What is Lyle’s golden syrup made of?

Lyle’s golden syrup is a popular sweetener and condiment used in baking and cooking throughout the UK and other countries. With its distinctive flavor and golden amber color, Lyle’s syrup has become an iconic product that has been produced by the company Tate & Lyle since the 1880s. But what exactly gives Lyle’s golden syrup its unique taste and appearance? Here we will explore the ingredients and production process behind this famous syrup.

The Main Ingredients

Lyle’s golden syrup contains just three key ingredients:

Cane Sugar

The primary ingredient in Lyle’s golden syrup is sucrose extracted from sugarcane. Sucrose is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose bonded together. Cane sugar provides the sweetness in the syrup and the majority of its substance and texture. The source of the sugarcane is not specified by Tate & Lyle, but it is likely grown in tropical and subtropical regions.


The second main ingredient is water. Water dissolves the sucrose into a syrupy solution and acts as a medium through which the other ingredients can be blended.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice constitutes only a tiny proportion of Lyle’s golden syrup, but it is essential for providing acidic balance. The juice comes from lemons harvested from warm climates with citrus orchards. The citric acid prevents the syrup from crystallizing and brings a subtle bittersweet lemon flavor.

The Production Process

Lyle’s golden syrup is made through a multi-step manufacturing process designed to extract sucrose from sugarcane and transform it into a smooth, golden syrup:


Sugarcane is crushed and milled to extract sucrose-filled cane juice. The juice is strained, filtered, and boiled down into a sugar-rich molasses-like syrup. This sugary syrup still contains impurities.


The syrup undergoes clarification, a process that removes remaining solids and impurities using carbon filters and heating in vacuum pans. The result is a clear, golden sugary solution.


The purified syrup is concentrated by further heating and evaporation to achieve the desired thickness and sucrose concentration. Timing and temperature control are critical during this step.


Once concentrated, lemon juice is added to balance flavor and acidity. The lemon juice helps prevent sugar crystallization.


The finished golden syrup is pumped into bulk tanks before being bottled into the iconic Lyle’s Golden Syrup tins. Automated filling lines move the syrup into retail bottles and tins.

The Unique Flavor and Texture

The ingredients and production process impart Lyle’s golden syrup with its signature sensory qualities:

Sweet Taste

Lyle’s syrup gets its pervasive sweetness from the high sucrose content derived from sugarcane juice. Sucrose sugars like glucose and fructose taste intrinsically sweet.

Thick Texture

The concentrated syrup has a viscous, smooth texture that clings to the palate. This thick texture comes from the evaporation that transforms watery cane juice into a dense, syrupy liquid.

Golden Color

Caramelization reactions during heating give Lyle’s its amber golden hue. Sugars break down at high temperatures, producing compounds that impart golden yellow colors.

Slight Butterscotch Flavor

In addition to featuring lemon juice, the syrup’s flavor has hints of butterscotch. This comes from aromatic compounds generated by sugar breakdown during manufacturing.

Mild Acidity

The small addition of lemon juice gives Lyle’s golden syrup a mildly tart, acidic taste that balances out the sweetness. This prevents the syrup from being cloyingly sweet.

Uses in Cooking and Baking

Lyle’s golden syrup is a versatile ingredient used in a variety of baked goods and desserts. Its unique properties make it suitable for:


The high sucrose content makes Lyle’s an excellent general use sweetener for anything from cookies to cakes to glazes. It can replace granulated sugar or honey in recipes.

Flavor Enhancing

Lyle’s syrup can accentuate flavors in baked goods like gingerbread, oatmeal cookies, and fruit crumbles. Its butterscotch notes pair especially well with brown sugar.


Due to its thick, syrupy texture, Lyle’s helps retain moisture in drier baked goods. This makes it a useful addition to recipes for shortbread, scones, or muffins.

Sweet Sauces

The syrup can be used to make sweet sauces by mixing it with butter or other flavorings. These sauces go well with desserts and breakfast foods.

