What Happened to Brown Rice Syrup?

Gluten-Free Lace Cookies from the Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts Course
Gluten-Free Lace Cookies from the Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts Course
Gluten-Free Lace Cookies from the Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts Course

Several Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts students, who are enrolled in the September course, contacted me to say that brown rice syrup, is no longer available in their local shops or even online. It’s an essential ingredient in their Gluten-Free Lace Cookie assignment.  hadn’t noticed the shortage, since my pantry is well stocked with this unique liquid sweetener, one that has long been favored by macrobiotic bakers. I have several jars each of brown rice syrup from Lundberg and Susanne’s Specialties, my go-to brands.

Gluten-Free Lace Cookies from the Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts Course
Gluten-Free Lace Cookies from the Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts Course

Time to sleuth.

First, I went to my local MOM’s Organic Market, Center City Philly, and to my surprise, there was no more Lundberg brown rice syrup on the shelves. I’d found it there before.  It was the same story at the new Sprouts Market; none at Whole Foods either. Online to Amazon, I was surprised to see only brands that were unfamiliar to me, or 12- and 15-pound containers of Lundberg and Sweet Cloud. Something was up.

Cannoli Cookies made with Gluten-Free Lace Cookies.
Cannoli Cookies made with Gluten-Free Lace Cookies made by Dianne from Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen for her Rouxbe Essential Desserts final assignment.

There are other quality liquid sweeteners: maple syrup, sorghum, barley malt, molasses, silan, and yacon, but each one has unique qualities and cannot be swapped one for the other.  I reviewed the Gluten-Free Lace Cookie lesson in Essential Vegan Desserts. This recipe uses rice syrup very specifically: to make thin crispy cookies. I use it to make vegan honey and caramel, and what I call rice syrup ‘gold’. It does not go into any of my cakes, as it bakes up gummy.

 

Suzanne's Specialties and Lundberg Brown Rice Syrups in jars
Suzanne’s Specialties and Lundberg brown rice syrups

Suzanne’s Specialties vs. Lundberg

Like anything else, different brands may have slightly different colors and flavor profiles, but traditionally, brown rice syrup is made from rice that’s been partially milled and then treated with enzymes to break down its natural starches into sugars. The resulting liquid is boiled down into a butterscotch colored syrup with a honey-like consistency.

Brown rce syrups: Suzanne's Specialties on the left and Lundberg on the right.
Brown rice syrups: Suzanne’s Specialties on the left and Lundberg on the right.
Brown rice syrup gold: Suzanne's Specialties on the left and Lundberg on the right.
Brown rice syrup gold: Suzanne’s Specialties on the left and Lundberg on the right.

Was brown rice pulled from the shelves as a result of the arsenic scare, as first reported in the 2012 Dartmouth study? I hoped not. That study asserted that brown rice syrup (all rice in fact) contained a high percentage of arsenic. Arsenic, which is naturally occurring in soil and water, comes from the rice itself, and brown rice registers a higher amount than does white rice. At that time, I changed the way I cook  organic brown rice (rinse, soak, cook in abundant fresh water) and rotate my foods, per my usual habit. I also called my favorite brown rice suppliers, Suzanne’s Specialties and Lundberg Rice Syrups, and learned their products have no detectable limits of arsenic or very low, respectively. Nothing has changed today. Here is the link to the Lundberg statement: http://www.lundberg.com/info/arsenic-in-food/arsenic-faq/

Mini Ice Cream Bowls made with Gluten-Free Lace Cookies
Mini Ice Cream Bowls made with Gluten-Free Lace Cookies made by Dianne from Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen for a Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts assignment

So why is it so hard to find brown rice syrup?

The grocery manager at MOM’s said they hoped to have Lundberg’s back on the shelves again. Whew. He’d heard it was being repackaged. (Lundberg confirmed this, and it will be back within a couple of months.) The manager at Sprouts said he’d had some requests and hoped to stock it soon.

Suzanne’s has lots of stock and their brown rice syrup is excellent. Call or order online from the N.J.based company.  16 ounces is 5.00 US and a gallon is 30.00

As for me, I will continue to use brown rice syrup, but I did spend yesterday working to replace the rice syrup from the Gluten-Free Lace Cookies in More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts and Essential Vegan Desserts.

Testing a new recipe for Gluten-Free Lace Cookies with different sweeteners
Test 1: Maple syrup per usual plus agave and barley malt.

Test 1:

Maple syrup per usual plus agave and barley malt replaced the brown rice syrup. As expected, the color of these delicate cookies is darker and the flavor is different but very tasty.

