DIY Substitutes for Simple Syrup (Refined-sugar Free)

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Last Updated on December 29, 2023

It’s easier than ever to make your own substitute for simple syrup. Once you learn what to do, you’ll never need to use regular simple syrup made with refined sugar again!

simple syrup

Simple Syrup

Simple sugar syrups are most often made from refined sugar, such as white sugar or brown sugar. However the kind you buy from grocery stores might even be made from corn syrup! YUK.

You might be wondering how you can make the best simple syrup substitute that is better for you. The great news is there are many options and they are SO EASY to make!

Below you’ll find several ways you can use a natural sweetener in place of regular sugar. But before we get to the recipes, let’s take a look at what simple syrup is and reasons you might need to use it.

What is Simple Syrup?

Simple syrup is a liquid sweetener made with one part water and one part sugar that is used in cocktail recipes, coffee drinks, and desserts.

Ways to Use Simple Syrup

  • Coffee Drinks: Most popular coffee drinks use some sort of sweet syrup to flavor them.
  • Desserts: In addition to beverages, simple syrup is commonly used in desserts. It can be brushed onto cake layers to keep them moist or used as a base for fruit sauces and glazes. Simple syrup can also be incorporated into frostings, ice creams, sorbets, and other sweet treats.
  • Non-Alcohol Drinks: Simple syrup can be used in non-alcoholic beverages such as iced tea, lemonade, or coffee, or even mocktails!
  • Cocktails: It is often added to drinks like mojitos, margaritas, and daiquiris to balance out the tartness of citrus juices or to add sweetness to mixed drinks. Simple syrup can also be infused with flavors such as herbs, fruits, or spices to create unique cocktail syrups.

cocktails made with simple syrup

Why Make Your Own Simple Syrup Substitute

Commercial store-bought syrups are often made using corn syrup and other bad ingredients. This is because corn syrup is a cheap and readily available sweetener that helps prolong the shelf life of the syrup.

Regular Simple Syrup May Be Highly Processed

Some simple syrups bought at the store are highly processed and refined, which means it lacks the nutritional value found in natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

Commercial Simple Syrups May Contain Additives

Simple syrups may contain additives such as preservatives, artificial flavors, and colors.

Control Over Ingredients

By making your own simple syrup replacements, you have control over the ingredients used. You can choose which sweetener you’d like to use and the sweetness level by adjusting the ratio of sugar to water.

Customize Flavors Of Great Simple Syrup Alternatives

Homemade simple syrups can be customized to suit your taste preferences. You can experiment with different flavor combinations by adding fruits, herbs, or spices to create unique syrups to suite your taste preference.

simple syrup substitute

Best Substitutes for Simple Syrup

My favorite simple syrup substitute is honey syrup. It’s easy to make using raw honey (I like to use wildflower honey) and water. It’s a good substitute when making a healthier version of lemonade.

Here are some natural sweeteners you can use make your own simple syrup:

  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup
  • Agave Nectar
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Date Syrup
  • Stevia
  • Monk Fruit Sweetener
  • Yacon Syrup
  • Molasses
  • Fruit Juice
  • Lucuma Powder
  • Xylitol

How to Make a Healthy Substitute for Simple Syrup

We’ve listed 12 recipes for healthy substitutes to use in place of simple syrup made using unrefined sugar.

Simple Syrup Substitution Tips

  1. Typically you will use a 1:1 ratio of water and sweetener
  2. It’s best to use filtered water, not tap water. If you use tap water, you will want to boil it for a few minutes, so add a bit more to allow for evaporation.
  3. After the sugar dissolves, always let it cool before storing it in a clean Mason jar or using for your recipes.
  4. Adjust the sweetness level by using more or less water. Some sugar substitutes are sweeter, for instance, stevia syrup if made using the 1:1 ratio will be sweeter than honey simple syrup.

Honey Simple Syrup

In a small saucepan, combine equal parts honey and water. Heat over medium heat until the honey dissolves.

  • Flavors of this Variation: The flavor of honey in a simple syrup will be rich, sweet, and slightly floral.
  • Glycemic Index: Honey ranks medium on the glycemic index.
  • Best Suited for: It is best suited for individuals with stable blood sugar levels or those who are looking for a natural sweetener with potential health benefits, such as antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.


Maple Syrup Simple Syrup

There are a ton of health benefits of maple syrup, which makes it a great option for homemade simple syrup.

To make it, simply mix together equal parts of pure maple syrup and water in a saucepan. Heat gently until well combined.

