8 Substitutes for Corn Syrup You Can Buy at the Grocery Store

Pecan pie awaits

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substitutes for corn syrup: slice of pecan pie on a plate with a fork
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You’re about to whip up Aunt Becky’s famous pecan pie when you suddenly realize you’re missing a key ingredient: corn syrup. Whoops. Sure, you could call her up to ask what you should use instead...but then you’d need to listen to a five-minute lecture about how a baker should always have a fully stocked pantry. Pass. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with eight tasty substitutes for corn syrup that’ll save dessert in a pinch.

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Corn Syrup vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup

First, let's make this important distinction. Corn syrup is made by extracting and refining corn's glucose. Corn syrup is a thick, light-colored syrup that’s pure glucose; it's the sugar that's been extracted from the corn and processed into liquid form. It's not the same thing as the much-maligned high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is processed further to convert some of that glucose into fructose, making it even sweeter.

While you can buy corn syrup at the grocery store, HFCS is typically used by food manufacturers in processed goods. Research shows that HFCS may contribute to obesity as well as diabetes, but regular corn syrup falls into the same category as sugar (so you know, enjoy in moderation or whatever).

Corn syrup (which has a Brix level—that's a scale that measures dissolved sugar solids in a liquid—of 77 degrees; the higher the number, the sweeter the ingredient) is an invert sugar, meaning it’s liquid at room temperature and prevents sugar crystals from forming. (That's why it's great for making candy.) It can also be used to add shine and body to recipes, like chocolate sauce, as well as creamy texture to frozen desserts. But what do you do if a dish calls for corn syrup and you don’t have any on hand? You swap in one of these substitutes, that’s what.

What Can Be Used Instead of Corn Syrup?

1. Agave Nectar

In the Raw

  • Brix Level: 65 to 79 degrees
  • Best For: pies, sauces

A one-to-one substitution, agave syrup (aka agave nectar) has a mild flavor that works great in most recipes that call for corn syrup (but not candy). It's about as sweet as corn syrup and remains a liquid at room temperature. It's also more neutral in taste than, say, honey or maple syrup.

substitutes for corn syrup: tapioca syrup

2. Tapioca Syrup

Keystone Pantry

  • Brix Level: 80 degrees
  • Best For: cakes, ice cream, cookies, pies

This pantry gem comes from the cassava plant and can be substituted for corn syrup in equal parts. It's a pretty solid alternative, given that its consistency is more similar to corn syrup than brown rice syrup or agave. Just note that it can recrystallize as it sets, so it's not stable to use for certain sweets, like marshmallows, says Epicurious.

3. Honey

Whole Foods Market

  • Brix Level: 80 degrees
  • Best For: cakes, pies, cookies

Corn syrup and honey are equal replacements (meaning you can substitute 1 cup honey for 1 cup corn syrup). But similar to sugar, honey won’t prevent crystallization, so it’s not the best choice for making caramel or candy. That said, it can work well in other recipes as long as you don’t mind its distinct flavor. Tip: As a general rule, the lighter the honey, the milder the flavor.

4. Brown Rice Syrup

Keystone Pantry

  • Brix Level: 78 degrees
  • Best For: candy, sauces

If you’re looking for a corn syrup substitute that’ll work in candy recipes that need to go to the hard-ball stage, opt for brown rice syrup. This sticky mixture has the same chemical properties of corn syrup and will prevent crystallization. It does have a slightly nutty flavor, though, which might not work for all recipes (or hey, it might work even better).

5. Sugar and Water


  • Brix Level: ~75 degrees
  • Best For: cakes, cookies, pies

Aka simple syrup. You could buy some, but ideally, you should make your own with a 4:1 ratio for thicker results that will better resemble corn syrup. For each cup of light corn syrup, substitute 1 cup granulated sugar dissolved in ¼ cup warm water. Substituting for dark corn syrup? Use 1 cup packed brown sugar in place of the granulated sugar and dissolve it into ¼ cup water. This makes a great stand-in for baked goods (like pecan pie), but because sugar crystallizes at high temperatures, it won’t work for candy recipes that need to go past the soft-ball stage (or higher than 235°F).

6. Golden Syrup 


  • Brix Level: 82 degrees
  • Best For: candy, cakes, cookies, pies, sauces

A pantry staple in the U.K., this buttery syrup can be substituted one-to-one for corn syrup and can also be used in candy making, due to its similar chemical properties. It boasts a caramel-like flavor, but isn't as distinct in taste as honey. You may have trouble finding it stateside, but you can always order some online.

7. Cane Syrup


  • Brix Level: 65 degrees
  • Best For: cakes, cookies, pies

This popular Southern ingredient is crafted by extracting the juice from raw sugar cane stalks and reducing it until it turns thick. It tastes similar to molasses and can replace corn syrup in equal measurements. But again, this substitute won’t work in candy recipes since it won’t prevent crystallization.

8. Maple Syrup

Maple Grove Farms

  • Brix Level: 67 degrees
  • Best For: baked goods or sauces that call for dark corn syrup

Our favorite pancake topper can be used as a one-to-one substitute for corn syrup in most recipes (but not candy making). Just keep in mind that its consistency is much thinner and its flavor is less sweet and quite strong compared to corn syrup. As long as your recipe won't be drowned out by its unique taste, you're in the clear.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...