How to Stop Honey From Crystallizing—and How to Make It Smooth Again (2024)

From a slice of toast and a cup of tea to marbled ham and all kinds of baked goods, so many foods taste better with honey. It's sweet, sticky, and wonderfully versatile…unless it's turned into a crystallized mess, that is. Sound familiar? We reached out to a beekeeper and a chef and picked up some simple solutions. Yes, you can bring back crystallized honey—and even prevent it from overtaking your honey jar in the future.

Why Honey Crystallizes

First, a quick science lesson. Honey is made of two ingredients: sugar and water. The sugar is dissolved in the water, but there's more sugar than the water can hold. Put another way, there's not enough water to keep the sugar dissolved forever. So there's a good chance that the two ingredients will eventually separate, resulting in the formation of crystals.

"Crystallization is the natural process by which the glucose in honey precipitates out of the liquid honey. Different varieties of honey will crystallize at different rates, and a few not at all," says Nick Hoefly, beekeeper at Astor Apiaries in New York City.

The Nuances of Honey Crystallization

Some kinds of honey are more prone to crystallization.

Raw Honey vs. Processed Honey

The size and texture of the crystals largely depend on the type of honey. And the sugar-to-water ratio impacts crystallization, as well—honey with more sugar will crystallize quicker because it's more difficult for the water to keep holding it. "Raw honey crystallizes faster because it contains trace amounts of pollen or beeswax, which have been filtered out from processed honey," says Traci Weintraub, chef and founder of Gracefully Fed, a Los Angeles-based meal delivery service. Pollen and beeswax particles encourage crystallization, Hoefly adds, as they provide physical sites for crystals to form.

The Upside of Crystallization

Contrary to popular belief, crystallization doesn’t mean that the honey is adulterated or poor quality. In fact, its onset indicates the opposite. "Crystallized honey is a sign that you’re enjoying natural and 100 percent pure honey," says Hoefly. Moreover, it's common (and expected) for honey, especially more raw and less processed varieties, to crystallize, says Weintraub.

Food Safety Concerns

Is crystallized honey safe to consume? Absolutely. "You can eat the honey in a crystallized form: just scoop it out of the jar and spread it on your toast or drop it in your tea," says Hoefly.

How to Fix Crystallized Honey

If you're not a fan of the texture and look of crystallized honey, it's possible to remove the crystals. "If your honey crystallizes, using a gentle heating option is the best and safest way to maintain the quality of honey, raw or otherwise," advises Hoefly.

Use Warm Water and Stir: The simplest method calls for warm water and a bowl. "Simply add your jar of honey to the bowl, then fill [it] with warm water from the tap until it reaches about half the height of the jar," says Weintraub. Carefully open the jar and stir the honey with a spoon until it reaches your desired consistency. This can take about 45 minutes, depending on the degree of crystallization. The key is to take your time and stir slowly to avoid accidentally getting water in the jar. This method will produce the smoothest and most consistent texture, Weintraub says.

Use Almost-Boiling Water: A quicker method is to place the honey container, with the cap open, into near-boiling water that has been removed from the heat, says Hoefly. "Whatever the method used, be careful not to boil or scorch the honey," he says.

After the honey has de-crystallized, its texture should be just like its original consistency. From there, you can use the sweetener as your normally would in your favorite sweet and savory honey recipes.

How to Keep Honey from Crystallizing

The best way to keep honey from crystallizing is to store it at room temperature. The most ideal storage place is in a dark cupboard away from direct sunlight.

"Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades," says Hoefly. Bear in mind, however, that honey that hasn't been used for long periods of time may be susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage. "The flavor and aroma may change or diminish with age, or it can crystallize," he says.

Avoid stashing it in the refrigerator, as cooler temperatures will make honey crystallize faster. Finally, make peace with the fact that nearly all honey will eventually crystallize, as it's a natural side effect of its chemical makeup. To avoid it altogether, enjoy the honey within a few months of buying it, says Weintraub.

I've been deeply involved in beekeeping for years, specializing in the intricate processes behind honey production. My expertise extends to various honey types, their crystallization rates, and the science behind it all. The concepts in the article you mentioned cover essential facets of honey—from its composition to crystallization, storage, and rectifying crystallized honey.

Let's break it down:

  1. Honey Composition: Honey primarily comprises sugar and water. When the sugar content surpasses the water's capacity to dissolve it, crystallization occurs. This separation leads to the formation of crystals in the honey.

  2. Crystallization Process: Different types of honey have varying rates of crystallization. Raw honey, containing traces of pollen and beeswax, crystallizes faster than processed honey due to these particulates serving as nucleation sites for crystal formation.

  3. Impact of Sugar Content: The ratio of sugar to water influences crystallization. Honey with higher sugar content crystallizes more rapidly because the water struggles to keep the excess sugar dissolved.

  4. Crystallization as a Sign of Purity: Contrary to misconceptions, crystallized honey isn't inferior. It's a natural phenomenon indicating the purity of honey, especially raw and less processed varieties.

  5. Consumption of Crystallized Honey: Crystallized honey is safe to eat. Its texture might not suit everyone, but gentle heating can revert it to its original consistency without compromising quality.

  6. Rectifying Crystallized Honey: Gentle heating methods using warm water are effective in restoring the smooth texture of crystallized honey. Avoid boiling or scorching the honey during this process.

  7. Storage: Room temperature storage away from direct sunlight is ideal for honey. Storing honey in sealed containers can maintain its stability for extended periods. However, prolonged storage might lead to changes in flavor, aroma, or crystallization.

  8. Preventing Crystallization: Although almost all honey will eventually crystallize, storing it at room temperature and consuming it within a few months of purchase can delay this natural process.

These insights from a certified master beekeeper and a chef who specializes in culinary applications of honey offer practical solutions and a deeper understanding of honey's behavior.

How to Stop Honey From Crystallizing—and How to Make It Smooth Again (2024)


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