How to soften hard honey: vintage vs. modern methods

Last updated: July 10, 2016

Soften hard honey in the microwave or hot water

Much to my dismay this weekend, I found that my lovely jar of Croatian honey had crystallized! I am ashamed to admit that in my earlier, pre-Vintage Amanda days I had actually thrown out a half-used jar of honey because it went hard.  (I know, I know, I’m cringing now too). But this is totally unnecessary because crystallized honey is still perfectly fine to eat! In fact, my grocery store in London sells both ‘runny honey’ and ‘crystallized honey’ because some people prefer it that way!  So if you’ve got a jar of crystallized honey and want to restore it to its runny state, read on…

Can I still eat crystallized (hardened) honey?

Yes!  When your honey has gone hard or solid, it’s simply crystallized.  You can still eat this honey, stir it into your tea, or even use hard honey as a gentle face scrub.

How can I soften hard honey?

There are two techniques that I’m testing today.  The traditional method of heating the honey in a bain-marie, and the faster, modern method of the microwave!

Method 1: How to soften hard honey in hot water

How to: Place your jar of crystallized honey in a bowl of hot water until it softens.

Softening hard honey in a bowl of hot water

Result: After one hour of sitting in the water, the honey was only somewhat softened.  OK, maybe I should have used a bigger bowl. Or better yet, I should have put it in a pan of simmering water, so the water would remain hot.  This method will work, but it’s slow-going.  Make sure to use a hot mitt to move the jar as it may be hot!

Method 2: How to soften hard honey using the microwave

Admittedly, this method worked really well.  I removed the lid and put the honey in the microwave on medium for about 1 minute, and voila, liquid honey!

This worked so well because my honey is in a glass jar.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to microwave plastics (because some chemicals from the plastic may leech into the honey).  So if you’re dealing with a plastic honey container, I suggest the hot water method instead (the water should be hot, but not so hot that it melts the plastic!)

If you do soften honey in the microwave, be careful when you pick up the jar because it will be hot!

What is the best way to soften hard honey?

In this case, the modern microwave method won, hands-down.  Softening the honey in the microwave was really quick, and it is still liquid the next morning.

However – many people (including me!) question whether microwaving damages the nutritional benefits of foods.  If you are using the honey to get medicinal/health benefits, or if you have a jar of RAW honey, then I would NOT microwave the honey – use the hot water method instead!  You could also scoop out the crystalized honey, and heat it gently in a bain-marie to soften it.

Got a jar of crystallized honey?

Get glowing skin and more with these 5 natural health + beauty
hacks with hard honey!

Powered by ConvertKit

Got a Jar of Hard Honey?

Get glowing skin and more with these 5 natural health + beauty
hacks with your jar of crystallized honey!

Powered by ConvertKit

Or just buy yourself a new jar of runny honey so you have both!

How did you soften your jar of crystallized honey? Let us know in the comments!

27 Responses to How to soften hard honey: vintage vs. modern methods

  1. mary says:

    I’m a beekeeper. Heating honey above 120 degrees breaks down enzymes and makes it no longer ‘raw’. Keep your water bath below a simmer.

  2. Michele McCamish says:

    My honey was in a plastic bear container and had turned hard. It says to NOT put in the microwave and the bowl of hot water was taking forever! I had a brainy idea to put the closed container in the DISHWASHER and washed it with my dishes. It came out PERFECTLY!!! I didn’t waste any water either since we are in a drought here in CA.

  3. John Martin says:

    Crystallized honey tastes good and is full of good stuff that heating spoils. If you really want to warm it up leave it on the Aga for a minute or two until it’s loose enough to use.

  4. Lynne says:

    All honey will crystallize in time – it is because honey naturally contains both glucose and fructose, and it is the glucose that crystallizes out. Some honeys naturally contain higher levels of glucose eg ivy, oil seed rape and will crystallize very quickly – even in the comb in the beehive – with a fine crystal. Honey with naturally occurring higher levels of fructose will crystallize slowly with large crystals. To get crystallized honey back to a liquid state, place the jar in a pan of boiling water until it becomes liquid again.

  5. Ripley in CT says:

    Why not leave it in a warm sunbeam? I have 2 jars of crystalized honey, which is why I am here, and it just occurred to me to put them out on the deck in the sun for the day! Perhaps with a tin foil box to increase the heat.

    • Mike in the Uk says:

      That sounds like a great idea – I just wish it was warm enough to do that here . It’s currently 46f and rather damp outside

  6. Candle warmers work the best. I had a brand new jar of Raw Honey at work that had crystallized and trying to scoop it out with a plastic spoon was a task. So I just placed the jar on my candle warmer and a few hours later the honey was back to normal. It has not re-crystallized as of yet (its been two days).

  7. Honey says:

    […] – honey contains natural antibacterial properties which mean it never goes off (although it might crystallize) and will kill and/or inhibit the growth of bacteria it comes in contact with.  That’s why […]

  8. […] Grainy honey is an extra-powerful exfoliator!  Use it as a facial scrub, or soften your honey like this. […]

  9. Julie says:

    I wouldn’t want to soften honey that’s in a plastic container in a microwave because it would cause the chemicals from the plastic to leach into the honey.

