration and calculation.

golden honey bee
credit: rvbox/iStock/Getty Images
Honey container

So Sweet to Me

Honey is sweeter than refined sugar, so you normally won't use it as a cup-for-cup replacement. You can use more or less in a given recipe, as needed, but 3/4 cup of honey provides the same sweetening as 1 cup of refined sugar. You'll need to reduce other liquids in your recipe by 1/4 cup for every cup of honey you use, and -- in most cases -- add a pinch of soda to neutralize the honey's acidity. Honey also browns more rapidly than sugar, so it's helpful to reduce your baking temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some Pragmatic Advice

In the U.S., the National Honey Board suggests substituting no more than half the sugar in your recipe with honey to start, until you've gotten a feel for how it behaves in your baked goods. Where possible, use recipes written specifically for honey. That's especially so with jams and jellies, where honey can affect the "set." Mass-market commercial honey has a blandly consistent flavor, but small-batch artisanal honeys are variable and can have assertive flavors of their own.