5 Smart Corn Syrup Swaps to Use When You Bake

Whether you're out of the sweetener or simply want to avoid it, try these easy, accessible substitutes.

Corn syrup in glass jar on a wooden board
Photo: nata_vkusidey / GETTY IMAGES

Corn syrup is a common sweetener used in many recipes, including cookies, fudge, glazes, and jams. But sometimes, you might find yourself looking for a corn syrup substitute. Perhaps you're out of the ingredient or simply looking for a less processed option—or maybe you're preparing a recipe for someone with a corn allergy (which is rare, but possible). Luckily, there are plenty of corn syrup substitutes to choose from, each with its own unique flavors and features.

Are the Alternatives Better?

It's important to note that corn syrup substitutes aren't necessarily "healthier" or "better." Whether you're consuming honey, maple syrup, or corn syrup, sugar is sugar—and your body handles all sweeteners the same way, says Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN, and the co-founder of Culina Health. And while alternative options are usually less processed or contain vitamins and antioxidants, the difference is not enough to have a significant impact on your health. With that said, over-consuming any type of sweetener (corn syrup or otherwise) can increase the risk of several health issues, so it's important to approach these corn syrup alternatives like you would any sugar.

Maple Syrup

According to Rissetto, maple syrup is less processed than corn syrup, which make it more desirable depending on your preferences. It can also replace corn syrup at a 1:1 ratio, explains Richard LaMarita, chef-instructor of health-supportive culinary arts at the Institute of Culinary Education. But take note: Corn syrup doesn't add flavor (just sweetness!), whereas maple syrup will add maple flavor and deeper color to whatever you are making, he says.

This may be best for recipes with other warm flavors, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin, and apple, or simple preparations such as quick fruit jams. Just be sure to use real maple syrup for the best flavor—not the artificial kind, which is made from sugar and caramel coloring.


It's possible to create a corn syrup-like liquid by mixing honey with water, says LaMarita. However, cooking honey deteriorates its quality and it strips out its essential enzymes and nutrients. If it's the health benefits of honey you're after, consider using a honey-water mixture for non-baking applications such as glazes or dressings, LaMarita says.

Agave Syrup

Agave syrup is produced by heating the sap of agave plants. According to LaMarita, this corn syrup swap has a sweet, neutral taste, and it can be used as a substitute at a 1:1 ratio. The ingredient also won't color items like maple syrup does. The only catch? Agave syrup production varies greatly, and low-quality versions essentially yield high-fructose corn syrup, says LaMarita. Look for organic raw agave syrup which is produced with strict temperature controls, yielding a higher quality agave sweetener.

Brown Rice Syrup

"Brown rice syrup is [made of] barley and rice that's soaked, mixed with water, fermented, and boiled down to a syrup," says LaMarita. It has a thick, gummy texture and extra-sweet flavor. For this reason, LaMarita advises against using it as a corn syrup substitute for baking.

However, "it can be mixed with water and used as a glaze, or better yet, in savory cooking," says LaMarita. For example, you can use a bit of brown rice syrup-water mixture to sweeten up salad dressing or sauce, he explains.


Known for its role in iconic goods like gingerbread cookies, molasses has a strong flavor and thick texture, says LaMarita. It can also burn quickly, making it unsuitable for everyday baking. If you want to use it as a corn syrup substitute, consider reaching for it when making glazes or sauces rather than in baked goods.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles