This easy Vegan Honey Alternative (Dandelion Syrup) is made with foraged flowers. Sweet, sticky and delicately floral, it’s the perfect bee-friendly honey alternative.
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Dandelion Vegan Honey Alternative – Foraged deliciousness in a jar
Vegan ‘Honey‘ Alternative may not sound like a standard post for Gluten Free Alchemist. But it’s a bit of a revelation and loads of fun. So after making it, I decided it had to be shared.
I’m not Vegan, but I quite often buy vegan ‘honey’ as an alternative ingredient for drizzling on granola and in yoghurt. Usually, it’s coconut honey. But I recently went on a foraging course with The Wild Kitchen where I tried Dandelion Honey. I was honestly stunned by how similar it was to actual honey, so I knew it was something I needed to make myself. It’s not exactly the same as bee honey obviously… But it’s syrupy flow and delicate floral notes (derived from the pollen and natural aroma of the flowers) mean it comes pretty darn close. (And definitely closer than other options such as agave, date or coconut syrups).
Made with foraged flowers, it not only nurtures a little therapeutic kitchen creativity, but it gets you out of the house for a lovely walk, picking dandelions with purpose. It’s fun!
Below I share what I have learned about making foraged dandelion syrup so that you can enjoy it too.
What ingredients do you need to make Vegan Honey Alternative?
Making Vegan ‘honey’ with dandelions (or Dandelion Syrup) requires only 5 simple ingredients, one of which is water! In addition to water, you’ll need:
- Foraged Dandelion flower heads
- A Lemon (or an Orange)
- Sugar (either caster or granulated)
- A drop of Vanilla Extract
There’s nothing complicated in there at all. In fact, every time I dip my spoon in the jar I am amazed at the flavour punch nature offers.
What equipment is needed to make Dandelion Syrup?
Although making this Vegan Honey Alternative is really straightforward, it does take a little time. In addition to foraging the dandelions, the flowers, citrus and vanilla need time to infuse in boiling water, so that all the lovely flavours of pollen and flowers are extracted. And once the dandelion ‘tea’ has been separated, it then needs to be boiled again with the sugar until it has reduced into a syrupy honey consistency.
Regarding equipment, again there’s nothing fancy… The basics are:
- Big saucepans (including one with a lid)
- Wooden or silicone spoon
- A hob
- Fine mesh sieve (and a spoon to press out the remaining liquid and lovely flavour)
- Jam Jar(s) and an oven (to sterilise the jars)
What are dandelions?
Dandelion (or Taraxacum) is a common wild perennial plant, commonly found in meadows, lanes, on roadside verges and in the garden (either appearing among other plants or in the lawn). It is often considered a weed. Nonetheless, it is a helpful source of pollen for a wide variety of insects and has for centuries (in many cultures) been appreciated as both food and for its medicinal benefits. Flowers can usually be found from early spring through to autumn.
Dandelions are wholly edible… Young and blanched leaves can be eaten in salads, the roots used to make ‘coffee’ and the flowers for syrups, ‘honey’, wine and cordials.
They are also easy to recognise… Their bright yellow, multi-petalled flower heads (which close at night) are the joy of childhood… Each pretty flower turns to a delicate round seed head known as a ‘clock’ that invites itself to be picked and blown onto the wind. The leaves (toothed in shape) give the plant its name… In French dent de lion, which means lion’s tooth.
Where to forage and how to pick dandelions for making this vegan honey alternative
When picking dandelions for food and making Vegan ‘Honey’, it is important to choose your source carefully. While they may be most obvious on the verges of roads and paths, flowers found here are also exposed to greater pollution and the needs of dogs out walking! Equally, take care to avoid any flowers in locations that may have been sprayed with pesticides.
The best places? Pick dandelions from the garden, fields, meadows and in the countryside. And pick on a bright day when the flowers are open (they close when it is very dull or dark). This allows you to choose the best and freshest heads. Bear in mind that after picking, the flowers will slowly close again and may be shut by the time they get home to the kitchen. This is fine!
When the flowers have been picked, insects that are hiding inside will quickly start to leave. Since we want to leave them where they live, shake the flower heads as they are picked to help them on their way. You won’t need the stalk of the dandelion for making vegan ‘honey’, so you can cut them short.
And really IMPORTANT: Do NOT wash the flowers! The flavour and aroma that makes Dandelion Syrup special are mainly locked in the pollen. So don’t wash it away. The boiling process will naturally sterilise the flowers regardless.
Sterilising jars to store Vegan Honey Alternative
Because Dandelion Syrup is a preserve, it is important to sterilise the storage jar(s) before filling them. It’s really easy and best done while the syrup is in the pan being boiled…
- Choose the jars for your Vegan Honey Alternative (the recipe shared is enough to make one large or two smaller jars).
- Wash them with warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
- Sit them on a baking tray with the lids. NOTE: If using Kilner Jars do not put the section with the rubber seal in the oven. Wash this separately and rinse in boiling water, allowing it to air dry on a clean plate/kitchen paper.
- Place the tray with the jars in a cold oven and then turn it on at 140 C/275 F/Gas 1.
- Once the oven has reached temperature, leave the jars to sterilise for about 20 minutes.
- Then turn the oven off and leave the jars inside until ready to use.
Is Dandelion Syrup safe for Coeliacs (Celiacs)?
How to use Vegan ‘Honey‘
Use Vegan Dandelion Syrup in the same way as standard honey from bees. Whether spread on toast, drizzled over pancakes, used to sweeten hot drinks or topping a morning bowl of gluten free porridge, it’s equally delicious.
