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Whether vegan or vegetarian, you’ve probably come across brown rice syrup as a plant-based alternative to other sweeteners. It’s often used in vegan and health-food bakes and is eaten regularly in Asian cuisine. What happens if you’re busy with a recipe but have no brown rice syrup? What are the best substitutes for brown rice syrup?
The best substitutes for brown rice syrup are other liquid sweeteners, like corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, barley malt syrup, molasses, golden syrup, date syrup, or pomegranate molasses. You can also use brown sugar. Liquid stevia and fruit puree are the best substitutes for people with diabetes.
Brown rice syrup is a sweetener used in beverages, cooking, and baking and is nothing like the brown rice it’s made from. It’s very versatile, and because it’s not as sweet as other liquid sweeteners, you can easily substitute brown rice syrup. Let’s look at some of these substitutes.
Table of Contents
- The Best Substitutes for Brown Rice Syrup
- What Is Brown Rice Syrup?
- Best Overall Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Corn Syrup
- Best Natural Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Honey
- Best Vegan Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Maple Syrup
- Baking Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Barley Malt Syrup
- Best Savory Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Molasses
- Sweetest Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Golden Syrup
- Best All-Purpose Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Date Syrup
- Healthiest Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Fruit Puree
- Easiest Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Brown Sugar
- Best Diabetic Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Stevia
- Exotic Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Pomegranate Molasses
The Best Substitutes for Brown Rice Syrup
To determine the best substitutes for brown rice syrup, it’s essential to understand this unusual sweetener and what it is used for.
What Is Brown Rice Syrup?
Brown rice syrup, also called rice syrup and rice malt syrup, is a sweetener made from brown rice. It is gluten-free (like all sugar), vegan, and often organic, so you will find it used in “healthy” products like granola bars and plant milk.
The flavor of brown rice syrup is far less sweet than regular refined sugar or even honey, with nutty butterscotch tones. It has a dark brown color and a very thick, sticky, yet grainy texture.
People use brown rice syrup to make candy, baked goods, marinades, and sauces for home cooking. In cooking and baking, brown rice syrup has the following functions:
- to add sweetness to bakes, candies, and glazes, as well as a sweet note in savory foods
- to add flavor to dishes, as brown rice syrup has a unique nutty, butterscotch taste
- to add color to cooked food, especially to help it brown and become appetizing as the syrup caramelizes
- to bind other ingredients, for instance, getting a glaze to stick.
Note that brown rice syrup is not a health product as such, nor particularly suitable for diabetics – it contains as much glucose as many other sweeteners, has more calories per teaspoon than regular sugar, and an even higher glycemic index.
Best Overall Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Corn Syrup
- Best for: baked goods, candy, sauces, glazes
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = 1 cup corn syrup
Corn syrup is the ideal substitute for brown rice syrup because it is also a glucose syrup with a similar consistency, taste, and function in cooking. It’s also much cheaper and more readily available in the United States than brown rice syrup, added benefits.
You can use corn syrup in equal quantities whenever you use brown rice syrup without any recipe adjustments. It’s perfect for making candy as it can withstand very high temperatures.
Best Natural Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Honey
- Best for: baked goods, sauces, marinades, dressings, toppings, smoothies, granola
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = ¾ cup honey
Another simple substitute for brown rice syrup that you’ll probably have in your pantry is honey, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and all-natural. In addition, honey has a low glycemic index and is low in calories.
As a substitute for brown rice syrup, honey is an excellent choice – it is helpful if you want to brown food and add flavor. It has the same consistency as brown rice syrup, so it won’t influence the texture of your food.
However, honey is much sweeter than brown rice syrup, so you will need to use less of it to get the same effect – only ¾ cup to one cup of rice syrup. Using less honey still won’t influence your dish’s consistency as honey keeps your food moist.
Best Vegan Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Maple Syrup
- Best for: marinades, sauces, toppings, glazes
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = ¾ cup maple syrup
If you’re using brown rice syrup because you’re vegan and want a healthful alternative, organic maple syrup, full of zinc, iron, and manganese, is ideal. (Take care not to use maple-flavored syrup, which is simply flavored sugar or corn syrup.)
Maple syrup has the same gorgeous dark color as rice syrup, with a rich, wholesome flavor. However, maple syrup is sweeter than brown rice syrup, so you’ll need to use less – about ¾ cup to every cup of rice syrup.
Because maple syrup is also far thinner in consistency than rice syrup, it’s best to use this as a substitute in dishes where texture is not a priority, like sauces or toppings. If you’d like to use maple syrup instead of brown rice syrup in baked goods, use ¼ cup less flour – but it’s not ideal as you will never get the perfect texture.
Baking Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Barley Malt Syrup
- Best for: baked goods, marinades, BBQ sauces, glazes
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = ¾ cup barley malt syrup
Barley malt syrup is an excellent substitute for malty flavor, a gorgeous dark, rich syrup.
Barley malt syrup is an ideal substitute for brown rice syrup for savory goods, especially meat, as it browns food beautifully, and its hint of molasses adds a tasty BBQ element. Its maltiness is also delicious in baked items – but it is sweeter than brown rice syrup, so you may want to use less of it.
This flavorful syrup is also perfect in baked goods, the only proviso being that it will darken anything you bake because of its color. However, barley malt syrup is ideal as a flavor and consistency substitute as its thick gooeyness softens when heated.
