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 younger days I actually threw 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?

WELL… the microwave is a lot faster. But I have serious reservations about microwaving high quality honey because it’ll kill all the benefits of having a raw, unprocessed, natural honey!

If you’ve got the time, I recommend the hot water method. Just keep the water below a simmer so you don’t heat the honey too much.

If you read in the comments, readers have lots of creative ideas about how else to soften honey including putting it in the sun (sounds reasonable) and in the dishwasher (!!! Not recommended) amongst others.

Remember – You can still eat crystallized honey! Just scoop it out to stir into your tea, or spread onto toast. Save yourself time time and just enjoy it as is.

You might also like to try these honey-based health + beauty recipes:

About the Author

Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur, and alchemist. She helps successful women create lives of meaning & magic by connecting with the seasons. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, The Sunday Telegraph, Natural Health UK Magazine, and more. Learn more at

  1. I know you mentioned this but, honey should never be heated in a microwave if you want to keep the natural enzymes and antibodies it contains. Doing so will destroy these properties and turn it into nothing more than liquid sugar.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 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

  7. 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).

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. Eg. “Microwave makes excellent yogurt” –Joanne Will, Chicago Tribune,601535&hl=en

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

    1. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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..

  12. 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.

    1. True! Microwaves are non-ionizing radiation; microwaves do not rip electrons from the agitated molecules, leaving those molecules no more reactive than molecules heated by conduction or convection.

  13. 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…

  14. 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.

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

  16. 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.

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