Or it can be used in cooking… As a vegan alternative for Honey-Roasted Figs; to make Honeyed-Raspberry Coulis; on Roasted Butternut Squash; or with Spring Carrots and Parsnips Roasted with Honey and Thyme. Alternatively… It’s a perfect vegan option to ‘sweeten’ the sauce in my Legendary Vegetable Lasagne and Stuffed Cashew Nut Roast, or as a yeast-activator when making gluten free bread.
But it can also be used as a main honey-replacement ingredient too… In Vegan Flapjacks; Oat Breakfast Bars; Raspberry Vinaigrette salad dressing, Coco Banana Freeze Bites (frozen energy balls) or even to make Gluten Free Lebkuchen Cookies.
The options are truly endless.
Tips for making Vegan Honey Alternative
- Don’t forage dandelions by the side of busy roads or paths frequented by dog-walkers (see above).
- Remember to sterilize the storage jars (see above for how) and use a clean spoon/spatula to scrape out the pan.
- Do NOT wash the dandelion flowers… The pollen gives flavour to the vegan syrup.
- Pluck the petals off each flower head by pinching between the fingers and giving a tug (in a sort of peeling action).
- Allow the flowers to infuse with the lemon and vanilla for several hours to ensure a good flavour and colour.
- If you only have one pan, sieve the infused liquid into a large jug. Then wash the saucepan before returning the infusion ready to boil and reduce.
- Be aware that the ‘honey’ will thicken when taken off the heat… So once the syrup has started to reduce and darken, check it regularly. Put a drop on a plate and let it cool to test how thick it is. This ensures it doesn’t become too viscous.
Should I use just the petals or the whole dandelion flower when making Vegan ‘Honey’?
Personally, I just infuse the dandelion petals when making the syrup, for a smoother flavour. But there are no hard or fast rules. It’s fine to use the whole dandelion head if you don’t want to spend time ‘plucking’ the flowers.
But… Be aware that using the whole flower produces vegan ‘honey’ with a more bitter flavour.
- The basic recipe uses lemon alongside the dandelion flowers to bring a light citrus tang to the syrup. However orange also works beautifully as an alternative.
- Add fresh herbs to the infusion for a short time to bring extra complexity to the syrup. A sprig of thyme (of any variety), chamomile or lemon balm work particularly well. However, do not leave them in the infusion for the full duration as they may over-power the balance of flavour. I advise keeping the sprigs large enough to remove easily once the initial boiling is complete.
- You can also use the same recipe to make daisy syrup. Simply sub the dandelion petals for whole daisy flower heads. For the ratios shared, you’ll need about 280 daisy heads.
How to store Vegan Dandelion Syrup
Vegan Dandelion Syrup is stored in exactly the same way as bee honey. Once open, store in the jar in a cool place (either a cool larder or the fridge) for up to 6 months. And always use a clean spoon to scoop it from the jar to ensure it remains free from anything that will spoil it.
Sometimes the syrup may crystallise over time in the same way that bee honey does. Nonetheless, it’s still good to eat.
Ready to go forage and make Vegan Honey Alternative?
And that’s all there is to it! The recipe for Dandelion Vegan Honey Alternative is just below (scroll another inch or two). If you make it, do let me know what you think. You can leave a comment at the bottom, or message me on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest).
For all our other recipes, do check out our Gluten Free Recipe ‘Book’ Index. It’s packed with inspiration and know how for the best gluten free life. And for those who are also either vegan or trying a gluten free Veganuary, there’s even a dedicated index for Gluten Free Vegan Recipes too.
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Vegan Honey Alternative made with Dandelions
- large saucepan with lid
- oven + hob
- jam jars
- fine mesh sieve
- 100 g fresh-picked dandelion heads
- 700 g boiling water
- 1 lemon (sliced)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 400 g caster sugar (or granulated sugar)
Sterilise the jam jar(s) while making the syrup
- Take a couple of jam jars (there should be enough syrup for 1 large or two smaller jars) and wash well with warm soapy water.
- Separately set the jars and lids (but not rubber seals) on a tray in a cold oven and then turn the oven on at 140 C/275 F/Gas 1.
- Once the oven has reached temperature, leave the jars to sterilise for about 20 minutes.
- Turn off the oven and leave the jars inside until ready to use.
Make the Dandelion Syrup
- As you pick the dandelions, shake or blow the flowers to remove the insects safely. Then let the flowers sit for a further 5 minutes or so to allow any that remain to leave.
- Do NOT wash the dandelions as this will remove the pollen which is important to the honey flavour (the boiling process will sterilise the syrup).
- Pull the dandelion petals away from the sepals by hand and place them in a large saucepan.
- Add the sliced lemon and vanilla to the pan and then pour over the boiling water (or alternatively add cold water and bring to a boil in the pan).
- Place the lid on the pan and simmer the dandelion petals for about 20 minutes over a low hob.
- After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and leave the lid on. Let the pan sit for several hours (and preferably overnight) to allow the petals to infuse well.
- Once infused, set a fine-meshed sieve over a separate large heavy-bottomed saucepan (or a large jug).
- Remove the lemon and pour the remaining dandelion infusion into the clean pan so that the sieve catches the petals.
- Using the back of a spoon, gently press the petals in the sieve to extract any remaining liquid into the pan.
- Set the pan over a hob and bring to a boil (with the lid off), before gradually adding the sugar, stirring until completely dissolved.
- Continue to boil the liquid for about 50 minutes to an hour (with the lid off) until it has reduced and started to thicken. Keep a close eye on the syrup, stirring intermittently. To test the consistency, take a drop of the syrup liquid and set it on a plate, allowing it to cool a little before poking (bear in mind that the syrup will thicken more as it cools).
- When the honey alternative has reduced to the desired syrup consistency, carefully remove the jars from the oven and fill them. Immediately seal the jars with their lids and set the syrup aside to cool completely.
- Once open, store for up to 6 months in a cool larder or fridge.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist