Candymaking101: Sugar free candy syrups

candy syrups
As I’ve said before, making candy with sugar substitutes can be a really frustrating journey. Almost none of the natural or artificial substitutes for sugar out on the market behave exactly like sugar in every aspect. Some subs are good for adding bulk, some are good for adding intense sweetness, etc. Almost none of them brown or caramelize or change from liquid to hard crack stage.

I say almost because there are two substances that will change from liquid to hard crack: agave and maltitol.

I do not not like the idea of using maltitol at all, because the G.I. level is way too high, particularly with the syrup. It clocks in at 52, with good ol table sugar coming in at 60.

Some bloggers have had great success with heating agave at low temperatures and for long periods of time to get it to the candy stage that they want. I don’t like this idea either. Though agave is low on the glycemic scale at about 36, heating it again (it’s already been through a heating process when we buy it retail) for such a long period of time decreases the water content and intensifies the fructose even more! I suspect the G.I. level of agave hard candy is closer to what candy made with maltitol would be, or maybe even higher!

The solution for me is erythritol. The cooling effect has been the most undesirable trait of this sweetener, until now! When combined with agave in various combinations, the hardening qualities give you some of the different stages needed to make certain candies. I’ll explain below:

With a 2:1 ratio of agave to erythritol you get:
soft caramel
A light caramel, without the dairy. It’s a nice thick, spreadable consistency. I would use this to make marshmallows or candy apples.

With equal parts agave and erythritol you get:
soft ball
Soft ball. When cooled, you can actually form and shape it with your hands. I would use this to make Turkish delight, candy chews, and gumdrops.

With a 2:1 ratio erythritol to agave, you get:
soft crack
Soft crack. I like to call it soft toffee. You can break it apart easily, and it will still have a little chew to it, so you won’t break a tooth biting into it. I would definitely make an almond “not-so-brittle”, or even a chocolate covered soft toffee. Mmm, that sounds good!

The trick is to heat the agave/erythritol on low heat just long enough for the erythritol to melt. That means that there will be no graininess and the final liquid should be clear. It only takes a few minutes. Once your syrup cools completely, it will be cloudy. That’s what you want! That means that the cooling effect has taken place and you have your desired “stage”.

So what about hard candy? That is a different animal. It deserves special treatment, and that will have it’s own special post very very soon!

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4 Comments on “Candymaking101: Sugar free candy syrups”

  1. Briana Adams says:

    Hi there! Great recipe and tips for people who are becoming familiar with erythritol. It does take a lil’ creativity to get the best results, but it’s definitely worth it once you get it figured out.

    Have you tried Zsweet to avoid the cooling effect of plain erythritol? Zsweet uses natural fruit extracts to eliminate that minty aftertaste.
    Zsweet tastes more like plain sugar than other erythritol sweeteners, but it’s still totally sugar-free and zero calories.

  2. Bryan says:

    I’ve been experimenting with Agave sweetened lollipops. Unfortunately I can’t get the agave to hard crack stage properly. All my lollipops turn out a little soft and melt if left out. I’m eagerly awaiting your post on hard candy with agave/erythritol.

  3. Jess says:

    I love your blog. Thank you for this post! I really enjoy candy making and didn’t think I would be able to make sugar free candy successfully. Turkish Delight is one of my absolute favorites…will you be doing a post on that anytime soon?

  4. […] I combine it with toasted quinoa flakes, almonds, and pumpkin seeds and mold it together with a 3:1 candy syrup. It makes for a nice, crispy bar. If you like your bars more chewy, you can use an “equal […]


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