Syrups and Honey
One of the biggest problems with sugar-free baking and cooking is the extra time that it takes. Sure, you can just stick with recipes calling for granulated sugar—and sub in your favorite sugar-free one (See my Sugar-Free Substitutes post!) and be a happy sugar-free-family. However, after a while, you will likely find yourself wishing that you could make those bars with that “Eagle Brand” stuff drizzled all over them or those candies with caramel centers or those milk chocolate peanut butter cups.
While sugar-free treats should not be the mainstay of our diet, we will stick to healthful eating much better (and keep our kids with us in our quest to avoid white flour and white sugar) if we have amazing alternatives. So then we are back to skill building—and a lot more time exertion.
You have to ask yourself if making these elaborate dishes is worth all the trouble of making your own corn syrup, caramel sauce, and, yes, even sweetened condensed milk. Or if you can do without the fancy shmancy and skip these things altogether.
My former-ten-year-old-palate says to go for it. Learn to make great substitutions for life-long health changes. You decide for you and your family.
(For a great pinnable and printable sugar-free substitutions chart, click here!)
Below are links to the ingredients I use in this recipe. I am an affiliate for Amazon.com. If you click on the links below I will earn a small commission. Thank you for your support of this blog!
Honey is a lot like brown sugar in that there is a lot more than just taste involved in substituting for it. The texture of honey is impossible to duplicate in sugar-free baking. Yes, there are sugar-free honey products available—some at local retail stores made with sucralose and/or aspartame and some at online specialty stores and even local health foods stores made with better sweeteners. I have never used these, so I can’t vouch for their ability to do what honey does in baking.
For the most part, when you make your own sugar-free honey, you are not really making a sticky, bindable product like real honey. You are making a watered down sugar-free sweetener that accounts for some of the liquid that honey provides (as opposed to just using straight up granulated sweetener).
I haven’t used this honey substitute a lot. The recipes that I try to re-create healthfully seem to start with sugar! But I have used it in energy balls, and it does fine in them (though with peanut butter as the other binder, I’m not even sure the “homemade honey” is necessary). However, a sugar-free blog would not be complete without giving you some honey instructions, so here you go!
- Whisk water and sweetener thoroughly by hand.
- Add molasses and maple flavoring and whisk together.
- Use immediately.
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Maple syrup, again, like corn syrup, honey, and brown sugar, is all about texture. There’s a reason why my siblings and I didn’t like Mom’s homemade version of pancake syrup when it was just brown sugar and water!
Cooking the sweetener and water does help to carmelize it a little more—and make a more sticky syrup (though when made with sugar-free subs, you definitely do not get the exact same texture). It is worth it to make your own maple syrup for older kids and adults. Maple syrup is super high on the Glycemic Index, and even though it is a natural substance, too much of it can spike blood sugars significantly.
One of my favorite quick foods to have in the freezer is pre-made French toast (using my homemade, healthy, sprouted yeast bread and the most amazing French toast recipe I have ever seen—for healthy people or not!). This syrup is perfect to have on hand for pulling those out of the freezer and popping in the toaster. (With a tiny glycemic load and about ten percent of the carbohydrates of Eggoes and pancake syrup!)
This recipe makes eight ¼-cup servings for a total of two+ cups and can be stored in the refrigerator forever…well, if it lasts that long.
Yummy snack idea your kids will love: healthy toast lightly spread with peanut butter on a plate topped with this maple syrup!
- In a small saucepan, whisk together the sweetener, water, and molasses.
- Bring to a boil.
- Cook and stir for two to three minutes.
- Remove from heat. Stir in maple flavoring/extract.
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Corn syrup, like honey and brown sugar, is all about texture. (Are we hearing a theme here?!) The stickier and gooier, the better. That is what gives pecan pie, pecan tassies, pecan bars…you get the idea….their amazing taste. It isn’t impossible to get this with sugar-free corn syrup, but it does take some extra work. (Think making peanut brittle or caramels at Christmas time when you were growing up. Yeah, lots of stirring and waiting!)
This corn syrup substitute can be made ahead, made in bulk, stored for a while, etc., so it is time effective to make up more than you need this one time and save for another time. The ingredients in parentheses are doubled for that purpose. (A lot more time for reaching the soft ball stage if you double the recipe.)
- Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan.
- Stir and cook over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil.
- Cook, stirring frequently, until it reaches soft ball stage on a candy thermometer.
- Cool syrup and store in a covered container at room temperature. It will keep for about two months
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If texture is really important to you, you might not be happy with these three options. I just want to be honest with you! In that case, I would recommend finding the best sugar-free maple syrup you can find and the best sugar-free honey that you can find, and using those in place of homemade sugar-free maple syrup and homemade honey. I would probably just use the store-bought sugar-free honey in place of corn syrup if I really needed the texture (i.e. pecan bars or scotcharoos!).
P.S. What substitutions do you use for these two syrups or honey? Have any of these three recipes been working for you? I’d love to learn from you as well!
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