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  • Writer's pictureEthan Lazuk

Honey Isn't Vegan! These Alternatives Are

Straightaway, let's clear up this misconception. Is honey vegan? The answer is no. Honey is made from bees, which are "technically" an animal. Since vegan's don't eat animal products, honey is out of the picture.

(There is some debate (or should we say buzz) about local honey and whether its more ethical production compared to manufactured honey makes it vegan-friendly. We're not here to settle that debate, but suffice to say in our household, we fall into the "no honey is vegan" camp.)

If you're a strict no-honey vegan and have a sweet tooth or a recipe calling for honey, don't fret. There are vegan alternatives that can bring just as much joy to your palette. We'll get into these plant-based honey replacements in this article.

Sweeteners Vegans Can Use Instead of Honey

From baking to food toppings, these plant-based honey alternatives can satisfy your sweet cravings and your vegan diet.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is made from the sugary sap of maple trees. The taste of maple syrup is different from honey. However, maple syrup works well as a vegan honey replacement in many baking recipes and sauces calling for a bit of sweetness. Health-wise, maple syrup is notably rich in manganese and zinc.

Golden Syrup

Golden syrup, sometimes called light treacle, is made through the refinement of sugar cane or sugar beet juice. Thick and amber in color, golden syrup's has a sweet taste that makes it a suitable vegan alternative for honey in baking recipes and desserts.

Sorghum Syrup

Sorghum syrup is a vegan sweetener made from the green juice of sorghum grass, which is high in sugar content. Sorghum syrup is comparable to molasses and even called "sorghum molasses" in some areas of the U.S. The flavor of sorghum syrup is unique, with earthy, woody, or even smokey undertones.

Compared to maple syrup, sorghum syrup has more B Vitamins, Iron, Potassium, and Magnesium. And health-wise compared to honey, sorghum syrup is notably higher in Vitamin B6. Though honey and sorghum syrup have different tastes, the flavor nuances that many enjoy about honey varieties can also be appreciated from varieties of sorghum syrup.

Agave Syrup

Agave syrup, also called agave nectar, is derived from the high-fructose fluid inside the blue agave plant. According to Healthline, agave syrup and honey have roughly the same amount of calories. Agave syrup is not necessarily touted for its health benefits, but this vegan sweetener does perform remarkably similar to honey when cooking or baking. And compared to white sugar, agave syrup is usually sweeter, so less of it is required to add flavor to a dish.

Vegan Butterscotch Syrup

Butterscotch is a brown-sugar based sweetener. Traditionally, butterscotch syrup is made with dairy (such as cow's milk and butter), however, there are vegan recipes for butterscotch syrup that replace the dairy with vegan butter. When made with plant-based ingredients, butterscotch syrup can be a sweet vegan alternative for honey in many desserts.

Apple-Based Vegan Honey

Many examples of products or recipes labeled as "vegan honey" are made primarily from apples. Ingredients in apple-based vegan honey usually start with apple juice plus lemon juice, sugar, and other natural flavorings like chamomile or clover. In terms of texture, color, and taste, apple-based vegan honey can be a close match for honey itself.

Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup is made from cooked rice starches that are broken down with enzymes and strained to produce a sugary liquid. Flavor-wise, brown rice syrup is less sweet than honey with a bit of nuttiness. Many vegans use this plant-based honey alternative to lightly sweeten dressings, sauces, and glazes, including for savory roasted vegetable dishes, as well as cocktails.

Date Honey

Made by squeezing out the liquid from pureed boiled dates, date honey (also called date syrup or date molasses) is a simple vegan honey alternative with just two ingredients: dates and water. Health-wise, date honey boasts the same nutritional benefits as the fruit it's made from, including being rich in potassium and magnesium and free of sodium, cholesterol, and trans and saturated fats. Date syrup makes a sweet addition to oatmeal, granola, and vegan baked treats.

Barley Malt Syrup

An unrefined vegan sweetener, barley malt syrup is extracted from sprouted malted barley. Less sweet compared to honey with a molasses-like flavor, barley malt syrup is often used as a light sweetener in breads, granolas, cereal-based treats, and other baked goods.


Molasses is a vegan sweetener derived from sugar cane or sugar beet juice after extraction. A thick, dark syrup, molasses can be used to sweeten everything from baked goods to candies. Although molasses doesn't taste much like honey, it can be a vegan-friendly alternative for sweetening baking recipes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Vegan Honey

In case the article didn't answer your question, or you're simply looking for a quick explanation, here are some of the common questions people ask about vegan honey.

Is there a vegan version of honey?

Yes, while many vegans substitute honey with other sweeteners like maple syrup or agave syrup, there are vegan honey products and recipes that are totally plant-based.

What is vegan honey made of?

Mostly what's referred to as vegan honey is an apple-based product that usually contains apple juice, lemon juice, and sugar.

Why are some vegans allowed honey?

Honey is made through a process that starts with the collection of nectar from flowers by worker bees that pass the nectar to house bees. The reason bees create honey is for their own food source. Since bees have a central nervous system and can feel pain, it's speculated that depriving the bees of honey causes them hunger. Additionally, most vegans aren't only against eating animal products but also the exploitation of animals, such as in the manufacturing of honey. Some locally sourced, "cruelty-free," or ethical honeys are made with less emphasis on honey production versus the health and welfare of the bees. In that respect, some vegans justify honey, or certain methods of honey creation, as vegan-friendly. However, the general consensus among organizations like The Vegan Society is that honey isn't vegan.

(More Information Coming Soon!)

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