What is honey powder? Dehydrated honey, ground into a fine powder and mixed with stabilizers, usually maltodextrin. It has been used in Asia for a long time, especially in Korea, as a sugar substitute.
Honey powder is similar in texture to corn flour, but it can also have a granular form, usually when it has more added sugar, thus offering a pleasant crunch.
The color can be very white to a sort of creamy yellow color similar to fine powdered sugar or protein powder.
Why use honey powder and not natural liquid honey?
There are some pros and cons to honey being preferred in powder form:
- it’s a mess-free alternative. While the liquid can be easily spilled and is very sticky, the powder is easier to handle and use. It dissolves nice and evenly.
- it’s easier to transport. One can take it anywhere and when needed just open the container and add a pinch in the coffee or tea.
- it is an excellent substitute for sugar. It doesn’t retain the original honey flavor but retains some of its qualities. Honey has nutrients in it, while sugar does not.
- it is recommended for diabetics. Any honey is, in a moderate daily dose. (only if it’s homemade and free of maltodextrin/other stabilizers)
- it has an excellent shelf-life. So has honey, but time and light affect the quality of most of liquid/crystallized honey types.
- it is excellent for bakery. There are recipes where liquid honey would affect the consistency of breads, cakes, and cookie mixes. The powder eliminates over-moisture. It can be easily sprinkled over cereal, yogurt or ice cream. It can be used in cold or hot beverages. It is an excellent replacement for sugar in coffees, teas, lemonades and shakes.
Once it has been mixed in your baked goods honey powder will add moisture, thus keeping them fresh and moist for longer. It can even be a solution to a cake that usually turns out dry.
- it is used in cosmetics for manufacturing different bath and beauty products including creams, lotions, soaps, scrubs, facials, masks, body wraps, bath teas, milk baths, bath salts and bath bombs. Honey is one of the oldest skin care ingredients on this Earth. It is said to be a natural skin cleanser and softener.
- it’s economical. You don’t use nearly as much to get the sweet punch you need, as you would with other sweeteners, so it goes a lot further.
- there are no crystallization issues.
- it loses its volatiles and aroma.
- in bakery, it won’t act exactly like sugar. It won’t caramelize or add chewiness to baked goods. It is usually better to use part honey powder and part another sweetener to get the right texture. On the other hand, honey is temperature sensitive and burns easily. Because of this, you may have to adjust oven temperatures and cooking times. It may also alter the color of some dishes because it is not white like other sweetening options.
- it contains stabilizers. Without them the honey powder will start to gather moisture and turn sticky. Many honey powder formulations available on the market contain only 50% honey. The other half may include: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrins, non-nutritive sweeteners, sugar, sugar syrup, processing aids, drying aids, bulking agents, anticaking agents such as calcium stearate, bran, dextrins, lecithin, soy flour, wheat starch. So many additives can be found in those powders that it is always recommended to read the label very thoroughly. It is best to find only maltodextrin as added additive.
Maltodextrin is a common additive, an easily digestible carbohydrate made from rice, corn or potato starch (though it may also be derived from barley or wheat). It’s made by cooking down the starch and then acid and/or enzymes break the starch down even further.
It is considered a polysaccharide, or a complex carbohydrate.
The Glycemic Index of maltodextrin can be as high as 135 (compared to honey, 55!) It can cause blood-sugar peaks and make one feel hungry very soon. However, the amount found in honey powder is not high.
When maltodextrin is further processed/hydrolyzed, it becomes corn syrup, another very common additive.
- if you are gluten intolerant beware that in Europe maltodextrin is usually made from barley or wheat.
- if the powder is made using high heat, or even low heat but for long periods of time, the chemical composition of honey changes. Some for the better but most for the worst. What you’ll get is no longer a healthy natural product with therapeutic properties but a regular cooking ingredient.
However, many scientists say that heating for 1-2 days at 40-50° C will not damage honey.
How is honey powder made?
1. Honey powder can be made by dehydrating it using high heat. It starts from the real thing, real bee-made honey. The aim is to extract all the moisture (which range between 15 -20 %) and bring it below 1.5%.
