Carbohydrate recognition presents a difficult challenge to supramolecular chemists, especially in the natural medium of water. After two decades of research, it has at last been possible to develop biomimetic receptors which perform well in aqueous solution. The "temple" family of carbohydrate receptors bind substrates with all-equatorial substitution patterns (e.g. beta-glucosyl, beta-GlcNAc, beta-cellobiosyl) in a manner which is quite similar to carbohydrate-binding proteins (lectins). Affinities match some lectin-carbohydrate interactions, and selectivities are high. These "synthetic lectins" have been used to elucidate the role of water in carbohydrate recognition, and may have potential as research tools for glycobiology.