When I became gluten intolerant, I realized that regular cane sugar wasn’t going to be a great choice for my health any longer. I tried some herbal sugars, but just never acquired the taste until I discovered brown rice syrup, which is an excellent substitute for cane sugar – and it’s gluten-free.
Brown rice syrup isn’t always easy to source, so I had to find alternatives that I could use. And when my family visited, I needed a substitute they would eat that I could also use. It was quite complicated, but I finally found the best substitutes for brown rice syrup, and here they are.
For the best brown rice syrup substitutes that are also vegan or vegetarian-friendly, try honey, barley malt syrup, maple syrup, Stevia, agave nectar, date syrup, corn syrup, and molasses. The substitute you choose will depend on the taste profile you desire and how you would have used the brown rice syrup in your recipe.
In deciding which brown rice syrup substitute you prefer, you should taste-test the recommended substitutes before using them to figure out if the flavor profile is suitable for the use you need a substitute for.
What Is Brown Rice Syrup?
Brown rice syrup is made by adding enzymes to cooked brown rice, which acts to break down starches and make smaller molecular substances known as glucose (in three forms).
The resulting liquid is then further reduced by cooking it to create a syrup that we know as brown rice syrup.
The glucose of brown rice syrup (basically all of the syrup) is made of three types of glucose—simple glucose, maltotriose (when three glucose molecules bind), and maltose (when two glucose molecules join).
Today, brown rice syrup is fairly cheap to make, and it’s said to be healthier than other syrups because it contains no fructose (the bad sugar).
Brown rice syrup is used to sweeten processed food, and it offers a high glycemic index that boosts a sugar rush in sweet foods.
What Is Brown Rice Syrup Made of?
Brown rice syrup is made by processing brown rice that has been cooked to create a fluid that enzymes can act on, producing a sweet byproduct that turns into syrup when extruded (heated).
So brown rice syrup is rice water, enzymes, and the product—various forms of glucose.
8 Best Brown Rice Syrup Substitutes
There are a few substitutes for brown rice syrup. Some are vegan-friendly and others are also gluten-free.
The substitute you choose will depend on the recipe you are making and the flavor profile you prefer.
If you want a healthier alternative to brown rice syrup, then honey is the way to go. Honey has a similar appearance to brown rice syrup, but bear in mind that honey is sweeter, so you would need to use less when cooking with honey.
For optimum health benefits, use raw honey that’s non-irradiated as this will contain the most antioxidants and natural plant flavonoids.
Substitute brown rice syrup with honey in a ratio of 1 to ¾. So for each cup of brown rice syrup, use a ¾ cup of honey instead.
2. Barley Malt Syrup
Another sweet favorite is barley malt syrup, which is like molasses, but it’s much sweeter. If you are making bread or mixing up a sauce for your weekend outdoor grill, you can definitely use barley malt syrup.
It works well and will give your meals a sweet but slightly bitter taste, and the brown color adds some life to sauces and bread.
Since barley malt syrup is so much sweeter than brown rice syrup, you would also substitute it in the proportion of 1: ¾ with one cup of brown rice syrup substituted for ¾ cup of barley malt syrup.
3. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees, and the delicious flavor is enough to make it a great substitute for brown rice syrup.
The rich golden color is another plus, and it will add some color to sauces, bread, and baked goods.
Substitute brown rice syrup with maple syrup in a ratio of 1: ¾ where one cup of brown rice syrup is replaced by a ¾ cup of maple syrup.
The Canadian favorite, maple syrup, is much sweeter than brown rice syrup, so tone down your recipes slightly.
If you are on a strict diet, then Stevia is a great alternative to sweeten food instead of brown rice syrup.
Stevia is a potent sweetener that is 100% natural and has zero calories. However, note that if you are going to replace brown rice syrup with Stevia, you have to use Stevia liquid very sparingly.
In fact, the ratio of replacement may seem like an error to you, as one drop of Stevia liquid can replace an entire cup of brown rice syrup.
5. Agave Nectar
Made from the agave plant, agave nectar is an extremely sweet syrup that can replace brown rice syrup in small quantities. A cup of brown rice syrup can be replaced by a third cup of agave nectar.
Adjust your recipes to accommodate the change in recipe volume.
6. Date Syrup
Dates are a bitter-sweet alternative to brown rice syrup, and you can substitute three tablespoons of date syrup for a cup of brown rice syrup.
Expect a more fruity flavor in your recipes when using this substitution.
7. Corn Syrup
If you are desperate, you can turn to corn syrup for brown rice syrup, but it’s not a healthy substitute as corn syrup is high in fructose.
However, the sweetness levels are similar, so a straight substitution of one cup of brown rice syrup for a cup of corn syrup works fine.
Many recipes call for molasses as a sweetener, even though molasses isn’t technically sweet. When using molasses instead of brown rice syrup, you should cut right down on the proportions, using only half a cup of molasses for a cup of brown rice syrup.
Expect a slightly bitter aftertaste when using it in fresh foods, but in baked goods, the taste will be more similar.
Is Brown Rice Syrup Similar to Maple Syrup?
Brown rice syrup isn’t nearly as nutritious as maple syrup, but the two organic syrups can be used interchangeably. Substitute one cup of brown rice syrup with ¾ cup of maple syrup to match sweetness profiles.
Is Honey Better than Brown Rice Syrup?
Honey is a healthier alternative to brown rice syrup as it contains many minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. You can also get away with using less honey than brown rice syrup when substituting.
My Last Foodie Thoughts
I have since begun to keep a cupboard of different syrups, which gives me a chance to try different flavors.
While I love the taste of brown rice syrup, I also know it’s not the healthiest choice, so I usually end up substituting it for honey or maple syrup, which are easier to source too.