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How Do I Choose the Best Corn Syrup?

Kristeen Moore
Kristeen Moore

Corn syrup is a type of cooking tool derived from maize and sugars, and it is used to enhance flavors as well as to change the texture and bulk of certain foods. Although different corn syrups are widely used in a variety of commercially-packaged foods, the liquids are also used for home cooking. The syrup comes in either a light or dark version, and the kind you choose ultimately depends on what you are making. If you run out of corn syrup, there are also substitutions that you can make that will not ruin your particular recipe. Although there are health concerns over the use of syrups in cooking, most health experts agree that moderation is the key, just as with any other sweetened goods.

Liquid sweeteners, such as corn syrup, are widely used in sugary foods in order to naturally increase the flavors and to thicken a food’s texture. Food manufacturers widely use high fructose syrup in particular because it greatly sweetens different snacks and beverages. Regular syrups sold in bottles are a home cook’s ultimate resource in baking cakes and making candy from scratch. Unlike other sweeteners, corn syrup does not crystallize upon use or cause any grainy textures in foods.

Corn syrup.
Corn syrup.

Traditional corn syrups come in either a light or dark versions, but, before purchasing, you must first determine the desired sweetness of your particular recipe. Corn syrup is generally utilized at home in baked goods, but you will get different results depending on whether you use the light or dark liquid. Darker corn syrups have richer flavors, so they are generally preferred for making chocolate and fudge. Light corn syrup is also sweet, but the taste is not as overpowering, so you might use this version for less rich-tasting baked goods. Golden syrup and honey are often used as substitutes for corn versions when cooks run out.

Spoonful of corn syrup.
Spoonful of corn syrup.

Obesity is a rising epidemic in some countries, and many consumers are concerned about the use of corn syrups in packaged goods as well as for home cooking. High fructose corn syrup has especially come under scrutiny, given the fact that it contains higher levels of sugar than other similar liquids. At the same time, most nutritionists feel that corn syrup is not to blame for obesity, and the liquids can safely be used in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. If you have a health condition in which you need to limit your sugar intake, then you might consider avoiding high fructose syrups.

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Discussion Comments


@ZipLine-- Yes, use the light version but don't over do it. I made margaritas with corn syrup before. They were good but I put a little too much in the first batch and the corn fructose syrup caused a little bit of an aftertaste. The second batch was good, I only put about a teaspoon in that one.

If you need to use more and you don't want the aftertaste, you might just want to go for liquid cane sugar. I think a cocktail with a lot of flavor will be fine with corn syrup. If you want to make lime margaritas though, use very little.


What type of corn syrup should I use for alcoholic cocktails? I'm thinking that light corn syrup will be best so that it won't overpower the other fruity flavors.

Has anyone here made cocktails with corn syrup?


This is definitely an interesting topic because there seems to be a consensus among doctors and health enthusiasts that corn syrup is not good, period.

I personally agree, but I'm even more rigid about the subject because I have type two diabetes. I was diagnosed when I was only 24 and I'm convinced that a poor diet high in carbs and sugars caused my illness. I used to eat so many commercial sweets, snacks and sodas that contained corn syrup.

I'm not going to say that sugar, honey or other sweeteners are better than corn syrup though. They're all bad and they all wreak havoc with our metabolism, blood sugar levels and insulin efficiency. The only sugar I'm allowed now is one or two small portions of low-glycemic fresh fruit per day.

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    • Corn syrup.
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      Corn syrup.
    • Spoonful of corn syrup.
      By: Wladimir Tolstich
      Spoonful of corn syrup.
    • Much of the corn grown in the United States goes toward making high fructose corn syrup.
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      Much of the corn grown in the United States goes toward making high fructose corn syrup.
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      Many soft drinks are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.