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Best Substitute For Simple Syrup

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Simple syrup is one of the sweeteners I usually use in my beverage recipes. However, it’s not always readily available, so I need a substitute for simple syrup. Plus, when I have guests over, I prefer to offer healthier alternatives.

Pouring simple syrup into a white bowl.

So, over the years, I’ve tried and tested all sorts of different sweeteners, and I found the best simple syrup substitutes.

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Reasons To Substitute Simple Syrup

Enhanced Flavor

Among sweeteners, simple or sugary syrup has the most neutral flavor. While this gives simple syrup the flexibility to be used in a wide range of drinks, it can also be perceived as dull compared to other sweeteners with stronger flavors or aromas. 

Therefore, if you aim to enhance the flavor of your recipe, using an alternative to simple syrup might be beneficial. Many top substitutes have distinct smells, flavors, and colors that, when used properly, can enhance your drink of choice. 

Lack Of Choice

If you often incorporate it in your dishes and drinks, you may run out of simple syrup unexpectedly. When that happens, the only way to still finish up your recipes on time would be to opt for another sweetener. So, knowing what syrup to replace it with is very handy in case you have no other choice. 

Dietary Restrictions 

Simple syrup is typically made with water and sugar, making it unsuitable for people who need to avoid regular sugar for health reasons. Individuals who are following a low-carb diet or have diabetes, for instance, often require alternatives that have a lower carb count.

List Of Best Simple Syrup Substitutes 

Honey Syrup 

Honey syrup in jar on the table.

Honey is a commonly used natural ingredient that serves as a great simple syrup alternative. Sure, its flavor is slightly stronger, but when diluted with water to form a syrup, it becomes one of the best substitutes. Use honey in cocktails, coffee, and tea to make your beverages stand out. For an easy way to dilute your honey, check out my recipe below. 

Agave Syrup

Agave syrup in a glass with wooden spoon. Bottle of agave syrup on the side.

Agave syrup, also called agave nectar, is another healthy, great substitute for simple syrup. As the name suggests, this syrup comes from the agave plant, and its neutral flavor makes it a subtle-tasting sweetener perfect for both light and dark drinks.

Agave syrup offers a higher level of sweetness compared to simple syrup. However, when diluted with water, you can substitute it 1:1 in a recipe. I’ve included the detailed steps for diluting this sweetener below. 

Maple Syrup

A bottle of maple syrup shaped like a maple leaf.

Of course, this won’t be the list of the best substitutes for simple syrup without mentioning good-old maple syrup. If you love pancakes as much as we do, you probably already have it in your pantry, making it a convenient, time-saving, replacement! 

Produced from the sap of maple trees, this alternative is best for darker drinks that benefit from its maple flavor and notes of vanilla and caramel. You may use maple syrup as it is or dilute it with water. I recommend adjusting its intensity according to your taste preference. 

Bonus: Make Your Own Simple Syrup 

Let’s say you ran out of store-bought simple syrup, and the liquid substitutes above also aren’t available. In that case, it’s time to make your own simple syrup with the granulated sugar in your pantry. 

Cascading syrup on spoon.

Simple syrup is simply made by combining equal parts of sugar and water. By following the simple syrup recipe below, you can create your own batch in just minutes, allowing you to skip an unscheduled trip to the grocery store. 

To begin, get 1 cup of any sugar available in your pantry, whether brown sugar or white sugar. Then, mix it with an equal amount of water. After doing so, bring the syrup mixture to a boil and continue mixing until it thickens.

Now, you have homemade sugar syrup that’s cheaper than what you can buy and it’s made with no additional chemicals or preservatives. 

Honey Syrup Recipe 

Honey syrup in a glass jar with honey dipper.

The thick syrup of natural honey may not immediately blend well with your drinks or batter. So, sometimes it’s better to create a much thinner syrup by mixing your honey with water instead of using it as is. Luckily, the process of creating this syrup takes only several minutes. 

Here are the ingredients you need: 

  • ½ cup of honey
  • ½ cup of water

Follow these steps:

  1. Place a small saucepan on an unheated burner.
  2. Combine your honey and water in the saucepan. 
  3. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the honey is fully dissolved. 
  4. Let it cool down, and transfer it to an airtight container. 

Note: Use it to sweeten any recipe that calls for simple syrup, such as cold drinks, marinades, vinaigrettes, and cocktail recipes. Refrigerate this sweet syrup to keep it fresh for several weeks.

Making A Simple Syrup Substitute Using Agave Nectar

Agave syrup pouring in a glass.

Agave nectar is approximately 40% sweeter than simple syrup. So, to replace simple syrup in a 1:1 ratio, it’s best to dilute it with water. 

Here are the ingredients you need: 

  • 1 cup of agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup of hot water 

Follow these steps:

  1. Pour your agave nectar into your hot water.
  2. Stir the mixture together for 1-2 minutes or until well combined. 
  3. Let the mixture cool down for at least 30 minutes. 
  4. Transfer to an airtight container. 

Note: This substitute for simple syrup can be used in hot and cold beverages as it dissolves quickly. It lasts for about two weeks when refrigerated. 

Tips For Using A Substitute Syrup For Cocktails And Desserts

Sweeten To Taste 

Honey syrup pouring over a spoon into a white small bowl.

When using a simple syrup substitute for the first few times, always sweeten to taste, and don’t rely solely on measurements. Yes, some alternatives can serve as a one-to-one substitute for your simple syrup. However, it’s hard to mimic simple syrup’s level of sweetness exactly. So, rely on your taste buds more to reach your desired level of sweetness. 

Store Properly

While simple syrup generally has a long shelf life, this isn’t the case for its substitutes. Always refrigerate simple syrup alternatives, as advised, and store them in recommended containers to extend their shelf life for weeks. 

Make Small Batches

It’s often more convenient to make syrup in big batches. But as mentioned, simple syrup substitutes often have shorter lifespans, so making only 1 to 2 cups at a time is recommended. By doing so, you can avoid the risk of them going bad.

Pancakes with maple syrup on a plate.

Simple syrup is a key ingredient in numerous cold drinks and sweet desserts. But just like any keys, we can always make duplicates. The substitutes I’ve mentioned above have all been tried, tested, and approved by my friends and family. Even kids love their enhanced flavors, making them perfect for bringing a twist to your go-to recipes.

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