What is the Best Substitute for Karo Syrup?

by Charlie
karo syrup

Karo syrup is a corn starch derivative with vital use in the treatment of constipation and in keeping foods moist for as long as possible. It is popular in foods like popcorn, cakes, muffins, and most especially, cookies. At first glance, it might not feel like there’s a lot to this food additive, but as you will find out, there’s much more than meets the eye.

What’s the best substitute for karo syrup? The best substitute for karo syrup is syrup. Simply sugar mixed in boiling water. It is the perfect replacement for karo syrup in foods. Karo syrups do not particularly impart any extra flavors to foods, just sweetness.

With that said, it makes sense that simple sugar syrup will suffice. 

Overview of Karo Syrup

Constipation is a medical condition that is majorly characterized by a severe difficulty in passing out stool, which leads to noticeable abdominal distension (swelling). It is as common as it is unpleasant.

Often, the presence of fibers or undigestible contents like phytate in foods aid bowel movement, and therefore hasten the passage of stool through the large intestine. One of the most common remedies for this common problem is karo syrup.

Karo syrup, also known as corn syrup, is made from extracting sugar from maize/corn starch. Here’s how they do it:

  • Add water to maize starch.
  • Add to the mixture an enzyme produced by a bacterium. This enzyme breaks down the starch into shorter chains of glucose molecules (starch is a glucose polymer).
  • Add another enzyme gotten from a fungus. This further breaks down the chains of glucose molecules into singular glucose molecules.
  • Now, what you have is corn/Karo syrup.

Maize’s indigestibility, amongst other reasons, is due to its high concentrations of fiber and phytic acid (or phytate). It is why Karo syrups have a laxative effect on the intestines.

Asides from their therapeutic use for constipation, Karo syrups are usually included in food recipes to increase/preserve moisture and prevent sugar crystallization.  

Their high cooking temperatures make them the perfect additives in caramel popcorn, candy, frosting, and sweet sauces. You should remember however, that all corn syrups do is add sweetness majorly… no particular flavors.

Why Replace Karo Syrup?

Many people replace Karo for many reasons. The major reason, however, remains unavailability. Instead of dashing to the grocery the moment you find karo empty in your pantry, you can seamlessly replace it with any of these substitutents in your meal, and obtain nearly the same results.

Allergies could also be a deal breaker. Corn allergies, though uncommon, are very severe. If you didn’t know before, now you do. People in this category need substitutes like their lives depend on it, because it does. 

Best Recommended Substitute for Karo Syrup: Syrup

Asides their constipation-prevention duties, karo syrups are primarily used in the culinary world as sweeteners (their high cooking point is an added feather in their cap). To this end, anything that can add sweetness can replace them.

And what’s the number one sweetener in the world? Sugar!

Whatever sugar you have in your pantry. Be it brown, turbinado, muscovado, demerara, sand, granulated – you name it. Simply dissolve enough of any of these in boiling water to form a thick, viscous liquid.

When you add these to your meal, you won’t even notice karo’s absence.

You can add these ordinary ‘sugar syrups’ to whatever meals you wanted Karo for. Unlike Karo, however, sugar begins to crystallize past particular temperature highs. It therefore might not be suitable for foods like candy that are subjected to temperatures as high as 177°C (burnt sugar stage).

Other Substitutes for Karo Syrup

Maple Flavored Syrup

Peradventure you want to pair sweetness with some extra finesse, maple-flavored syrups are your go-to. Note that pure maple syrup (boiled maple sap) is totally different from maple-flavored syrup (simple syrup with added flavoring).

Light Colored Honey

If you’d wish to go totally natural, honey is your best shot. It’s already liquid, so you have no business mixing or boiling anything. Anyone who has tasted honey before will testify that there’s this subtle flavor it has. It imparts this into your meal too. Eaters will notice a difference, but they just might be unable to place a finger on it. And nothing boosts a chef’s ego like hiding a ‘recipe’.

Other less common options include:

Agave nectar: like honey, they have mild flavors, and are best for pies and sauces.

Light molasses: these have the greatest tendency to altogether upturn your meal’s flavor, while overshadowing other ingredients. Use them only as a last resort.

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