  • Flavors of this Variation: A simple syrup made with maple syrup will have a distinct, robust, and caramel-like maple flavor with hints of molasses.
  • Glycemic Index: Maple syrup ranks medium on the glycemic index.
  • Best Suited for: It is a good option for people who want to add sweetness to their dishes but still maintain better control over their blood sugar levels compared to high glycemic sweeteners.

Maple Syrup

Agave Nectar Simple Syrup

To make agave syrup, combine equal amounts of agave nectar and water in a saucepan. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and well blended.

You might enjoy reading: Maple Syrup Vs. Agave

  • Flavors of this Variation: Agave nectar imparts a mild, slightly sweet taste with subtle notes of caramel.
  • Glycemic Index: Agave nectar ranks high on the glycemic index.
  • Best Suited for: It is best suited for individuals without diabetes or those who can tolerate higher levels of blood sugar spikes. However, it should be consumed in moderation due to its high fructose content.

Agave Nectar

Coconut Sugar Simple Syrup

Dissolve coconut sugar in an equal amount of hot water, stirring until fully dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool before using as a natural sweetener.

  • Flavors of this Variation:The flavor of coconut sugar in a simple syrup is reminiscent of toasted coconut with a hint of caramel.
  • Glycemic Index: Coconut sugar ranks low to medium on the glycemic index, depending on the source.
  • Best Suited for: It is a suitable option for individuals who want a natural sweetener with a lower impact on blood sugar levels compared to refined sugars.

Coconut Sugar

Date Syrup Simple Syrup

Blend pitted dates with an equal amount of hot water until smooth and creamy. Strain the mixture to remove any solids, and let it cool down before using as a natural sweetener.

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  • Flavors of this Variation: Simple syrup made with date syrup will have a deep, rich flavor similar to caramel or butterscotch.
  • Glycemic Index: Date syrup ranks medium to high on the glycemic index.
  • Best Suited for: While it provides some nutrients like fiber and minerals, it may not be ideal for individuals with diabetes or those aiming to keep their blood sugar levels stable.

Date Syrup

Stevia Simple Syrup

Dissolve powdered stevia or liquid stevia drops in warm water, adjusting the sweetness according to your taste preferences. Stir well and let it cool before using. Make sure you are using a reputable source of stevia to ensure a quality product. 

  • Flavors of this Variation: Stevia imparts a very intense sweetness without any added flavors. It has a slight herbal aftertaste.
  • Glycemic Index: Stevia has a negligible effect on blood sugar levels and is considered non-glycemic.
  • Best Suited for: It is an excellent choice for people with diabetes or anyone looking for a zero-calorie, natural sweetener.

Monk Fruit Sweetener Simple Syrup

Combine monk fruit sweetener with an equal amount of hot water, stirring until dissolved completely. Cool down before using as a natural alternative to sugar.

  • Flavors of this Variation: Monk fruit sweetener has a natural fruity flavor that is often described as resembling melons or citrus fruits.
  • Glycemic Index: Monk fruit sweetener is also non-glycemic and does not impact blood sugar levels.
  • Best Suited for: It is suitable for individuals with diabetes or those following a low-carbohydrate diet.

Monk Fruit Sweetener

Yacon Syrup

Yaon is a tuber vegetable with an active compound called yohimbine, which has been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and to support erectile function in men.

Combine yacon syrup with an equal amount of warm water, stirring until thoroughly mixed together.

  • Flavors of this Variation: Yacon syrup has a unique flavor profile that combines sweetness with hints of apple and pear.
  • Glycemic Index: Yacon syrup has a lower glycemic index due to its high content of fructooligosaccharides (FOS).
  • Best Suited for: It may be beneficial for individuals concerned about blood sugar regulation and gut health.

It’s worth noting that the use of yacon syrup should be approached with caution. Yohimbine can have significant side effects and may interact with certain medications or medical conditions. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before using yacon syrup to ensure its safe and appropriate use.

Yacon Syrup

Molasses Simple Syrup

Mix molasses with an equal amount of hot water until well combined.

  • Flavors of this Variation: A simple syrup made with molasses will have a strong, robust, and bittersweet flavor with notes of caramel and burnt sugar.
  • Glycemic Index: Molasses ranks medium on the glycemic index.
  • Best Suited for: It contains some minerals, but individuals with diabetes should be cautious when using it due to its impact on blood sugar levels.


