If you are making a recipe that calls for maple syrup or simply want a good replacement to pour on top of your pancakes, you are in the right place. What option is the best maple syrup substitute?
What is maple syrup?
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener that has a warm amber color and a caramel-y, distinct flavor. It’s commonly used to top pancakes or waffles and is typically associated with breakfast food.
Real maple syrup should not be confused with pancake syrup, which is typically made using corn syrup or cane sugar with added flavors. While there is nothing bad about pancake syrup, it’s not the same thing as maple syrup.
Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. Firstly, the temperature must be just right, mild during the day but below freezing at night, typically early winter.
Then, a tap is placed in the tree and the sap will be collected in a large bucket. Each tap hole provides about ten gallons of sap each season, ending in mid to late winter.
To make the syrup, the sap is boiled down to evaporate excess water. Ten gallons of sap typically result in one quart of maple syrup.
Maple syrup is used in a very wide variety of popular dishes and is a necessity on the breakfast table. It is used to top common breakfast foods like fresh toast, pancakes and waffles.
It is also used as a sweetener in a variety of foods such as granola, granola bars, cereals, salad dressings, sweet sauces and cookies.
Where to buy
You should be able to find real maple syrup at your local grocery store. Make sure you are purchasing real maple syrup as opposed to pancake syrup, which is different.
You also may be able to find maple syrup at your local farmer’s market if you live in the northern areas of the United States where there are maple trees.
7 Best Maple Syrup Substitutes
If you are looking for a good maple syrup replacement, try out a few of these options listed below.
Pancake syrup is going to be the best maple syrup substitute if you are simply looking to mimic the flavor of maple syrup.
It is typically made using corn syrup and has added flavors to mimic the taste of maple syrup. Popular brands include Log Cabin, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth’s.
You can use pancake syrup to top your favorite breakfast foods in the morning like pancakes, waffles or french toast. It’s also much cheaper than real maple syrup.
Agave nectar or agave syrup is one of the best substitutes for maple syrup due to its similar consistency.
While it has a slightly different flavor than maple syrup, it still has caramel-y hints and tastes pretty comparably when used as a syrup on top of pancakes or waffles.
Agave nectar can be used in a wide variety of applications. You can use it to top pancakes, waffles or french toast, in hot tea or in baked goods and other recipes.
Honey can be another great substitute for maple syrup. It’s a bit thicker than maple syrup and has a light amber color as opposed to a dark amber color.
It also has a complex flavor that is very unique to honey. That being said, it’s a great sweetener that can be used as a topping or as an ingredient in a recipe.
Honey can be used in many different ways. While it’s typically used as a sweetener in hot tea, it can be used as a replacement for maple syrup in a recipe.
Brown rice syrup
Brown rice syrup is another great alternative to maple syrup. It ranges in color from a light amber color to a dark caramel color. It’s a thick syrup and very sweet, like maple syrup.
It has a bit of a starchy, nutty flavor and is a similar consistency to honey. Along with this, it can be difficult to find at your local grocery store. You may need to try a health foods store.
Brown rice syrup works great in various applications, but personally I think it works well as a sweetener in baked goods and granola bars.
Simple syrup is another good substitute to use in place of maple syrup. It’s a bit more runny compared to maple syrup and has a neutral flavor.
If you make your own simple syrup at home, try adding some maple extract, if you can find any, to mimic the maple syrup flavor. You can even add some food coloring to mimic the color.
Simple syrup can be used in so many ways, not just in your favorite cocktails or coffee drinks. You can use it to top pancakes or waffles or in various recipes.
Date syrup is another one of the best alternatives to maple syrup. It has a similar consistency to maple syrup, but has a very dark amber color, almost looking black in a jar.
It has a caramel flavor like dates, giving it a similar flavor profile compared to maple syrup. Since dates have a lot of natural sweetness, their syrup is very sugary.
Date syrup works really well as a “natural” sweetener. It can be used in baked goods as a replacement for maple syrup or as a sweetener in teas or coffee.
Coconut nectar, not to be confused with coconut aminos, is another great option. It ranges from a medium amber color to a dark brown color.
It has a consistency in between agave nectar and honey and has caramel notes and a sweet flavor. Coconut sugar is another option if you are looking for a coconut based sweetener.
Coconut nectar has many applications, but works great in baked goods, as a topping for pancakes or waffles, in granolas and cereals and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is honey better for you than maple syrup?
No. Neither honey or maple syrup is “healthier” for you. Both are sources of added sugar and should be limited in your diet in the same way you would limit white sugar.
There is a common misconception that “natural” sweeteners like honey or maple syrup are healthier because they are less processed. This isn’t necessarily true.
They both are high in sugar with little to no protein, fiber, fat, vitamins or minerals.
Comparatively, maple syrup does have more vitamin B2 and manganese, but not enough to claim maple syrup is the “healthier” option.
Choose the sweetener that you enjoy more, have on hand or best fit your budget, whatever that may be.
Can you use applesauce instead of maple syrup?
It depends on the recipe. Applesauce is lower in sugar compared to maple syrup and contains more water.
You may need to reduce the amount of water in the recipe and add additional sugar. In the end, you will need to make some adjustments and do some experimenting to get a good ratio.
If you do need to use a replacement for maple syrup in a recipe try using pancake syrup, agave nectar, honey or any of the above options as opposed to applesauce.
Is pancake syrup the same as maple syrup?
No. This is a common misconception and, in my opinion, pretty misleading. Pancake syrup is made from corn syrup and added flavors to mimic the taste of maple syrup.
It is used as a cheaper alternative to maple syrup. That being said, this doesn’t necessarily make pancake syrup “bad”.
In the end, maple syrup and pancake syrup are sources of added sugar and while maple syrup may have marginally more nutritional value, it isn’t very large.
If you can’t afford maple syrup, you can always try a maple syrup pancake syrup blend as well. There are also maple syrup agave nectar blends I’ve seen in the grocery store.
What’s the healthiest sugar?
There is no such thing as the “healthiest” sugar. All forms of added sugar don’t provide any nutrition (for the most part) besides carbohydrates in the form of sugar.
Unfortunately using “natural” sweeteners like honey or maple syrup in place of white sugar won’t make any significant changes to your health status.
Instead, focusing on limited added sugars, especially if you consume over 10% of your daily calories from sugar (over 50 grams of sugar per day if you consume 2000 calories per day).
When you do consume sugar, use a form that you personally enjoy, that you have access to and what is in your budget.
Why is pure maple syrup so expensive?
Pure maple syrup is expensive for several reasons. The process of collecting and processing maple syrup is long and requires specific machinery.
It can also only be produced in areas that get cold enough, but not too cold and where maple trees grow. Refer back to the “Origin” section of “What is maple syrup?” to learn more about the process.
This means that maple syrup can only be produced in specific areas of the world.
So really you are paying for the food itself, the labor it took to make, the machinery used to produce it and the shipping from source to production site to warehouse to grocery store.
Overall, this is why maple syrup is so expensive.