What Is Brown Rice Syrup?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Brown rice syrup in cup with spoon that looks like honey

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Brown rice syrup is a vegan and gluten-free liquid sugar substitute derived from brown rice. It is mainly produced in Asia, Europe, and the United States. It's traditionally used in Asian foods and has become popular among people looking for a plant-based sweetener alternative to refined sugar. This syrup can be used as-is or in baking and cooking to sweeten foods with fewer calories, though adjustments need to be made when using it as a substitute in recipes.

Fast Facts

  • Taste: Half as sweet as sugar
  • Glycemic Index: 98
  • Shelf Life: 1 year after opening
  • Substitutes: Honey, corn syrup, barley malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses

What Is Brown Rice Syrup?

Brown rice syrup is also called rice malt syrup, rice syrup, or maltose syrup. It is made by cooking brown rice and exposing it to natural enzymes. These break down and turn the rice's starches into sugars (maltose, maltotriose, and glucose), and the resulting sweet liquid is then boiled and reduced down into a light brown syrup.

The syrup is often all-natural and organic. It contains no fructose or gluten, low levels of glucose, and has a high glycemic index. Vegans may prefer it to refined sugar, which is sometimes refined using bone char from animals. It's often used in rice milk and processed foods that are marketed as "healthy" and "natural," such as granola bars and beverages, which would otherwise be made with refined sugars or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Brown Rice Syrup vs. Corn Syrup

Brown rice syrup and corn syrup are often interchanged in recipes. Just like corn syrup has a long history of use in the U.S., brown rice syrup is more frequently used in Asian countries—it's a simple matter of the food crop's availability. Both are glucose syrups and have a similar consistency, sweetness, and effect in food. If you're looking for a good candy-making (or other high-temperature cooking) substitute for corn syrup, brown rice syrup is a good choice. However, it does have a nutty flavor not found in corn syrup.

Brown Rice Syrup Uses

Brown rice syrup is used just like any other liquid sweetener. Add it to drinks like coffee or tea for a little extra sweetness or in any recipe that calls for a liquid sweetener. It can also be drizzled on top of pancakes or waffles, just like maple syrup. Some people enjoy it as an ice cream or dessert topping as well.

How to Cook With Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup requires no preparation and can be used right out of the jar. It is a good liquid sweetener choice in raw foods and cooked dishes, especially if you want to cut the sweetness or make a recipe vegan or gluten-free. When used in baked goods, it can make them too crispy. That can be remedied in some recipes by combining it with another liquid sweetener.

What Does It Taste Like?

Brown rice syrup is mildly sweet, much less so than agave nectar, honey, and sugar. The taste is a little nutty though some people find that it's reminiscent of butterscotch.

Brown Rice Syrup Substitutes

Since brown rice syrup is not as sweet as other liquid sweeteners, you will have to make adjustments when substituting it in recipes. Corn syrup is generally a one-to-one substitution for brown rice syrup.

With other sweeteners, the difference is typically 1/4 cup and this can be adjusted to taste. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of brown rice syrup, you can use 3/4 cup of honey, barley malt syrup, or maple syrup. The same applies to white granulated sugar—3/4 cup sugar for 1 cup of brown rice syrup—though switching from a liquid to dry sweetener can change the consistency of the food. Since molasses is stronger flavored, use just 1/2 cup when substituting it for 1 cup of brown rice syrup. Use only 3 tablespoons of date syrup for 1 cup of brown rice syrup.

Brown Rice Syrup Recipes

Because brown rice syrup is vegan, it is common to see it used in many vegan compliant recipes. It can also be used to substitute for honey as a sweetener in recipes (use 1/4 cup more for each cup of honey).

Where to Buy Brown Rice Syrup

This syrup is often sold in jars and is one of the more expensive liquid sweeteners on the market. It can be found in Asian markets and online as well as specialty grocery stores that cater to natural foods. Look for it in the baking aisle near other sweeteners.

Storage

Most brown rice syrup does not need to be refrigerated, though that can prolong the shelf life. Once open, it will keep well for up to one year at room temperature. Similar to honey, if the syrup crystallizes in the jar, place the container in warm water and stir to dissolve the crystals. If you notice any mold developing, discard the entire jar.

Nutrition and Benefits

Brown rice syrup contains a few trace minerals, including magnesium, manganese, and zinc. But that doesn't make it healthy. Although it's made from brown rice and little else, it's highly refined and concentrated, making it a source of calories and carbs. Its high glycemic index of 98 will cause blood sugar levels to rise. As with any sweetener, moderation is advised.