I personally taste-tested a variety of brown rice syrup substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Honey and maple syrup are great and easily accessible alternatives to brown rice syrup. If you want something with a similarly low level of fructose, look for corn syrup or barley malt syrup. If you want something with a low glycemic index, go for agave syrup.
I made mini-batches of these (delicious) brown rice crispy treats to test several brown rice syrup substitutes.
Brown rice syrup is a natural sweetener also called rice malt or maltose syrup. It’s relatively unprocessed, contains no fructose, and has low levels of glucose, which has made it a popular healthy alternative to other sweeteners. However, it has a high glycemic index, which can be problematic.
In terms of flavor, it’s less sweet than other natural sweeteners and has subtle nutty notes that go great in Asian dishes or desserts. Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Agave syrup (low GI)||Replace with ¾ the amount||9/10|
|Yacon syrup (low GI)||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Corn syrup (low fructose)||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Barley malt syrup (low fructose)||Replace with ¾ the amount||7/10|
|Honey||Replace with ¾ the amount||8/10|
|Maple syrup||Replace with ¾ the amount||8/10|
|Date syrup||Replace with ¾ the amount||9/10|
Agave syrup (low glycemic index)
Agave syrup is the best substitute for brown rice syrup if your main concern is a low glycemic index. The glycemic index of agave syrup is around 10-27. Sadly you can’t have everything and this sweetener is very high in fructose. It’s also more processed than brown rice syrup.
In terms of flavor, agave syrup is sweeter than brown rice syrup but it has a neutral taste that won’t interfere with your dishes.
I’ve had success using this as a substitute for plenty of dishes – from no-bake desserts to Korean ribs. But if you’re using this for baking, turn the temperature about 5 degrees down because agave syrup causes baked goods to brown faster.
How to substitute: Replace brown rice syrup with 2/3-3/4 the amount of agave syrup.
Yacon Syrup (low glycemic index)
Yacon syrup is a sweetener derived from the tuberous roots of the yacon plant and it’s been gaining popularity because of its low glycemic index. It’s got a caramel-like flavor which is more potent than the mild sweetness of brown rice syrup, but it’s not super strong. It’s also less sweet than brown rice syrup.
In terms of texture, it’s a bit runnier so if you’re relying on the thickness of brown rice syrup you may need to reduce it a bit.
Because yacon syrup is a specialty sweetener, it was more expensive than brown rice syrup and I had to go to a health food store to find it. You can also find it online.
How to substitute: Replace brown rice syrup with the same amount of yacon syrup.
Corn syrup (low fructose)
Corn syrup is a good substitute option if your main concern is low fructose levels because it mainly contains glucose. It’s readily available, budget-friendly, and has a very similar consistency and sweetness level to brown rice syrup. You’ll find it in the baking aisle of almost all grocery stores.
However, be aware that it has a high glycemic index (higher than brown rice syrup).
You can find it in two varieties, light and dark. Light corn syrup has a milder, cleaner sweetness compared to dark corn syrup, which has more of a caramel flavor. Both have similar fructose levels.
Tip: Corn syrup is not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup, they are different.
How to substitute: Replace brown rice syrup with the same amount of corn syrup.
Barley malt syrup (low fructose)
Barley malt syrup is derived from sprouted barley and it’s another substitute that’s low in fructose, containing mainly maltose. It’s got a stronger flavor than brown rice syrup with a malty flavor that may not suit all dishes (so do a taste test first!), and it’s about half as sweet as brown rice syrup.
This isn’t the most common sweetener, so you might have to visit a health food store to find it. Or a grocery store with a good baking section.
Tip: Barley malt syrup contains gluten, so it’s not suitable if you’re sensitive to gluten.
How to substitute: Replace brown rice syrup with 3/4 the amount of barley malt syrup.
Got a bottle of honey sitting in your pantry? You’re in luck – it’s an excellent healthy substitute for brown rice syrup (although it’s not considered plant-based). It has a smoother, more viscous consistency than brown rice syrup, but the stickiness factor is the same so it makes a great binder.
In terms of flavor, honey tends to be sweeter. However, the exact flavor of honey will differ depending on the flower source. America’s Test Kitchen explains more about this below.
If you’re aiming to replicate the nutty undertones of brown rice syrup, try looking for Macadamia nut honey.
Psst.. honey has a glycemic index of 58, making it a friendly choice if you’re watching your blood sugar levels. It has a moderate amount of fructose.
How to substitute: Replace brown rice syrup with 3/4 the amount of honey.
If you want something less processed, maple syrup is a good option. It has a fructose level of around 40% and a glycemic index of around 54.
The catch with maple syrup is it’s far sweeter than brown rice syrup, so you’ll need to use less. another option is mellowing out the flavor by mixing the maple syrup with water or even lemon juice. Not too much or you’ll make the maple syrup too runny though.
Pro-tip: you can use any grade of maple syrup you like. But I highly recommend going for the Golden variety. It has a more delicate maple flavor and has subtle nutty notes similar to brown rice syrup.
How to substitute: Replace brown rice syrup with 3/4 the amount of maple syrup.
Date syrup is another alternative to brown rice syrup with a low(ish) fructose level. The exact fructose level is unknown, but around 30% is a good guess, which is the fructose level of dates. The glycemic index sits at around 47.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of date syrup is how natural it is – you can easily make it yourself at home and it retains most of the nutrients found in whole dates. You need to first soak the dates to soften them, and then mash them to release the juices. Then you concentrate the juices and you have your syrup!
Pro tip: don’t try to cheat and blend the dates – you can’t extract the juice as easily from blended dates.
How to substitute: Replace brown rice syrup with 3/4 the amount of date syrup.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top picks for brown rice syrup substitutes, but the list doesn’t end there! Here are more options you can consider:
- Golden syrup: This is for my UK readers. Golden syrup is sweeter than brown rice syrup but has a rich, buttery flavor that makes desserts extra decadent. And it’s lower in fructose than other sweetener options (for exact amounts check the label).
- Molasses: This thick, dark syrup is a by-product of the sugar-making process. It comes in three varieties, but dark molasses is the closest to brown rice syrup in terms of sweetness level.
- Coconut palm nectar: This is extracted from the sap of coconut palm, making it a natural sweetener. It has a relatively low glycemic index (35) compared to brown rice syrup, but its consistency is much thinner.
- Regular sugar: In a pinch, and if your recipe can work with a non-liquid alternative, you can use regular sugar. Replace 1 cup of brown rice syrup with 3/4 cup of sugar.
Substitutes to avoid
I came across several websites suggesting you use fruit juice or fruit puree as a substitute for brown rice syrup, but I have to disagree.
Fruit juices are sweet, but they have a very different flavor to most sweeteners that will only work in certain applications. They also have no binding properties. Fruit puree would be delicious on top of pancakes though, as long as there’s no bacon involved!
Best Brown Rice Syrup Substitutes + 2 To Avoid
- 3/4 cup Agave syrup low GI
- 1 cup Yacon syrup low GI
- 1 cup Corn syrup low fructose
- 3/4 cup Barley malt syrup low fructose
- 3/4 cup Honey
- 3/4 cup Maple syrup
- 3/4 cup Date syrup
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen brown rice syrup substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.