Bee Free Honee

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

Honey without bees? That seems as implausible as the time when I was 16 and my Israeli host parents offered me “ice cream without milk,” which totally blew my mind until they finally handed me the container from the freezer and I realized they just didn’t know how to say “sorbet” in English. But yes, there is a locally made sweetener that offers the sticky, oozy, candy-like sunshine of bee-made honey without involving a single insect. Bee Free Honee, a happy accident created by Minnesota native and former baker Katie Sanchez, harnesses the sugary goodness of apples to make a vegan-friendly sweetener that’s a close-but-not-quite replica of the real deal.

The daughter of a beekeeper who grew up on an orchard, Sanchez became a pastry chef who worked at D’Amico Cucina before moving onto an all-natural bakehouse in St. Paul. After a flawed attempt at making apple jelly one day, she noticed that she had in fact created a honey-like substance that could be used as a substitute for other vegan sweeteners. Years of experimentation helped Sanchez perfect the recipe without having to add chemical or gum ingredients, and by finding a cooperative of Midwestern orchards to provide the apples and a McGregor, MN, winery that allowed her to manufacture her product on site, she was able to take her honee to local co-ops and grocery stores.

On its own, the Bee Free Honee tastes remarkably similar to the bee-derived sweetener, but when sampled alongside real honey, the honee’s true apple flavor shines. Its sharp sweetness is quite powerful and can overwhelm the palate. The one-note sweetness of the honee stands out compared to the multi-tonality of a traditional clover honey, which has a floral quality that offers a variety of harmonious flavors. Paired with another sweet food, the honee might take the sugary sensation to 11, so it’s a better match for more bitter or spicy accompaniments. If you use it as a substitute for honey in baking, you may want to decrease the suggested amount on the first go-around to make sure you taste more than just honee.

So while I’ll probably stick with the familiar honey in a bear-shaped bottle as the dip for apples or pears, the Bee Free Honee will find its place on my table for drizzling on strong blue cheeses or a hearty slice of multi-grain toast. It may not echo every note in honey’s flavor rainbow, but honee admirably does its part in making your plate a little sweeter.

Bee Free Honee is available at several metro co-ops, Lunds / Byerly’s, Whole Foods, Surdyk’s, The Golden Fig, and Coastal Seafoods, among others.



  1. Kitty Noodle

    I’ll never understand vegan’s opposition to honey. Were it not for the intervention of beekeepers and the close attention & action paid to the variety of maladies that could very well decimate honeybee populations, which of course would mean the end to fruit trees, and humans (maybe that’s what they would prefer?).
    Apple & agave syrup slurpers and their ilk should understand the less than healthful, high fructose qualities of fruit based honey substitutes and instead support their local beekeeper.

  2. Brian Ames

    Many honey producers blame this one web site

    for the massive misinformation surrounding honeybees and vegans. There is not enough time in my day to point out the inaccuracies and out of context claims this web site is full of attempting to destroy the good image of honey and beekeepers around the world.

    Whats troubling to me is to see this product on the honey shelf at area coops right next to 100% pure local honey. How many clueless consumers purchase this item without realizing it is not honey?

    There is another class of poser honey products being sold by Chinese exporters that is making its way into the USA.

    Here is a solicitation I received in my email

    From: WU, Zhi Xiong of Sinican Pharma, China

    Greetings ! We obtained your name from web search and understand that your company is dealing Honey.

    We represent Yacon growers from Song Ming of China to solicit
    cooperation opportunities to market Yacon Syrup to North America.

    As health food, Honey and Yacon Syrup share similarities, and we would like to seek cooperation with marketers who see synergy and growth by adding Yacon Syrup to their product line.

    Song Ming is an under-developed village in southwest of China, located on the Yun-Gui Ranges at an altitude of 2000 meter. Yacon originates from Andes Mountains in southern hemisphere. Song Ming is situated in the northern hemisphere but the land and climate has just the right terroir for yacon and the village started yacon cultivation in 2006.
    Before that, villagers make a humble living by growing conventional crops like rice, maize, peas and so on. Annual income is approximately

    US$400 per capita. Farm land per capita is 554 square meters or 5956 square feet. (Source:

    Yacon is not well-known to consumers in China and the produce, as a perishable, does not sell very well domestically. Thanks to technical sponsorship of the R&D crew of Sinican Pharma, Song Ming now possesses state-of-the-art facilities to produce their unique Yacon Syrup according to pharmaceutical standards. Our next task is to help growers to sell their Yacon Syrup, and that is the reason we are writing to you.

    Quality of Song Ming Yacon Syrup is significantly different from that of their Peruvian counterparts. Our yacon syrup is extracted purely by physical method and has standardized fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) content. The syrup has an amber color and is transparent. The degree of sweetness is mild and it is refreshing to the taste buds.

    Currently, we are seeking partners to market the products worldwide.

    Our next goal is to go Organic. We are now checking the possibility of USDA Organic Certification.

    Song Ming Yacon Syrup – Product features:

    – Syrup is naturally extracted from Yacon by physical method.
    Absolutely No chemicals added. No excipients added.

    – Standardized FOS content (FOS = Fructo Oligo Saccharides, a prebiotic).
    Our yacon syrup is the only product on the market with Standardized FOS content.

    – Color: Our Yacon Syrup is available as a Transparent, Amber color syrup.
    Yacon pigment darkening is removed by physical method.
    No bleaching. No sulfites.
    Compare and contrast Peruvian yacon syrups which are dark and opaque.

    – Syrup concentration: 65 Brix min.

    – Sugar composition
    Out of total sugars, 40% – 60% is FOS. The rest is glucose, fructose
    and sucrose.
    %FOS + %(Glucose + Fructose + Sucrose) = 100%

    – Heavy metals and Microbiology: conforms to the requirements of FDA
    regulations for health products.

    – Pesticide residue: conforms to the requirements of US Pharmacopoeia.

    Site visit and quality surveillance can be arranged to establish credibility.

    Or simply state your quantity and packaging requirements, and Ask for

    We would like to work with partners who could assist to market our
    products, and who could assist to achieve our goal towards Organic.

    Thank you for spending the time to read this message. We wish you well
    and look forward to hearing from you.

    With best regards,

    WU, Zhi Xiong – Sinican Pharma

    Website: www.

  3. David Foureyes

    Wow, whomever wrote the article Brian posted appears to have gone to the Fox News School of Subjective Journalism.

    I stopped reading after the 4th presumption….I almost got through a paragraph.

    Anyway, honey tastes awesome.

  4. Brian Ames

    I should add I have no problem with alternative sweeteners like Agave etc, just don’t pose the product as honey via labeling and packaging to perhaps mislead the consumer is my issue.

    A few years ago honey producers went after Honey Baked Ham for having no honey in the product. The group successfully got them to include honey as an ingredient.

  5. Reginald Watkins

    Thank you Heavy Table for publishing this. It’s nice to see some attention given to vegan products from a site such as this. Keep it up!


    Oh! the injustice. Trying to mislead those poor consumers by putting this near the Real honey. I’ve tried for years to lobby Cub Foods to separate the margarine from the butter after accidentally buying that wretched detritus. But alas, my crusade was ignored, now I’ve been forced to actually read the labels of what I’m buying. For Shame.

    Oh, and…

    “…maladies that could very well decimate honeybee populations, which of course would mean the end to fruit trees, and humans (maybe that’s what they would prefer?).”

    Cute. And classy to boot.

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