Substitutes for Korean Rice Syrup

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Korean desserts can emerge from Western kitchens.
Korean desserts can emerge from Western kitchens. (Image: Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

A staple in Asian pantries, Korean rice syrup flavors delicate dessert cakes and beef marinades, among other dishes. When you can't find the caramel-colored liquid sweetener, Western products can step into the breach. The sweetness and consistency of Korean rice syrups may vary, depending on how the product is processed. If you're trying to approximate a favorite Korean rice syrup brand, it may take some tinkering with a substitute sweetener to get a familiar recipe just right.

Corny Confections

In Korea, rice syrup and corn syrup are used somewhat interchangeably, with the color the deciding factor. This is similar to the manner in which Western recipes call for either light or dark corn syrup, depending on the desired color of the final product. Use about the same amount of light or dark corn syrup, or slightly less if it is too sweet, when you need to substitute Korean rice syrup. If color is important, keep in mind that dark corn syrup is most similar in appearance to Korean rice syrup.

Domestic Double

Brown rice syrup is more likely to be found on health food store shelves than Korean rice syrup, because it is guaranteed to be made with the less-processed brown rice. In terms of basic cooking, both rice syrups typically contain about the same amount of sugars and calories. Use about as much of the brown rice syrup as you would Korean rice syrup in a recipe. If your Korean rice syrup brand is much sweeter, use more of the brown rice syrup or add a bit of white sugar.

Sticky Substitutes

Although thicker than Korean rice syrup, sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, barley syrup and molasses can be used in place of the Asian sweetener. They may need a bit of alteration in terms of amounts. Use about three-fourths the amount of maple syrup, honey or barley malt syrup as you would Korean rice syrup, and mix in some plain water. You might also choose to use another clear liquid already called for in the recipe, such as apple juice. If cooking with the even thicker molasses, cut the amount in half and whirl in enough water or another clear liquid to make its consistency more akin to rice syrup.

Solid Sweetener

White granulated sugar is sweeter than Korean rice syrup, while also being a dry sweetener. To make this readily available ingredient more like Korean rice syrup, use about four parts white sugar to one part liquid to approximate four parts of the rice syrup. Choose a liquid already incorporated in the recipe, when possible. For example, if a sauce uses apple juice, blend additional apple juice into the white sugar. Otherwise, blend water into the white sugar.

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