Using honey as a sugar substitute has become a popular topic over the past several years. Why? The benefits are many and the downfalls are few. However, there are tips and tricks to its successful use that you should know. That’s why I created this ultimate guide so you can use honey as a sugar substitute with confidence!
Honey is a relevant topic on my blog since I’ve been a beekeeper for about three years now. If you’re interested in bees, I’ll be chatting about it in future blog posts, but please be warned. Beekeeping is MUCH more intense than say, taking care of the average dog. Hand over heart, it’s a wonderful hobby but it is WORK. That being said, I harvested and extracted 80 pounds of honey this year, enough for me to use in lots of cooking and baking recipes, with plenty left to spare as well!
Honey has been loved worldwide, and practically since the beginning of time. And studying honeybees is truly fascinating.
What’s So Bad About Sugar?
Sugar gets a bad rap, and it’s not so hard to understand why. Sugar is found naturally in so many fruits and vegetables, yet we as Americans continue to add excess amounts in processed foods that are readily available to purchase. Think sweetened cereals, baked goods, and sodas. No wonder the average American today eats almost 3 pounds of sugar a week. This is not a typo!
Unfortunately, excessive sugar in your diet can lead to a host of health issues including heart disease and diabetes. Of course, deleting soft drinks, fruit drinks, sport, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee drinks from your diet are all smart choices. The good news is that even though it may be hard to do this, after some time, you won’t crave all that sugar anyway.
It’s also important not to be swayed by “healthier” sugar substitutes. For example, I quit drinking diet soda over 20 years ago and never looked back. Your body absorbs all the fake sugar, which is toxic stuff, just like regular sugar, so even though you may think you’re doing yourself a favor, you most certainly aren’t. In addition, on the rare occasion that I order a coffee drink instead of making my own, I always cut the flavor pumps in half. Every bit helps. Just one can of regular soda has the equivalent of an entire day’s worth of sugar!
The Health Benefits of Honey
Local honey, not to be confused with mass-marketed honey, is not just an excellent sugar substitute, it’s also anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and is antibacterial to boot. The antioxidants in honey may help protect against metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Raw, unpasteurized honey also contains trace amounts of local pollen, which may inhibit allergic reactions. It’s also a great natural throat and cough soother and can even promote the healing of wounds and minor burns. Did I mention that honey never expires? It can sit on your kitchen shelves indefinitely, although mine never does!
The Cons of Honey
- Not everyone loves honey’s earthy taste. If you happen to agree, I recommend trying local honey. Most mass-market honey is clover honey that’s also processed.
- Honey is sweeter than sugar, so although there are health benefits to using it, I wouldn’t call it a health food. You should still use it in moderation overall. I treat myself to a drizzle of honey a few times a week on my peanut butter toast instead of jelly or jam. Yum!
- Honey is undeniably sticky. I can attest to that since I harvested 80 pounds worth of it this summer! Even little drops of it can make a mess. However, honey is water soluble, so it cleans up quickly.
- Honey should never be given to infants due to botulism.
Using Honey as a Sugar Substitute
Honey is a great substitute for sugar in many cases. For example, to sweeten tea or coffee. I also love to use it in place of sugar when I make homemade salad dressing, like the one I used in my Christmas Salad recipe.
It’s also wonderful in homemade jams. One of the things I love about honey is that every jar tastes a little different due to the flowers and plants the bees visited to make nature’s liquid gold.
Some chefs say that replacing a cup of sugar with a cup of honey is fine. However, I’ve found that reducing the amount of honey yields better results. That’s because honey is actually sweeter than sugar, and it’s also a liquid.
Honey Substitution Baking Guidelines
- When baking with honey instead of sugar, reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees. Honey browns more quickly in the oven
- Use less sugar than honey to balance out the sweetness and to keep the flavor of your baked goods balanced. For every 1 cup of white granulated sugar, use 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup of honey, depending on your sweetness preference.
- Honey is 20% water, so you also need to reduce the amount of liquids in your recipe. For every cup of honey, subtract 1/4 cup of other liquids from the recipe.
- Plan to add baking soda to your recipe. Honey is naturally acidic and the baking soda allows your baked goods to rise properly. Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of honey used.
- Don’t ever microwave honey. It drastically changes its taste and texture. If your honey crystallizes, place the glass jar on a warm stovetop of in a pan of warm water to help the sugar content dissolve. If your honey container is plastic, place it in a bowl of very warm water (not boiling since you don’t want your plastic to melt) and stir it occasionally. You may have to do this several times.
I hope these tips on honey usage give you the confidence to give it a try in a recipe soon.