Candy Making

Lyle’s is often used in candies like toffee, fudge, and truffles. It controls crystallization and provides a smooth, chewy texture alongside sweetness.

Glazing and Drizzling

Thinned down with water, Lyle’s can create glossy glazes and drizzles for cakes, pastries, ham, roasted vegetables, and more.

Baking Substitute

Lyle’s can replace corn syrup or glucose syrup in recipes, but it has a more pronounced flavor. It works for jams, fruit fillings, and sticky puddings.

Nutrition Facts

Here are the basic nutrition facts for Lyle’s Golden Syrup:

Nutrient Per 100g
Energy 1,110 kJ (260 kcal)
Carbohydrates 69 g
Sugars 67 g
Fat 0 g
Protein 0 g
Salt 0.04 g

As you can see, Lyle’s golden syrup is almost entirely made up of carbohydrates in the form of sugars. Since it is 100% sucrose derived from sugarcane, it contains no fat, protein, fiber, vitamins, or minerals.

The high sugar content means golden syrup is very high in calories and carbohydrates. Just 2 tablespoons (40g) provides 104 calories and 27g of sugar. This makes it more calorically dense than typical white sugar.

So while delicious, Lyle’s golden syrup should be enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to no more than 6 teaspoons (24g) per day for women and 9 teaspoons (36g) for men.

History of Lyle’s Golden Syrup

Lyle’s Golden Syrup has a long and storied history since its inception in London in 1885. Some key historical notes:

1885 – Abram Lyle begins selling his patented golden syrup extracted from sugar cane at the Plaistow Wharf sugar refinery in London’s East End.

1889 – The iconic green tin packaging for Lyle’s Golden Syrup first appears featuring a Biblical scene of a lion and bees referencing the biblical passage Judges 14:8-9.

1890s – Lyle’s syrup grows popular for sweetening and preserving, appearing in recipes for gingerbreads and fruit cakes.

1921 – Lyle’s Golden Syrup is registered as a trademark.

1965 – The Plaistow refinery where Golden Syrup was first produced is closed.

2010 – Lyle’s Golden Syrup becomes the official syrup of the Wimbledon tennis championships.

Today – Lyle’s remains the top-selling brand of golden syrup in the UK, produced by Tate & Lyle Sugars which owns the company.

For well over a century, Lyle’s Golden Syrup has remained an enduring favorite thanks to its versatility, affordability, and nostalgic retro brand. It continues to be a staple culinary ingredient in many British households.

How Is Lyle’s Golden Syrup Different from Corn Syrup and Honey?

Lyle’s golden syrup has some similarities to corn syrup and honey, but also key differences that give it unique properties:

Corn Syrup

Lyle’s Golden Syrup Corn Syrup
Main Sugar Sucrose Glucose/Maltose
Flavor Butterscotch, lemon Neutral
Uses Baking, candy, sauces Candy, soft drinks

Unlike corn syrup which is 100% glucose, golden syrup contains sucrose like regular sugar. It also has a more nuanced, buttery lemon flavor compared to relatively plain tasting corn syrup.


Lyle’s Golden Syrup Honey
Source Sugar cane Flower nectar
Primary Sugar Sucrose Glucose/Fructose
Flavor Butterscotch, lemon Floral, earthy

Honey comes directly from bees while golden syrup is manufactured from cane sugar. Honey also has a distinctive floral, earthy taste compared to the more subtle butterscotch flavor of golden syrup.

So while similar, Lyle’s golden syrup has a unique nutritional profile and flavor all its own that suits certain recipes and preferences. Its versatility makes it a useful alternative to either corn syrup or honey.

Where to Buy Lyle’s Golden Syrup

Here are some of the best places to buy Lyle’s Golden Syrup:

Grocery Stores

Lyle’s Golden Syrup can be found in the baking aisle of many mainstream large grocery retailers in the UK, Australia, Canada, and the USA. Check major chains like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons in the UK.

