OK, two things: First, there are reasons that some recipes call for corn syrup and not other liquid sweeteners like maple syrup or honey. And second, not all corn syrups are created equal. For starters, not all contain the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup. Read on for some more unraveling of our assumptions around corn syrup.
Why do some recipes call for corn syrup?
Sometimes corn syrup is added for smoothness, body and shine, and in that case its OK to use an alternative liquid sweetener like honey or agave. But corn syrup is also used to prevent melted sugar from re-crystalizing and in those instances, it should be used. In general you should use corn syrup in candy making, for example, or when it's called for in fudge sauces or frostings.
Are high-fructose corn syrup and regular corn syrup the same thing?
No. High-fructose corn syrup is almost never available in its pure form to consumers. It is a strictly commercial product that is created when corn syrup is processed to create a greater ratio of fructose. It can show up in some corn syrup formulas, however. An old bottle of Karo from the way-back of my pantry does list it as the second ingredient after corn syrup, but newer Karo formulas have eliminated it.
But isn't corn syrup still fructose? Yes. But while corn syrup is fructose, it isn't the same intense ratio of fructose as high-fructose corn syrup. And yes, you still process fructose through your liver which is one of the reasons it is considered potentially dangerous to your health. But the tiny amounts you end up consuming when you use this in your average home recipe are negligible. Most recipes that serve 12-16 people can contain a tablespoon or less, for example.
These days I use Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Light Corn Syrup in part because its the only organic, non-GMO corn syrup available in the States. Plus, it tastes good, made with real organic vanilla and a pinch of salt. And no high-fructose corn syrup! It's rare that I use corn syrup but when I do, this is a good bet.