Use barley malt syrup if you’re making whole-grain bread, cookies, cakes, and bagels – barley malt syrup gives New York bagels their characteristic flavor and texture.
Best Savory Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Molasses
- Best for: marinades, BBQ sauces, glazes, baked goods
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = ½ cup molasses
Molasses (known in the UK as treacle) is a by-product of the sugar refining industry, made from sugar or beets. It’s a thick, dark syrup with a dense texture and a rich iron and magnesium content.
However, molasses is best as a brown rice syrup substitute in savory or hearty dishes. You will taste the molasses, so it needs to be part of a strong flavor profile, like savory sauces, fruit cake, or gingerbread.
Molasses is ideal as a binding agent, will thicken and darken sauces and add chewiness and mouthfeel to any dish.
Because of its strong flavor, use less molasses than brown rice syrup. If you need to make up liquid for baking, use plain corn or sugar syrup.
Sweetest Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Golden Syrup
- Best for: candy, baked goods, sweet sauces, toppings
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = ¾ cup golden syrup
When you want sweetness, the best substitute for brown rice syrup is golden syrup, a thick, caramel-colored syrup made from sugar cane.
Golden syrup is a winner for making candy, gingerbread, fudge, and even granola, with its delightful buttery flavor. It’s a glorious topping for pancakes and waffles and is an essential element of steamed puddings.
Golden syrup is not appropriate for savory dishes. It’s great for substituting in bakes and candy as it has a similar consistency to brown rice syrup. However, it is much sweeter than brown rice syrup, so use only ¾ of the quantity needed.
Best All-Purpose Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Date Syrup
- Best for: dressings, toppings, granola, cocktails, marinades, glazes
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = three tablespoons date syrup
Date syrup, also called silan, date nectar, or date honey, is an ancient Middle Eastern sweetener made from date palm fruit stewed in water and then strained. This delicious syrup comes in various forms, ranging from a light, runny, caramel syrup to a thick, paste-like sludge, all of which are delicious, fruity, and multi-purpose.
The joy of date syrup is that it is all-purpose – use this versatile syrup for just about any recipe where you need a thickener, flavoring, sweetener, or binder, much like brown rice syrup is used in Asia.
Date syrup is highly nutritious, containing fiber, vitamins, potassium, and magnesium. It’s cloyingly sweet, and only three tablespoons have as much flavor as a whole cup of brown rice syrup.
Date syrup can be much thinner than brown rice syrup. Because of this consistency difference, it’s best to use date syrup in dishes where you want flavor and color rather than texture.
Healthiest Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Fruit Puree
- Best for: toppings, granola, baked goods, smoothies
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = 1 cup fruit puree
If you choose brown rice syrup for health purposes, your best substitute is to use unsweetened, natural fruit juice or fruit puree, chockful of vitamins and minerals.
Ideally, puree or juice the fruit yourself to ensure that it has no added sugars, colorants, or artificial flavorings. Use the fruit puree in uncooked dishes for best results, although using apple or banana puree in baked goods is very successful.
Easiest Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Brown Sugar
- Best for: marinades, glazes, toppings, baked goods, granola, beverages
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = ¾ cup brown sugar
Most of us will have some sugar in the pantry, and a good choice, if you haven’t got any liquid sweetener or syrup, is to use brown sugar.
Brown sugar is not the most obvious substitute for brown rice syrup since it’s not a liquid or syrup, but it can play the role of sweetener, flavoring, binder, and browning agent.
The challenge with using brown sugar as a substitute is that its flavor profile and texture are very different from brown rice syrup. However, brown sugar is versatile because it suits most cooking methods (boiling, steaming, frying, baking, etc.) and goes with most other foods. It dissolves and melts quickly, becoming liquid readily.
Brown sugar is sweeter than brown rice syrup, so you need to use less. Add brown sugar to taste in your dish, or use ¾ of the quantity of brown rice syrup.
Best Diabetic Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Stevia
- Best for: toppings, beverages, sauces, dressings
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = 1 drop liquid stevia + 1 cup water
Stevia is a plant-based sweetener, which is ideal for people with diabetes because it contains no carbohydrates or sugar. However, it is surprisingly sweet and has a licorice flavor, so use it with caution as a substitute.
Liquid stevia is a possible substitute for brown rice syrup if all you want is sweetness. Combine liquid stevia with water to imitate the moisture of brown rice syrup. However, take care when replacing brown rice syrup in baked goods as it also has a binding quality, which stevia does not.
Exotic Substitute for Brown Rice Syrup: Pomegranate Molasses
- Best for: dressings, marinades, glazes, toppings
- Substitution ratio: 1 cup brown rice syrup = three tablespoons pomegranate molasses
An unusual yet delicious substitute for brown rice syrup is pomegranate molasses, a popular condiment in the Middle East and the Levant. Made by cooking down pomegranate juice until it is thick and potent, rather like a balsamic reduction, pomegranate molasses sometimes contains lemon juice and sugar.
Pomegranate molasses has an interesting sweet-sour flavor profile, similar dark color and thick texture to brown rice syrup, and is appropriate for savory uses, like marinades, glazes for meats, and salad dressing. However, its flavor is much more potent than brown rice syrup, so you need to use a lot less.
The best substitutes for brown rice syrup are other sweet syrups, such as corn, maple, barley malt, golden, or date syrup. Honey and brown sugar are readily available substitutes, while fruit puree is the healthiest. Use liquid stevia for people with diabetes.