2. The second method uses very low temperature. The honey freeze-dried powder is obtained by first adding some cold distilled water to increase the water content (we know that natural liquid honey cannot be frozen) and then use the standard procedure of freeze-drying foods, a process also known as lyophilization or cryodesiccation. This means first a very low temperature, then vacuuming the moisture (the ice is changed directly from solid to vapor without passing through a liquid phase) to finally get a powder with a water content of max 2%. The honey powder is then encapsulated in an airtight package container.
Chinese people have patented a specific method of freeze-drying honey in 2013 and showed that its qualities remain almost unchanged.
DIY honey powder
One can do honey powder at home, with the use of a dehydrator. Vegans use them a lot, a dehydrator ranges from $39 to $329. Here is an example found on Amazon: Elechomes 8-Tray Food Dehydrator Machine.
Spread honey thinly on a piece of parchment paper or fruit puree sheet for the dehydrator. Try to spread it evenly, so it dehydrates at the same rate throughout. Keeping it in a thin layer. (Some people like to add cinnamon or other spices to the honey before dehydrating it, to add flavor.)
Remember that honey loses many of its qualities when overheated, so set the dehydrator as low as possible, usually at 120°F (50°C). For honey this is already too high, ideally it should be kept at a maximum of 107°F (42°C). Set the time for 24 hours but check it often for burning (especially in case you are using a regular oven).
By the end of the process it will be completely dry and hard and not sticky to the touch. When picking it up, it should break easily into chunks or slivers.
Remove the dried honey from the sheets and grind it up. Use a food processor or a grinder. The dry honey will absorb any humidity in the air and make it sticky again, so do this as quickly as possible. Transfer it in an airtight container and place it in a dry, cool place. You can add a silica gel pack – food grade, if you have.
Of course you can mix it with maltodextrin to stabilize it, but for a domestic use, I suppose you can dehydrate it as often as you like and immediately start using the powder. A beekeeper however, has to add maltodextrin to stabilize it, keep it free flowing, in order to sell it.
Maltodextrin has a higher molecular weight and is less hygroscopic than honey (doesn’t absorb moisture so quickly), making it easier to dry into a granulated form.
Starch or sugar can also be added, to keep it in fluffy dust form.
! If you are a beekeeper and want to freeze-dry honey for selling purposes, then beware that the big commercial freeze drying units are priced from $5000 to over $100,000. The freeze drying process is significantly more complicated than other home food preservation options. But if you can afford it, please buy it and sell the people a more healthier honey powder alternative.
Suggestions on how to use honey powder in the kitchen:
First keep in mind that while usually one cup of sugar equals 2/3 cup of liquid honey, when it comes to powder you need to apply a one to one ratio when replacing table sugar in your recipes.
In your coffee or tea.
Mixed into meat or veggie marinades, sweeten sauces or dressings with a dash.
Sprinkle a bit on kumara before serving them. (Korean kitchens use it for a long time)
Sprinkle it on your morning cereal or porridge.
When you put it in yogurt, it stays crunchy for a minute, which is delicious.
Whip it into ice cream.
Replace sugar in your BBQ with it.
Where can I find honey powder?
Dehydrated honey can be commercialized under various names: honey crystals, honey powder, granulated honey or dried honey. The products can also differ. Some may be organic, some not; some may be made through freeze-drying (healthier) some by heat dehydration. Some contain less additives, some more additives. Some products have thicker, bigger grain textures while others resemble the consistency of baking soda.
You can find it on Amazon. Here are some examples: Mike’s Mix Honey Powder (which contains honey and cane sugar); SoulBee GRANULATED HONEY POWDER (made with honey and gluten free maltodextrin extracted from tapioca); Augason Farms Honey Powder (honey, cane sugar, fructose).
I would personally avoid Cactus Honey Powder, they do not necessarily come from cactus honey (disclaim found on the bag), contain more cane sugar (sucrose) than honey. Some bags even say the powder is made from agave syrup. However, consumers have said that Cactus honey powder from Arizona Farm is really honey mixed with cane sugar, though the ratio favors the cane sugar.
If you travel to Asia, you’ll easily find honey powder in their markets. Remember to read the label.