Rice syrup is a natural sweetener which is made from cooked rice which is treated with enzymes to turn the starches in the rice into sugars. Along with other alternatives to sugar, this syrup can usually be found in natural foods stores and in some large markets. It can be used like honey, molasses, and other liquid sweeteners, and with some planning it can also replace granulated sugar. Since it does cause an elevation in blood sugar, it is not suitable for diabetics.
The base of rice syrup is cooked rice. Typically, whole brown rice is used, since it is intended to be a health food. The rice is inoculated with enzymes which will convert the starches, and the mixture is allowed to sit. After a set time, a liquid is skimmed from the top and boiled down into a dense dark brown mixture, which is packaged and sold.
Individuals with gluten intolerance should read rice syrup labels carefully. Many producers culture the enzymes needed to make syrup on grains which contain gluten. Unless the label clearly specifies that the product is gluten free, it should be assumed that the food contains gluten. Although it may only be present in trace amounts, it can be enough to upset a delicate stomach.
When using rice syrup to replace other liquid sugars, it can be used as a cup for cup replacement. The sweetener tends to be less sweet than many other sugars, and it has a faintly nutty flavor which is not always appropriate for all foods. Cooks should taste it before using it extensively, and they may want to experiment with small batches before committing. Since rice syrup is less sweet, the end dish will obviously be less sweet as well.
When rice syrup is used to replace granulated sugar and other dry sweeteners, it should be done with care. Since it is a liquid, it can cause a liquid imbalance in the recipe, which can be disastrous for baked goods. Generally, around one and one quarter cups of syrup should be used for every cup of sugar, and a quarter cup of some other liquid in the recipe should be removed to compensate for the additional moisture in the food. The substitution of sugar with rice syrup may take some experimentation to perfect, so small batches and patience are the key.