Honey crystals, also known as dried honey, are dry, crystalline granules produced from liquid honey. Though some are not made from pure honey, extra flavors are often added for a different taste profile. Commercial food manufacturers often use these crystals instead of liquid honey to add flavor to cereals, sauces, and other products. Home cooks may use honey crystals as a less messy alternative to liquid honey or as a sugar substitute in baking and cooking, although they may produce different results than what is expected.
Dried honey products come in crystal form, like sugar, but are also available as granules, flakes, and powders. Since honey contains a high percentage of fructose and absorbs water easily, most honey crystals also contain processing aids to reduce caking or stickiness. These may include bran, lecithin, and wheat starch, as well as soy flour or calcium stearate. Some of these anti-caking agents, however, can make some honey crystals unsuitable for people on diets that restrict gluten or other food ingredients.
Not all honey crystals are pure honey. High fructose and ordinary corn syrup, cane sugar, and beet sugar, as well as maltodextrin or non-nutritive sweeteners may be added to the honey to reduce costs or change the flavor. Most dried honey products list their honey content as a percentage on the package. Honey crystal formulations range from as little as 50% to nearly 100% honey. Products labeled as “all-natural” cannot contain chemical sweeteners or additives, but may not be pure honey.
Honey crystals work well as a hot or cold beverage sweetener, as a dessert topping, or in barbecue rubs. They may also be used to sweeten fruit and seasoning mixes or sauces. Flavored honey crystal products are available as beverage sweeteners and instant drinks, especially in Asia and Asian expatriate communities, with common flavors including ginger and chrysanthemum.
Using these flavored crystals in cooking or baking can produce unexpected results. Cooks should test flavored crystals carefully before substituting them for sugar or unflavored dried honey. In light-colored food, they can produce an undesirable color, since the crystals range from light tan to medium brown, while darker honey crystals usually produce a stronger flavor.
Dried honey products cost more per ounce than equivalent sugar crystals, but provide greater sweetening power. Liquid honey is approximately 25% sweeter than dry sucrose, but can affect the moisture balance in recipes. The sweetening power of honey crystals also depends on their purity. Crystals that contain more honey produce a sweeter, more pronounced flavor.