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Best substitute for rice syrup | Top 9 replacement sweeteners

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  June 24, 2022

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If you’re looking for a healthy, natural sweetener to use in your recipes, you may be wondering if there is a good substitute for rice syrup, which is also labeled as brown rice syrup

Rice syrup is a popular liquid sweetener because it is made from whole grains and has a mild flavor.

However, rice syrup can be difficult to find and expensive. It’s very popular in Asian cuisine, but not as widely available in other parts of the world.

Best substitute for rice syrup | Top 9 replacement sweeteners

There are several substitutes for rice syrup that you can use in your recipes. You may already have some of these ingredients in your pantry!

Corn syrup and maple syrup are the top two substitutes for rice syrup because they have a similar viscous texture, lighter color, and a similar sweet flavor.

Keep reading to find out about all the best rice syrup substitutes you can buy when you just don’t have it on hand.

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What to look for in a rice syrup substitute

Brown rice syrup is a thick syrup, that looks, feels, and tastes a lot like maple syrup. It is made from brown rice that has been fermented and then distilled.

It’s part of a group of liquid sweeteners that also includes honey, molasses, and corn syrup.

The final product is about 50% maltose, 25% glucose, and 25% maltotriose. Essentially, rice malt syrup is pretty much just glucose, but it’s a popular sweetener.

Brown rice syrup

It’s a better alternative to sugar because it has a lower glycemic index, meaning it won’t cause as many spikes in blood sugar levels.

It’s also vegan and gluten-free, which makes it a great choice for people with these dietary restrictions.

In Asian cuisine, brown rice syrup is used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. It’s often used as a glaze for meats or as a sweetener in desserts or drinks like tea and coffee.

Brown rice syrup gives food color and encourages the Maillard reaction (browning of food).

Despite the fact that brown rice syrup isn’t particularly dark-colored when it’s baked or grilled, the sugar caramelizes and makes the meal darker (golden brown).

Due to its stickiness, the syrup also serves as a binding agent. This is crucial when creating glazes that should adhere to food rather than run off of it.

It’s the perfect ingredient for glazes due to its already thick consistency. You can use it as a marinade and glaze for Asian bbq.

When shopping for a substitute, you’ll want to find something that has a similar consistency, color, and flavor.

Consistency

Rice syrup is a thick syrup, so you’ll want to look for something that is just as viscous.

Color

Rice syrup is a brown color, so you’ll want to find a substitute that is also brown.

Color might only be important if you’re using it as a topping for foods like pancakes where you want it to look similar.

Also read: Best spatula for pancakes | Top 5 for turning & flipping like a pro

Flavor

Rice syrup is sweet but fairly neutral in flavor, so you’ll want to find a substitute that is also fairly neutral.

Compared to honey or maple syrup, brown rice syrup is less sweet and instead has a slightly nutty taste. The taste reminds me of butterscotch candies.

Now that you know what to look for, here are the best substitutes for rice syrup.

Best substitutes for brown rice syrup

There are plenty of brown rice syrup substitutes you can use and I’m listing them all here.

Some are more suitable for some recipes than others, so be sure to choose the one that will work best for your dish.

Corn syrup: best substitute for rice syrup overall & best for baking

Corn syrup is the most common substitute for rice syrup because it has a similar consistency, color, and flavor.

It’s the best brown rice syrup because it’s about the same sweetness but it’s much lighter in color—almost translucent.

It can make meals come together, add sweetness and flavor, and brown food well.

Corn syrup- best substitute for rice syrup overall & best for baking

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Corn syrup is made from corn starch that has been processed to produce glucose. It’s often used in candy making because it doesn’t crystallize as easily as sugar.

It’s also fairly neutral in flavor, so it won’t alter the taste of your dish too much.

Some people claim that corn syrup gives their food a bit of a grainy flavor but it’s nothing strong.

The only downside is that corn syrup is also high in sugar and calories, so it’s not the healthiest choice.

There’s also dark corn syrup, which is a bit less processed and has a molasses-like flavor. It’s not as common but it can be used as a brown rice syrup substitute.

People also like to use light corn syrup as a rice syrup substitute because it’s less processed and has a bit of a different flavor.

When substituting brown rice syrup with corn syrup, you need to use a ratio of 1:1.

Therefore, you don’t need to adjust your dry or wet ingredients to get the exact same results as if you were using rice syrup.

Since it’s a 1:1 substitute, corn syrup is the best for baking because you don’t have to re-calculate the amount of each of the ingredients in your recipe.

Maple syrup: best for pancakes & meat glazes

Maple syrup is another great substitute for brown rice syrup because it has a similar consistency, color, and flavor.

It’s made from the sap of maple trees and has a unique flavor that is slightly sweeter than brown rice syrup.

It’s also a bit thinner than brown rice syrup, so you might need to use less of it.

