What is white Karo syrup?

White Karo syrup is a type of corn syrup made from cornstarch. It is a popular baking ingredient and sweetener used in making desserts, candy, and more. Some key facts about white Karo syrup include:

  • It has a light color and mild flavor compared to darker corn syrups.
  • The main ingredients are corn syrup, salt, and vanilla flavoring.
  • It has a thick, viscous texture similar to honey.
  • The syrup does not crystallize easily, making it useful in making smooth candies or frostings.
  • It contains glucose and fructose, which provide sweetness.
  • White Karo is made by ACH Food Companies, which also makes other Karo syrup varieties.
  • It can be used as a sugar substitute in some recipes, but it is not calorie-free.

In the sections below, we’ll explore the history, production, uses, nutrition, and substitutes for white Karo corn syrup.

History of White Karo Syrup

White Karo syrup first hit the consumer market in 1902 after being developed by a chemist named Thomas David Mitchell. Mitchell worked for a business called Corn Products Refining Company, which later became Best Foods and then CPC International before being acquired by ACH Food Companies.

The early 20th century saw a rise in the production and popularity of corn syrup products. At this time, white Karo syrup was marketed as an affordable sweetener that didn’t crystallize easily compared to traditional cane sugar. Advertisements touted it as a must-have baking ingredient for making candy, frosting, jams, and more.

For many decades, the iconic blue Karo syrup bottle with its yellow label was a staple in many American pantries. The company continued expanding its corn syrup portfolio with the addition of darker Karo syrup varieties as well.

Today, white Karo syrup is still popular in commercial food production and home kitchens alike. While refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup offer additional options, white Karo remains appreciated for its mild flavor and reliable performance in recipes.

Production of White Karo Syrup

White Karo syrup is made through a multi-step process involving corn starch, enzymes, and filtration:

  1. Corn starch is isolated from corn kernels through a wet milling process. The cornstarch is mixed with water to make a milky corn slurry.
  2. Enzymes are added to the slurry which break down the cornstarch into glucose molecules.
  3. The glucose is then converted into fructose using another enzyme resulting in a mixture of glucose and fructose sugars.
  4. The liquid is processed through filters to remove impurities, resulting in a clean, transparent, and viscous liquid – the basic corn syrup.
  5. To make white Karo specifically, vanilla, salt, and cornstarch are blended in for flavor, stability, and texture.
  6. The white Karo syrup liquid is heated briefly to kill bacteria.
  7. Finally, the finished product is bottled in the signature Karo bottles.

The entire production process was designed to create a sweet corn syrup that won’t crystallize easily for stable performance during baking and candy making.


As noted on the white Karo bottle’s ingredient list, the syrup contains:

  • Corn syrup
  • Salt
  • Vanilla flavor

The corn syrup gives it the sweetness, texture, and non-crystallizing abilities. A touch of salt enhances the flavor. The iconic Karo taste comes from the vanilla.

Uses for White Karo Syrup

White Karo syrup is used in a wide variety of recipes both commercial and domestic. Here are some of its most popular uses:

Baked Goods

The syrup’s smooth, thick texture makes it an excellent addition to recipes for:

  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Breads
  • Muffins
  • Pies

It helps retain moisture, add sweetness, enhance flavors, and prevent crystallization.

Candy Making

White Karo is commonly used for candy recipes involving boiling sugar mixtures. It helps prevent sugar crystallization in:

  • Brittles
  • Toffees
  • Fudge
  • Caramels

This makes for smooth, creamy candy textures.

Ice cream and Frozen Desserts

The syrup can lend a smooth, creamy sweetness to frozen desserts like:

  • Ice cream
  • Sorbet
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Popsicles

It helps prevent icy crystallization during freezing.

Sweet Sauces and Toppings

White Karo can be used to make yummy sweet sauces like:

  • Caramel sauce
  • Pancake syrup
  • Maple flavored syrup
  • Fruit glazes and sauces

It also makes a great base for creamy toppings like:

  • Whipped cream
  • Marshmallow fluff
  • Buttercream frosting

Jams and Jellies

The syrup is sometimes added to fruit jam and jelly recipes. It helps ensure a smooth set without crystallization.

Sweetening Agent

White Karo can be used as a replacement for up to half the granulated sugar called for in some recipes. This can make the item less sweet overall.

Miscellaneous Uses

Some other ways people use white Karo syrup include:

  • Sweetening coffee or tea
  • Moisturizing hair masks or conditioners
  • Homemade honey-flavored cough remedy
  • Sweetening overnight oats or yogurt
  • Winemaking and brewing

As you can see, this versatile pantry item can be used in diverse ways for baking, cooking, candy making, and more.

Nutrition Facts

Understanding the nutrition information for white Karo syrup can help inform how much to use it in your diet. Here are some key nutrition facts about white Karo syrup:

  • Calories: 100 calories per tablespoon (20g serving)
  • Carbs: 27g total carbs per serving, with 25g being sugars
  • Fat: 0g fat
  • Protein: 0g protein
  • Sodium: 10mg sodium per serving

As you can see, white Karo syrup is a high-carb, high-sugar product without significant protein, fat, fiber, vitamins or minerals. The sugars are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, so Karo and other corn syrups have a high glycemic index.

