What Is Brown Rice Syrup And What Does It Taste Like?

Who doesn't love sweets? Well, not everyone. But most people do love to indulge their sweet tooth every once in a while. Or every day, give or take a couple of hours. And for those who are vegan, brown rice syrup may be a good option, per The Spruce Eats.

Brown rice syrup is a "sugar doppelgänger," per Spoon University. Intrigued? You should be. This sweet ingredient is actually all vegan and gluten-free, and it can be substituted for sugar in recipes that call for it. While it is usually used in Asian foods, it has become popular in the United States due to it being vegan (via The Spruce Eats).

If a recipe calls for corn syrup, you can easily switch it out with brown rice syrup because they are pretty much interchangeable. Corn syrup is in many foods here in the U.S., whereas brown rice syrup is what you'd find in Asian countries. So, what exactly is this mystery sugar substitute?

What is brown rice syrup exactly?

Brown rice syrup gives everything away in its name. It comes from brown rice! By cooking brown rice, you bring out its natural enzymes, per The Spruce Eats. When these break down, the starch in the rice turns into sugar, which then makes the sweet, light-brown colored syrup. It is basically just pure glucose.

You must be wondering how it's considered vegan. Well, it is an all-natural and organic syrup with no added fructose or gluten, and its only ingredient is brown rice. In fact, it is usually marketed as the healthier sugar option. You may find it on the labels of things like granola bars or beverages that would usually have high fructose corn syrup (via The Spruce Eats).

As an alternative for white sugar, brown rice syrup can also be found in healthier marketed cereals and granola, which can be eaten with things like yogurt. Being all plant-based has made this syrup the "better sweetener," per Gomacro.

What does brown rice syrup taste like?

The most common flavor of sugar is going to be, you guessed it, sweet. Brown rice syrup is no different when it comes to that element. However, unlike agave, nectar, or honey, this sugar has a far more mild flavor, says Sweet Additions. It has been compared to butterscotch because it also offers a nuttiness in its flavor.

This liquid sweetener is thick and very sticky like maple syrup, except it's ultimately more similar to molasses. In fact, texturally, it can be compared to sticky caramel that is freshly warmed, per Epicurious. It also brings a roasted flavor, which is a bit different than your usual white sugar or agave.

If you are someone who likes sweets, but only in moderation, cooking with brown rice syrup may be the best thing for you. Instead of overpowering your regular baked goods with high levels of sweetness, this ingredient will offer a more subtle taste. You can also simply stir some into your tea or coffee for a hint of sweetness rather than a mouthful.

How to cook with brown rice syrup

For those who have yet to try brown rice syrup, you can start off very simply. Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee and just mix in a bit of the liquid sweetener instead of your usual honey or sugar, per The Spruce Eats.

You can even pour it on your favorite breakfast items, due to its similarities to maple syrup. Too bad you can't ask for it at your local Denny's. When making waffles, pancakes, french toast, or some biscuits, drizzle some brown rice syrup on top to tame the level of sweetness that you surely included in the waffle and pancake batter.

Some of the best recipes are those of the dessert variety. Yummly lists many of them, including brown rice crispy treats, peanut butter balls, vegan sugar cookies, strawberry crisp bars, granola bars, and brown rice pudding. For savory foods, The Gentleman's Plate says brown rice syrup is great when making Korean fried chicken wings.

Can you substitute brown rice syrup?

You can substitute just about anything these days, making brown rice syrup no different. A key thing to remember, though, is that it is less sweet than many other sweeteners. So, when substituting, you'll have to make sure measurements are different, says The Spruce Eats. The easiest thing to switch it out for is corn syrup.

When using other sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, or granulated sugars, there are measurements you'll need to change. For example, using ¾ cup of honey works best to replace 1 cup of brown rice syrup. That same measurement works for granulated sugar and brown sugar (via The Spruce Eats). 

However, with other liquid sweeteners like molasses, you want to use even less. Molasses is incredibly thick and sweet, so instead of using one cup as you would with brown rice syrup, only use half a cup of molasses. Sweet Additions also adds that brown rice syrup can make baked goods crisp rather than moist, and the site recommends combine the ingredient with another liquid sweetener if you're aiming for moistness.

Is brown rice syrup really good for you?

Just because something is plant-based and vegan does not mean it is the healthiest thing for you to eat. Brown rice syrup is still a sugar, regardless of how it is made. Healthline notes that sugar in general is terrible for any modern diet.

Even though you may use brown rice syrup to replace high fructose options, there are few nutrients in the ingredient. Brown rice syrup contains very faint traces of zinc, manganese, and magnesium, says Sweet Additions. So, there aren't really any added benefits in using brown rice syrup over others.

This syrup also has an incredibly high glycemic index (GI), "a number associated with how fast your body converts sugar into glucose," says Spoon University. While every processed sugar has a high GI, brown rice syrup has a 98 out of 100 score, which is even higher than high-fructose corn syrup.

The biggest takeaway from this should be that balance is always key to a healthy diet. Regardless of whether you use white sugar or brown rice syrup, moderation is always needed.