Maple syrup as a good substitute for rice syrup

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Maple syrup works very well as a topping for pancakes and as a meat glaze because it caramelizes and tastes very delicious.

You probably already use it as a pancake syrup so you might have it in the pantry.

Even though rice syrup and corn syrup are less expensive than maple syrup, if you have some on hand and are in a need, it will work amazingly well and will even boost the flavors.

While it will taste slightly sweeter than corn syrup or rice syrup, pure maple syrup is dark in color, much like rice syrup, and has a special flavor that can be infused into the food without really altering the taste.

If you only need to add sweetness to your recipe, you only need to use 3/4 cup of maple syrup for every 1 cup of rice syrup because it is typically sweeter and thinner.

This might be more challenging for recipes, particularly baked items, that categorically use rice syrup to add moisture.

Depending on the product, you can simply omit 1/4 cup of the flour and replace it with the same quantity of maple syrup as rice syrup to achieve the desired final texture.

This way you will prevent the lack of moisture from resulting in a dry product.

You could simply just add the maple syrup in equal proportions, but you run the danger of getting a product that is both too sweet and too moist so I always recommend using a bit less maple syrup.

The best part is that maple syrup is a natural sweetener and contains antioxidants, so it’s a healthier choice.

Honey: best sweetener for tea and coffee

Honey is another popular substitute for brown rice syrup because it has a similar consistency, color, and flavor.

Honey is made by bees from the nectar of flowers and has a unique sweetness that is different from brown rice syrup.

Honey is a great substitute for rice syrup

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The honey is sweeter than the rice syrup so it works well as a natural sweetener in your tea and coffee.

Honey is also used for browning. It is one of the best syrups for browning foods and will give your dish a ton of color.

Additionally, it has a consistency that is very similar to that of corn syrup and rice syrup.

The color is a bit darker but it won’t really change your recipe.

I typically prefer to use less honey when substituting rice syrup due to its sweetness; 3/4 cup of honey should be used for every 1 cup of rice syrup.

This ratio ensures you don’t oversweeten your food.

Fortunately, honey has a very thick viscosity, so unlike the runnier maple syrup, there won’t be much of an impact on the moisture and final texture of the product.

However, when used in recipes, honey can have a fairly neutral flavor and won’t necessarily contribute its own distinctive flavor as rice syrup does.

Simple syrup: best for cocktails and drinks

Simple syrup is a great substitute for rice syrup because it has the same consistency and can be used in cocktails and drinks to add sweetness. It mixes well with alcohol.

Simple syrup is made by boiling water and sugar together and then cooling it down.

It’s a popular sweetener in cocktails and mixed drinks because it dissolves easily.

Essentially, simple syrup is nothing more than melted sugar or a solution of sugar and water. It offers a ton of intense sweetness, which makes it excellent as a replacement.

Sugar mixed with water makes simple syrup as a replacement for rice syrup

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The final product is very syrupy and has a clear color. It’s also very sweet so you don’t need to use as much. However, it lacks the slightly nutty flavor of rice syrup.

Simple syrups do, in fact, turn dark (and extremely dark) when cooked over direct heat, but only direct heat causes them to brown attractively in other ways.

If not cooked long enough, simple syrup doesn’t brown and that’s why some chefs avoid it.

You can use simple syrup in a 1:1 ratio when substituting for rice syrup.

You can also use simple syrup in other recipes but it’s not very nutritious and won’t add too much new flavor to your dish.

Molasses: best for savory dishes

Molasses, or blackstrap molasses, is a thick, dark brown syrup that’s made during the sugar refining process.

Molasses is a very flavorful sugar syrup with a nearly bitter taste.

All savory dishes with a salty flavor go incredibly well with it because the sweetness balances out the saltiness.

Blackstrap molasses as a substitute for rice syrup

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Molasses is also used in baking because it gives baked goods a deep, rich flavor.

Any recipe benefits from the depth and superb binding properties of molasses. But as a rice syrup substitute, molasses is better for savory dishes.

Molasses is also very sticky so it can be difficult to work with.

The substitution ratio is 0.5:1 when using molasses as a rice syrup substitute.

This means less molasses should be used, around 1/2 cup molasses for every 1 cup of rice syrup.

This is solely due to its powerful flavor which is more intense than rice syrup.

Barley malt syrup

With a strong flavor, similar to molasses, barley malt syrup is a thick, dark brown liquid made from barley.

It has a distinct flavor that can be used to enhance the flavor of baked goods, including bread, cookies, and cakes. It’s actually very sweet but can get slightly bitter.

Barley malt syrup as a substitute for rice syrup

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The syrup is made by germinating barley grains and then drying them. The dried barley is then ground into a powder and mixed with water to create a malt syrup.

The syrup is then boiled and strained to remove any impurities.

Barley malt syrup has a very thick consistency, similar to molasses, and a deep brown color.

