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What is Brown Rice Syrup? A Concise Overview

Brown rice syrup is a natural sweetener derived from brown rice, offering a plant-based alternative to traditional refined sugars. Produced by breaking down the starches in cooked rice using enzymes and then reducing the liquid in the rice to achieve a syrup-like consistency, this sweetener has gained popularity in recent years for its vegan and gluten-free properties. Mainly produced in Asia, Europe, and the United States, brown rice syrup has found its way into various culinary applications as a versatile sweetening agent.

In terms of health aspects, brown rice syrup mainly consists of pure glucose, and while it is a natural sweetener, its nutritional value should be considered when compared to other sweetener alternatives. It is important to remember that consumption of any sweeteners, natural or otherwise, should be done in moderation to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. That being said, brown rice syrup’s unique characteristics have made it a popular choice for those seeking to diversify their sweetener options in their culinary endeavors.

Key Takeaways

  • Brown rice syrup is a vegan, gluten-free sweetener derived from brown rice
  • It mainly consists of pure glucose and should be consumed in moderation
  • The syrup is a popular alternative to refined sugars in various culinary applications

What is Brown Rice Syrup

Source and Production

Brown rice syrup, also known as rice syrup or rice malt, is a sweetener derived from brown rice. It is a vegan and gluten-free liquid sugar substitute that has become popular among people looking for a plant-based sweetener alternative to refined sugar. Brown rice syrup is produced by exposing cooked rice to enzymes that break down starches and turn them into smaller sugars, such as glucose and fructose. The liquid is then strained off and reduced by evaporative heating until the desired consistency is reached.

Types of Rice Syrup

There are different types of rice syrup available, depending on the process used and the source of the enzymes:

  • Traditional Rice Syrup: Produced using cultures from barley or other grains which contain the necessary enzymes to break down the starch in rice, and often used in Asian foods.
  • Gluten-Free Rice Syrup: Utilizes enzymes derived from microorganisms to ensure that the resulting syrup is gluten-free and suitable for those with gluten sensitivities.

Brown rice syrup is amber or brown in color and resembles the consistency of pale honey or molasses. It is thick and very sticky, making it suitable for use in a variety of recipes and as a sweetening agent in food and beverages.

Health Aspects

Glycemic Index

Brown rice syrup is a sweetener made from whole-grain rice, which is broken down into sugars such as maltose, maltotriose, and a small amount of glucose (source). The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly foods containing carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels. A high GI indicates a rapid rise in blood sugar, while a low GI reflects a slower, more gradual increase. Since brown rice syrup is predominantly composed of maltose, it has a high glycemic index (around 98) which may not be suitable for individuals with diabetes or those looking to maintain stable blood sugar levels (source).

Arsenic Concerns

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in soil, air, and water. It can also be present in rice and rice-based products, such as brown rice syrup. Although arsenic in trace amounts may not be harmful, long-term exposure to higher levels of arsenic has been linked to various health problems, including skin disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive deficits (source). The presence of arsenic in brown rice syrup depends on factors such as the rice type, soil, and manufacturing process. While there is currently no specific limit set for arsenic levels in rice syrup, it is essential for consumers to consume rice-based products in moderation and make sure to maintain a balanced diet to minimize potential risks.

Nutritional Value

Calories and Sugars

Brown rice syrup is mainly composed of sugars, which account for a significant portion of its caloric value. In 100 grams of brown rice syrup, there are 320 calories, with 90.2 grams of carbohydrates, out of which 72.7 grams are sugars1. This syrup contains three sugars: maltotriose (52%), maltose (45%), and glucose (3%)2. Maltose consists of two glucose molecules, while maltotriose is made up of three glucose molecules2.

Vitamins and Minerals

Brown rice syrup is lower in vitamins and minerals compared to other sweeteners like molasses. However, it does contain some micronutrients. For instance, it has 87.3mg of sodium per 100 grams1. While brown rice itself contains more nutrients, such as 85.8mg of magnesium, 3.5g of fiber, and 4.5g of protein3, the syrup doesn’t retain these qualities to the same extent, as the process of making brown rice syrup primarily focuses on extracting the sugars4.

It’s essential to be aware that although brown rice syrup is regarded as a natural sweetener and can be found in many organic products, it is not a healthier option compared to white sugar or other sugar alternatives5. Moderating one’s sugar consumption, including products containing brown rice syrup, should be a priority to maintain a balanced diet5.

Culinary Uses

Cooking and Baking

Brown rice syrup is a versatile liquid sweetener popular in vegan and gluten-free recipes. Its mild, nutty flavor and consistency make it a suitable substitute for other sweeteners in various cooking and baking applications, such as granola bars, pancakes, waffles, and baked goods like cakes and cookies.

In addition to being used as a sweetener, brown rice syrup may also help as a thickening agent in recipes, enhancing the texture and moistness of your dishes. Its high glycemic index, due to the presence of maltose and maltotriose, indicates that it’s quickly absorbed by your body, making it ideal for a quick energy boost in recipes like energy bars and sports drinks.

Substituting Other Sweeteners

When replacing other sweeteners in recipes, it’s crucial to consider the differences in flavor, sweetness, and consistency. Brown rice syrup has a distinct nutty flavor that sets it apart from other sweeteners like white sugar, honey, and maple syrup. It is less sweet than refined sugars, and its liquid form might also affect the texture or consistency of certain recipes.

Here’s a guide to substituting brown rice syrup for other sweeteners:

  • White sugar: Replace 1 cup of white sugar with 1 1/4 cups of brown rice syrup, while reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup to maintain the desired texture.
  • Honey/Agave Nectar: Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting brown rice syrup for honey or agave nectar.
  • Maple syrup/Date syrup: Substitute brown rice syrup in a 1:1 ratio for maple or date syrup, but take note of the potential impact on flavor, as these syrups have a more pronounced taste.
  • Barley malt syrup: Since brown rice syrup and barley malt syrup are quite similar, they can be substituted in equal amounts.

