What Is Corn Syrup?

Types and Uses

Microwave sugar and corn syrup
Corn Syrup

The Spruce Eats / Katarina Zunic

Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made from corn starch. It's slightly less sweet than ordinary table sugar, and has a wide variety of culinary applications, including making candy, jams and jellies, frostings and baked goods.

Fast Facts

  • Found in the supermarket baking aisle.
  • Available in light and dark varieties.
  • Made primarily of pure glucose.

What Is Corn Syrup?

Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made from corn starch that is used in a wide variety of culinary applications, like making candy, jams, jellies, frostings, and baked goods like cookies, pies and cakes. Corn syrup consists of pure glucose, a simple sugar, as compared with table sugar, which consists of sucrose, a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose. Corn syrup is used in candies to provide shine and to prevent the crystallization of the sugars (like what often happens with honey). It also provides moisture to the finished product, and can be used in cake batters to keep them smooth.

Corn Syrup Vs High Fructose Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is not the same thing as high-fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup is a common baking ingredient that is available in supermarkets. High-fructose corn syrup is a commercial sweetener that is made by modifying ordinary corn syrup using enzymes to convert some of the glucose to fructose, with the result that high-fructose corn syrup is about 1.75 times sweeter than table sugar. This additional sweetness, along with the fact that it is cheap as compared with cane sugar, is why it is so widely used in making sodas and other packaged and processed foods. Unlike corn syrup, however, high-fructose corn syrup isn't available in supermarkets. 

Varieties

Corn syrup is available in light and dark. Light corn syrup is colorless and has a pure, sweet flavor. Dark corn syrup is made by combining light corn syrup with molasses, giving it a darker color and a more toasty, caramel-like flavor. Both can generally be used interchangeably, depending on preference, although light corn syrup is preferred for preparations that need to be white or light-colored, like marshmallows.

Uses

Corn syrup is used in a wide range of desserts and sweet confections. Marshmallows, for instance, are made by combining corn syrup and granulated sugar, heating it and then combining it with gelatin. Pecan pie is typically made by combining eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar and melted butter with pecans, then baking the mixture in a pie shell. Peanut brittle is made by heating corn syrup, water and sugar, then adding melted butter and peanuts. And boiled frosting is made by combining corn syrup, sugar and water and heating it in a double boiler while whipping it until it thickens.  

How to Cook with Corn Syrup

Corn syrup needs no special preparation or other steps in order to use it in recipes. Simply uncap the bottle and add it to the recipe as directed.

What Does It Taste Like?

Light corn syrup has a pure, mild, sweet flavor, although some brands will be lightly flavored with vanilla. Dark corn syrup has a more caramelized, molasses-like flavor. 

Substitute

If corn syrup isn't available, you can substitute other liquid sweeteners, like cane syrup, maple syrup or honey, although this depends on the recipe. You can also substitute granulated sugar for corn syrup, but granulated sugar is sweeter than corn syrup, so you may need to adjust the amount you use. Also, when substituting granulated sugar for corn syrup, you're going to have to make up the missing liquid in the recipe as well. When making candy, however, it's best to stick to the recipe. 

Recipes

Corn syrup is a common ingredient in a number of baked goods and cady recipes. Here are a few recipes that include corn syrup.

Is Corn Syrup Good For Me?

Corn syrup is pure glucose, which is the body's primary source of fuel. All forms of sugar should be consumed in moderation. But there is no evidence that corn syrup is any worse for you than ordinary table sugar. 

Where to Buy Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is available in the baking aisle of the supermarket. 

Storage

Corn syrup does not need to be refrigerated, and is safe to eat for an indefinite period, whether or not the bottle has been opened.