It’s stronger and thicker than brown rice syrup so when substituting, use 1/2 cup of barley malt syrup for every 1 cup of rice syrup.

The flavor is very intense so a little goes a long way. It’s also a bit bitter so it’s not the best choice for desserts or overly sweet recipes.

It works great in bagels though and Asian dishes like Peking duck.

Date syrup

Date syrup is the syrup you didn’t even know you needed. It’s also called date nectar and is made from, you guessed it, dates!

Date syrup is a healthy alternative to refined sugar and has a similar consistency to molasses.

But it’s a good brown rice syrup substitute because it’s not as thick and has a lighter flavor.

Date syrup is made by boiling water and dates together until they form a thick syrup. Thus it’s a plant-based sweetener.

The texture is sometimes thicker like caramel syrup and sometimes quite thin, depending on the manufacturer.

Date syrup is a good substitute for rice syrup

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When substituting, use 1/2 cup of date syrup for every 1 cup of rice syrup.

If you want to ensure the dish isn’t overly sweet, combine only three tablespoons of date syrup for every one cup of rice syrup.

Date syrup is a great alternative for those who are looking for a healthier option and it has a delicious caramel-like flavor.

Date syrup works wonderfully in baked goods, smoothies, and even savory dishes. It’s a delicious way to add sweetness and flavor to any recipe!

Agave syrup

If you want a sweeter brown rice syrup substitute, agave syrup is a great choice. Agave syrup comes from the agave plant and has a light, honey-like flavor.

Sometimes it’s labeled as agave nectar. It’s a popular choice for those who are looking for a healthier alternative to refined sugar.

Agave syrup as a substitute for ruce syrup

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The agave plant is native to Mexico and has been used for centuries as a sweetener.

The syrup is made by extracting the sap from the plant and then boiling it down to create a thick syrup.

The final product is a clear or light amber color with a sweet, honey-like flavor.

When substituting, use 1/2 cup of agave syrup for every 1 cup of rice syrup. This will ensure the dish is sweet enough but not overly so.

The dish will lack the nutty and grainy taste of the brown rice syrup but agave nectar has a pleasant taste.

Liquid stevia

For a completely different flavor, liquid stevia is a great alternative to rice syrup.

Stevia is a plant that’s native to South America taht has been used as a sweetener for centuries as it’s naturally sweet.

Liquid stevia as an alternative for rice syrup

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The leaves of the stevia plant are dried and then ground into a powder. This powder is then combined with water to create a syrup.

The final product is a clear or light amber color with a sweet, honey-like flavor.

Beware though: liquid stevia is extremely sweet and concentrated. Therefore you only need 1 drop of stevia liquid for every cup of brown rice syrup.

It’s not one of the best substitutes for brown rice syrup out there but it works if you don’t mind the extremely sweet flavor.

FAQs

Can I use brown sugar as a substitute for brown rice syrup?

The general answer is no. The two have very different flavors and textures.

Brown sugar is made from molasses and brown rice syrup is, well, made from brown rice. Also, brown sugar is granulated while brown rice syrup is a liquid.

So unless a recipe specifically calls for it, I wouldn’t recommend substituting one for the other.

To prevent changing the dessert’s consistency, resist the urge to replace brown sugar and instead stick to liquid sweeteners.

Because brown rice syrup is viscous—that is, thick and sticky—it needs to be replaced with something that can perform just as well. It’s always best to replace a liquid sweetener with another liquid.

What is a Korean rice syrup substitute?

A lot of Korean recipes call for rice syrup, also known as sora or gukhwa.

You can use any of the rice syrup substitutes on this list.

Again, I recommend corn syrup and maple syrup if you want to grill Korean BBQ and use it as a glaze or marinade.

Just know that some substitutes are a lot sweeter than brown rice syrup and some have a different grainy flavor.

What can you use in granola bars instead of brown rice syrup?

There are a few good substitutes that work well in granola bars. You can use honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup.

Can you make brown rice syrup at home?

Yes, brown rice syrup is easy to make at home. All you need is brown rice and water.

Simply cook the brown rice in water until it breaks down and forms a sticky paste. Then, add more water and simmer for 30 minutes.

After that, strain the mixture, and voila! You’ve got brown rice syrup. It’s a good way to make your own if you don’t want to use a substitute product.

Here is a video explaining the process for making Korean style brown rice syrup in detail:

Takeaway

When it comes to brown rice syrup substitutes, it’s important to choose one that will complement the recipe.

The overall best substitute that will work in most brown rice syrup recipes is corn syrup. It’s cheap, easy to find, and has a similar consistency.

Molasses is also a good choice but it has a very strong flavor so use it sparingly.

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, date syrup or agave syrup are great choices.

It’s best to look for liquid sweeteners with a thick consistency, sweet flavor, and light color. These substitutes will work best in brown rice syrup recipes.

Also find out what are the best substitutes for coconut sugar

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.