Golden Syrup: How To Make Your Own And How You Should Use It

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Visited the United Kingdom (or another area of the world where this treat is popular) and fell in love with golden syrup? You’re not alone — but finding golden syrup in the United States isn’t always easy, and it’s not something you’ll find in just any home baker’s pantry. So how do you cure the craving?

To help you out, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about making your own golden syrup at home, how to use it and more.

What is Golden Syrup?

Golden syrup is a simple-ish sugar syrup used in many dessert recipes. It’s similar to corn syrup and sometimes also goes by the name of “light treacle.” Sweet, buttery, smooth and identical in appearance to honey (but vegan!), golden syrup goes well with a variety of dishes where just a hint of extra sweetness is needed, from rich desserts, tarts and pies to more savory dishes.

Golden syrup first came on the market in the late 1800s, when a London company formulated the product, then canned and sold it. In fact, that company, Abram Lyle & Sons, received a Guinness World Records acknowledgement for its Lyle’s Golden Syrup packaging and branding, as it was the oldest in the world in the mid-2000s.

Like many British products, Lyle’s Golden Syrup can be found in locales worldwide with historic ties to Great Britain, including Australia, Canada and South Africa. In the United States, you can sometimes find Lyle’s Golden Syrup at specialty stores.

How to Make Golden Syrup at Home

Someone pouring golden syrup on their pancakes

All golden syrup recipes are mostly the same. The ingredients are only sugar, lemon and water. For this recipe, you’ll need 3 cups of white sugar, 1/4 a lemon or the equivalent in lemon juice and 1 1/4 cups boiling water (plus an additional 1/2 cup).

Place a 1/2 cup of the sugar in a medium saucepan and add the 1/2 cup of the water. Cook until the sugar dissolves, over low heat. Bring to a simmer on medium heat without stirring for approximately 10 minutes, until the mixture takes on a golden hue.

Remove the mixture from heat and add in your boiling water (be careful!). Return the pan to low heat, and add the rest of your sugar and the lemon. Stir and then bring to a simmer and cook on low heat for 25 minutes, until the entire mixture takes on that golden color. Allow to cool and remove your lemon.

To store, you’ll want to fill a heatproof jar with boiling water, then pour the water out (this ensures the glass jar is the right temperature to accept your mixture) and add in the syrup. If it doesn’t look entirely like syrup now, don’t worry. It’ll thicken as it cools. Let the syrup cool to room temperature before you seal the jar.

What’s the Difference Between Golden Syrup and Other Sweeteners?

If you were to try golden syrup against other sweeteners during a taste test, the differences would be very apparent.

Corn syrup has more of a mild flavor compared to golden syrup, which is richer and more like caramel (and, in fact, the process for making caramel is quite similar to the method used for making golden syrup).

Maple syrup obviously has a very distinct maple flavor that sets it apart; additionally, if you purchase pure maple syrup, you’ll find that it’s not as thick as golden syrup.

Honey also has a very distinct flavor from golden syrup, but many vegans use golden syrup as a honey substitute when cooking.

How to Use Golden Syrup

You can use your golden syrup in any instance where you might use another liquid (or even non-liquid) sweetener. You can try using golden syrup as a….


Like maple syrup, golden syrup can be used to top any of your favorite breakfast items, from pancakes to yogurt to oatmeal. You can even use it to complete your ice cream!

An ingredient in flavor-heavy baked goods

If you want to add a little more ‘oomph’ to your favorite baked good, golden syrup is the way to go. From pecan pie to gingerbread, ginger snaps to baked apples, golden syrup goes well in a wide variety of baked treats. Lyle’s Golden Syrup even offers a cookbook to get you started.

As part of regional and cultural recipes 

As you might guess, there are quite a few regional recipes that use golden syrup. After all, in areas of the world where golden syrup is plentiful, it’s not uncommon to find it as a necessary part of cultural recipes. And you definitely won’t enjoy the same experience if you swap out the golden syrup in these recipes for a more readily available substitute in the U.S., such as corn syrup or molasses.

Some of the regional and cultural recipes that use golden syrup include ANZAC biscuits from Australia and New Zealand, treacle tarts and puddings from the United Kingdom and mooncakes from China.

Favorite Recipes Using Golden Syrup

Once you have your golden syrup ready and waiting, where can you find the best recipes for using your golden syrup? We’ve compiled a few of the best, no matter what you want to eat.

Golden syrup at breakfast

With its similarities to maple syrup, golden syrup is very popular at breakfast, but beyond its use as a topping, you can further incorporate golden syrup into your actual breakfast recipes. British baking extraordinaire Mary Berry offers a top-rated flapjack recipe that includes golden syrup, but do note: British flapjacks are not the same thing as American flapjacks.

Americans would consider a flapjack to be the same as a pancake, but in the British world, flapjacks are more akin to a granola bar, made with oats and ranging from soft and chewy to crunchy.

Suppose you want to make something more like traditional American pancakes with golden syrup, though. In that case, you might want to look to pikelets, an Australian and New Zealand specialty that’s basically a small, fluffy pancake. You won’t notice much of a difference from American pancakes, except that the pikelets sometimes have a slightly heavier texture.

