Using substitution in baking always comes with a risk, but in fact, it is possible to substitute honey for sugar in baking in many recipes.
Replacing granulated sugar with honey greatly depends on the function of the sugar in the initial recipe. If sugar is more or less just a sweetener, you can almost always safely replace it with honey, however, when sugar is responsible for the texture eg. frosting, delicate sponge cakes, macarons, it is a bigger challenge or might not be possible.
I am sharing with you all the important factors you should be aware of when replacing sugar with honey!
- What happens if you use honey instead of sugar in baking
- What is honey
- Honey vs. Sugar
- Is honey healthier than sugar?
- What kind of honey is best for baking?
- Sugar to Honey converter
- Expert tips on baking with honey
- When is it not possible to substitute honey for sugar?
- Substitute Honey for Sugar
What happens if you use honey instead of sugar in baking
In some baking recipes, it's possible to replace sugar with honey. However, there are several factors to bear in mind. Substitute honey for sugar in pancakes for example a much easier swap, than in muffins or cakes, simply because sugar has more functions on desserts than just sweetener.
Honey has a distinctive flavor while sugar is simply sweet and almost odorless. Depending on what type of honey you're using, it can bring a unique flavor to your desserts, be it molasses, floral, or even fruity flavor.
Also, since honey is acidic, it may neutralize the baking soda and prevent your dessert to rise properly. Thus, you will need to balance it by adding a little bit of baking soda.
Remember that honey also contains some water so adding honey to your cookie dough might require you to reduce other liquid ingredients.
If you choose to substitute honey for sugar in baking, expect your baked goods to turn out darker and sweeter as honey contains a higher amount of sugar which means it burns faster than regular white sugar.
Finally, remember that honey is thicker and heavier than sugar so when a recipe states "cream butter with sugar", you won´t be able to perform this step with honey. Generally, it is safer to replace sugar with honey for dark-colored desserts when the original recipe calls for brown sugar.
What is honey
Honey is a natural product that is made by bees. The bee collects nectar from flowers and then takes it to the hive where it is broken down and stored as honey.
Honey has been used as a sweetener for centuries and it is a popular choice for many people who are looking for a natural alternative to sugar. Honey is sweeter than sugar and has a unique flavor that can enhance the taste of various foods.
In the pastry chefs´ world, honey is natural inverted sugar that retains moisture and keeps the baked good moist longer as well as increases the shelf life of the desserts.
Please do not confuse honey with golden syrup. While they are similar in texture and color, honey is a natural product made from nectar while sugar is made from cane or beet juice that has been processed to remove impurities.
Honey vs. Sugar
Honey is a natural product made from nectar while granulated sugar is made from cane or beet juice that has been processed to remove impurities.
Sugar is 100% sucrose, a combination of glucose and fructose. On the other hand, honey primarily contains fructose, which is sweeter than sucrose. This makes honey sweeter than sugar, approximately 1.3 times sweeter. So, you can should less honey to achieve the same level of sweetness as you would with sugar. Honey also has a distinctive flavor that slightly tastes different depending on the ingredient (the nectar).
Is honey healthier than sugar?
Honey is considered a healthier alternative to sugar. Is this true? Let's take a look at the facts!
Honey has a slightly lower glycemic index than sugar. It means that both of them, as other simple carbohydrates, can raise blood sugar quickly, but the sugar will do it slightly faster than honey.
Honey is approximately 1.3x sweeter than sugar, so you can use less of it to achieve the same level of sweetness. However, the total calories per ml (volume) are not hugely different. Honey has about 20 calories per teaspoon while white sugar has about 16 calories.
The big difference between honey and sugar is how they are made. Honey is a natural by-product while sugar is considered to be processed food therefore honey is often considered to be the healthier, more natural option.
In conclusion, honey is slightly healthier than sugar, however, they both should be consumed with limitations. And if you have diabetes, substituting sugar for honey might not serve significant benefits.
What kind of honey is best for baking?
When it comes to baking, light and mild honey is generally the best choice. Darker honey usually tastes stronger and it can change the color of your food. If you are, however, intentionally looking for honey that will add a unique flavor to your food, then choose honey with a strong flavor such as buckwheat honey.
There are different types of honey that you can use in baking:
- Alfalfa honey. This honey is light in color and has a mild, buttery flavor. You can use this honey for various baking recipes from cookies to pies.
- Clover honey. It's a great option for baking recipes due to its light color and mild flavor.
- Sourwood honey. It has a light amber color and a delicate flavor of buttery caramel and spice. It's a good option for dessert recipes that include spices.
- Amber honey. It varies in color. It has some caramel flavor which is perfect for bread recipes.
- Buckwheat honey. It's a dark honey with a strong flavor of malt and molasses. You can use this for dark-colored desserts.
- Avocado honey. It's a dark honey with a rich, buttery, sweet, and molasses-like flavor. It has an earthy undertone so it's good for dessert recipes that accentuate nut flavors.
- Wildflower honey. It's made of nectar from various flowers. Thus, it has a complex, flavorful taste. It's sweeter than buckwheat honey and it's great for various baking recipes!
