What is Brown Rice Syrup?

What is Brown Rice Syrup?

There are several ways that one can choose to sweeten a recipe or a dish, but which one to choose and why?  We are going to take a look into one of those options and some of the ways it compares to other choices on the market today.  This article will cover how to substitute brown rice syrup for other sweeteners, reasons you may choose it over other options, and potential health considerations.

What is brown rice syrup?

Understanding what brown rice syrup is may seem complicated, but one of its desirable qualities is its simplicity of ingredients and production.  Brown rice syrup is a sweetener made from brown rice, enzymes and water.  To make the syrup brown rice is cooked and then exposed to enzymes that breakdown the starches into smaller sugars.  This liquid is then filtered to remove any remaining solids or impurities to create a thick, golden syrup.

  • Brown Rice Syrup vs Honey

    Brown rice syrup is often referred to as “vegan honey” due to its similar characteristics and because it is not the product of an animal or insect.  Brown rice syrup and brown rice malt syrup make excellent substitutes for honey.  The consistency, color, flavor notes and delicate sweetness are almost seamless in their likeness.

Brown Rice Syrup Uses

Brown rice syrup has many uses, such as a sweetener for coffee, tea, on pancakes, in baked goods or ice cream.  Brown rice syrup is also frequently used by food makers when producing such goods as granola bars, loose granola, cereals, ice cream, meat products, and salad dressings.  One of the more common uses is as a substitute for other sweeteners.

  • Substitute for other sweeteners

    Brown rice syrup makes an excellent substitute for many other sweeteners.  Depending on the type of sweetener the ratio may vary.  Below is a chart showing conversions and the benefits of choosing brown rice syrup vs another sweetener.

SweetenerAmountBRS Equivalent AmountBenefits
Honey1 cup1 ¼ cupSimilar consistency; vegan; no fructose
Corn Syrup1 cup1 cupIncreases browning; finer texture; gives brownies a denser fudgy texture; no fructose
Barley Malt1 cup1 ¼ cupLess sweet; same consistency; more subtle flavor that won’t compete with other flavors
Maple Syrup1 cup1 ¼ cupNo fructose; milder flavor; better for baked goods; less sweet
Refined Sugar1 cup1 cupVegan; not refined; liquid consistency; adds a toasty, nutty flavor; no fructose
Agave Nectar1 cup2 cupsNo fructose; less processed

 

Why use brown rice syrup?

There are a few key reasons you may choose brown rice syrup.  Vegans may choose BRS because it is made from grains and not from any animal or insect product or by-product.  Brown rice syrup is not as sweet as many other sweeteners, it is also absent of any fructose.  Brown rice syrup is also not refined or highly processed.  Lastly, the taste of brown rice syrup is rather subtle, toasty, nutty, and reminiscent of caramel or butterscotch.  The flavor profile may suite your tastes or be the best choice for the recipe you are going to prepare.

 

Is brown rice syrup better for you than sugar?

Determining if brown rice syrup is “better” than sugar is not a yes or no response.  A popular method for making that determination is to use the Glycemic Index (GI) to answer which sweetener is better than another.  So, to answer this question we need to understand the GI so that we can make an informed decision.

Let’s begin with a primer on carbohydrates.  All sugars are a form of carbohydrate and are turned into glucose during digestion.  Glucose is the main form of energy for your body and it’s regulated by hormones, such as insulin.  Those who suffer from diabetes are unable to regulate glucose due to an issue with insulin production or regulation.

The GI was first developed to aid people with diabetes in making smart food choices.  The index is set up as a scale that rates how quickly and how greatly each food will raise blood sugar.  The raising of blood sugar is neither all good or all bad.  As Harvard Medical School points out, it depends on your goals as well as your particular health considerations.  Low GI foods can help with weight loss goals and high GI foods are essential for athletes like runners who need immediate fuel or for recovery after an intense sport or activity.

The GI is not the final word as it does not address or differentiate how much a reasonable serving would be of any given food.  The Mayo Clinic explains that this is what led researchers to develop the Glycemic Load (GL) which assigns a numeric value based on how a typical serving would increase your blood sugar levels.  Below is a chart from the University of Sydney that looks at the various sweeteners we have discussed in this article and how they rate according to the GI and the GL.  Brown rice syrup has not been specifically evaluated, the estimates below are based on the ratings for the types of sugar it contains and their respective values.

 

Glycemic Index Values:
Low (1-55) Medium (56-69) High (70-100)
Glycemic Load Values:
Low (1-10) Medium (11-19) High (20+)
SweetenerSugar Type(s)Glycemic IndexGlycemic Load
Honey40% Fructose

30% Glucose

Medium 61Medium 12
High Fructose Corn Syrup42 – 55% Fructose

Glucose

High 87Medium 14
Barley MaltMaltoseLow 42Low 5
Maple SyrupSucroseMedium 68Low 3
Refined Sugar50% Glucose

50% Fructose

Medium 60Low 3
Agave Nectar80% Fructose

20% Glucose

Low 17Low 2.56
Brown Rice Syrup52% Maltotriose

45% Maltose

3% Glucose

High 98 (estimated)Low 4 (estimated)

 

Is Brown Rice Syrup low FODMAP?

FODMAP is a dietary system that is utilized by healthcare professionals to assist patients who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  According to the Cleveland Clinic there are three basic steps involved in the FODMAP dietary protocol.  First, is the elimination or restriction step during which all high FODMAP foods are eliminated for a period of time.  Second, each food previously restricted is then reintroduced one at a time for a three-day period while tracking any IBS symptoms that occur.  The third and final set is the personalization of your diet according to the results of the first two steps.  While brown rice syrup is not specifically listed here, rice malt syrup is listed as low FODMAP.

There are a many blogs and websites that make claims regarding sweeteners that are low FODMAP, but these are personal websites and not recommended for use in medical or dietary treatment guidance.  The best choice is to consult your doctor or nutritionist and work with them to create a treatment plan that is right for you.

Brown Rice Syrup recipes