Instead of a rich, golden syrup, your jar of honey has rocky chunks. What are those crystals and is your honey still safe to eat?
Honey is made primarily of water and two sugars. It’s typically about 40% fructose and 30% glucose with a smattering of other sugars, carbohydrates, and a small amount of vitamins and minerals. Over time, the water can start to separate from the sugars, causing crystals to form.
“Glucose tends to crystallize faster because it’s less soluble in water. Fructose is soluble in water but will crystallize eventually. It’ll just take longer,” says Melanie Marcus MA, RD, a culinary dietitian from the greater Charlotte, North Carolina area.
The actual amount of glucose and fructose in honey depends on where it was harvested. “Honey from acacia or grasslands are less likely to crystallize, while those from sunflowers have more glucose and will harden faster,” Marcus says.
Crystals can build on top of crystals the longer the honey is around. Sometimes if there are bits of pollen or beeswax or other tiny bits in unfiltered honey, that can prompt crystals to form on those particles. And like a domino effect more crystals will form on top of them.
Is It Safe to Eat Crystallized Honey?
Honey doesn’t go bad. If stored correctly, it’s lauded as being the only food that doesn’t spoil. So you can totally eat it in crystallized form. In fact, you can even buy honey in granulated crystals.
“Crystallized honey is just another natural form that honey can take. In the home kitchen this often happens when honey is left to sit untouched for several weeks,” Marcus says. “Just like water can be in different forms such as liquid in your glass or solid ice cubes, honey too, can also be liquid or solid. It’s totally natural.”
Some honey makers insist that when honey crystallizes, that’s a sign that it is pure and filtered of unwanted particles. “I’ve even come across vendors at our local farmers market selling crystallized honey at a premium, touting that it’s easier to spread on toast!” Marcus says.
How to Reverse the Crystallization Process
You can reverse the crystallization process and make your honey liquid again. If you have a glass jar of honey, place it in a pot of water. Fill the pot with water to the same height as your honey and set your heat to medium-low. Leave it there until the crystals disappear.
If your honey is in a plastic bottle, use hot water from the tap instead of water on the stove over heat. And if it crystallizes again? Just repeat as necessary.
To slow crystals from forming, keep your honey at room temperature and not in the refrigerator. It may also help to store it in glass versus plastic jars because glass is less porous and will keep extra moisture out.