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Why Does Honey Crystallize – Is It Bad?

Honey lovers that keep jars of honey for some time may find that it has become a solid! Your honey is not spoiled – it has crystallized. Why does honey crystallize or “turn to sugar”? This is a natural process of raw honey and no cause for alarm. Don’t throw out crystallized honey – it is still good and can be fixed or used in the solid form.

Crystallized honey in the bottom of a glass jar image.

Crystallization of Pure Honey

If you are a lover of natural foods such as honey, I am sure you have gone to the cabinet and found that something weird was happening with your jar of honey.

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That jar of natural sweetness is now a clump of gritty, stickiness lodged in the bottom of the jar.  Whether you use the term crystallization or “turned to sugar”, no matter – they both mean the same thing.

Of course, honey is a natural sugar but we are used to enjoying it in its liquid form. Or perhaps, eating a piece of raw honeycomb. Having a honey jar filled with a semi-solid substance can be rather upsetting if it is your first time seeing it.

crystallized honey in a jar - do you know why honey crystallizes-cool facts about bee honey

Real Raw Honey Crystallizes Naturally

Honey is made by bees from plant nectar. In fact, each jar is different because of the millions of nectar sources used by the bees.

An exquisite blend of many different sugars, enzymes, minerals, salts, and proteins, there are still some undefined substances found in honey.

A common myth about honey is the belief that honey that crystallizes is not pure. This is not true. In fact, if you honey crystallizes that it is more likely to be the real thing.

The Chemistry of Why Honey Crystallizes

Honey is a supersaturated sugar solution.  This is a fancy term to say that a larger amount of sugar can be dissolved in the water component of it – when in the warm environment of the hive.

This sugar/water ratio of pure honey becomes unstable in the cooler environment of our homes. Ripe honey averages a concentration of 80% sugar to 20% water.

At cooler temperatures, the unstable glucose separates from the water, and crystals form. You can see this in a container that is beginning to crystallize as it looks cloudy. This process continues until the honey chemistry becomes stable and the product is solid.

Honey Crystallization and Temperature

A honey bee colony usually maintains a temp of near 95 ° F inside the hive. At this temperature, the sugar and water balance is comfortable this is called a homeostatic condition.

When honey is removed from the warm hive environment to a cooler temperature (our room temp), the sugar/water balance changes again. It becomes “comfortable” but different. Becoming less liquid and more solid to attain the balance.

A lump of crystallized gritty honey image.

How Long Does it Take Honey to Crystallize?

Most honey is not from a single nectar source but rather a mix of many types of plant nectar. Nectar source affects the color of honey, flavor, aroma and crystallization rate.

It usually takes several months for a jar of honey to crystallize. However, some honey varieties will thicken much quicker.

Clover honey may crystallize in a short time. While Sourwood honey or Tupelo may never become solid as they contain more fructose.

Overall, it is very common for a jar of honey to slowly become stable and form crystals over a period of several months to a year.

Gritty honey crystallizing in a glass jar image.

Store Jars of Honey Resist Crystallization

It is not only the sugar ratios that affect the rate of crystallization in honey. The method of harvesting and bottling plays a role too.

Most honey that is bottled by large commercial companies is micro-filtered to remove tiny bits of wax, pollen, etc. This allows that jar of honey to sit beautifully in a warehouse for months without changing form.

Of course, this ultra-processing always removes some of the flavor and natural goodness of the honey. It is a trade-off that has to be made for a pretty product with a long shelf life.

Is Crystallized Honey Bad?

Crystallized honey is not a sign that it is bad. Honey does NOT crystallize because something has been added to it. 

This is a common myth- that someone has added cane syrup or something to the honey and caused the honey to turn to sugar -not true.

Pure raw honey will usually crystallize much earlier than honey found in the large stores. Remember however, that by the same token: crystallization does not prove that your honey is pure either.

Can You Eat Crystallized Honey?

Yes, you can eat it. Solid or semi-solid honey is not problem. If your honey has a grainy, sour smell, it has fermented and that is a different story.

This happens if the honey has too much moisture.  Honey is hygroscopic meaning that it can absorb moisture from the air. 

That’s why honey should be stored in a sealed container.   You might want to throw it out unless you want to make mead.

I love this honey dipper lid. This type of storage will protect your honey from absorbing moisture for the air.

Raw honey that has crystallized or turned to sugar fast to form creamed honey image.

Is Crystallized Honey Good For You?

Crystallized honey is as nutritious as liquid honey-but not more so.  Some people enjoy crystallized honey in their coffee or tea.  I have even met a few people who prefer the gritty texture.

When honey is crystallized in controlled conditions, it becomes thick and smooth textured. This is called “creamed honey” – though there is no cream in there.

