Malt syrup serves many purposes in the kitchen, from a simple table sweetener to an ingredient for baked goods, with many other roles in between. This organic product has become quite popular, but it’s not always available in local stores.
When a recipe calls for this natural sweetener and you don’t have it in your kitchen, you’re in need of a malt syrup substitute. There are different syrups and other sweeteners that can serve this purpose, including common ones like honey and less known ones like Korean rice syrup.
The best substitutes for malt syrup
Barley malt syrup is a natural sweetener in liquid form that is produced from barley, which then undergoes the malting process that gives it its name.
Although barley malt syrup is made for 65% by maltose, which is a type of sugar that is slowly absorbed by the bloodstream, this syrup is actually only half as sweet as white sugar.
It also has a strong flavor, which is why it is commonly used in moderation. It is of great usefulness in the kitchen, as it can be used in yeasted bread, as a sweetener for cereals, to glaze sweet potatoes, or as a substitute for blackstrap molasses.
In recent years, the demand for natural products and alternatives to refined products like white sugar has turned barley malt syrup into a popular sweetener, that’s why, you should be able to find it at your local natural foods store, or in the natural foods section of your grocery store.
If you’re unable to find it locally, you can easily purchase it online. However, when it comes to last-minute needs, you can pick a substitute for barley malt syrup from the list below.
One of the reasons why people look for a malt extract substitute is because they want a gluten-free alternative, like honey.
Honey is a natural product that resembles barley malt syrup in both texture and color. It’s vicious and thick, and its appearance ranges from a golden yellow to a dark brown, just like malt syrup.
Honey is twice as sweet as barley malt syrup, so when using it in a recipe remember to cut the amount of malt syrup in half to know how much honey you can use.
It might not be the best option for people affected by diabetes, because it has a higher glycemic index than malt syrup, so it should be consumed with moderation (½ of a teaspoon in a cup of tea should be fine while eating a baked good made with a big amount of honey might have strong effects on blood sugar).
You will find that honey is not a perfect substitute for malt syrup because it doesn’t taste the same. It is also not a vegan option.
However, honey is delicious and it’s easily available everywhere, so it’s a good option when you’re baking, especially when you’re looking for a malt syrup substitute in bagels.
Molasses is the substance that remains after the sugar crystals have been extracted from the syrup when boiling sugarcane or sugar beet juice. The crystals then go on to become the refined sugar we normally use.
A hundred years ago, molasses was the most used sweetener in the United States, because it was much cheaper than refined sugar. However, after the war, the price of sugar plummeted and it slowly took the place of molasses on people’s tables.
Today, molasses is mostly used to make barbecue sauce or as an ingredient in baked goods. It is known for being highly nutritious, but it also has a high glycemic index, so it should be consumed in moderation.
There are three main varieties of molasses, each one with a slightly different flavor:
– Light molasses: the byproduct of sugar that has been boiled only once, so it’s the sweetest among the molasses.
– Dark molasses: the byproduct of sugar that has been boiled twice. It’s less sweet and thicker than light molasses, but still sweeter than blackstrap molasses.
– Blackstrap molasses: it’s the thickest and least sweet of molasses, and actually tastes a little bitter.
While blackstrap molasses is usually considered a great malted barley syrup substitute because of its consistency, color, and flavor, this sweetener tastes a lot stronger than malt syrup, so you should regulate the amount in your recipe accordingly.
3. Brown rice syrup
Another gluten-free barley malt syrup substitute is brown rice syrup, which has an advantage over honey because it’s also a vegan product.
Brown rice syrup is one of those ingredients that is very popular in Asian recipes, like adzuki beans. It is versatile, as it can be used as a table sweetener, but also in cooking and baking.
Brown rice syrup is a completely natural product, as it’s made by cooking brown rice and breaking down its starch into sugars by exposing it to natural enzymes.
The best thing about brown rice syrup, and one of the main reasons why it’s so popular across the world, is the way this syrup can sweeten your dish without adding too many calories to it. In fact, it is half as sweet as sugar.
