Recipe question: corn syrup in rum balls

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I was just looking over rum ball recipes.

What do you suppose the purpose of corn syrup in a rum ball recipe is?

It’s not like any more sweetness is needed.
Is it just to add stickiness? Like glue?
Is it to act as a humectant? To keep those morsels from turning into hard dry rocks?

We’re thinking of substitutions. Honey or agave nectar. Hmm, maybe molasses?

Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipes


posted December 8th, 2007 at 7:44 pm

It will definitely have a humectant sort of quality, helping to keep the balls nicely textured. It will also help with shelf life – sugar binds water and reduces the possibility of bad things growing (although the alcohol content of rum balls would probably keep that from happening anyway).

You could substitute honey. Honey is sweeter than corn syrup, though, so keep that in mind. And of course, it will add a flavor while corn syrup is neutral.

posted December 9th, 2007 at 11:51 am

According to Alton Brown, corn syrup in addition to sugar will help keep the sugar from crystallizing into hard lumps because it is a different kind of sugar.

This only applies when you are dissolving the sugar and heating it as in candy making (making caramel and fudge). The additional sugar will dissrupt the crystalline shape. Rum ball recipes don’t heat the sugar to dissolve it.


- Tamara
posted December 9th, 2007 at 2:10 pm

I would never put corn syrup in a recipe? If you want, you could use golden syrup, made by Tate and Lyle, or maple syrup which goes well with rum. Neither will crystallize

Great suggestions! Thanks


posted December 9th, 2007 at 7:02 pm

I have replaced corn syrup with agave in several recipes, and never had a problem. Just yesterday I did this when making peppermint patties (a homemade York, basically), and it worked just fine.

- Joanna
posted December 10th, 2007 at 6:46 am

Was so happy to find this post, as I am gearing up to make my yearly rum balls and definitely did not want to use corn syrup again. I think I’ll try the agave route!

posted December 12th, 2007 at 5:13 am

Yes, I second the option for Lyle’s Golden Syrup…it’s pure cane syrup, so all-natural (woo hoo!) and is a great substitute. Though, I did read somewhere (Nigella Lawson?) that because the GS is thicker than Corn Syrup, you’d want to thin it with water…but, that wouldn’t work in all recipes, if you’re worried that the water may cause seizing.

posted December 12th, 2007 at 7:28 pm

Not sure about the food science on this one, but my vote is for molasses…molasses + rum…rum + molasses. mmmmmmmmm!

posted December 16th, 2007 at 1:49 am

I think there are a lot of recipes out there that have CS in them just because. I have 2 recipes that need to have it in there because, in a large scale (restaurant) setting Lyle’s Golden Syrup (which is, yes, the best substitution if you want to avoid Corn syrup) is cost prohibitive.

If you need to protect caramel you may also use a squeeze of lemon juice in the pot of sugar-water.

I have used agave as well, although I must point out that agave has a strong flavor and a bitter aftertaste, which will be more apparent in some recipes over others.

And lastly, making your own 1:1 simple syrup can oftentimes be substituted for corn syrup if it’s not a major ingredient.

good luck!

posted December 20th, 2007 at 3:31 am


- Donna Lupson
posted December 20th, 2007 at 12:03 pm

This question and these comments were extemely helpful! I can’t stand using corn syrup, so I’m going to try a bit of each – honey, agave and maple syrup! Thanks again.

- Anne Price
posted December 20th, 2007 at 7:46 pm

Does anyone know if brown rice syrup would work?

- Anna
posted December 12th, 2019 at 11:12 am

Where can I get Lyle’s Golden Syrup? I hadn’t heard of it before and it looks like it’s widely available in the UK.


- Connie
posted December 15th, 2019 at 10:55 am

Keep in mind that “corn syrup” and “high fructose corn syrup” are two very distinct items. Regular, retail corn syrup is a 100% glucose syrup made from converted cornstarch. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has gone through an enzymatic reaction to convert the glucose into fructose which is then reintroduced to glucose corn syrup to make HFCS.

Bottom line is that you shouldn’t be afraid of putting regular, Karo-type corn syrup in your recipes. It adds a reasonable amount of sweetness, it acts as a humectant, and it binds things. It also dissolves well in water with minimal effort. It is not the evil entity that HFCS is, which I wouldn’t put in my recipes if my life depended on it.

good point cameron- something that I have come around to also.


- Cameron
posted December 20th, 2019 at 2:06 pm

I just made beautiful rum balls using ground chocolate cookies (Oreo wafers), and ground nuts (you could use any, I think) — one to one ratio — then added “some” (maybe 3 T) real maple syrup + @ 2/3 c. rum (151). Then I rolled them in powdered sugar. They look great, and I’m sure will be even better by Christmas!

- Suzanne Stenson O'Brien
posted December 8th, 2020 at 4:31 pm

I have never, EVER heard of putting any kind of dairy into bourbon balls, which can be ‘rum balls’ if one prefers, according to the recipe.

I was shocked that someone mentioned condensed milk?


- Noodledoofus
posted December 15th, 2020 at 11:01 am

“Bottom line is that you shouldn’t be afraid of putting regular, Karo-type corn syrup in your recipes.”

I’m allergic to corn, as are a lot of people, so that is a common reason for not including it.

- MIchelle
posted December 22nd, 2020 at 1:42 pm

Finally~~bakers who DO NOT want to use yukky corn syrup….I am making Rum Balls and want to use organic ingredients…..just think when I was a poor kid growing up and use to put corn syrup on pancakes! Agast! My son is sooooo lucky to have organic healthy food…Hurray for healthy eating (well…a little sugar is ok now and again :)

- laura
posted December 13th, 2011 at 9:37 am

When we were growing up, many, MANY, years ago, Mom made rumballs using old homemade chocolate cake, rum, and homemade apricot or raspberry preserves as a binder. Then they were rolled in crushed nuts and sprinkled with powdered sugar. I still make them that way to this day and no one has ever had “just one” :)

- SueT
posted December 20th, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Not sure what recipe you’re using, but I’ve never seen one that needs corn syrup…
In Australia the usual recipe is
250g plain chocolate cookies
1 395g can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tbs cocoa
1cup of desiccated coconut +extra for rolling
2-3tbs of rum or 1tbs rum ess.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, blend until well mixed and no lumps of cookie remain.
Roll into ping-pong ball sized balls and roll in extra coconut.

I make these every Christmas, and sometimes when it isn’t Christmas ;) . They’re great.

- Hannah