There is nothing wrong with honey that has crystallized; in fact, it’s a sign that you have raw honey. However, sometimes you prefer a liquid honey rather than a solid honey. That’s when knowing how to decrystallize honey and still keep it raw comes in handy.
There are several ways to make crystallized honey liquid again. The best method depends on if your honey is in a glass or plastic container, how much honey you want to decrystallize, and why you want to decrystallize it.
Why Does Honey Crystallize?
Before we get to how to decrystallize honey, let’s chat about why honey crystallizes in the first place…and honey crystallization is actually one sign of quality honey.
Honey is a super saturation sugar solution. It’s about 70% sugar and less than 20% water which means it has way more sugar molecules than the water molecules can hold. When the sugar crystallizes, water separates from the sugars and tiny crystals start stacking on top of each other. Eventually the crystals will spread throughout the honey and the entire jar of honey will be or crystallized or in a semi-solid state. This is a natural process that will eventually happen to all raw honey.
Sometimes the crystals will be quite large and sometimes they are small. The faster the honey crystallizes the finer the crystals will be. Crystallized honey will be lighter than honey in it’s liquid state.
Honey will crystallize at different rates depending on several things such as what pollen the bees collected, how the honey was processed and the temperature the honey is stored at. If the bees collected alfalfa, clover, cotton, dandelion, mesquite, or mustard the honey will crystallize sooner than if the bees collected maple, tupelo, and blackberry. Maple, tupelo and blackberry honey has more fructose molecules than glucose molecules and the fructose crystallizes slower.
Raw, unfiltered and unheated, honey has more particles such as pollen and pieces of wax in it than honey that has been heated and filtered through super fine filters. These particles act as building blocks for the sugar crystals and will cause the honey to crystallize sooner.
Most store bought honey will have been heated to high temperatures, usually 145F for 30 minutes or 160F or just a minute and then quickly cooled. The heating kills any yeast that can cause fermentation and insures that the honey won’t crystallize on the shelves. However, it also destroys most of the beneficial enzymes. Also, many times store bought honey has a small amount of corn syrup added to it which also delays the crystallization of the honey and it does not have to be disclosed on the list of ingredients.
Lastly, honey will crystallize faster in cooler temperatures, under 59F. This means that it’s not a good idea to store honey in the refrigerator. Honey is best stored at temperatures above 77F to avoid crystallization. The crystals will dissolve at between 95 -104F, however, anything about 104F will destroy the beneficial enzymes.
How to Prevent Honey from Crystallizing
Given enough time, all raw honey will eventually start to crystallize. That being said, there are a few things you can do to prevent honey from crystallizing as quickly.
When you process honey, filter it through 80 micro filter or through a few layers of fine nylon to catch the smaller particles such as pollen and pieces of wax. Some of the pollen particles will still get through the mesh, so if you are using raw honey for allergies, some of the pollen will be in the honey.
Store the honey at room temperature; ideally between 70-80 F. Honey is a natural preservative and does not ever need to be refrigerated. Putting honey in the refrigerator will speed up the crystallization process.
Honey stored in a glass jar will crystallize slower than honey stored in a plastic jar. Also, if you infuse honey with herbs, expect that it will crystallize sooner if the herbs are leafy (such as rose or sage) than roots (such as ginger or garlic). In fact, fermented garlic and honey actually gets more fluid the longer it infuses. The larger root pieces are easier to pick out and ensure you have it all.
How to Decrystallize Honey
Honey melts when heated. However, you’ll want to heat the honey at a low temperature as heating the honey above 104F will destroy some of the beneficial enzymes. So the trick to decrystallizing honey and not destroying it’s beneficial enzymes is to heat the honey slowly and steadily until it’s in it’s liquid form again.
If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, you can keep a jar of honey on the stove and the warmth from the pilot light will be enough to dissolve the crystals.
Using a double boiler
If if the honey is in a glass container, the easiest way to make the crystallized honey liquid again is to use a double boiler. Put the jar of honey in a pan of water making sure that there is enough water to come to the level of the honey in the jar. If the jar is pretty full of honey, you should put a lid on the jar to make sure no water gets into the jar. Just know that you’ll need to remove the lid to stir the honey occasionally.
Heat the water over medium heat to about 95F, which should be cool enough to touch the water but hot enough that you wouldn’t want to keep your finger in the water.
I like to put a candy thermometer in the honey jar to make sure I don’t heat the honey over 100F. I use the candy thermometer to stir the honey and once it’s at the desired consistency I turn off the burner and let the honey slowly cool as the water cools.
If the honey is in a plastic bottle, you can use the warm water bath method above, just be sure that the water never gets over 100F or you’ll run the risk of melting the plastic. If the honey is just a little crystalized, you can put the honey container in a bowl of warm water to decrystallize the honey.
Using the car
This is a little unconventional but it works and is a completely hands-off decrystallization process. If it’s warm weather you can just put the honey in the car and let the heat inside the car to melt the honey crystals.
This would be a good option if the honey is in a plastic bottle, especially a honey bear bottle of honey.
I wouldn’t leave it in the car all day or if the temperatures are over 100F because you run the risk of killing the beneficial enzymes.
Using the microwave oven
Can honey be decrystallized in the microwave? Yes, it can.
Should honey be decrystallized in the microwave? That’s a whole different question. And the answer is “It depends.”
Because microwaves heat unevenly and quickly, you’ll need to microwave honey for just a few seconds at a time and stir it in between times. Even with doing this, you have more risk of destroying the beneficial enzymes than you do with the double boiler method.
I reserve using the microwave to melt solid honey when I’m using the honey for something that’s going to be heated, like baking. It’s much easier to mix in a tablespoon of liquid honey into bread dough than it is to mix in a tablespoon of honey in a semi-solid state. So, I zap it in the microwave for a few seconds.
But for other things, like drizzling on biscuits, I use the double boiler method.
How many times can you decrystallize honey?
There is always the possibility that the honey will crystallize again. You can decrystallize it again, however the more you heat it the more you will degrade the honey. So I wouldn’t do it more than once or twice.
I think it’s wise to just decrystallize honey in small amounts as you need it, instead of trying to decrystallize larger containers of honey at once.
How to use crystallized honey
Crystallized honey can be used in it’s solid state. Remember, the crystallization of honey is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a sign that you have natural honey, not artificial honey – a simple syrup that has the flavor and aroma of the honey but not the benefits of real honey.
Crystallized honey has a nice crispy texture and if it’s not super solid it can still be spread on bread or cornbread. It can be added to a hot beverage and the crystals will dissolve in the hot liquid.
If you want to make creamed honey (whipped honey) at home, you will need crystallized honey to start with.
Since the ingredients of lip balm have to be heated, it’s no problem to use crystallized honey to make honey lip balm.
- 1 pint crystallized honey
- Fill a pot about halfway with water
- Put the pot of water on the stove and heat over medium heat
- Put the crystallized honey in a heat-proof container (such as a mason jar)
- Put jar of honey in the pot of water. As the water heats up there will a gentle transfer of heat to the honey.
- The water should not get over 95F which is cool enough to put your finger in it but hot enough that you don't want to leave it in.
- Stir the honey occasionally to speed up the decrystallization process.
- Once the honey is decrystallized, turn off the heat and let the water and honey slowly cool off.
- When the water has cooled off, remove the jar of honey, dry it off and put a lid on it.
- Store the decrystallized honey at room temperature out of direct sunlight.