September is National Honey Month and I thought that it would be the perfect time to talk honey. More specifically, how to avoid honey as a vegan.
As vegans, we cannot and should not ignore the ethical implications and environmental consequences of the bee husbandry industry, and doing so can only serve to reduce our credibility as a serious movement trying to effect change. Honey isn’t some magical ingredient no one can avoid. It’s an animal product that has been mass marketed and mass manufactured for generations- and it’s been tested on animals. With so many vegan alternatives available, honey is not only exploitative, it’s unnecessary.
Don’t worry. Finding a replacement for honey is super simple. There are plenty of vegan alternatives to help satisfy that sweep syrup craving you may have. While some are more like honey than others, all of them come from plants making these syrups friendly for everyone, human and animal.
FAQ: Are you serious? Are you really trying to say we should care about insects?
That makes vegans look extreme.
Some well-intentioned people overlook the use of honey because of the widely spread myth that honey and bee products are an all-natural by-products of the necessary pollination of our own food crops. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, consuming honey is not only detrimental to bees, it’s detrimental to the environment, and has dangerous consequences to our own food supply. And, honey is tested on animals such as cats and dogs, among others.
The thing to understand is that veganism is a philosophy which begins with the idea that we should not use animals in any way and avoid, to the extent that is possible and practical, all forms of use. So sure, it may seem extreme to avoid products made from insects- after all, insects are less aesthetically appealing than say, a puppy. But offering respect to the littlest members of our world seems logical when thinking about caring for those who are perceived inconsequential or weaker than ourselves. We can avoid honey and bee products for our own survival, so we should. Learn more about why honey is not vegan.
6 Vegan Honey Alternatives
Agave nectar is a sweetener commercially produced from several species of the agave plant. That’s right, the same plant that produces tequila (which explains why agave pairs so beautifully in tequila cocktails). Most agave comes from Mexico and South Africa. Agave is sweeter than honey and tends to be less viscous. And, like honey, agave nectar comes in a varietal of styles ranging from dark amber to light, each with their own distinct flavor. Dark agave has a caramel taste, while the lighter agave is more reminiscent of a delicate honey.
Made from the reduced sap of coconut palms, coconut nectar has a sweet, tangy, taste with no coconut flavor. It is high in amino acids, vitamins and minerals. The nectar also is low-glycemic.
Maple syrup is a syrup usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees, although it can also be made from other maple species. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring.
Molasses is made by refining sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar. Interestingly, the word comes from the Portuguese melaço, ultimately derived from mel, the Portuguese and Latin word for “honey”. Perhaps your only experience with blackstrap molasses has been in gingerbread or baked beans. You probably never gave much thought to it, but blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of iron and calcium. Like other plant syrups, molasses has several varieties and flavors. Barbados molasses, for example, is lighter and sweeter than blackstrap and goes perfect in a warm bowl of oatmeal.
Comes from sprouted barley, roasted and cooked down to a syrup with a malt-like flavor. Substitute 1:1 for honey.
Brown rice syrup is a sweetener made by exposing cooked rice to enzymes that break down the starches and turn them into smaller sugars. Then all the “impurities” are filtered out and all that is left is a thick dark syrup with a caramel type flavor.
Make Your Own Vegan Honey
Skip the stores and learn to make vegan honey at home! Here are two recipes to get you started:
BONUS Vegan Date Paste Recipe
Date paste could almost be the ultimate all natural sweetener that goes perfect in almost every recipe. It’s smooth and silky and just a bit like caramel. You might think it’s a strange replacement for honey, but it works just as well as honey in any baked good you can dream up. So, goodbye refined sugar and hello healthy one-ingredient easy to make date paste!
- 1 cup pitted medjool dates
- 2/3 cup hot water
- Place medjool dates into a bowl.
- Pour hot water directly over top until all the dates are fully covered. Let soak for one hour or until soft.
- Drain dates and place into a food processor.
- Blend 6 – 8 minutes until completely smooth.
What is your favorite vegan honey alternative? Let me know in the comments!