Differences Between Dark and Light Corn Syrup: (SIMPLE ANSWER)

image of difference between light and dark corn syrup

We’ll talk today about the main differences between dark and light corn syrup. These syrups come from corn starch, also known as inverted sugars, which are liquid when kept at room temperature. Their differences come mainly from the ingredients they contain. These formulas might have different flavors based on that fact. 

Bottom Line Up Front!

Light corn syrup has no color or, in some cases, features a pale yellowish hue. It’s also sweet, with a mild taste. By comparison, dark corn syrup has a deep brown shade and a more powerful flavor, sweet and toasty. Finally, dark syrup reminds us of caramel, whereas light corn syrup makes us think of vanilla. 

In today’s comparative review, you’ll find the things that separate light corn syrup from its dark alternative. But first, let’s talk about these corn syrup types’ pros and cons, their uses and characteristics, and more. 

The Main Differences between Dark and Light Corn Syrup 

Here are the main differences between dark and light corn syrup:

  • Dark corn syrup has a brown color, while its light alternative is yellow or colorless;
  • The dark version of the corn syrup has a more intense flavor, while the light syrup is milder;
  • Golden or white corn syrup tastes like vanilla, while the darker option tastes like caramel;
  • Dark corn syrup contains salt and molasses, while light syrup doesn’t have anything other than salt and vanilla as its primary flavors;
  • Light corn syrup is healthier since it doesn’t contain added sugar;
  • The light type of syrup is added in sweets and candles, while the dark one is found in cookies and cakes. 
image of Dark and Light Corn Syrup 

The Main Similarities between Dark and Light Corn Syrup 

These two corn syrup types also have things in common:

  • Corn starch is the base ingredient of both syrups;
  • They’re both popular in the food industry, and they’re also known as maize;
  • Both corn syrups have a sweet taste.

Dark vs. Light Corn Syrup – What Are Their Common Uses?

Light corn syrup is first decolorized and clarified before being added to specific recipes. Manufacturers add it to a wide range of food products like jellies, jams, baked goods, and more. In addition, it’s prevalent in numerous candy formulas due to its non-crystallization property when heated. 

You can add dark corn syrup in various recipes such as ice creams and sorbets, cookies, caramel-based snacks, crispy rice snacks, nutritional bars, and others. It’s also found in some biscuit recipes, cakes, fudges, and chocolates. 

Main Differences between Dark and Light Corn Syrup – Characteristics 

You should know about some notable characteristics of these two corn syrups.

Ingredients & Nutritional Values:

Light corn syrup contains vanilla extract and syrup extracted from corn starch. The vanilla extract mixes vanilla beans, ethyl alcohol, and water. On the other hand, dark corn syrup has a more complex formula: besides corn starch, it also contains molasses, sodium benzoate, salt, and sometimes caramel. 

The sodium benzoate ingredient protects the syrup’s quality. Both syrups are refined corn starch. 

Regarding nutritional values, there are many brands and alternatives, some of which are gluten-free, kosher, or MSG-free. We’ll review the dark syrup first:

  • 118 calories per serving;
  • 40mg of sodium;
  • 30g of carbs – out of which 10g of sugars;
  • 0g of protein and fats. 

As for the light or white corn syrup, here are its nutritional facts:

  • 62 calories per serving;
  • 14 mg of sodium;
  • 17g of carbs – all of which are sugars;
  • 0g of fats and protein;
  • Unlike dark syrup, this one also contains calcium (0.2%) and potassium (0.2mg). 

Flavor & Color:

Light corn syrup has no color and features a sweet yet mild taste. Most white corn syrups are clear or colorless, but those with extra vanilla might gain a faded yellow hue and a richer flavor. The light syrup has a pleasant and smooth taste that doesn’t change your recipe too much.

By comparison, the dark version of this sweetener has a more prominent taste and a darker color that resembles caramel. Dark syrups might color your foods due to their molasses content. Your recipes will achieve a sweeter and a bit smoky flavor, a taste found in many gingerbread cookie recipes. 

Dark Corn Syrup Pros & Cons:

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of dark corn syrup.


  • It’s more efficient if you use it in products that need to achieve a brown color;
  • Budget-friendly and economical solution for manufacturers;
  • It will make your cookies and sweets crispier and crunchier.


  • If you don’t consume it in moderation, your insulin levels will increase;
  • Not very healthy because of its refined formula.

