Brown rice syrup is a sweetener made from whole grain rice, produced and sold in the United States, Asia, and Europe. It tastes slightly less sweet than white refined sugar and has a nutty flavor.
It should be easy enough to find, but if you can’t find it or if you want to use something else, here are the best brown rice syrup substitutes.
The best substitutes for brown rice syrup
The production of brown rice syrup consists of steeping cooked rice with enzymes that break down starches and turn them into smaller sugars. The process continues with the straining of the liquid and the filtration of the impurities until the right consistency is reached.
The enzymes used in this process are supplied by adding sprouted barley grains to the rice (this qualifies as the more traditional method) or by adding purified enzymes (this is the more modern method).
The result is a thick syrup, often used as a substitute for more fructose-high syrups in commercial food production. Brown rice syrup can also be used as a tabletop sweetener, used both for baked goods or for sweetening tea or coffee.
Brown rice syrup is an amazing sweetener to use in baking because it makes food crispier and gives it a golden brown baked look. It can also be used as a topping for breakfast and as a sweetener for drinks.
Keep in mind that, although brown rice is very nutritious and its syrup may have a few minerals, brown rice syrup contains very few nutrients and is very high in sugar. It has a shelf life of a year and, when opened, should be stored in a dry place, away from direct sunlight.
The first rice syrup substitute you might think of is honey: it definitely has the right consistency to substitute any syrup, and it’s natural and very rich in nutrients. It contains many different minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, riboflavin, and zinc. It also contains different vitamins (in particular vitamin B and C) and it’s also rich in antioxidants.
Honey was the world’s main sweetener until the sixteenth century when sugar became available in the majority of the world.
Honey is made using the nectar of flowering plants and is collected from wild bee colonies or domesticated beehives. Honey’s taste, texture, and color vary depending on its floral source: honey can be made from specific types of flower nectars or can be a blend of a few different types.
If you want to use honey as a brown rice syrup replacement, you should use ¾ cup of honey in place of a cup of brown rice syrup, because honey is sweeter than rice syrup.
Be careful when choosing a particular kind of honey: if you want to substitute rice syrup as a sweetener, you should choose something sweet like acacia honey, sunflower honey, or a blend of different sweeter kinds of honey.
Agave syrup, also known as agave nectar, is a sweetener that comes from several species of the agave plant, native to arid regions of the Americas.
The production of agave syrup starts from the extraction of the juice from the core of the plant. The juice is then filtered and heated to break its components into simple sugars. The result is a syrup with a slightly thinner consistency than honey. It has different colors, from light to dark brown, depending on the specifics of the process.
The differences in color mean that there’s a difference in taste too: light agave syrup is milder and neutral, amber agave nectar has a medium intensity, and dark agave syrup has a strong caramel flavor.
Agave nectar is sweeter than sugar and is often utilized as an alternative to refined sugar and honey. It can be used as a sweetener for drinks (especially for cold drinks because it dissolves quickly) or as a topping for breakfast.
Agave syrup can be a good rice syrup substitute: you can use ½ cup of agave to substitute a cup of brown rice syrup since agave nectar is sweeter.
3. Date syrup
There are a lot of different rice syrup substitutes, but one of the best is definitely date syrup.
Just like honey date syrup is one of the oldest sweeteners available today, but it has become widely available only recently. Date syrup is made from the date palm fruit: the process consists of heating dates in water, blending them, and filtering the mixture through a filter to strain the insoluble parts.
When the water evaporates, you’re left with sweet nectar that contains minerals and vitamins: it contains potassium, magnesium, calcium, fibers, and a whole lot of antioxidants.
To substitute brown rice syrup with date syrup you can use two or three tablespoons of date syrup for every cup of rice syrup, depending on your recipe and how much sweetness you want to achieve.
4. Maple syrup
Another good substitute for brown rice syrup is maple syrup, a well-known sweetener made from the sap of sweet maple trees.
The liquid comes out of the maple trees and it’s then boiled to get rid of impurities and water content. The result is a thick syrup that varies in density and translucency based on the different tree varieties. This syrup is generally low in nutrients, but it has high levels of manganese and riboflavin.
Like honey and agave, maple syrup is also sweeter than brown rice syrup: when substituting, ¾ cup of maple syrup is equal to 1 cup of rice syrup.