Fruit Juice Simple Syrup

Heat fruit juice of your choice over low heat until it reduces by half. Let it cool down before using as a flavorful and natural sweetener for your drinks and desserts.

  • Flavors of this Variation: Using fruit juice as a sweetener will infuse the simple syrup with the specific fruit’s flavor. For example, apple juice will add an apple-y taste while orange juice will bring citrusy notes.
  • Glycemic Index: Fruit juice ranks high on the glycemic index due to its concentrated sugar content.
  • Best Suited for: It is best suited for individuals without diabetes who can tolerate higher blood sugar spikes.


Lucuma Powder Simple Syrup

Mix lucuma powder with an equal amount of hot water until completely dissolved. Allow it to cool before using as a nutritious and naturally sweetened addition to your recipes.

  • Flavors of this Variation: Lucuma powder adds a subtly sweet and nutty flavor to the simple syrup with hints of maple and caramel.
  • Glycemic Index: Lucuma powder has a low glycemic index.
  • Best Suited for: It is a suitable sweetener for individuals looking for a natural option with a lower impact on blood sugar levels.


Xylitol Simple Syrup

Dissolve xylitol in warm water, adjusting the sweetness according to your taste preferences. Stir well and let it cool before using as a sugar-free alternative in various recipes requiring simple syrup.

  • Flavors of this Variation: Xylitol has a similar sweetness to sugar but may have a cooling effect on the palate. It does not add any distinct flavors.
  • Glycemic Index: Like other sugar alcohols, xylitol ranks low on the glycemic index and has minimal effects on blood sugar levels.
  • Best Suited for: It is often used as a sugar substitute for people with diabetes or those following a low-carbohydrate diet. However, it may cause digestive issues in some individuals when consumed in large amounts.


Natural Add-ins for Simple Syrup Flavor Variations

Here are some popular all-natural additives to flavor simple syrup:

  • Fruits: Fresh or frozen fruits like berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), citrus fruits (lemons, oranges), peaches, or watermelon can add a delicious fruity flavor to your simple syrup. Check out this paleo watermelon margarita for some inspiration!
  • Herbs: Adding herbs like mint, basil, rosemary, or lavender can infuse your simple syrup with refreshing and aromatic notes.
  • Spices: Cinnamon sticks, ginger slices, cardamom pods, or cloves can be used to add warm and spicy flavors to your simple syrup.
  • Citrus Zest: Grating the zest of citrus fruits like lemons, limes, or oranges into your simple syrup can give it a bright and tangy taste.
  • Vanilla Bean: Splitting a vanilla bean and adding it to your simple syrup can impart a rich and sweet vanilla flavor.
  • Floral Additions: Edible flowers such as rose petals or hibiscus flowers can provide a unique floral twist to your simple syrup.

Check out: Yellow Watermelon Vs Red Watermelon to see which variety will work best for your desired flavors.

How to Store Simple Syrup

When it comes to storing homemade simple syrup, it is important to keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This will help prevent any bacteria growth or spoilage.

How Long Homemade Simple Syrup Lasts

If stored properly, homemade simple syrup can last for up to one month.

FAQs about Simple Syrup Substitutes

What Is Simple Syrup Made Of?

Simple syrup is made of equal parts sugar and water.

What Can I Use If I Don’T Have Simple Syrup?

If you don’t have simple syrup, you can use other sweeteners such as honey or agave nectar as a substitute.

Can You Make Simple Syrup With A Natural Sweetener?

Yes, you can make simple syrup with a natural sweetener. You can use alternatives like maple syrup or stevia to replace the sugar.

Can You Save Homemade Simple Syrup?

Homemade simple syrup can be saved by storing it in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator.

How To Make Long Lasting Simple Syrup?

To make long-lasting simple syrup, you can add a small amount of vodka or citrus juice to inhibit the growth of bacteria and mold. This will extend its shelf life.

What Is The Shelf Life Of Homemade Simple Syrup?

The shelf life of homemade simple syrup is about one month when stored properly in the refrigerator.

What Is Simple Syrup Formula?

The formula for simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water (1:1 ratio).

Do You Have To Boil Simple Syrup?

Yes, you need to boil simple syrup to dissolve the sugar completely and create a clear liquid.

To Summarize:

  • Simple syrup is a mixture of equal parts sugar or a natural sweetener and water.
  • It can be used as a sweetener in cocktails, non-alcoholic beverages, and desserts.
  • Homemade simple syrup should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Simple syrup typically lasts for up to one month when stored correctly.

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