When experimenting with brown rice syrup as a substitute, be aware of its characteristics, including its shelf life and the effect it may have on your dish’s flavor and texture, to make informed adjustments to your kitchen creations.

Sweetener Alternatives

When looking for alternatives to brown rice syrup, it’s important to consider health factors, taste, and other properties. In this section, we will explore a few options under three categories: Agave and Maple Syrup, Healthier Sugars, and Other Sweeteners.

Agave and Maple Syrup

Agave syrup is a natural sweetener derived from the agave plant. Its taste is similar to honey but with milder flavor. Agave has a lower glycemic index than brown rice syrup, making it a more suitable choice for people who are watching their sugar intake.

Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees, and its flavor profile is distinct and slightly less sweet than brown rice syrup. It is rich in antioxidants and minerals like zinc and manganese, but like brown rice syrup, it contains glucose and fructose.

Healthier Sugars

Honey is a natural sweetener with a lower glycemic index than brown rice syrup. It has antibacterial and antioxidant properties and a unique flavor that varies depending on the flowers bees use to produce it. However, honey is not suitable for vegans.

Molasses is a dark, viscous liquid obtained from the refining process of sugar. It contains iron, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals, making it a healthier option than brown rice syrup. The taste of molasses is strong and bittersweet, which may not be suitable for all recipes.

Other Sweeteners

Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener derived from cornstarch. It is often used as a substitute for brown rice syrup due to its similar consistency and sweetness. However, it is important to differentiate between regular corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, which is less healthy due to its high fructose content.

Stevia is a plant-based, calorie-free sweetener. It is much sweeter than brown rice syrup, making it necessary to use a smaller amount in recipes. Stevia has no impact on blood sugar levels, which makes it an attractive option for diabetics.

Date syrup is made from boiled and mashed dates. This sweetener has a caramel-like flavor and is rich in antioxidants and fiber. Like brown rice syrup, it is vegan and provides a natural source of sweetness.

Barley malt syrup is derived from sprouted barley grains and has a distinct malty flavor. It is less sweet than brown rice syrup, and its taste works well in baking and savory recipes. Barley malt syrup is also a source of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.

Global Usage of Brown Rice Syrup


In Asia, brown rice syrup, also known as rice malt syrup, has been used as a natural sweetener for centuries. It is derived from cooked rice starch that is broken down by enzymes and then reduced, resulting in a sweet syrup. Rice malt syrup is commonly used as an alternative sweetener in various food products due to its relatively neutral and clear taste. Additionally, it is often considered a healthier option compared to other sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup, as it is mainly composed of glucose rather than fructose. This is relevant for those looking to manage diabetes, as glucose can be easier for the body to process.

United States

In the United States, brown rice syrup has gained growing popularity in the organic food industry as a natural sweetener. It is frequently used in baked goods, infant formulas, and other food products that aim to provide healthier alternatives to traditional sweeteners. However, concerns have been raised regarding trace amounts of impurities, such as arsenic, found in some brown rice syrup products. The EPA regulates the levels of such impurities, ensuring that they remain within safe limits for human consumption.


Similar to the United States, brown rice syrup is also popular in Europe as a natural sweetener, particularly for organic food products. With increasing awareness of the potential health impacts linked to excessive sugar intake and the prevalence of diabetes, European consumers are also turning to alternatives like brown rice syrup for their sweetening needs. While concerns about trace amounts of impurities have been noted, appropriate regulatory measures are in place to ensure the safety of brown rice syrup for consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is brown rice syrup high in arsenic?

Brown rice syrup, derived from brown rice, may contain trace amounts of arsenic. However, it is essential to note that arsenic levels depend on the rice used by the manufacturer. Careful sourcing can minimize exposure to arsenic, resulting in a safe, sweet product.

How does brown rice syrup compare to other sweeteners in terms of health benefits?

Brown rice syrup is a vegan and gluten-free alternative to refined sugar. It is processed less and lacks chemical additives often found in traditional sweeteners. However, its nutrient content is minimal, providing little in terms of health benefits compared to other natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

What is the glycemic index of brown rice syrup?

The glycemic index of brown rice syrup ranges from 98 to 100, which is considered very high. Consuming foods with a high glycemic index may cause quick spikes in blood sugar levels, so it’s essential for those with diabetes or at risk for diabetes to monitor their intake of brown rice syrup.

How does brown rice syrup compare to maple syrup?

While both sweeteners provide a natural alternative to refined sugar, they differ in their nutritional profiles. Brown rice syrup has a higher glycemic index and is lower in nutrients than maple syrup. Maple syrup contains minerals like manganese and zinc and has a lower glycemic index, which is more favorable for blood sugar regulation.

What are the main ingredients in brown rice syrup?

Brown rice syrup is derived from brown rice, which is cooked and undergoes enzymatic processing to break down starches into sugars. These sugars include maltose, maltotriose, and glucose. The sweet liquid is then strained and boiled down into a syrup.

What can be used as a substitute for brown rice syrup?

If you need to substitute brown rice syrup in a recipe, you can use alternatives like honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or barley malt syrup. It’s important to consider the specific recipe and the desired taste, as different substitutes may provide varying levels of sweetness and flavor profiles.


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  2. Brown Rice Syrup: Good or Bad? Healthline. 2

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  4. What Is Brown Rice Syrup? The Spruce Eats.

  5. What Is Brown Rice Syrup and Is It Good For You? A Dietitian Weighs In. 2