The Treacly Secrets of Golden Syrup

For bakers seeking to boost caramel flavor and chewiness, this British sweetener can be key.

Golden syrup (also known as light treacle) looks and flows like honey and functions a lot like corn syrup, but its caramelized flavor distinguishes it from other liquid sweeteners. It’s a key ingredient in our Anzac Biscuits, giving them their satisfying chewiness and characteristic caramel color and taste. Lyle’s Golden Syrup is standard in cupboards throughout Britain as well as several English-speaking countries with ties to the UK; it’s kept on hand for baking and as a condiment for drizzling over pancakes or porridge. These days, it’s also readily available in American supermarkets. Here’s what it offers.

Tempered sweetness: Golden syrup is less sweet than sugar, so you can use more of it without saccharine results.

Distinct caramel color and flavor: Golden syrup is a by-product of the sugar refinement process. Sugar is heated and treated with a base during the refinement process, which produces brown-colored compounds with complex flavor. These compounds—along with any pigment from the sugarcane plant—are removed from white sugar, but some remain in golden syrup.

Exceptional moisture and chewiness: In addition to sucrose (table sugar), golden syrup contains fructose and glucose, simple sugars that come with significant textural advantages. Fructose is particularly hygroscopic, which means that it retains lots of water and gives baked goods—cookies in particular—a quality that engineers refer to as plasticity and that we recognize as chewiness.

Long shelf life: Golden syrup’s fructose content means that it doesn’t crystallize in stored baked goods as readily as white sugar does, so cookies stay moist and chewy long after they cool. 

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