How to Decrystallize Honey Without Ruining It
Ever reach for your teddy bear shaped bottle of honey expecting a sweet treat and end up with the jar’s rock hard remains instead? Me too, until I learned how to (patiently) soften honey.
Crystallized honey hasn’t gone bad! Use the methods below to revive your honey to its liquidy goodness.
Why Does Honey Crystallize?
Before we share how to decrystallize honey, it’s important to understand why honey crystallizes in the first place. Honey is a supersaturated solution consisting of over 70% sugars and 17% to 19% water. This is more sugar that water can naturally hold without an outside influence like enzymes or heat.
Honey crystallizes because the solution is trying to reach a more stable state – a less saturated sugar-water ratio.
There are many factors that influence how quickly honey crystallizes. These include:
- The temperature the honey is stored at. Cooler temperatures also cause honey to crystallize more quickly, especially if it drops below 50℉, so avoid keeping your honey in the refrigerator.
- The glucose to fructose ratio. The sugars in honey are primarily glucose and fructose. The ratio is influenced by the type of nectar the honey is formed from. Glucose is the sugar that crystallizes because it is less soluble in water, so honey that’s higher in glucose (ex. clover) will crystallize faster. This is a great resource to learn more about the crystallization speed of different types of honey.
- Particles in the honey. Particles like pollen or beeswax give the sugar crystals something to grab onto as they begin to crystallize. Honey that is filtered and processed may not contain these particles. However, raw honey, which is less processed, may have bits of pollen or beeswax.
Crystallization is inevitable if you don’t use honey fast enough, but the good news is that crystallized honey is still safe to consume.
How to Decrystallize Honey
First, you should consider whether your honey is raw or pasteurized. Pasteurized honey is processed at high temperatures, destroying its natural enzymes and reducing its antioxidants and other benefits. Raw honey is not processed with heat, so it retains its nutritional benefits.
If you’re decrystallizing raw honey, you want to be careful not to heat it above around 100℉. The higher your heat it, the more nutrients and enzymes are damaged.
1. Determine if Your Honey Container is Heat-Safe
It is always better to heat glass than plastic, so we suggest transferring your honey to a glass container when possible. When plastic is heated, it can release small amounts of chemicals into your food. While there are varying studies on how each type of plastic impacts long-term health, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
2. Heat Your Water
Heat water to about 100℉. Remember that water boils at 212℉. If you don’t have an electric kettle or a thermometer, heat your water until it is warm but not hot to the touch — think jacuzzi water temperature.
3. Remove the lid from honey and partially submerge in warm water.
Place your water in a pot or bowl and fill with warm water, making sure the water line is slightly above the crystallized honey.
4. Wait for 15-30 minutes, stirring as needed.
Leave your honey in the warm water until it’s completely decrystallized. Check on it occasionally, stirring as needed. Depending on the amount of honey you need to decrystallize, you may need to swap the cooled water for more warm water. Make sure the honey is completely liquid, and there aren’t any solid chunks left.
I’ve heard that people have used a similar water bath method with their slow cooker, sous vide, or instant pot. If you try using any of those appliances, be careful of overheating the water!
How Many Times Can You Decrystallize Honey?
You only want to decrystallize honey once or twice. Softening it over and over can reduce the flavor and quality. If you have a large amount of crystallized honey, try removing some from the jar and placing it in a new container before softening.
Can You Microwave Honey to Decrystallize It?
I don’t suggest microwaving honey to decrystallize it. A microwave will heat the honey unevenly, and it’ll be nearly impossible to decrystallize a whole container while maintaining the quality of the honey. If you’re softening raw honey, the lack of temperature control is likely to destroy the honey’s nutrients.
How to Store Honey
You should store honey at room temperature away from direct heat. Honey crystallizes more rapidly between 50ºF and 59ºF and best resists crystallization around 77ºF. The pantry is a perfect location to store honey. Think twice about leaving it out on the counter near direct sunlight.
You may also want to consider storing your honey in a glass container because plastic is more porous than glass, allowing moisture into the honey which could impact crystallization. Make sure that the jar is airtight as excess water can cause your honey to ferment.
How Long is Honey Good For?
The National Honey Board says that the shelf life for honey is two years, but if stored correctly and not contaminated, honey can last even longer because of its high sugar content and antimicrobial properties. Keep in mind that heavily processed honey has less of these properties removed, meaning it’s slightly less shelf stable.
Using Honey as a Sweetener
Honey is a great natural sweetener when used in moderation. A tablespoon of honey has about 64 calories and 17 grams of carbs, but often 1-2 tablespoons can do the trick, especially when paired with other naturally sweet foods like bananas. Flourless banana bread is the perfect example of this!
Our Favorite Honey Recipes
As mentioned above, we like to use honey as a natural sweetener in recipes. Some of our favorites are:
Honey crystallizing is inevitable and there are many factors that can influence it including the amount of glucose it contains, how it’s stored, and how it’s processed. But next time your honey is hard, don’t worry! Just give it a water bath to bring it back to life.
How to Decrystallize Honey
- water kettle
- crystallized honey
- Make sure your honey is in a heat-safe container. Glass is better than plastic if possible.
- Remove the lid from the honey. Place it in your pot and fill the pot with warm water until the crystallized honey is covered.
- Leave honey container in water for 20-30+ minutes depending on the amount of honey that's crystallized. You may need to add more warm water until the honey is completely liquid and all granules are gone.