Why Honey Is More Versatile than You Think

Honey can do way more than just sweeten your tea. Here are some of the many ways to use your overlooked jar of honey.

Published Nov. 30, 2023.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a bottle of generic blended honey in my cabinet. You probably do too. 

Until recently, I only reached for it a few times a year—for tea or when a new recipe called for it. But I didn’t think much about it as an ingredient. I had no idea how much I was missing out. 

I recently wrote a story all about honey (it could have also easily been named “Carolyn’s Love Letter to Honey,” but alas). During my deep dive into the topic, my view of honey radically expanded. 

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Honey is exciting, complex, and versatile. We all know that honey is sweet. But did you also know that honey can taste vegetal, woodsy, floral, fruity, and even resinous or spicy? During our tasting of more than a dozen honeys, tasters were shocked by how different each honey tasted from one another. 

Another reason to love honey—it virtually never goes bad. While the honey will lose some flavor and aroma over time, if uncontaminated, it can last years. (Really, centuries. Honey found in Egyptian tombs is still good to consume, thousands of years later.)

With everything honey has to offer, let’s talk about the many ways to use our never-to-be-overlooked-again jars of honey.

Taste Test

All About Honey

We tasted a broad array of honey from all over the world: from Oregon’s meadowfoam and Florida’s tupelo to New Zealand’s mānuka and California’s orange blossom. Here are 15 honeys that offer far more than just sweetness.
Read Our Review

In Sweet Applications

This you already know. Honey works as a natural sweetener. It also adds moisture and can improve flavor. Here are a few of our favorite sweet recipes that use honey: Seared Figs with Honey, Struffoli, and Greek Honey Cakes. We also use honey in sweet-leaning side dishes such as Honey-Wheat Dinner Rolls and Honey Cornbread.

As a Condiment

While we love simply drizzling honey over a hunk of blue cheese or spreading it on warm biscuits, we also mix it with other ingredients to make even tastier condiments: easy-to-make Honey Butter for your corn bread or pork chops, Honey-Dijon Dipping Sauce for chicken tenders, and Honey and Rosemary Cream Cheese to slather on your morning bagel.

Watch Cook’s Country’s Morgan Bolling make Blueberry Biscuits with honey butter.

As a Replacement for Sugar

In the test kitchen we often reach for honey as a replacement for sugar. Honey offers deeper, more nuanced flavor than granulated sugar. Plus, some cooks prefer using natural, less-processed sweeteners. We used honey frequently in our cookbook Naturally Sweet. A few of our favorite recipes from that book include Carrot–Honey Layer Cake and Honey Lemon Squares.

We also use honey as a sugar replacement in less-expected ways, including in our Easy Sandwich Bread, where honey is the only sweetener used. We rely on honey to sweeten both this refreshing Watermelon-Lime Agua Fresca and in braising liquid for brats.

Bake with less sugar

Naturally Sweet

Naturally Sweet is a collection of 100+ truly groundbreaking recipes that rely only on natural, less-processed sweeteners like Sucanat (unrefined cane sugar), coconut sugar, date sugar, honey, or maple syrup, or no sweeteners at all, just dried fruit and chocolate.

In Savory Dishes

I typed “honey” in our recipe database, and out popped 625 recipes that use it! And many are featured in sauces and glazes in savory applications. The sugar in honey promotes good browning and its sweetness pairs well with meat and seafood, so we use it in marinades, sauces, and glazes in Grilled Honey-Ginger Pork Tenderloin, ​​Miso-Honey Chicken Wings, Honey-Soy Steak Tips, Hot Honey Broiled Shrimp, and more.

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