In small amounts, white Karo can provide sweetness with a lower calorie count compared to sugar. However, regular overconsumption should be avoided for optimal health due to the high carb and sugar intake. Those with diabetes should take special precautions when using Karo syrup.

Table Comparing Nutrition Facts of Common Sweeteners

Sweetener Calories Total Carbs Sugars
White sugar 16 calories 4g 4g
Maple syrup 52 calories 13g 12g
Honey 64 calories 17g 17g
White Karo Syrup 100 calories 27g 25g

This table demonstrates how Karo syrup has significantly more calories, carbs, and sugars than an equivalent serving of white sugar or other common sweeteners. Moderating intake is wise, especially for those controlling carbohydrates or blood sugar levels.


In recipes calling for white Karo syrup, you can substitute an equal amount of these alternatives:

  • Light or dark corn syrup – These will work the same as white Karo in recipes structurally but may slightly alter the flavor.
  • Liquid glucose – This provides similar properties to prevent crystallization in candies or frostings.
  • Honey – Honey can replicate the texture and sweetness of Karo though it has a distinctive honey flavor.
  • Maple syrup – Using 100% pure maple syrup will provide sweetness and moisture but the flavor profile will be noticeably different.
  • White sugar syrup – You can make a simple syrup on the stove by heating equal parts white sugar and water. Let it cool before using in place of Karo.

Be aware that substitutes like honey, maple syrup, and sugar syrup will crystallize more easily than Karo in candy recipes. You can also potentially replace up to half the white Karo in a recipe with an equal amount of white granulated sugar.

There is no perfect substitute that mimics the exact texture, flavor, and performance of white Karo syrup. But the options above can work in a pinch depending on the recipe.

Storing White Karo Syrup

Like most high-sugar foods and liquids, white Karo syrup has a long shelf life if stored properly:

  • Unopened – Store new bottles of unopened Karo syrup in a cool, dry pantry. It will stay fresh up to 2-3 years past the “best by” date when unopened.
  • Opened – Once opened, transfer Karo syrup to an airtight container or bottle. Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 months.
  • Freezer – For longer storage, white Karo syrup can be frozen in a freezer-safe container. It will keep for 8-12 months in the freezer before quality decreases.
  • Storage tips – Discard Karo if it develops a moldy, fermented or “off” smell. Keep bottles and containers tightly sealed.

Proper refrigeration and sealing helps retard mold growth and prevent the syrup from crystallizing during storage. For optimal freshness and performance, use Karo syrup within 4-6 months of opening.

Signs of Spoilage

Over time, opened white Karo syrup may start to spoil if it wasn’t stored optimally. Signs that your Karo syrup has gone bad include:

  • Crystallization – Corn syrup crystallizing into clumps or a solid mass.
  • Mold – Gray, green or white fuzzy mold growing on the syrup’s surface.
  • Fermentation – Bubbles in the syrup, an alcohol smell or a sour taste.
  • Darkening color – Fresh Karo should be translucent white, not tan or brown.
  • Off odors – Smells rancid, rotten or chemically.

Karo syrup that exhibits any of these characteristics should be discarded. Do not consume spoiled syrup. A change in consistency or crystallization does not necessarily mean the syrup is unusable. Gently warming the syrup on the stovetop or microwave can re-liquefy it if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about white Karo corn syrup:

Is Karo syrup vegan?

Yes, white Karo syrup is 100% vegan. It does not contain any animal products or byproducts.

Is Karo syrup gluten free?

Yes, white Karo corn syrup is certified gluten free. It is safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Is Karo syrup healthier than sugar?

No, Karo is not necessarily healthier than regular sugar. While Karo has slightly fewer calories per teaspoon, it is still 100% sugar. It has no fiber, protein or nutrients and is rapidly absorbed like sugar. For optimal health, both should be consumed in moderation.

What’s the difference between Karo syrup and high fructose corn syrup?

Karo contains a mix of glucose and fructose while high fructose corn syrup has been processed to convert more of the glucose into fructose for extra sweetness. Both are derived from corn starch.

Does Karo syrup go bad?

Yes, opened Karo syrup can spoil after several months in the refrigerator. Signs include mold, fermentation, or changes in texture and smell. Unopened, it can last up to 2-3 years in the pantry before quality declines.

Can you make your own Karo syrup?

It is possible to make a homemade simple syrup with properties similar to Karo. Recipes generally involve cooking cornstarch and/or corn syrup with butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. However, it takes precision to perfectly replicate the flavor, moisture and crystallization resistance of genuine Karo.


White Karo syrup is appreciated by bakers, candy makers and cooks for its versatile sweetening and moisture properties. While it does have some unique attributes, it is still a nutritionally empty source of sugar and calories like other sweeteners. Using Karo and other corn syrups in moderation is ideal. Opt for small amounts in recipes calling for it or stick to other alternatives like honey, maple or plain sugar. With proper storage and handling, white Karo syrup can remain fresh for homemade and commercial kitchen use.

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