Test 2: Maple syrup per usual plus coconut necatar
Test 2: Maple syrup per usual plus coconut nectar

Test 2:

Maple syrup per usual plus coconut nectar baked a cookie that closer to the original. The thin batter made a lacier cookie but more tests are needed before I publish the recipe.

Both were half recipes, of course— that is how I test.  Once I’m happy with testing results, I’ll be sharing the new recipe with you.

I’d love to know what you think about the brown rice caper.

Comments
  • I noticed this at MOM’s in New Jersey a few months ago and went to check at Whole Foods with no luck. I wound up finding it at Stop & Shop when I was Connecticut and stocked up. Stop & Shop is the same company as Giant down here, but I haven’t checked to see if Giant has it as of yet.
    Thank you for investigating!

    • Good thing you stocked up since the Lundberg will not be back in stock for 2-3 months. You can find Suzanne’s Specialities. I’m glad to have been able to uncover the unfortunate but uncomplicated matter that created the shortage.

  • I’ve tried half molasses and half maple syrup as a sub for brown rice syrup in another recipe and it worked well for our purposes. Would be curious if that would work with the lace cookies.

    • Hi Kiristen, It might although 1/4 cup molasses would overpower the flavor of these cookies. As I wrote in the post, I am testing different sweeteners in different proportions to see what is the best replacement for rice syrup. The best advice I can give you today, is do a half recipe and try the 50-50 molasses: maple syrup. Bake for a shorter time, as these cookies will be very dark early on. You can always bake them longer. Do let us know your findings.

  • Hi Fran! I used the Log Cabin brand “Table Syrup” for the tuile assignment in your Rouxbe course, because the first ingredient is brown rice syrup, and I couldn’t find straight-up brown rice syrup. It worked very well!

    • Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for letting us know that the Log Cabin brand “table syrup’ worked to replace brown rice syrup. As discussed, at the moment, it is difficult to find brown rice syrup in the stores, even though it is a staple macrobiotic sweetener. The table syrup with brown sugar and ‘natural flavors’ is not as high quality but certainly, it is an option as you found out. Lundberg, a popular and high-quality maple syrup will be back on shelves within a month or two. Their quantity (commercial) syrup is not affected. Suzanne’s Specialty, a very high-quality brown rice syrup is available online. I so appreciate your update.

    • Well,hello Fran!
      Lundburg says the brown rice syrup should be back on the shelves soon. I am going to check in with them again next week. The wholesale tubs are still available. You can order brown rice syrup online from Suzannes Specilaties.

  • Hi Fran,

    At first, I was blaming Whole Foods (i.e. Amazon) as its Chicago stores no longer carry either Brown Rice Syrup or Barley Malt! I then went to one of the older still-remaining “health food stores” and found Barley Malt and their last jar of Brown Rice Syrup, which they sold to me for $15.00, an insane moment on my part! That store told me that you can find it on line for $60 a jar. When I got back home, I found that not to be true. I then found – somewhere online – that Lundberg says it is repackaging the product and it will return in a couple of months. I don’t believe this, either, as 1. they could have planned better and 2. You’d think they would have a notice on their website.

    • Hi Kay,
      I spoke with a representative at Lundberg and the bottler quit with almost no notice. They are still selling the wholesale pails of rice syrup.
      You can find some in Asian markets. I’m going to be contacting Lundburg again this week. I agree that there should be a notice on the website.

  • Thank you for this info, Fran. Here’s another dilemma for you. (I should probably be putting this question in another location on your site, but I’m new to your newsletter and can’t find where.) It has always been that every once-in-a-while the peas in my green split pea soup do not totally get soft. I was able to live with that. However, in the last few years, I have had to throw away every batch I made, trying both bulk and packaged beans! Last week, I came up with the idea to soak them overnight before making the soup. After the soaking, I even cooked the soup for another three hours, and the peas still did not get soft enough! Have you experienced this? What could possibly be happening?

    • Hi Kay,
      Having split peas, or any bean refusing to soften is frustrating. This sometimes happens with very old beans, but evidently, you’ve used a variety of beans.

      A few things can keep your beans from softening. You write that you did soak them which is goood. Soak in abundant water: drain, rinse and cook in abundant fresh warmer.
      Bring to a boil and skim the foam; then reduce heat and add a 2 inch piece of kombucha which adds minerals, helps soften the beans and makes them more digestible.

      Do not salt of add acidic ingredients until the beans are softened. Then season and cook a little longer. Use ample water. Simmer slowly. I suggest you connect with Jill Nussinow @theveggiequeen and Ellen Kanner @soulfulvegan. I’m. Both are bean whisperers.