Sugar to Honey converter
Honey is different from sugar in terms of sweetness level, liquid content, and acidity. Honey also caramelizes faster than sugar. Therefore if you want to substitute honey for sugar, try your best to follow these rules:
- Replace 200g / 1cup of sugar with 152g / ¾ cup of honey. This is just a generic rule considering that honey is 1.3x sweeter, but some desserts don't require too much sweetness so you might want to add less amount of honey and the make dessert even healthier
- Reduce ¼ cup of liquid for every cup of honey used. Honey is liquid so if the other liquid ingredient is not reduced, the batter or dough can be a little bit too wet which can result in a dense product.
- Add approx. ¼ teaspoon baking soda for every cup of honey added. Honey is acidic so you will need to counteract the acidity by slightly adding the alkaline ingredient.
- Reduce the oven temperature by 10 C / 50 F and increase the baking time. This rule especially important when you use more than ½ cup honey. Honey caramelizes faster than sugar. Thus, you will need to slightly lower the temperature and increase the baking time
How much honey to replace sugar? Check out this quick table:
|Sugar to replace||Honey added|
|50g / ¼ cup||38g / 2 tablespoons|
|67g / ⅓ cup||50g / ¼ cup|
|100g / ½ cup||76g / 4 tablespoons|
|134g / ⅔ cup||100g / ½ cup|
|150g / ¾ cup||114g / ½ cup + 1 tablespoon|
|200 g / 1 cup||152g / ¾ cup|
Expert tips on baking with honey
- Follow the sugar-honey conversion rules for the best result
- Honey is sticky so it is rather difficult to measure it with measuring cups, use a digital scale for the most accuracy
- Honey and sugar taste different so although the baked goods will become sweet, expect the overall flavor profile to change.
- If using honey to replace sugar, expect the baked goods to look slightly darker.
- To prevent significant changes in flavor and texture, I recommend using only light honey to replace sugar in baking.
- You can taste the batter or dough before baking to see if it needs more sweetness.
When is it not possible to substitute honey for sugar?
There are many caveats when it comes to replacing sugar with honey. When the recipe requires creaming butter with sugar (eg. cakes, cupcakes, frosting), you can't just easily replace sugar with honey. Sugar helps the process of incorporating some air into the batter to increase the volume of the baked goods and provide some structure.
Honey is dense and heavy so it won't be able to do the job. You can still add honey to the mixture as a flavoring and sweetening agent, but not to completely replace the sugar.
So, avoid substituting honey for sugar when making delicate sponge cakes, buttercream frosting, meringue, and meringue-based recipes such as macarons.
Some sugar substitutes in baking are honey, maple syrup, molasses, or stevia to sweeten the product. Remember that using substitution in baking always comes with a risk and you will need to reformulate the recipe slightly eg. might want to reduce or increase other ingredients to keep the balance in flavor and texture.
Most of its health benefits are damaged when honey is exposed to high temperatures in baking. So, if you want to bake a healthier dessert, reduce the amount of sugar by half instead of replacing it with honey. Baking with honey instead of sugar can be slightly "being healthier" but more about incorporating unique flavors or simply because it's an emergency (e.g. your sugar is running out).
Yes. You can use honey instead of sugar when baking brownies however remember that honey is sweeter, so you will need about 30% less honey. Also, you might want to reduce other wet ingredients in the recipe and acknowledge that the final baked product might have a slightly different taste and texture eg. no crackly surface will form.
Yes, of course! Remember that honey is sweeter, so you will need about 30% less honey
Absolutely! Remember that honey is sweeter, so you will need about 30% less honey.
Yes, you can! However, since honey cannot be creamed together with butter, expect the texture a bit denser. Remember that honey is sweeter, so you will need about 30% less honey and you might want to increase the rising agent eg. adding slightly more baking soda and reducing the oven temperature so that muffins won´t brown that much.
Yes, you can! However, since honey cannot be creamed together with butter, expect a denser texture. Honey is also sweeter than regular granulated sugar, so you will need about 30% less honey. Finally, it is recommended to increase the rising agent eg. adding slightly more baking soda and reducing the oven temperature so the cake won´t brown that much.
It can be a good idea to substitute honey for sugar in cookies, especially chocolate or other dark-colored cookies. Remember that honey is sweeter, so you will need about 30% less honey. Honey helps the cookies stay moist by preventing the loss of moisture. The cookies might be chewier in texture. However, it can be darker in color.
If the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, you can replace it with ¾ cup of honey instead. Expect the flavor and texture slightly change as honey is a liquid ingredient vs. brown sugar. You might want to also consider adding some more baking soda to the cookie dough and reducing the oven temperature slightly so the cookies won´t brown that much.
Using honey instead of sugar in some baking recipes can be a creative idea! It adds beautiful notes and your dessert can stay moist for longer. However, remember that you cannot replace sugar with honey in all recipes, such as meringue-based desserts. Also, keep in mind that using a substitute in baking always comes with a risk. So, don't forget to adjust the other ingredients and baking temperature accordingly to keep the quality of the baked goods.
Substitute Honey for Sugar
- 1 cup honey
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- Honey is different from sugar in terms of sweetness level, liquid content, and acidity. Honey also caramelizes faster than sugar. Therefore if you want to substitute honey for sugar, try your best to follow these rules:
- Replace 200g / 1cup of sugar with 152g / ¾ cup of honey
- Reduce ¼ cup of liquid for every cup of honey used
- Add approx. ¼ teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of honey added.
- Reduce the oven temperature by 10 C / 50 F and increase the baking time