Your Guide To Buying, Cooking, and Baking With Honey

Get the buzz on honey.

Bees create honey from the nectar they gather from flowers. The type of flowers and the climate all impact a honey's appearance, aroma, and taste. That's one reason there are, according to the National Honey Board, more than 300 varietals. Not sure which to try? A good rule of thumb: The lighter the color, the milder the flavor.

Here's a handy guide to some of the more popular types of honey you'll find at your grocery store, plus favorite recipes using honey.

Honey and turnovers
Honey and turnovers | Photo by Meredith.

Types of honey

Honey can be mild or spicy, buttery, fruity, herbal, or woodsy, depending on the source of the nectar.

Orange blossom honey: This white to extra-light amber honey is bursting with orange notes. Give it a go in salad dressings and marinades, or pair it with creamy cheeses, such as Brie, goat cheese, and Camembert.

Alfalfa honey: Nectar from the violet-colored blooms of alfalfa make for a mild-flavored and light-amber honey. Its neutrality makes it ideal for baking and cooking. Try it in marinades for fish or chicken, too.

Clover honey: With its pleasantly mild taste and flowery aroma, clover honey is a popular choice for tabletop or baked goods. It will sweeten, but not dominate, a recipe.

Avocado honey: It doesn't taste like avocados, but if you love molasses, you'll love this variety. Bees create a velvety, dark, robust honey from avocado flowers. Try it in rich chocolaty or nutty desserts, or use it to top off pancakes or waffles.

Buckwheat honey. Bees that pollinate buckwheat produce this dark, flavorful honey with pronounced notes of malt. Its strong flavor makes it a popular ingredient in baked goods and even barbecue sauces. You can even try it in place of molasses.

Honeycomb is fun as a novelty — try spreading it on toast — but it's not useful in recipes. Honey butters and creams are generally in a crystallized and semi-solid form; they're best used as spreads, as they tend to be more expensive than liquid honey.

Honey and cornbread
Honey and cornbread | Photo by Meredith.

How to bake with honey

Honey is the original all-natural, unprocessed sweetener. And, since it's sweeter than white sugar, you can use less of it when baking:

  • Use ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon of honey for every cup of sugar
  • Decrease the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup
  • Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of honey
  • Reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees F

Another reason honey is great to use when baking is because it's hygroscopic (water-attracting): it absorbs moisture from the air, keeping your baked goods moist and delicious for days.

Baklava | Photo by Meredith.

Honey storage and safety

Honey is relatively shelf-stable, but it should be stored in an air-tight jar. Heat will cause it to degrade over time, so you may wish to store your honey in the refrigerator if you don't eat it very often. If your honey has crystallized, gently heat it in a pan of simmering water (or uncap the jar and microwave on medium power until fluid, checking every 30 seconds) to restore its consistency.

Note: Never give honey to children younger than one year old. Honey may contain trace amounts of botulism spores. While these spores are harmless to most people, immature digestive systems are susceptible. Infants can develop breathing problems or paralysis. (Pasteurization or cooking will not destroy the spores.)

Honey recipes to try

Honey is a wonderful ingredient in many sweet and savory applications — as well as in beer and fermented as wine. Honey can also be infused with herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or sage. These flavored honeys are especially nice for glazing meats.

Grilled Peaches and Cream
Grilled Peaches and Cream | Photo by homeschooler3.

Savory honey recipes

Honey dressings, sauces, and condiments

Honey desserts

Honey baked


Portions of this article originally appeared in the April/May 2021 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.

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