Of course, it is still a sweetener, and as such it contains carbs, sugars and has a high glycemic index, which doesn’t make it the ideal addition for people who need to control their blood sugar.
When substituting barley malt syrup with brown rice syrup, keep in mind that the first is much sweeter than the latter, so for every cup of barley malt syrup requested you should calculate an additional ⅓ of brown rice syrup.
4. Maple syrup
As the name suggests, maple syrup is made from the sap collected from maple trees. This product is more popular in North America and Canada and is mostly used as a topping for pancakes. It is a steady ingredient for breakfast.
Maple syrup is so famous that imitations cannot be labeled with the name and are usually labeled something generic like ‘pancake syrup’.
That’s because maple syrup is prepared following a specific process which leaves 33% of water and 66% of sugar. Imitations are usually made from corn syrup, artificial maple syrup, or a very low percentage of authentic maple extract (no more than 3%).
Maple syrup is golden colored in its early form but becomes darker the later it’s collected. There are different varieties of maple syrup depending on the time the sap is collected. The best one for cooking is Grade A Dark maple syrup, which has a richer flavor.
Maple syrup has a very distinctive flavor which sets it apart from barley malt syrup, however it works really well as a barley malt substitute because they both have a slightly nutty taste.
Even if you’ve never used maltose as it is, you have probably eaten or drunk something that contained maltose, because this sweetener is a common ingredient in many foods and beverages including bread and beer.
As fructose is growing increasingly unpopular, food manufacturers have begun substituting corn syrup with maltose syrup because it doesn’t contain fructose.
In fact, the main difference between maltose and the common table sugar is that the latter contains both glucose and fructose, while maltose only contains glucose. As for the rest, the two are almost interchangeable, although maltose is a little less sweet than sugar.
As with all sugars, maltose consumption should be limited, but it’s a good malt syrup alternative when you’re out of options.
6. Korean rice syrup
If you’re up for a little taste-test, you should definitely try Korean rice syrup. Despite the faraway origin, this syrup is actually closer to malt syrup than many other substitutes, because one of the main ingredients is barley malt powder (and the other, of course, is rice).
In Korean cuisine, this syrup is used as a natural sweetener or to add a finishing glaze to foods.
Korean rice syrup has a very interesting flavor profile, as it tastes very rich, earthy, sweet, and has a slight grainy flavor. It is viscous and thick, and less sweet than honey or sugar, so it makes for a nice barley malt syrup substitute.
The most obvious, the most common, the easiest to find: sugar. After all, barley malt syrup is a sweetener, and when you’re out of fancy sweeteners, sugar is the one ingredient that is ever-present in the kitchen.
Brown or white, you can use sugar as a substitute for malt syrup. Of course, sugar is much sweeter than malt extract, so reduce the amount of sugar by half when using it as a replacement.
Sugar works well as a table sweetener, while in baking recipes that call for malt syrup specifically, it might not give you the same results, so it’s better to look for a syrup alternative.
How to choose a malt syrup substitute.
When it comes to table sweeteners, it’s quite easy to replace one for another, and there are many other sweet alternatives out there that you can try.
However, if you’re looking for a malt syrup substitute, you probably have a recipe at hand that specifically calls for it. In that case, it’s important to understand what would be the alternative that would give you the best results and the closest outcome to malt syrup.
The list below is a quick and easy way to choose a barley malt syrup substitute. Please note that the best alternatives are those that work well in both cooking and baking recipes:
– Best alternative: honey, molasses, maple syrup, Korean rice syrup
– Gluten-free alternative: honey, brown rice syrup
– Vegan alternative: brown rice syrup
– Other alternatives: sugar, maltose
Although sugar and maltose are in the same category because they’re recipe-saviors when you’re in a pinch, sugar is better used as a table sweetener, while maltose is a good replacement for malt syrup in cooking and baking as well.