A spoonful of a product you probably already have in your cabinet can reverse the chemical process that causes crystallized honey. I’ll show you how in this guide how to decrystallize honey!
Honey is the only food product that never goes bad, though, if you’ve ever discovered a jar of honey forgotten in the back of a cabinet, you might doubt it based on looks. Aged honey turns to an unappetizing, crystallized mess- making it impossible to pour or use in most food prep.
My Experiments Fixing Crystallized Honey
When I saw a TV chef make simple syrup and explain the process behind sugar crystallization, it sparked an idea for dealing with the stockpile of crystallized honey I had in my pantry.
In his simple syrup recipe, Alton used a tiny amount of glucose (aka corn syrup) to change the chemistry of his sugar syrup enough that the solution became inhospitable for the formation of sugar crystal molecules. I began to wonder if the same method that prevents the crystallization in the simple syrup prepared for cocktails and beverages could “fix” all my crystallized honey by decrystallizing the honey.
Determined to know, I asked a beekeeping friend if adding corn syrup to honey would change the chemical makeup enough to prevent honey from crystallizing over time.
Horrified, he began a rant about honey purity, corporate marketing, and the shady business of commercial food labeling. After that, I decided I’d just stay quiet and experiment on my own. I set to work fixing the crystallized honey in my cabinet.
Testing My Hypothesis:
Honey crystals can easily be melted with heat (that’s how most people use up their crystallized honey). But I wondered if the same basic chemistry that prevented crystallization of simple syrup could rescue honey that had turned to a semi-solid state.
Three years after my original test of this hypothesis, I can confirm that this method works to fix crystallized honey and prevent re-crystallization when it is returned to storage.
I waited three years to see if the honey in my test batch recrystallized. I can confirm the test was a success. This method for fixing crystallized honey prevents recrystallization permanently.
Below, I demonstrate this method step by step.
How to Decrystallize Honey Permanently
Total Time: 10 minutes
Gather light corn syrup, honey, a clean pan, and utensils.
Melt Down the Existing Honey Crystals
Scoop crystallized honey into a clean saucepan.
Over medium-low heat, warm the honey, stirring occasionally, until the heat breaks up the sugar crystals and the honey is a smooth liquid.
Measure 1 Tablespoon of Corn Syrup per 6 oz of Honey
Carefully measure out a very small amount of corn syrup. There’s no exact measurement, but I use about 2-3 tablespoons of corn syrup for each 1 cup of honey. This small amount of corn syrup should make no noticeable change to the flavor of the honey.
Remember, we aren’t diluting the honey. We’re just adding a different molecule to mix up the balance of fructose and glucose. All you need is a bit of corn syrup to disrupt the crystallization process in the honey.
When honey is warm and smooth, add corn syrup
Add the corn syrup to the warmed, decrystalized, and runny honey. Stir well to combine fully. The corn syrup won’t be able to alter the chemistry enough to work if the honey is not warm and crystals are not fully dissolved by heat.
(optional) Add Fresh Honey to the Mixture
If you have a fresh bottle of honey that you think might crystalize before you can use it, use this hack to prevent crystals. You can even add fresh honey to your warm, decrystallized, and corn-syrup-stabilized mixture already in the pan.
When I go through these steps with old crystallized honey, I try to save myself some future work by adding fresh honey to the batch. This keeps new honey from later crystallizing (with no impact on flavor).
Decant into Clean Jars
When your honey is combined, pour it into a clean, dry jar for storage.
Estimated Cost: 3 USD
- 1 Container of Crystallized Honey
- 3 Tablespoons of Corn Syrup
💡 If you’re processing a large amount of honey, try pouring a portion of the honey into a jar filled with fresh herbs like sage or rosemary. Left undisturbed for several weeks, the honey will preserve the herbs and the herbs will infuse intense flavor into the honey. Warm and strain before serving with rustic bread, cheese, or fruit.
Then seal and enjoy! Three steps and one extra ingredient are all it takes to restore crystallized honey to a fluid state. Rather than diluting the honey, this method changes the chemical makeup just enough to prevent crystallization, but not so much that it changes the flavor.
Crystallized Honey Safety
Crystallized honey is still safe to eat or to cook with – in fact, many markets around the world feature crystallized honey as a delicacy!
Eating crystallized honey won’t make you sick unless the honey is contaminated with something else. (Example, by unsanitary packaging processes or from food particles falling into the container of honey before it began to crystallize).
Even though crystallized honey is generally safe to eat, that doesn’t mean that all crystallized honey is always safe to eat: use your eyes, nose, and tastebuds to check for signs of the honey might be bad.
Signs that your honey has gone bad due to contamination might include:
- a foul odor,
- fuzzy or black spots indicating molded or rotting particles, or
- a film covering the surface of your honey.
If you notice that your honey has a bad smell or any other concerning signs, it’s a good idea to toss (or compost!) the honey rather than risk becoming ill.
How to Decrystallize Honey in a Microwave
You can definitely use your microwave to decrystallize honey using the process described in this article. The high sugar content means honey gets very hot very quickly in the microwave, (here’s an interesting physics forum thread of science geeks discussing why). Because of this, you should remove the crystallized honey from plastic packaging before microwaving.
For learning how to decrystallize honey in the microwave, place your plastic container of honey in a bowl of warm water for 3 to 5 minutes, until the honey crystals soften. Next, place your honey and a small amount of corn syrup in a glass bowl or measuring cup. Place in the microwave and heat until the honey corn syrup mixture is warm and fluid. Remove from the microwave, stir, and pour back into your plastic honey jar.
Why Honey Crystalizes in the First Place.
I’m a curious sort of person, so I did some research on this. I learned that the molecules in sugar, over time, bump into each other and interlock. The sugar molecules fit together like pieces of a puzzle. The more sugar molecules that fit together, the bigger the sugar crystals become.
The reason this method for how to decrystallize honey works is that it changes the balance of molecules in the honey. Instead of lots of molecules that fit together easily, like the jigsaw puzzle described above, the corn syrup changes the ratio. Crystals don’t form as easily because the addition of more molecules has made the puzzle more complicated.
What is Karo Syrup (& why does it work to prevent sugar crystals)?
Karo syrup is a type of light corn syrup that is often used in baking and as a sweetener. It has a similar flavor to honey- making it perfect for this DIY.
Karo syrup is a popular choice for many recipes, particularly because it doesn’t crystalize like other sugars. Karo syrup is 100% glucose and is available in light and dark varieties. The light corn syrup works better in this recipe because it has a lighter flavor. However, if all you’ve got is dark corn syrup and you want to try recrystallizing honey- go for it! The process will still work, but you might taste the flavor of the dark Karo syrup.
Honey is a delicious sweetener that’s part of cuisines around the world. However, honey can sometimes crystallize in storage. This is especially true in high-humidity kitchens like my tiny kitchen. It can be a problem if you are trying to use liquid honey for recipes.
Best Container for Storing Honey
Good honey containers are quite as simple as it sounds. Like coffee beans, honey is best stored:
- 😎 In the dark
- 💨 In an airtight jar
- 🔥🧊 Insulated from heat and cold
The material the container is made from is important, as is the size and shape of the container. Glass is a good choice for a storage container because it is non-reactive, meaning it won’t impart any flavor to the honey. Ideally, opaque glass jars with a good seal work best for storing honey.
I have been experimenting with honey storage for a number of years, as I tested hypotheses for how to decrystallize honey. I think that the best container for storing honey is a mason jar tucked inside of an opaque silicone sleeve like this one at Amazon.