Golden syrup

Golden syrup

Pronounce it: goal-dun sir-rup

Golden syrup is a translucent, golden-amber coloured, sweet syrup, which can only be produced commercially and was created in London in the 1880's. It is essentially white sugar/sucrose in a different form. This has been inverted, meaning that the sucrose has been broken down into two simpler sugars, fructose and glucose. The fructose content gives a heightened perception of sweetness so that, when used as a sweetening agent, about 25% less golden syrup can be used than granulated white sugar.

A British tablespoon of golden syrup contains about 60 calories, whereas a British tablespoon of white sugar is about 50 calories. By volume, golden syrup has more calories: by weight sugar has more calories.

The flavour is light and caramel-like but with a finishing acidity that balances the sweetness and largely explains the great popularity of golden syrup. However, unlike varieties of brown sugars that have slight nutritional benefits over white sugar, golden syrup has no dietary advantage; there is no real difference nutritionally.

Golden syrup was once known as light treacle but is only distantly related to genuine treacle, which is a natural product resulting from the refinement of cane sugar into granulated white sugar.

Golden syrup and white sugar have a very similar glycaemic value, meaning that the body processes both at about the same rate.


Widely available in several types of container, including tins, glass jars and squeezy bottles.

Choose the best

There are unlikely to be competing brands available, but some supermarkets make their own versions. Some manufacturers occasionally market flavoured variants, particularly maple syrup, but these are rarely found.

Store it

Lasts at ambient temperature for years in a sealed container. The process by which golden syrup is manufactured means that it is unlikely ever to crystallise.

Cook it

The use of golden syrup as a sweetener has been widely appreciated: WWI soldiers used to take it into the trenches to sweeten their tea because an equivalent weight went further than sugar.

Golden syrup is best known as a sauce at the bottom of a simple steamed pudding in a treacle sponge, sometimes with only butter added but often also heightened with lemon zest and ginger; those flavourings combined with white breadcrumbs are the basis of treacle tart.

Vegans and vegetarians who believe bees are injured or killed by commercial honey gathering use golden syrup as a honey substitute. It can be used wherever honey is used, providing a lesser flavour spectrum but saving rather a lot of cost; this would include on porridge, pancakes and waffles, in flapjacks, ginger cakes and similar. 

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