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The 8 Best Glycerin Substitutes in Recipes

Many people regularly use glycerin in baking recipes. Professional bakers and baked goods manufacturers use this syrup for its various benefits. Glycerin can make your cakes and icings not only tastier but better-looking as well. 

In the rest of this article, I’ll further explain the nature of glycerin, some of its best substitutes, and how you can make do without it in different scenarios. Let’s get started!

1. Corn Syrup

Bottles of corn syrup on a grocery store shelf

Corn syrup is an acceptable substitute for glycerin when you need a sweetener in a recipe. You can use the same amount of corn syrup as glycerin to ensure the same proportion of liquid. 

Corn syrup comes from a starch called dextrose. Like glycerin, corn syrup is an effective way to discourage the crystallization of sugars in a recipe. Since corn syrup has no preservatives, you won’t have to worry that it will upset your digestive system

2. Maple Syrup 

Maple syrup on a grocery store shelf

Maple syrup can be an excellent glycerin substitute because it is thick. While this substitute has a distinct flavor, you can enjoy the taste in many recipes. You can use maple syrup in a 1:1 ratio to replace glycerin. 

Maple syrup is a natural sugar that comes from the sugar maple tree. In February or March of every year, sugarmakers tap into the sugar maple tree to harvest the sap. One tree typically yields ten gallons (38 liters) of maple sap. 

They then use a maple syrup evaporator to reduce the sap moisture into a syrupy consistency. Once the maple sap reaches a deep brown color, it is ready to be bottled and sold as maple syrup. Keep in mind that maple syrup can have a slightly nutty flavor while glycerin provides no flavor other than a sweet taste.

3. Honey 


Honey naturally sweetens foods and, as you might already know, comes from the honeybee combs. The consistency and flavor of honey are similar to glycerin, but unlike glycerin, honey doesn’t contain any preservatives, making it easier on your stomach without having to sacrifice flavor. 

4. Coconut Oil


Vegetable glycerin is derived from coconut, soy, and palm oils, so coconut oil can be an acceptable substitute when using glycerin for added moisture in a cake or another baked good. Many companies advertise coconut oil as a superfood that has many health benefits. Remember, coconut oil won’t add any sweetness to a recipe, only moisture. 

5. Boiled Sugar

A woman's hand stirs the sugar syrup liquid in a saucepan on an electric stove

Many bakers boil sugar and use it in baking recipes, which can be a good glycerin substitute. To boil sugar for use as a replacement, follow these steps:

  1. Get a medium saucepan.
  2. Measure one cup (240 ml) of sugar and pour it into the saucepan. 
  3. Measure one cup (240 ml) of water and pour it over the sugar in the saucepan.
  4. Add one-quarter teaspoon (1.23 ml) of iodized salt to the saucepan.
  5. Add one-quarter teaspoon (1.23 ml) of cream of tartar to the saucepan. 
  6. Turn the stove heat to medium. 
  7. Stir the mixture continuously as it heats.
  8. Stir the mixture while it is boiling.
  9. Observe and stir the mixture until it reaches the stage where it sticks to the spoon.
  10. Pour a small cup of water.
  11. Remove the mixture from the heat when it becomes a soft ball.
  12. Remove a spoonful of the sugar mixture. 
  13. Dip it into the water.
  14. Look to see if the sugar mixture forms a small ball on the spoon. 
  15. Remove the ball of sugar and see if it is pliable. 
  16. Pour the sugar mixture into a bowl once it reaches the soft ball stage. 

6. Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup next to starch cake

Brown rice syrup is a liquid, gluten-free sugar substitute. While it is half as sweet as white sugar, this syrup can be a replacement for glycerin. It’s an especially good option for vegans who want a plant-based sweetener. This syrup is organic, all-natural, gluten-free, and contains no fructose.  

While brown rice syrup can crystallize like honey, this won’t affect the flavor or consistency. Simply place the container in warm water and measure as usual. 

Once brown rice starches break down and turn into sugar, the excess water is boiled off, leaving a sweet syrup. You can use brown rice syrup in recipes in the same way you would use glycerin. You can find brown rice syrup in many Asian grocery stores. 

7. Liquid Glucose

Pouring liquid glucose into a pot

Liquid glucose is a different compound than table sugar and more comparable to corn syrup. It is thicker than corn syrup and won’t crystallize quickly, making it a favorite among pastry chefs. Glucose syrup is derived from corn, wheat, potatoes, cassava, or rice. 

