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In need of a honey substitute while you’re rocking a vegan, keto, or low sugar lifestyle?

Sure, honey is delicious and often touted as a “healthier” sub for refined sugar. But in truth, honey is still high in sugar. It’s also an animal byproduct, which means it’s a no-go for vegans.

Thankfully, there are plenty of honey alternatives that can be a better fit.

What can you substitute for honey?

These honey substitutes can work for a variety of diets and recipes:

  1. Raw sugar
  2. Brown sugar
  3. Maple syrup
  4. Molasses
  5. Agave syrup
  6. Corn syrup
  7. Barley malt syrup
  8. Date paste
  9. Golden syrup
  10. Rice malt syrup
  11. Coconut sugar
  12. Stevia
  13. Allulose
  14. Monk fruit sweetener
  15. Erythritol
hand drizzling honey over bowl of oatmealShare on Pinterest
Branko Starcevic/Stocksy United

If you’re not counting carbs or sugar content, here are the best honey substitutes. (Bonus: They’re all naturally vegan.)

1. Raw sugar

Raw sugar doesn’t go through the same bleaching process as refined white sugar. That’s why it has a richer flavor and a caramel color. (BTW, it’s also called turbinado sugar, natural cane sugar, or demerara sugar.)

Pros: Since it’s less processed, raw sugar can contain tiny amounts of minerals like iron and calcium — but it’s really not much.

Cons: Your body digests raw sugar the same way it digests white sugar. So you should prob avoid it if you’re prone to high blood sugar or if you have diabetes. Also, a single teaspoon has 4.59 grams of carbs, so it’s not the best choice for those on low carb diets.

How to swap: 1:1 replacement (For large batches, you may need to add some liquid to offset the moisture from honey.)

2. Brown sugar

Most brown sugar is just a mixture of white sugar and molasses. It has a deeper flavor and a darker color than plain white sugar.

Pros: Brown sugar has slightly more minerals than refined sugar, but not enough to give you any major health perks.

Cons: Eating too much of any type of added sugar, including brown sugar, might increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.

How to swap: 1:1 replacement (For large batches, you may need to add some liquid to offset the moisture from honey.)

3. Maple syrup

Maple syrup comes from (surprise, surprise) maple trees. It has a complex flavor with hints of vanilla, butter, and caramel.

Pros: Maple syrup contains a range of antioxidants and has low levels of minerals such as zinc, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Just be sure you stick to the real thing and not the artificially flavored stuff.

Cons: Real maple syrup can be pretty pricey. Also, it contains fructose. Studies suggest that consuming too much fructose can increase your risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, and weight gain.

How to swap: 1:1 replacement

4. Molasses

This thick, dark syrup is a byproduct of the sugar cane and sugar beet refinement process. It has a sweet, warm, and slightly smoky flavor.

Pros: Molasses contains minerals like selenium, iron, copper, and calcium. It also has more antioxidants than honey, according to a 2009 study.

Cons: While molasses might be better for you than refined sugar, it’s still packed with sucrose. Eating too much might lead to a gnarly sugar crash or give you the trots.

How to swap: 1:1 replacement

5. Agave syrup

Agave syrup (aka agave nectar or maguey syrup) comes from the fluid found inside the agave plant. Amber agave has a light caramel taste, while dark agave has a richer flavor.

Pros: Agave nectar is a high fructose sweetener, so it has a low glycemic index (GI). That means it’s less likely to trigger blood sugar spikes than high glucose sweeteners.

Cons: Agave syrup has little to offer in terms of nutrition. And it’s a good idea to be careful about which one you buy. Stick to high quality products that don’t contain added sugars or harsh preservatives.

How to swap: 1:1 replacement

6. Corn syrup

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) gets a bad rap. And TBH, fair enough. But there’s a reason why this sweet stuff is so popular.

Pros: Corn syrup is very cheap and versatile. It dissolves into liquids well and doesn’t crystallize like a lot of other sweeteners do. This means it ideal for making candy or sweet sauces.

Cons: Corn syrup offers no essential nutrients and won’t make you feel full. According to a 2011 study, it can also trigger the production of triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

How to swap: 1:1 replacement with light corn syrup; if using dark corn syrup, use 1/2 teaspoon for each teaspoon of honey

7. Barley malt syrup

Barley malt syrup is made by malting barley grains — a multistep process that involves slowly heating the sprouts to make a concentrated syrup. It has a distinct, erm, malty flavor and isn’t as sweet as honey.

Pros: It has some complex carbs and a bit of protein (but not much).

Cons: It’s not gluten-free.

How to swap: 1:1 replacement

8. Date paste

Date paste is a creamy, dreamy blend of dates, the sugary stone fruit that grows on date palm trees. It has a cinnamon, toffee, and butterscotch vibe.

Pros: Date paste is full of fiber and is a decent source of antioxidants such as carotenoids and phenolics. Also, it’s 10/10 easy to make at home. All you need to do is simmer dates until tender and then give them a quick blitz in the blender.

Cons: Date paste is just a bunch of dates blended into a tasty spread. Since a single date has about 6 grams of carbs and 5 grams of sugar, it’s easy to eat a lot of carbs and sugar via date paste.

How to swap: 2/3 cup of date paste for every 1/2 cup of honey, or a 1:1 ratio if you like it sweet

9. Golden syrup

Golden syrup is a thick syrup made from sugar, citric acid, and water. It has a mild buttery flavor and a distinct amber color.