Light Corn Syrup Pros & Cons

Now, it’s time to find out the advantages and disadvantages of light corn syrup.


  • Mild taste;
  • Not too sweet;
  • More affordable than sugar;
  • Boosts the shelf life of products;
  • It can improve foods’ texture and freshness;
  • It dissolves in water in no time.


  • Many corn syrups are genetically-modified;
  • It could make you want to consume more of the product that contains it;
  • Your liver might become overloaded with carbs because of corn syrup intake. 

Dark vs. Light Corn Syrup – What Are Their Main Alternatives?

Here are some of the best corn syrup alternatives worthy of consideration.


To achieve a syrup consistency, you’ll need to mix sugar with water and stir it until the sugar dissolves. However, unlike corn syrup, this alternative crystallizes at high temperatures. 


  • Boosts your energy quickly;
  • The ideal choice for baked goods;
  • It doesn’t change the color of your food. 


  • It’s full of empty calories;
  • It spikes your blood sugar levels. 


Many people consider honey a healthier option than sugar or corn syrup. It seems that honey comes with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, being a powerful antioxidant. The best type of honey is raw. 


  • Full of antioxidants;
  • Healthier for your blood sugar levels compared to corn or sugar syrup;
  • Promotes wound healing and suppresses coughing and sore throat. 


  • It crystallizes;
  • High-calorie sweetener;
  • May cause allergies;
  • We don’t recommend it for babies younger than one year old. 

Agave Syrup

It’s also called agave nectar and is ideal for baked goods. However, it’s not great for candies. It has a mild taste, but it’s very sweet. In terms of consistency, agave syrup has a thinner viscosity than corn syrup. 


  • It doesn’t mess up your blood sugar level;
  • Vegans can also consume it;
  • It’s so sweet that you’ll only need a tiny amount. 


  • It has poor nutritional value;
  • It’s full of calories which could make you gain weight if you consume too much of it;
  • Agave syrup could still lead to insulin resistance. 

Maple Syrup

When we say maple syrup, we instantly think of Canada and breakfast pancakes. Yummy, right?! Unlike other sugar types, this option provides some small amounts of minerals, including zinc and manganese. It’s similar to honey and has a nice smooth texture.


  • It has a wonderful taste;
  • It comes with certain amounts of vitamins and minerals;
  • Resembles honey;
  • Boosts your energy level;
  • Promotes a well-functioning immunity as long as you consume it in moderation. 


  • It can cause weight gain and heart conditions if you consume it excessively;
  • It might lead to type 2 diabetes or boost blood sugar levels. 


Could You Use Light Corn Syrup Instead of Dark?

Yes, these two corn syrup types are interchangeable. However, it would help if you were careful when using dark syrup since it can change the flavor and color of your foods. Often, it’s safer and easier to use light corn syrup instead of its dark alternative than the other way around. 

When’s Best to Use Light or White Corn Syrup?

It’s best to use white or light syrup if you need your foods to have a hint of vanilla and a mild sweet taste. Light corn syrup has a pretty neutral flavor, making it more versatile than dark corn syrup. Candies, sorbet, and ice-creams can all contain white corn syrup. Even pancakes can be covered with a small amount of white corn liquid sweetener when you’re out of maple syrup. 

If you want and need a rich taste and a darker color, then dark molasses-based corn syrup should be your go-to choice. For example, pecan pies and crispy cookies become more flavorful when they contain dark corn syrup. Moreover, this sweetener can also be used as a glazing layer on smoked ham or added to your barbecue sauce. 

Is Corn Syrup Better than Sugar?

First, we should mention that corn syrup is not as sweet as sugar. It’s a popular sugar-replacement sweetener. Secondly, corn syrup is more affordable than sugar and doesn’t crystallize when used at high temperatures. 

Finally, studies suggest that sugar and corn syrup are almost identical regarding their effects on your body if you consume them excessively. (*)

To prevent health issues or weight gain, you should check the nutritional facts of the ingredients used in your recipes, regardless of your choice between sugar and corn syrup. 

Final Thoughts 

These two types of corn syrup are widely used as food additives all over the globe. Both dark and light syrups have the same raw ingredients, but their colors, flavors, and taste are different. 

If you like something more powerful in your food, you should try dark corn syrup. Otherwise, it would be best if you opted for the light one since it’s mild and doesn’t change your food taste that much. 

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