What is honey?
Honey is made by bees from the nectar they collect from flowers. Viscous and fragrant, it’s a natural sweetener and can be used just as it is to spread on bread or toast, or added to sweet and savoury dishes.
The flavour, colour and consistency vary, depending on the flower(s) the nectar was collected from and the production method used – as a general rule, the darker the colour, the stronger the flavour.
Honey is available clear and runny, thick and opaque, in a honeycomb or as a chunk of cut honeycomb suspended in runny honey.
Read about the health benefits of honey.
Availability of honey
All year round.
Choose the best honey
There are many different flavours of honey. Some of the most commonly available honeys with delicate tastes and aromas include clover (mainly from Britain), orange blossom (from the US, Mexico and Europe), lemon blossom (Mexico), acacia (China, Canada, Europe) and leatherwood (New Zealand).
More intensely flavoured honeys include Scottish heather, eucalyptus (Australia and the Mediterranean), Manuka (New Zealand), lavender (France), Hymettus (Greek, named after the mountain of the same name). Runny honey is easier to cook with.
How to prepare honey
Honey doesn’t need any preparation. If clear honey becomes cloudy (as a result of the natural process of crystallisation) just stand the jar in a bowl of very hot water for 15 minutes or so, or give it a blast in the microwave (with the lid removed, if it’s made of metal) for around 30 seconds.
How to store honey
In a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Comb and cut comb honey will last for around six months.
How to cook with honey
Add to marinades, salad dressings or smoothies. Drizzle over Greek yoghurt or fruit salads. Pour over soft cheeses and grill. Use to add sweetness and a moist consistency to baking. Honey works well in moist, dense, full-flavoured bakes. It’s sweeter than sugar so you’ll need to use less to achieve the same taste. Because honey is liquid, you’ll need to use less liquid than the recipe calls for, if substituting for sugar. It caramelises quicker than regular sugar and gives a darker finish to bakes.
See our honey recipe collection for ideas.
Alternatives to honey
Try caster sugar, molasses or maple syrup.