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substitute for corn syrup in popcorn balls/homemade candy?

When I was a child one of our elderly neighbors used to give out homemade popcorn balls for Halloween. It was such a great childhood memory I want to make them for my children but I don't want to use corn syrup.

All of the recipes I've come across include corn syrup.

Does anyone have any suggestions or a recipe using a substitute? (maple syrup, honey, agave) or better still a recipe that's already been tested.

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  1. Maybe try posting on the home cooking board-you might get a wider response....

    1. It's the sort of thing corn syrup's made for. Other things like honey or maple syrup will go rock-like. Why worry if it's a one-shot production?

      1. brown rice syrup is, IMO, the best substitute for corn syrup in terms of how it behaves. however, it's more viscous than corn syrup, so to thin it out you can combine it with maple or a simple sugar syrup.

        1. Lyle's Golden Syrup will work just fine (and taste better); I always sub it for light corn syrup.

          3 Replies
          1. re: pikawicca

            Corn syrup is glucose. Glucose can be made from a variety of starches, and in Europe is likely to be made from wheat starch or potato starch.

            Golden Syrup is invert sugar - a sucrose (sugar) syrup that is partially broken down into fructose and glucose - so it's a mix of the 3 sugars. Like straight glucose it does not crystallize as straight sugar syrup does. That's why it works in candies like this.

            Golden Syrup is relatively expensive ($6 for a lb can). You can approximate it by boiling a sugar syrup with an acid like cream of tartar. Though my one attempt did crystallize after a while.

            You could check the websites for companies that make these alternative syrups for recipes - e.g. Lyles for Golden Syrup (except it is British), Lundberg Farms for brown rice syrup, etc.

            1. re: pikawicca

              +1 That Golden Syrup is a lot tastier than plain corn syrup. Golden syrup has caramel undertones.

              1. re: dave_c

                Caramel undertones sold me corn syrup's lack of flavor is something I hated back when I was able to eat it. I'm going to try and find golden syrup. Sounds like it should work very well.

            2. Going to be tough as that is precisely the type of thing corn syrup is perfect for.

              What's wrong with corn syrup thoguh? I could understand not wanting to use high fructose corn syrup, but not wanting to use regular corn syrup seems odd.

              8 Replies
              1. re: twyst

                This thread caught my eye because I've been wondering the same thing. How did people make some of these treats before corn syrup came along? I've just had to avoid recipes using corn syrup since I've never found a decent alternative. Yet.

                Some, like me, are allergic to corn. It's not so odd. And before some foodiescientist pops up and says there are no allergens left in something so processed, I use my eczema as my guide
                to what has allergens left in it.

                1. re: twyst

                  Light corn syrup contains HFCS (at least it does in the U.S.), although I've recently spotted organic LCS which wouldn't.

                  1. re: pikawicca

                    Karo light corn syrup no longer has high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in it. They removed it awhile ago due to customer preferences.

                    Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are not the same thing, though it's all sugar.

                    1. re: Merryworld

                      My bottle of Karo LCS, purchased last spring, lists HFCS as an ingredient.

                        1. re: twyst

                          Play it safe and read the label before you buy.

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            Given the break down of sugars in corn syrup that Drongo lists, Karo was probably trying to make their syrup more appealing to customers by making it sweeter. While they are both simple sugars, fructose tastes much sweeter than glucose. In effect they were moving it slightly in the direction of pancake syrup. But now that HFCS is the boogieman, they have more to gain by omitting it (and proclaiming so on the label).

                      1. re: Merryworld

                        Last time I bought corn syrup (within the last year), I compared labels between the store brand and the Karo. The store brand had HFCS; the Karo didn't. I spent the extra money on the Karo.