Also known as confectioner’s syrup, liquid glucose is a constant in commercially-prepared sweets, candies, and other foods. Like glycerin, liquid glucose is a thick, colorless syrup with multiple uses, such as in chewing gum and chocolate. Some of the reasons bakers and pastry chefs like to use liquid glucose are:

  • Improves dough texture
  • Resists crystallization, unlike sugar or corn syrup which can crystallize and ruin the frosting
  • Promotes tender crusts and pastries
  • Improves dough thickness
  • Prevents the crystallization of frozen dough and cake batter

8. Sorbitol

Sorbitol chemical formula

Sorbitol is a powder produced from cornstarch. It naturally occurs in some berries and stone fruits and is less sweet than sugar. Like glycerin, sorbitol can be a moisture additive for baked goods and a low-glycemic sweetener. 

It can tolerate high baking temperatures and mixes well with the fats used in baking. Sorbitol can extend the shelf life of foods, ensuring they are good to eat for a prolonged time. You can find sorbitol in syrups, sweet beverages, and baked goods. 

Can I Use Honey Instead of Glycerin?

You can use honey instead of glycerin. While glycerin increases the moisture and adds sweetness to baked goods, honey will sweeten these foods but will not make them moist. Since honey is sweeter than glycerin, reduce the amount by one-fourth.

Can I Use Vegetable Oil Instead of Glycerin?

You can use vegetable oil instead of glycerin if you’re looking to add moisture to a recipe. While glycerin is sweet, vegetable oil has no sweetening properties and cannot be used to add both sugar and moisture in recipes. 

Can I Use Olive Oil Instead of Glycerin?

You cannot use olive oil instead of glycerin. Glycerin is a thick, clear liquid syrup that sweetens and adds moisture to baked goods. Olive oil is a triacylglycerol, glycerol with three attached fatty acids, making olive oil fat, not sugar.  

What Can I Substitute for Glycerin in Fondant?

You can substitute vegetable oil for glycerin in fondant to ensure smoothness and slow crystallization. If you’re using glycerin for sweetener, use the same amount of corn oil in your fondant to replicate the taste of glycerin, while allowing your rolled icing to form decorative details.

Using Glycerin

Two Bottles of Glycerin

Glycerin is a sugar alcohol that the body does not metabolize. Since it does not cause the blood sugar to spike like table sugar, you can find glycerin in many foods, candies, and pastries labeled “sugar-free.” 

Another characteristic of glycerin is that it attracts moisture, causing baked goods to remain light and fresh-tasting. The third characteristic of glycerin is that it is an effective preservative, keeping foods from spoiling. It ensures a tender mouth-feel in muffins, doughnuts, and cakes. 

The food-grade glycerin typically found in many commercially prepared foods can, in rare cases, cause an allergic reaction; however, for most people, glycerin is safe to consume in reasonable amounts. 

How Glycerin Is Used in Recipes

Glycerin is often used in baking recipes for its various benefits. It can make your cakes and icings not only tastier but much better-looking as well.

  • Glycerin makes royal icing smooth and shiny, one of the main reasons bakers like this type of icing. This characteristic helps make wedding cakes have a smooth cut without the mess of icing sticking to the knife. 
  • Glycerin makes cakes, cupcakes, and doughnuts that last a couple of days longer. It is a mild preservative that extends shelf life. 
  • Glycerin prevents the icing from forming a crust which is essential for professional bakers. This syrup lets you take your time with frosting decorations, so it doesn’t dry out too quickly.
  • Glycerin keeps fondant supple and workable. A few drops of glycerin can bring brittle fondant back to a usable form. 
  • Glycerin prevents fudge and candy from crystallizing. Candy makers use this syrup for smooth candy and chocolate confections.

The Best Glycerin Substitutes in Recipes

When you see glycerin in an ingredient label, this means some sugar or alcohol is part of the recipe. Glycerin is a carbohydrate that is almost as sweet as sugar. It naturally occurs in fermented foods like vinegar and beer, but the glycerin in an ingredients list comes from the yeast, sugar, and hydrolyzed oils.  

Glycerin aids in keeping foods moist, adds sweetness and improves texture. Many manufacturers use glycerin as a food preservative to prolong the shelf life. For glycerin to be approved for human consumption, the FDA requires the liquid to be 99% pure.

While the Food and Drug Administration approves this sugar alcohol, even restrained consumption can make some people feel ill. If glycerin is not something you want to consume or you’re baking and don’t have glycerin on hand, there are great substitutes for this sugar alcohol sweetener.


The best glycerin substitutes in recipes:

  1. Corn syrup
  2. Maple syrup
  3. Honey
  4. Coconut oil
  5. Boiled sugar
  6. Brown rice syrup
  7. Liquid glucose
  8. Sorbitol

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For more, don’t miss Glycerin vs. Vegetable Glycerin | Is There a Difference?