Pros: Golden syrup’s warm flavor makes it a great addition to baked goods, yogurt parfaits, and oatmeal. It’s also less likely to crystallize than other syrups.

Cons: It offers no real nutritional value and has a slightly lower glycemic index (GI) compared to sugar.

How to swap: 1:1 replacement

10. Rice malt syrup

Rice malt syrup (aka brown rice syrup) is made by breaking down starches and turning them into smaller sugars that are easier to digest. It has a sweet, slightly nutty flavor.

Pros: Brown rice syrup is super sweet, so a little bit goes a long way. It’s pretty easy to find in most grocery stores that carry vegan-friendly foods.

Cons: Brown rice syrup will probably spike your blood sugar since it isn’t low carb and is high in sugar. It may contain arsenic and can be pricey too.

How to swap: 1:1 replacement (but it’s better in small amounts since it’s so sweet)

11. Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is made from coconut palm sap, the sweet liquid found inside a coconut plant 🥥.

Pros: Coconut sugar retains some of the nutrients found in the coconut palm, including minerals like calcium, potassium, zinc, and iron.

Cons: It’s packed with fructose and isn’t that different from regular sugar in terms of energy. Also, it can be a bit expensive.

How to swap: 1:1 replacement (For large batches, you may need to add some liquid to offset the moisture from honey.)

A single tablespoon of honey has 17.3 grams of carbs. That’s bad news if you’re kicking it keto. On the ketogenic diet, you should aim to eat 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day.

You may be able to find keto-friendly honey or maple syrup products, but some are made with artificial flavors that leave a funky taste in your mouth. You might be better off with these low carb honey alternatives.

12. Stevia

Stevia is made from the leaves of the stevia plant. The leaves are dried and the concentrated extract is filtered and turned into a liquid or powder. To swap for honey, liquid would be the easier option.

Pros: Stevia is prob the most popular zero-calorie nonnutritive sweetener on the market. It’s also a lot sweeter than sugar, so you only need a little to curb your sweet tooth.

Cons: Studies have shown that stevia has no significant effect on blood sugar. But the powdered kind can contain sugar alcohols, which may trigger digestive issues like bloating, cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

How to swap: 1/3 teaspoon of liquid stevia for 1/4 cup of honey (But you may want less since it’s so sweet.)

13. Allulose

Allulose is a low calorie sweetener that’s derived from fruits such as figs and raisins. It sorta tastes like a less sweet table sugar.

Pros: Allulose doesn’t have any impact on your blood sugar or insulin levels. This makes it a great honey alternative for people who have diabetes or are on a low carb diet.

Cons: Research suggests that eating a lot of allulose might give you an upset stomach. Some people have reported bloating, diarrhea, and gas.

How to swap: 1 1/3 cups of allulose for 3/4 cup of honey

14. Monk fruit sweetener

Monk fruit is a small, round fruit from Southeast Asia. It contains an antioxidant called mogroside V, which is more than 300 times sweeter than sucrose.

Pros: Monk fruit sweetener has zero calories and won’t raise your blood sugar. Also, test-tube studies suggest that mongrosides — the compounds that give monk fruit its sweetness — can inhibit cancer cell growth. But we def need more research in humans to show this is legit.

Cons: Not everyone digs the flavor of monk fruit. Also, there haven’t been enough studies to say whether it has any potential side effects in humans.

How to swap: 1 teaspoon of monk fruit liquid for 3/4 cup of honey

15. Erythritol

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that’s found naturally in some fruits and vegetables. It can also be produced by fermenting a simple sugar called dextrose, which is usually derived from corn.

Pros: Erythritol is non-glycemic and very low in calories. There’s also a chance it’s good for your teeth. A 2016 study found that it can slow oral bacteria growth, which could reduce the risk of cavities 😁.

Cons: Since your body can’t fully digest it, erythritol might cause digestive symptoms like gas, cramping, or diarrhea.

How to swap: 1 1/3 cups of erythritol for 3/4 cup of honey (But FYI: Using more than 1/2 cup of erythritol may make baked goods super dry.)

So, what’s best for baking?

Bakers, rejoice! Any of the above honey alternatives can work in cakes, breads, and cookies. But if you’re looking for an easy swap, these are generally a 1:1 replacement and offer a similar sweetness:

  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • agave syrup
  • corn syrup
  • golden syrup
  • rice malt syrup

Not all honey substitutes will be a good fit for your diet. Here’s a chart to help you pick the best substitute for your lifestyle.

VeganLow carbKetoDiabetes-friendlyGluten-freeWhole30Paleo
Raw sugar🍯🍯
Brown sugar🍯🍯
Maple syrup🍯🍯🍯
Molasses🍯🍯🍯
Agave syrup🍯🍯
Corn syrup🍯🍯
Barley malt syrup 🍯
Date paste🍯🍯🍯🍯
Golden syrup🍯🍯
Rice malt syrup🍯
Coconut sugar🍯🍯🍯
Stevia🍯🍯🍯🍯🍯🍯
Allulose🍯🍯🍯🍯🍯
Monk fruit sweetener🍯🍯🍯🍯🍯🍯
Erythritol🍯🍯🍯🍯🍯 🍯

Honey is a natural sweet syrup that has some solid health perks, but it’s def not for everyone. It’s very high in sugar and isn’t vegan-friendly.

These 15 honey substitutes are great options for a variety of dietary needs. Just be sure to choose high quality products that don’t contain artificial flavorings or weird chemicals.