Online Retailers

For wider selection and delivery, Lyle’s Golden Syrup is sold by large online supermarkets like Ocado, Amazon, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and ASDA Online. Smaller online UK food retailers like British Corner Shop also carry it.

Specialty Stores

British food stores, import shops, and candy/baking supply stores often stock Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Check specialty retail sites like British Food Depot, English Tea Store, and Buy British Foods USA.

DIY and Hardware Stores

Some home improvement stores sell Lyle’s Golden Syrup in their paint or adhesives sections for mixing into DIY woodwork applications. Try B&Q, Homebase, Wickes, and Screwfix in the UK.

Direct from Manufacturer

Those in the UK can order Lyle’s Golden Syrup directly from Tate & Lyle Sugars via their online shop or Amazon store. They offer different tin sizes.

The iconic Lyle’s Golden Syrup in its green tin can be sourced from a wide variety of in-person and online retailers to satisfy cravings for its sweet, butterscotch flavor.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup Recipes

Lyle’s Golden Syrup shines in all kinds of baked goods, desserts, and savory dishes. Here are some top recipes that showcase it:

Pecan Treacle Tart

This classic British dessert features Lyle’s Golden Syrup’s butterscotch notes blended into a sweet tart filling with pecans atop a pastry crust. The syrup’s thickness helps bind the filling.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup Sponge Cake

A fluffy vanilla sponge cake is brushed with an amber glaze of Lyle’s Golden Syrup mixed with water for a glossy finish and subtle flavor. Simple but impressive.

Granola with Golden Syrup and Ginger

Toasted oats get enhanced with the sweetness of Lyle’s Golden Syrup accentuated by ground ginger and toasted almonds in this crunchy granola recipe.

Glazed Bacon with Golden Syrup

Lyle’s adds a sweet glaze to balance out the saltiness of crispy oven-baked bacon in this savory and sweet brunch dish.

Golden Syrup Flapjacks

Chewy, golden oat flapjacks are held together and sweetened using Lyle’s instead of sugar or honey for a more complex flavor.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup Muffins

These tender muffins are flavored with Lyle’s syrup and cinnamon then topped with a golden crumb topping that bakes up crunchy.

Thanks to its adaptability, Lyle’s Golden Syrup shines in recipes both sweet and savory, from nostalgic classics to creative modern twists.

Substitutes for Lyle’s Golden Syrup

While Lyle’s Golden Syrup has a unique flavor all its own, in a pinch you can approximate it using:

Light Corn Syrup

Has a similar consistency to Lyle’s. Use in a 1:1 ratio. Adds sweetness without strong flavor. Won’t replicate butterscotch taste.

Dark Corn Syrup

Contains more caramelized sugar so better mimics golden syrup’s amber color and subtle caramel/butterscotch taste. Use in a 1:1 ratio.


Offers thicker texture and real sweetness like Lyle’s golden syrup. Not as buttery in flavor. Use in a 3:4 ratio of honey to syrup. Reduce liquids in recipe slightly.

Maple syrup

Has more pronounced maple flavor but can work in some recipes. Use in a 1:1 ratio.

Invert sugar syrup

Made from invert sugar so has similar texture and slow crystallization. Won’t replicate flavor but useful for candy recipes.

Brown rice syrup

Contains glucose like golden syrup so has a smooth, thick texture. Milder in taste. Use in a 1:1 ratio.

There is really no perfect sub that mimics the exact butterscotch flavor with viscosity of Lyle’s. Combining corn syrup for texture and molasses, brown sugar, or maple syrup for flavor can get you close. But small amounts of these substitutes blended may work better than using just one.


Lyle’s Golden Syrup is an iconic sweetener and baking ingredient prized for its memorable butterscotch taste and golden amber appearance. Made from just sugar cane, water, and lemon juice, its unique flavor comes from specific manufacturing processes like clarification, concentration, and caramelization. With a thick, smooth texture, it works wonderfully in everything from sweet sauces to cookies to glazes. Though corn syrup or honey can approximate it, Lyle’s Golden Syrup remains a beloved staple of British baking.

Leave a Comment