Glycerin is a transparent, sweet, and almost scent-free fluid that’s often used to bake with. The substance can be used for many baking tasks, working well as a sweetener, emulsifier, and humectant.
If you need a food additive that can enhance your baked goods, glycerin is an ideal choice. It has a neutral taste that won’t overpower the flavors in food, and it can also prevent foods from spoiling.
Though glycerin is considered safe to consume, some people find that they experience side effects afterward, like diarrhea and gas.
Others find that they are sensitive to glycerin, or even allergic to it, so they cannot consume it at all.
If this is the case, many glycerin substitutes can be used in kitchen tasks. These can give your food the same benefits without using glycerin at all.
You’ll find five of the best glycerin substitutes below, including a bit more information about glycerin and what it can be used for.
Glycerin: The Basics
The word glycerin comes from the term ‘glycerol’. Glycerin is a chemical substance that is present in several different products and foods.
Glycerin is typically used as a preservative or sweetener in baked goods. It can be sourced from plant oils and animal fat, so some varieties may be vegan, while others aren’t
Glycerin also has other uses. It’s added to medications to act as a solvent, while soap makers add glycerin to their products for moisturizing purposes.
It can hold water very well, which is why it’s often added to bathing products.
Other than cosmetic and baking purposes, glycerin is also used to create explosives. It’s clear that glycerin is a significant chemical ingredient necessary for creating a lot of different items.
How Glycerin Is Used In Baking
- Glycerin has a lot of benefits when it’s used in baking. Here are some examples of how glycerin is used:
- Glycerin gives royal icing a shiny and smooth finish. This is ideal when making wedding cakes as the icing won’t stick to the icing knife.
- Glycerin is a light preservative that increases the shelf life of some goods. It can make cupcakes, donuts, and other baked goods last a few more days.
- Glycerin stops icing from turning into a crust, which is very important in professional baking. The syrup allows bakers to work on their frosting decorations for longer, as it stops the icing from drying out.
- The syrup stops candy and fudge from turning into crystals. Candy makers use glycerin to create smooth chocolate and candy treats.
The Best Glycerin Alternatives To Use In Recipes
If you are trying to consume less glycerin, or cannot consume glycerin, for whatever reason, here are some glycerin alternatives that you can try.
Corn syrup is the most common glycerin substitute used in North America. It is sourced from dextrose, a type of sugar that is taken from wheat or corn.
Corn syrup has a relatively neutral taste and works well as a sweetener in several baked products. However, one disadvantage of using corn syrup in the place of glycerin is that it can make your bakes very sweet.
Some consumers don’t mind this issue as they like the taste of the syrup. Some even prefer to use corn syrup instead of glycerin!
If you plan on using corn syrup as a glycerin substitute, bear in mind that it doesn’t possess as many preservative qualities as glycerin does.
Your bakes might end up with a shorter life span, so you may need to add a different preservative to prevent spoiling.
A lot of people are surprised to find out that maple syrup is a glycerin alternative as it is very viscous.
Maple syrup is known for its delicious flavor and sweet smell. These qualities make it a great addition to use in many types of baked treats.
You can usually substitute maple syrup for glycerin in a 1:1 proportion. If you prefer very sweet bakes, feel free to add a little more maple syrup so it reaches your standards.
Keep in mind that maple syrup is a different product from table syrup and pancake syrup. Pancake syrup has a lighter texture as it is generally used as a topping.
Table syrup is like maple syrup, but it contains more preservatives and additional ingredients.
Honey is another sweet syrup that works well as a glycerin substitute. Its flavor and texture do resemble glycerin well, but honey doesn’t have as many preservative abilities compared to glycerin.
Honey has been used as a sweetener for thousands of years. It’s one of the earliest kinds of sugar humans ever used. Today, honey is still a popular baking ingredient used all over the world.
If you do want to use honey as a glycerin substitute, keep in mind that bakes made with honey will have a shorter shelf life compared to ones made with glycerin, so plan accordingly.
Sodium lactate is a very good glycerin substitute due to its preservative abilities. The ingredient performs as an emulsifier and has several benefits when used in cooking.
Lactate is used in various food businesses to create yogurt and cheese. Some processed meats, like ground beef and sausage, also contain sodium lactate, as well as ice cream, soup, and breakfast cereal.
Sodium lactate is often added to bread to help the mixture ferment. It also works as a humectant, drawing moisture from the air to keep bakes moist on the inside.
This is an ideal quality when carrying out recipes that take a longer time, like when preparing meatloaf or bread dough.
Vegetable oil can also be used as a glycerin substitute in several baking tasks. It’s another common alternative people use when they cannot use glycerin.
Vegetable oil has no overwhelming flavor, so it won’t take away from the taste of any baked goods. It can also perform as a binder and emulsifier in a lot of recipes.
Vegetable oil is like glycerin in several ways, which is why buyers use the oil if they are looking for additives that won’t affect the taste of their products.
Even though it can be useful, take note that vegetable oil may not work well as a substitute in some recipes.
Its preservative properties only work on food prepared at low temperatures, like cakes. Vegetable oil won’t do anything for foods cooked at a higher heat.
Heat can make oil break down, which makes the intended baked good lose its tasty flavors. You should also note that vegetable oil isn’t sweet.
If you are making a sweet product, you will need to add another sweetener to the recipe to compensate.
The Bottom Line
Glycerin is a carbohydrate that tastes sweet, like sugar. It’s often used in baking to give products sweetness, moisture, and texture.
A lot of food manufacturers add glycerin as a preservative, helping to prevent baked goods from spoiling.
The FDA states that glycerin is safe for human consumption, but some people find that glycerin doesn’t agree with them.
If you experience side effects after consuming glycerin, or have glycerin allergies, you can use other ingredients to substitute for it in recipes.
However, keep in mind that some of the alternatives on this list aren’t as good a preservative as glycerin is.
You may need to add other preservatives to your recipes or store your goods away for a shorter amount of time.