Which Honey Tastes The Sweetest?

Date: 20th March 2020

Spoon with honey on a plate.

There are many varieties of honey, some of which are specific to certain regions because of the unique flora of the area upon which honey bees forage.  The differences in the nectar collected by bees affects the overall flavor and sweetness of honey.  However if you have a particularly sweet tooth, you may be wondering which honey tastes the sweetest.

The short answer is:
Most honeys are about the same level of sweetness, but it is known that Locust honey is particularly sweet.  This is based on a comparison of 30 honey varieties in America.

More detail....

Identifying The Sweetest Tasting Honey


There is a study which compares a number of different honey varieties, and ranks them in sweetness.  The study was carried out by a Dr Johnathan White for the USDA in 1962.  Dr White acquired samples of honey from beekeepers all over the USA in order to complete his work.  Then in 2017, American Bee Journal featured an article on the matter written by Ron Miksha.  Miksha analyzed a number of other honeys, and added his data to that compiled by Dr White.  The article in the American Bee Journal presents 30 different honeys, all ranked for their sweetness.

Jar of honey and spoon


Why do some honeys taste sweeter than others?

Floral nectar is composed of varying types and levels of individual sugars, and depending on the mix and dominance of blossoms foraged on by the bees, the composition of honey (in terms of the relative balance of those sugars) will be unique to each honey type.

So, given that some types of sugars are sweeter than others, it's not a surprise that the sweetness of any jar of honey will be linked to the type of sugars it contains, and the proportions of those sugars.  Fructose has a high level of sweetness, so honey that is mostly fructose has a good chance of being sweeter than honey with lower levels.  Maltose, on the other hand, is comparatively bland, and a higher than average contribution of maltose can reduce the overall sweetness score.

Below is a table comparing the sweetness of different sugars found in honey.

Sweetness Values For Sugars
Fructose 163
Sucrose 100
Melezitose 90
Glucose 74
Maltose 39


The following table ranks 30 different honeys from sweetest to least sweet.  You can see that Locust honey was found to be the sweetest, and honeydew honey the least sweet.

Sweetness Of Honey Varieties
Rank Honey Type Sweetness Score
1 Locust (European) 120.64
2 Locust 120.26
3 Tupelo 119.99
4 Sage 117.5
5 Gelberry 116.64
6 Sunflower 116.6
7 Eucalyptus 116.3
8 Eucalyptus (European) 115.9
9 Citrus (European) 115.82
10 Alfalfa Blends 115.75
11 Alfalfa & Sweet Clover 115.69
12 Sweet Clover 115.6
13 Alfalfa 115.52
14 Clover & Blends 115.38
15 Cotton 115.26
16 Canola (European) 115.21
17 Goldenrod 115.2
18 Clover 115.12
19 Sourwood 115.07
20 Buckwheat 115.04
21 Citrus (American) 115.04
22 Basswood 114.92
23 Vetch 114.8
24 Basswood (European) 114.74
25 Aster 114.69
26 Dandelion (European) 114.16
27 Blackberry 113.94
28 Honeydew 112.26
29 Honeydew (Europe) 109.01
30 Honeydew Metcalfa (Europe) 107.81


How sweet is honey on average?

If we look at the average make up of honey in terms of sugar types, we find that fructose is typically 38% of the sugar content of honey.  

Average Amount Of Main Sugars In Floral Honey
Fructose 38%
Sucrose 31%
Glucose 7%
Maltose 1%

You can see from the table assigning sweetness scores to honey that most varieties fall within a sweetness range of 114 to 115.  This correlated with the average fructose percentage in those honeys, which ranged from 37.73% for a sweetness score of 114.16 (Aster) and 39.10 for a sweetness score of 115.90 (Eucalyptus - European).

Final thoughts

For me, I'm not sure the sweetness is the most important part.  The unique aromatic qualities in each honey provides a very important contribution to the experience of eating it.

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Reference

Miksha, Ron. (2017). America's sweetest honey. American Bee Journal. 157. 393-397. 


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