Difference Between Light and Dark Corn Syrup


If you are fan of the kitchen world and you love to cook, you have almost certainly used an ingredient such as corn syrup in your preparations before. It is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a lot of recipes as long as you have a big imagination. The ingredient has a lot of purposes, but it isn’t the healthiest one.

Seen as a type of sugar, corn syrup might not be too good for you, especially if you eat too much of it on a regular basis. It has a lot of calories in it and since it is an invert sugar, it will not be as healthy as an apple or as a tomato – not at all. There are alternatives with lesser calories, but these won’t perform any miracles as well.

Corn syrup isn’t too healthy and we can see why if we look at the time it can be stored. According to the leading producers, corn syrup can be stored indefinitely, but is at its best quality until it reaches the date stamped on the container. This means that it is filled up with ingredients such as sugar that are going to preserve the syrup.

Corn Syrup

There are two major types of corn syrup out there: light corn syrup and dark corn syrup. What usually happens is that people associate the light color syrup with lite, which would mean that it has less calories. If this was true, it would actually be healthier than the dark corn syrup but the difference in calories between these two is so small it is barely worth mentioning.

Light Corn Syrup
Light corn syrup is made out of a combination of corn syrup, fructose, vanilla and salt. Its taste is moderately sweet and it is widely used in the kitchen but its purposes are the same as the purposes of dark corn syrup since these two can be used interchangeably in recipes.

Dark Corn Syrup
Dark corn syrup on the other hand is a combination of the corn syrup, caramel coloring and flavor, a well as molasses and salt. It has a darker color (hence the name) and it has a stronger taste when compared to light dark syrup. Even though the two types of corn syrup are interchangeable, dark corn syrup is going to add a little bit more flavor to a dish.

What Are They Best Used For?

If you really want to be specific about it, dark corn syrup is better for baked goods and for toppings that are used in sweet dishes such as biscuits and pancakes. Light corn syrup on the other hand is a little bitter to use with meat and vegetables.

Besides from the regular kitchen uses, you can also use it to preserve frozen foods since it prevents the creation of ice crystals. These ice crystals usually damage the molecules of the food which will then damage its nutritional value as well as the flavor. Moreover you can use corn syrup to enhance the fruit flavor in jams and to preserve these types of foods.

Asian cuisine uses a lot of corn syrup since it enhances the sweet and the sour profiles, which will then make dishes a lot, lot better. It does increase the overall calories of the dish, but it just makes it amazing as well.

It is even possible to exchange honey or molasses with corn syrup in some recipes, depending on the overall dish. It isn’t really the best thing to do if you are not an expert in the kitchen since you can ruin the whole dish if there are other ingredients involve that don’t really combine with the flavor and texture of the corn syrup.

What Are the Other Alternatives?

For people that want to get an alternative to the high amounts of calories that are present in corn syrup, there is also the lite corn syrup (not to be confused with light) that has around 33% less calories than both light and dark corn syrup. It also has no high amount of fructose in it and as such it isn’t too high on sugars as well. It doesn’t fir the same purposes as the other two, however, since in candy and cereal bars it won’t work as well as light or dark corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup has been associated with the increase of obesity a few years back. When obesity was rising to incredibly high levels, the consumption of corn syrup had nearly tripled. After analyzing the facts and seeing that corn syrup wasn’t exactly the healthiest product in the world, some researches felt that there was a link between the consumption of corn syrup and the increase in obesity worldwide.


At the end of the day, the difference between these two comes down to the ingredients that they are made of and that just gives them a small difference in the taste. They are interchangeable when it comes to using it in recipes and they are both stored for long periods of time without any consequence.

If you are a professional in the kitchen, of if you like to make amazing dishes with incredible presentations, than the difference in the color and the texture are going to be very important factors. If you want to make a heavy glaze that contrasts with the color of the rest of the dish, you are going to want to choose either light or dark corn syrup, depending on the dish you are contrasting it with.