Related: 15 Healthy Breakfasts on the Go [Sweet, Savory and Heart Healthy] 

Golden syrup snacks 

While Mary Berry’s flapjacks are granola bar-like enough to also be considered a snack as well as a breakfast item, if you want some other snack options, consider these sweet treats.

Golden syrup cookies are an excellent pick for a lightly sweetened afternoon snack, no matter how you customize them to fit your family’s preferences. Whether you make them with plain oats, chocolate chips or nuts, you can mix and match ingredients to create a cookie with a unique, rich flavor that still packs some familiarity.

And sure, cake might generally be considered a dessert, but not if it’s technically a “snack cake.” This golden syrup snack cake recipe is delicately sweet — with a kick of ginger — and easy to make. Just mix all the ingredients together, bake and then cut into squares for grab-and-go snacking (if you don’t mind a few crumbs every now and then).

Savory golden syrup recipes 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your golden syrup is relegated to sweet dishes only. Just like you might use a little sugar in your favorite dinner dish, so can you use your golden syrup. Lyle’s offers a fantastic collection of savory golden syrup recipes.

Golden syrup goes great with seafood, like this glazed baked soy salmon or these grilled Thai garlic prawns.

Suppose you’re following a vegan diet and are specifically using golden syrup as a vegan alternative to honey. In that case, you might try these sweet chili tomatoes on toast or this eggplant and pepper bruschetta.

You can even find uniquely British recipes from Lyle’s, such as this sticky sausage sarnie. What exactly is a sarnie, you ask? It’s just British slang for a sandwich, but this is like no sandwich you’ll find in the States.

Traditional (and non-traditional) golden syrup desserts

Beyond the ANZAC cookies and mooncakes, what other yummy traditional and non-traditional dessert recipes can you make using golden syrup? There are quite a few that are just British enough you might even spot them (or variations of them) on the Great British Baking Show.

There’s the Victoria sandwich cake, which, yes, is named after Queen Victoria. This light, delicious and straightforward dessert gets an updated flavor profile with a bit of golden syrup.

A butterscotch poke cake with mascarpone frosting boasts a beautiful British flag and is sure to impress your family or guests.

Panforte is more Italian than British, but it’s one recipe that you won’t want to miss, especially if you like just a small sweet treat alongside your after-dinner coffee or cocktail.

A Swiss roll is also not quite so British, but it’s delicious and simple to make while still offering an impressive appearance.

Of course, you have to make the British classic, a treacle tart. Traditionally, treacle tarts consist of a golden syrup (that’s the treacle) filling in a shortcrust pastry. This recipe takes all things British a step further by adding the Union Jack atop the tart.

The Brits also love their puddings — which are not at all what Americans think of as a pudding — and this toffee pudding works well with a bit of golden syrup. You might just find that you enjoy the sticky, spongy, moist, cake-like British version of pudding to the American semi-liquid take.

How Long Will My Homemade Golden Syrup Last?

Just like honey, golden syrup can last a long time — We’re talking years. So long as you’re storing your golden syrup in a clean, sterile jar in a dark and dry space (like any pantry or kitchen cabinet), you should be able to rely on your golden syrup lasting for a few years.

If you do notice any odd discoloration or smells, though, it might be a good idea to toss your golden syrup. When it’s so easy to make, there’s no reason to risk it. However, if you’re just noticing some crystallization, it’s still safe to eat; that’s just the sugar crystals. The texture will be different, but the taste is the same.

What if I Just Want to Buy Golden Syrup?

A can of Lyle's Golden syrup
Gary Perkin /

While making your own golden syrup at home is easy, if you don’t really want to go through the trouble and you just want to buy some golden syrup, it can be done, even in the States. Your easiest bet is to purchase your golden syrup online, via Amazon or Wal-Mart.

Amazon offers an 11-ounce option for around $8, and if you really love golden syrup, you can purchase bulk packs of six bottles or a giant tub of golden syrup that gives you 173 ounces of the good stuff. Choose between buying your golden syrup in a squeeze bottle or the classic Lyle’s tin.

Wal-Mart offers the 11-ounce squeeze bottle option of Lyle’s Golden Syrup with slightly different packaging, but only in bulk packs of 12 for just over $60.

Can I Really Not Use a Substitute?

Using a substitute for golden syrup isn’t advised because you just won’t get the same flavor, but if you’re in a serious bind and need a golden syrup substitute right this second, you can scoot by using honey.

Molasses is less favorable as a golden syrup substitute because it will give a more intense flavor and a darker color to whatever you’re cooking or baking, but it’s do-able. You want to stay away from using maple syrup as a golden syrup substitute, though, as the maple flavor is just too strong.

If you use a golden syrup substitute, just keep in mind that the end result may have a different flavor or texture than what you would expect when using golden syrup.

You might also like: A Vegetarian’s Guide to Fast Food [And it’s not just french fries]

Holly Riddle

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