  10. Mike (who's only doctorate is in pedantry) says:

    Just as a bit of a ‘elf n’ safety tip (yeah, I know, killjoy) especially if u microwave your honey – make sure you pick the jar up with an oven mitt or something – it could be really ruddy hot. And, ‘cos there’s lots of sugar – it can stay hot for ages. Don’t lick the spoon as soon as you’ve stirred or it could be A&E for you.

    Thanks to Amanda tho, I thought both ways would work, jus wanted to check that I wasn’t about to blow up my microwave.

    To The PhD type, can you please point me to the research that suggests that microwaves kill bacteria, rather than the heat they generate. Although, I submit that you are more likely to overheat it in the microwave.

    • danR says:

      Because microwaves increase the vibrations/motions of affected molecules, and molecular vibrations and motions are what heat actually is, you cannot separate the heating end of it from the effect of microwaves themselves.

  11. Thelma says:

    Just can you heat honey more then once since it do thicken over time…Thanks!

    • Dr Jill Moncilovich, PhD says:

      Honey can be heat thinned in a bowl of hot water. Just make sure the honey does NOT get over 105 degrees F. Over heating kills off all the good microbes. Microwaving for ANY length of time also kills off all the good microbes. Go for the slow and traditional way. I am a beekeeper and the hot water bowl is the ONLY method recognized to maintain the quality of the honey and soften it up.

      • danR says:

        Microwaving at a very low setting not only does not kill good bacteria, some people even culture yogurt in a microwave. Certainly it should not get hot enough to kill the lactobacilli, etc., but they thrive and grow in their preferred temperature, whatever the method of warming.

        • danR says:

          Eg. “Microwave makes excellent yogurt” –Joanne Will, Chicago Tribune


          I’m being careful to cite something that features maintaining the warmth by microwaving, not merely preheating the batch, then adding starter culture

  12. Jim says:

    I think the honey becomes hard because they use sugar to feed the bees.

    • Rebecca "Becky's Bees" says:

      As a beekeeper there are alot of myths or assumptions of why honey crystallizes. While there are some beekeepers who do use sugar to feed their bees and this can advance the crystallization process. The main reason the honey crystallizes is because of the amount of water remaining in the honey when the bees prepared the honey. In other words, if the water content is very low then the process will be hastened. Yes, I did say water – most don’t realize that the bees need water to make honey. However, never add water to your honey as it will sour. The crystallization refers to what the bees were working as flowers vary in their natural sugar content. Some honey can take years to crystallize while others take only a few months. Also there is the temperature issue of when honey is stored. If temps drop below 70 degrees then the honey crystallization process will speed up. I have never used sugar to feed my bees. I have a couple of jars left from 2 years ago when I harvested that have never turned to sugar yet – I have some jars from this past years harvest that turned to sugar within 2 months. Just wanted to clarify and hopefully inform others about the process of crystallization.

      If it does turn to sugar all one has to do is bring a saucepan of water to almost boiling. Turn off burner and remove from heat. Open lid of honey jar (glass) and place in pan. Allow water to cool. Remove jar from water then stir. You may need to repeat process once more before honey fully liquifies.

  13. Jess says:

    I have a friend who’s a beekeeper, and she told me to make sure that the lid is on really tight, then put it in the dishwasher with a load of dishes…I’ve used this method many times and it works great!

  14. Varsakelis Ignatios says:

    I love your articles,I learn a lot of new things.Honey that doesn’t crystallize isn’t pure,it probably containes glycose or something else. 20 or 30 in the oven at low temperature 50’or 60’C does a wonderful job also..

  15. Jenny says:

    Heating is the same whether done in the microwave or in hot water on the stove. So if you heat the water to boiling on the stove, it will kill good bacteria and enzymes just like the microwave.

  16. John Burns says:

    I like to use hot water-I buy it in a plastic jug and when it starts to harden I put the jug in hot water in the sink. Then when it is soft-I turn it over into a mason jar. If it all does not all fall out-well I do it again until all is in the jar-Then you can put the jar in hot water on your stove. Now when I get the honey home _ the 1st thing I do is put it in a mason jar(wide mouth) then I do not have a problem. I can heat it anytime I wish to…

  17. sharon says:

    I truly like this site

  18. sharon says:

    When u use a microwave to heat honey it destroys the enzymes in the honey and it no longer medicinal yet it stikk taste good. so u have consider what u are doing with it.

  19. Amanda says:

    Yikes. Hope it worked better once you removed the cap! If you can’t, guess you have to try the water method…

  20. Robert says:

    For what it’s worth, this afternoon I had a plastic bottle of honey shaped like a bear from the grocery store, and the honey is completely chunky and hard. I put it in the microwave for 8 seconds, but after 3-4, I started seeing sparks. The plastic around the rim where the cap is was burned! I’m guessing the cap ( which I left on, but opened) has a metallic ring around it that I didn’t see.