You can learn how to make your own creamed honey at home. Put it in a pretty jar, add a little powdered cinnamon and you have a special gift idea.

Slowing Down Honey Crystallization

 You can not always stop your honey from turning to sugar. But, you can sometimes slow the process down. Learn how to properly store honey and this may help delay the change.

Temperature and moisture control is key. The best thing you can do to protect the integrity of your honey is to keep it in a dark warm place. 

How to Fix Crystallize Honey

What to do when your honey turns to sugar? A lot of people throw away perfectly good jars of honey.  It’s so sad and that is not what I want you to do.

If the honey has been stored in an airtight container and no moisture/water has gotten inside, you can certainly save your investment.

Honey jar in a pot of hot water crystallized honey being liquified image.

It is very easy to liquefy crystallized honey that is in a glass container. Learn how to decrystallize honey without damaging it. Do not overheat.

I do not recommend putting honey in the microwave as I feel it will damage some of the nutritional components.

Final Thoughts on Why Honey Crystallizes

  • crystallized honey has not gone bad and is still safe to eat
  • most pure raw honey varieties will crystallize in time
  • crystallization is not an indicator that you have received tainted honey

Remember these key facts about honey and you will understand more about why honey crystallizes and how you can still enjoy it.

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28 Comments

  1. michelle mink says:

    This has never happened to the honey that my Grandpa buys but there is always a first time for everything. I would have never thought about honey being able to turn to sugar.

  2. Hi Michelle, It does also depend on nectar source. Sourwood or Tupelo honey is slow to crystalize (if ever) and Privet, Orange Blossom & Clover will crystalize faster !

  3. Paula Smith says:

    Thanks for this post! I didn’t know it was still ok! You can bet that I won’t be getting rid of any more of it.

  4. Dennis Winter says:

    Thank you for this post Charlotte. I didn’t know there was a honey that didn’t crystallize, I would have thought it was fake if it didn’t.
    I am currently doing a study to see if bees will even survive in my area so we can out in a hive or two.

  5. You are most welcome. I have some Sourwood that is 4 years old and still clear. I hope you will be able to have bees !

  6. Richard Morrison says:

    I put crystallized honey in the dishwasher with the dishes and it works fine. The honey is in a sealed preserve jar.

  7. Robert Raymer says:

    The dishwasher ‘s water temperature gets too hot to liquify crystallized honey.

  8. I agree 100% to my way of thinking. But then we all get into that argument of how hot is too hot. I like to gently warm mine in a hot water bath.

  9. Ronald Mundy says:

    Thank you. I’ve always wondered why the honey from my hives has never crystallized

  10. Putting the jar in your closed up vehicle for a few hours on a sunny day will liquify it also.

  11. So thankful for this information, so well explained . Bees are a wonderful!

  12. hey hi thanks
    charlotte i did not know about this!!!
    i did not know you could use honey for things besides CHICKEN NUGGETS!!
    🙂

  13. LOL Yes you can, isnt that great! But of course, do continue to use them on the nuggets!

  14. Jim McCormac says:

    I read many articles on honey and honey bees; this, by far, is the most interesting, fact filled article I have ever read. I’m a new keeper (2yrs), trying to learn all I can. Thank you so much. Keep em coming. Would love to meet up with you one day at a bee convention.

  15. Thank you so very much. I try to create useful content and I hope the info helps people. So glad you liked it, hope to see you someday.

  16. So glad to see an article like this. I try to tell people about raw honey and crystallization etc. You explain it so thoroughly. Thankyou.

  17. I recieved a small glass jar of what looks like and smells like molasses. Its thicker then tree sap, gritty like sand and practically solid. When I got home and tasted it I was blown away. It tastes like the richest boldest flavored honey on planet Earth (as far as im concerned) Have you had an experience like this or could it be that flavours (like molasses) were added to this jar?

  18. Most likely it is crystallized honey and the flavor has grown bolder over time. This certainly can happen. The popular story you will hear that says “Honey 2,000 yrs old was found in King Tut’s tomb was still edible !..” Well, they didnt say what it tasted like. I would imagine it was quite bold! LOL

  19. I love to stir crystallized honey in a cup of hot tea! Yummy

  20. How many times can you liquefy honey from a sugary state before it becomes a non_ressurective product?

  21. I think you could indefinitely and it would be slower to crystallize. But you don’t want to overheat it. Beyond a couple of times, you might begin to affect the integrity of the honey but it would not be noticeable.

  22. When I heat the chrystalized honey in the pot of water will it become clear again or just liquified.

  23. Heat the pot of water and then place a jar of honey in it. Don’t not heat the water with the jar in there. You may have to stir it several times – don’t get water in it though. And it will eventually return to the same color as before.

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