Dark Corn Syrup Substitutes

Close-Up Of Syrup Pouring In Spoon Against Gray Background

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A number of recipes, including pecan pie and candied sweet potatoes, call for dark corn syrup. If you just discovered that you don't have any in the pantry, there are a few substitutes you can use instead of running to the store. The easiest and best dark corn syrup substitute is made with light corn syrup and molasses. But if you don't have those available, there are other options.

The Best Substitute

Dark corn syrup is mostly made of the same ingredients as light corn syrup. The darker version simply has the addition of refiner's sugar, which is a type of molasses. It's the refiner's sugar that gives dark corn syrup its nearly black color and caramel-molasses flavor. By adding molasses to light corn syrup, you'll replicate that flavor.

Assuming that you have both light corn syrup and molasses in your pantry, this is the best solution: Mix three parts light corn syrup and one part molasses. Use the same measurement of this mix in place of the dark corn syrup called for in your recipe. 

No Light Corn Syrup Substitute

If you don't have light corn syrup, or are trying to avoid corn syrup altogether, use one of these in its place:

  • Simple Syrup: If you have molasses, a thick simple syrup is an acceptable substitute for light corn syrup. To make it, stir 1 cup of white sugar into 1/4 cup of hot water until it is completely dissolved, then allow it to cool. This replaces 1 cup of light corn syrup, but the volume is entirely different: Use the 1/4 cup of simple syrup to replace 1 cup of light corn syrup in the original substitution and add 1/4 cup of molasses to complete the dark corn syrup substitute. You may need to adjust the other liquids in your recipe.
  • Honey: You can also use honey as a substitute for light corn syrup. Mix one part of molasses to three parts of honey to make a dark corn syrup substitute. This version will have a comparable thickness and volume but will be sweeter than the corn syrup. You may need to make some adjustments to your recipe to account for the additional sweetness.

More Substitutes

When there's no molasses in the house, use these substitutions for dark corn syrup:

  • Brown Sugar: Brown sugar contains some molasses and will give your recipe some of the intended molasses flavor. To liquify it, make a simple syrup from brown sugar and water. Karo (the company that makes the best-known corn syrups) recommends 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar dissolved in 3 to 4 tablespoons of water. The high proportion of sugar will dissolve best in hot water and you may even want to heat it up on the stove while stirring constantly.
  • Maple-Flavored Syrup: Also called "pancake syrup," this is often simply corn syrup with maple flavoring. In a pinch, it can be substituted for an equal amount of dark corn syrup. Your recipe will take on a maple flavor rather than the taste of molasses, but that could prove to be just as tasty. Consider how maple will work with the other ingredients in the recipe. If the flavor combination sounds good to you, give it a try.