Another alternative to brown rice syrup is molasses, a dark and thick syrup by-product made during sugar production in the sugarcane industry. Molasses is widely known in the United States and the Caribbean, less so in the rest of the world until recently.
Like honey and date syrup, molasses is one of the oldest known sweeteners. Molasses is rich in minerals and has high calcium, magnesium, and iron content.
There are different molasses types, but the two best brown rice syrup substitutes are light molasses (with the highest sugar content and the less thick consistency) and dark molasses (less sweet and with a thicker consistency.)
Choose the best kind of molasses, based on your culinary needs and the use you have for it. You can substitute 1 cup of brown rice syrup with ½ cup of molasses.
Another alternative to brown rice syrup is stevia, a sweetener that comes from the leaves of a perennial plant native to Brazil and Paraguay. Stevia has been used as a sweetener for a long time but has become widely known only recently.
Stevia is generally known as a zero-calorie and zero-carb substitute for refined sugar or other sweeteners, but keep in mind that stevia is much sweeter than sugar. If you want to use it as a brown rice syrup substitute, use it only in spare amounts, both for the added sweetness and the slight aftertaste of licorice that stevia has.
It can be a good substitute for sweetening drinks or for cooking, as long as the aftertaste doesn’t become a problem.
7. Corn syrup
Among all the different substitutes for brown rice sugar syrup, corn syrup is one of the best choices if you’re looking for something that has the same use in cooking and the same effects on baked goods.
Corn syrup is made from the starch of corn and is very high in fructose. It has a thinner consistency than brown rice syrup but has the same amount of sweetness. The two most known corn syrup products are light and dark.
Light corn syrup is seasoned with vanilla, tastes sweeter, and looks clearer. Dark corn syrup is made of a combination of corn syrup and molasses and as a result, has a darker color and tastes of caramel.
Since brown rice syrup and corn syrup have the same qualities, you can substitute the first with an equal amount of the second. Choose the corn syrup type that better suits your culinary needs or your taste.
8. Glucose syrup
Another good brown rice syrup alternative is glucose syrup, primarily used in commercial foods as a sweetener and a thickener agent.
Glucose syrup can be made of different ingredients: starch (in this case it’s called corn syrup), wheat, potatoes, or even rice. Glucose syrup is a good rice syrup substitute because it has the same characteristics as corn syrup.
Just like corn syrup, when substituting brown rice syrup with glucose syrup, you can use an equal amount.
9. Barley malt syrup
Barley malt syrup can also be a good brown rice syrup alternative. Malt syrup has a dark brown color, similar to molasses, it has a very thick consistency and a strong distinctive flavor.
Barley malt syrup is less sweet than sugar but a lot sweeter than brown rice syrup, so it’s better to use it as a substitute when cooking, especially if you want to achieve a very distinctive malt flavor. Keep in mind the thicker consistency and the color, because it might change the appearance of your dish.
You can use ¾ cup of barley malt syrup for 1 cup of rice syrup.
10. Brown sugar
If you’re looking for brown rice syrup alternatives to use as table sweeteners, one of the best and most obvious solutions is brown sugar.
Brown sugar is made of unrefined or partially unrefined sugar, combined with molasses, which gives it the characteristic color and the particular flavor. It’s easy to find, because it’s produced and sold almost everywhere, and it can be used as a sweetener on almost every occasion.
If you’re looking for rice syrup substitutes to use for baking, it’s probably better to use another kind of syrup, because the different consistency could alter the final result.
How to choose a brown rice syrup substitute
When looking for a substitution for brown rice syrup, you have to always keep in mind what you want to use it for.
If you need the same consistency (because you’re baking a dessert or making granola bars) it’s better to choose something that has the same thickness. Good brown rice syrups alternatives, in this case, are honey, corn syrup, and glucose syrup.
Even if you don’t need the same consistency if you’re baking it’s better to stick to another syrup or liquid substitute because using something else could change the texture and the result of a dish. You can use honey, maple syrup, molasses, or date syrup.
If you’re just looking for a sweetener substitute to add to drinks, any of the alternatives provided are good. You just have to keep in mind the differences in sweetness and choose the one that suits you and your needs. In this case, honey and molasses definitely need to be chosen accordingly, while brown sugar might be a good idea.