Honey has been considered a potent ally in traditional medicine for hundreds of years. Raw honey especially contains a wealth of health benefits, from antioxidant power to antibacterial properties. Regular cane sugar? Not so much. This sweet treat isn’t just a great addition to your tea, though—honey can be swapped for sugar in lots of recipes, to add a little more micronutrition and flavor to your favorite meals.
When you substitute honey for sugar, you still get the sweetness you need for most dishes, including desserts. It may feel a bit tricky to figure out how much honey you use instead—after all, it’s a thick liquid, not the fine grains we are used to. No worries, I’ve got you covered, crunchy mamas. It’s well worth looking at your favorite recipes and asking yourself if you can make the honey for sugar substitute work for you and your family.
5 Sweet Health Benefits of Honey
Soothes Restless Tummies: Honey contains antimicrobial and antioxidants that help combat disruptions to your digestive tract. It also contains a compound called methylglyoxal, an antibacterial that can help keep your stomach soothed.
Promotes Restful Sleep: Honey helps promote continued rest by stimulating the regular function of the liver to produce proper energy for your morning. When you’re a busy mom, you look for any help you can get with energy. I was surprised about this one!
Curbs Sugar Cravings: Honey’s natural form of sugar interacts differently with our systems than standard white sugar. When you substitute honey for sugar, you may lose weight and maintain an improved metabolic rate.
Alleviates Allergies: Adding raw or local honey has been shown to help respiration and keep allergies at bay. Honey soothes our mucus membranes in our body’s airways—it’s no wonder it’s frequently used as a base for cough syrup when our breathing is troubled!
Controls Good and Bad Cholesterols: If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, honey is a fantastic helper. Studies have shown honey can reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol levels when incorporated in diets over as little as a month’s time.
Why You Should Use Honey Instead of Sugar
Aside from the different health benefits of honey’s antimicrobial, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties—enough to speak to natural, health-minded mamas—honey is so darn delicious in baking. When I started looking why the honey for sugar substitute was so popular among bakers, I found that a LOT of amazing recipes prefer honey for the flavor alone.
So many of us want the dessert experience without the huge spike in blood sugar or the crash that comes after. Honey is processed differently than your standard white sugar cane in our digestive systems. On a molecular level, honey has a different “shape” than white sugar, too.
Honey gives a density to desserts that my family and I love. That’s because honey has more water content in it than dry grains of sugar. It can also produce a more fragrant dessert when you cook. Personally, honey goes a long way with sweetness too—depending on what flowers the bees that made your honey used, you may pick up notes of flowers or fruity scents as well in your cooking.
When you substitute honey for sugar, think baked goods—but also don’t forget you can add a spoonful to warm tea, have a drizzle on a sprouted grain English muffin, or even add a dollop to savory sauces that call for a spoonful of sugar.
Some people will even add a spoonful of honey to their morning routine on its own. Honey really shines when it comes to combating allergies because raw honey contains unfiltered pollen, which your body can use to build up its lexicon of antihistamines, which means less inflammatory responses when you’re out watching a soccer game on a spring morning, and more cheering for your little scoring a goal. If that’s not a sweet enough reason, I don’t know what is.
Tips on How to Substitute Honey for Sugar
Are you ready to start looking at how to use honey instead of sugar in your recipes? Grab your aprons, spatulas, and measuring cups because some of these conversions might require a bit of a cheat sheet.
Use Less Honey than Sugar in Recipes
An important note when substituting honey for sugar in your recipes, you use LESS honey than you would sugar. Honey’s complex flavor notes mean that you get more sweetness for less caloric count. When you work with raw honey, too, you may need to take the time to melt down the crystallization.
For every 2 cups of sugar you would use, cut the volume of honey down by about half—so, 2 cups sugar versus 1 cup of honey. If you like your goods a bit sweeter, add up to 1/3 more for taste. You can use this rule of thumb across the board when cooking with honey as needed. 1 cup of sugar? Cut your honey down to ½ cup or 2/3 of a cup, if you like it sweeter.
When it comes to smaller measurements, like tablespoons of sugar, swap your honey measurement to double the number in teaspoons. So, if you used 2 tablespoons of sugar, you would use 3-4 teaspoons of honey in its place.
For Every Cup of Honey, add ¼ Tsp Baking Soda
Honey contains a higher acidity that can influence how much your baking rises. As you know, the rise is an important part of baking—so we want to make sure to add extra baking soda to ensure a proper rise and chewiness to your cooking.
Lower the Temperature by 25 Degrees Fahrenheit
Honey has a different composition than sugar, so it caramelizes and burns when the oven’s on too high. When baking with honey, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit for your recipes. If you want a good bake, turn that temperature down for the best results. If your recipe with sugar calls for the oven at 350 degrees, reduce that number to 325 degrees.
If you are using a stovetop, lowering the intensity of the heat by one measure helps. So, if the stovetop recipe asks for medium heat, reduce that to a medium-low rate. Stirring often helps aerate the honey, since it contains a lot of water compared to sugar.
Reduce Your Liquids!
Because honey has so much more natural water content in it (like, 20% water, folks!), you need to cut other liquid by about one quarter. This of course is up to your discretion and where it’s possible to reduce. If you keep this in mind, sometimes just taking a teaspoon out of your other liquid is enough to keep the integrity of the bake. Use your creativity and critical thinking here, mama—believe in your bake and take the time to explore.
Wanna Know What Honey I Use, Honey?
I have a few favorites, when ordering from Amazon I order: YS Organic Bee Farms Raw Honey. When I am ordering from Thrive, I LOVE the flavor of this one best: Thrive Market Organic Raw Honey. When I want to order medicinal honey, I love this one: BeeNZ Manuka (use coupon code REALFOODRN419 to save some money too!).
When I made the switch from sugar to honey, this is the honey I stuck with. That’s my go-to grab. You’ve gotta check this stuff out for yourself, mamas. When I spend time making special treats for my littles or a church gathering, it’s never let me down.
I hope you try making the switch—for flavor, but also for another way to take your health into your own hands. Happy baking!