Ingredient Spotlight: Lyle's Golden Syrup

I first heard of Lyle's Golden Syrup, a British pantry staple, back in the 80's. I was reading John Thorne as well as Laurie Colwin, so I'm not sure which one introduced me but I've enjoyed keeping a tin on my shelf ever since. But what exactly is Lyle's Golden Syrup and even more importantly, what's up with the dead lion and the honey bees on the label?Lyle's Golden Syrup was invented in 1885 by a Scottish businessman by the name of Abram Lyle. It is a by-product of the cane sugar manufacturing process, making it popular these days with people seeking to avoid high-fructous corn syrup. It is golden amber in color with a rich, deep sweetness that is distinct from honey, maple syrup or corn syrup.

Extremely popular in the British Isles, Lyle's Golden Syrup is less well-known in the States, much to our misfortune. Lyle's has many uses:


  • poured over classic breakfast dishes like pancakes, porridge, English muffins and yogurt
  • drizzled over fruit salads or on fruit before grilling

  • as a sweetener in baked goods like pies or poured on top of a warm cake layer for an instant glaze

  • for a touch of sweetness in savory marinades or in cocktails

  • Most interesting use: mixed with red food coloring to make fake blood on movie sets!

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And what about that mysterious logo (the oldest branding in the world according to Guiness Book of Records)? Abram Lyle was a religious man and the drawing of a dead lion surrounded by honey bees is inspired by the Bible, Judges 14:14. The story is about Samson who killed a lion while traveling the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. When he passed by the lion on his way home, he discovered that a swarm of honeybees had made a hive in the lion's carcass. From that experience Samson invented the riddle: "Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness." No one knows why Abram Lyle choose this particular imagery or why he used the quote "Out of the strong came forth sweetness" for his labels.

Lyle's can be found in many well-stocked US grocery stores as well as import stores and on-line at Amazon:
Lyle's Golden Syrup, $9.49 for a pack of two
• Lyle's Golden Syrup Cookbook, $11.01

What are your favorite uses for Lyle's Golden Syrup? Do you think it will ever be as popular here as it is in Great Britain?

(Image: Lyle's Golden Syrup)

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Dana Velden is a freelance food writer. She lives, eats, plays, and gets lost in Oakland, California where she is in the throes of raising her first tomato plant.

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