      I hope this helps.
      Fran

      • Hi Fran your side seems just so helpful thank you so much for all your offerings concerning the split pea dilemma I’ve had the exact same situation also when I found helped finally was to add at the beginning of the cooking of the split pea 1/3 of a teaspoon of baking soda or you could even go up to like a half a teaspoon of baking soda that helped tremendously and that helps of any being that isn’t cooking and just getting soft at a normal amount of time and I also wanted to mention that you suggest adding some kombucha to the beans and I’m sure you probably met meant come boo and so I wanted to just mention that because I use a piece of Kombu seaweed in all my bean dishes and it’s a great addition to soften beans.
        Hope this baking soda tip helps others with hard beans & peas !
        PS if you google baking soda there are great sites that offer much healing wisdom using b. Soda ! A Milan, Italy Dr. is also treating cancer tumors with it with great success!
        Being the most alkaline natural substance, we can use it for so many imbalances: stomach ache, headache, paste for cankor sore, feeling too acidic, baths with it are wonderful add 2-3 cups. The basic amount for illnesses etc. Adult: 1/3 tsp. B. soda stirred in 1/3 c. Room temp H2o. Stir till it is clear and dissolved. Then follow with another 1/3 c. H2o. & relax.
        Amazing safe medicine in your cupboard!
        We never go anywhere without some in our purse !
        Take care,
        ~ Emily

        • Emily,
          Thanks. Baking Soda has been found as an ingredient in many dry bean recipes for hundreds of years. Thanks for the reminder. Here is another use. When a baking pan has a sticky residue, use baking soda and vinegar to get it back to new. And as to the kombucha in beans, well that was quite an auto spell check. Of course I meant kombu!!!!

  • Hello Fran,
    I teach vegan cooking classes, and the next class is desserts. Your brownie bites recipe is perfection. May I give this recipe out at class, while promoting all of your books, which I have been using for many years.?
    I have been vegan since 1991. It is mind blowing to see how the demand for vegan cooking has exploded! I have been so happy to share the knowledge and experience that I have gained with an ever increasing number of interested people!
    Thank you immensely for sharing your brilliance in the kitchen with all!!

    Best to you, Deana

    • Hi Deana,
      I am glad you like the Brownie Bites and I am delighted to hear that you teach. Yes, the demand for vegan cooking has exploded!
      Please send an email to me about recipe usage. Thank you for asking.

      Best
      Fran

      • Hello, I spoke with Lundberg today. They said some shipments of the brown rice syrup have already been sent out. They also said the quickest way to get it back on the shelves is for us as consumers to ask the stores that we shop at to order it again. So glad it is returning!!!

  • Hi Fran,
    Thanks for your research… I was at wits end looking for Lundberg’s. The replacement syrup they now sell at Wegman’s is pretty bad, it’s clear brown almost looks like a clarified honey. I rely on Lundberg’s to make my “Vegan, no-bake, peanut butter nut cake” and a whole host of vegan i-screams! Thought I’d have to pack up shop. I will definitely check out Suzanne’s in the meantime. Glad I found you–Jim McCarthy

  • Dear Fran,

    So glad someone on the internet is writing about this. I’ve noticed a ‘war’ on rice syrup myself, with malted chocolates slowly disappearing, too. First Chatfield brand malt sweetend chocolate chips several years ago (which were the best) and now Sunspire no longer makes them, either. We are now unable to purchase anywhere on the planet malt sweetened chocolate? Crazy! Given that Whole Foods Market (now Amazon) has gobbled up all health food stores in my area and is slowly replacing organic with non-organic and real health food with ‘organic junk food’ (Whole Foods Market is a member of the GMA, which fought organic labelling tooth and nail and refuses to supply organic bread at any of their stores in the Boston area – clearly their values are not ours) I cannot help see some of these shenanigans as all part of a greater effort to funnel people back into the foods that make agri-business the most shareholder profit.

    • Hi Clark,
      I don’t know about a ‘war’ Rice Syrup but it was hard to find for a period of time. This was due to packaging problems with regard to Undberg and a general concern about arsenic in rice syrup. Money talks as you know, and we can vote with our forks. The malted chocolates were likely not selling well enough in the general marketplace, as they are not as sweet as organic cane-sweetened chips/

      Thanks for the conversation.
      Fran

  • I use brown rice syrup to make caramel and was curious about Suzanne’s genmai brown syrup vs original brown syrup. Any opinion on one vs the other? Their description of “slightly oily taste” is kind of throwing me off. I usually use Lundberg but the price on Suzanne’s is amazing. Thanks!!!

    • Hi Liz,
      The genmai as I recall- and it has been a long time since I tasted it, is less sweet than the other. Both taste slightly less caramel-like than Lundberg but that is my opinion and you may find that is not your experience. Worth a try. Let us know what you think.

      Best regards,
      Fran

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