What’s the Difference Between Corn Syrup for Cooking and HFCS?

Dear Home-Ec 101,

Okay, so I LOVE to make peanut brittle or pecan brittle…YUM! Its really easy in the microwave. We haven’t had a microwave in a while and I miss it for things like my brittle and popcorn.

With all the negative stuff about High Fructose Corn Syrup (seriously, even my husband is  now reading labels!) I’m concerned, is corn syrup the same as HFCS? Should I be avoiding recipes that call for light and dark corn syrup, if I’m trying to reduce our consumption?

Cryin’ over Spillt HFCS

Heather says,

Have no fear, unlike people, not all corn syrup is created equal.

Corn syrup, is a sweetener that has been around for a very long time, it is made from corn starch that has been processed with enzymes. Corn syrup is used in recipes where a grainy texture would be undesirable. It is perfectly possible to make peanut brittle with only granulated sugar instead of a combination of sugar and corn syrup, but the process requires more precision with temperature control. Corn syrup is also used in recipes like pecan pie -I have got to get my mom’s recipe on here- where the corn syrup gives the characteristic sticky, but not too sweet experience we (ok, I) love.

High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS  is corn syrup that has undergone further refining. If you want to understand my personal issues with the pervasive use of HFCS in the modern diet, check out: Dishing on High Fructose Corn Syrup.

As long as your nut brittle remains in the “treat” category rather than a daily dietary staple, you’ll be just fine. My main issue with HFCS is many people are unaware of just how much refined sugar they are consuming.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.


  1. SandraMcKinley on October 9, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Also, you can make your own simple syrup to substitute in recipes calling for corn syrup. I have to do this since my 12 year old daughter is allergic to corn.

  2. madbadger2742 on October 8, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Read your labels. The corn syrup available to me also has HFCS as the #1 ingredient.

    • HeatherSolos on October 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

      @madbadger2742 that may be true for some brands, I double checked the Karo in my cupboard does not have HFCS as an ingredient.

      • madbadger2742 on October 10, 2011 at 6:34 am

        @HeatherSolos That’s great! Imagine my disappointment when I finally found that out. (I did discover that when I was only shopping at one store. Perhaps my new grocery has something different.)

  3. Milehimama on October 7, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Also, Karo syrup/corn syrup is glucose based. HFCS has been refined so that it contains fructose molecules in addition to the glucose. Glucose and fructose are metabolized differently in the body, which is part of the reason there is a backlash over HFCS. (I wrote about it with lots of links here: http://www.milehimama.com/home-cooking/real-food/the-great-big-hfcs-post/)

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