maple syrup substitute

12 Best Maple Syrup Substitutes for Sweet Golden Goodness

Golden, sweet, and sticky; maple syrup is synonymous with pancakes, French toast, and waffles. Even though its caramel taste with woody vanilla accents is sweeter than table sugar, it is not only used in sweet dishes.

Many savory dishes also include it to add depth, balance acidity and salt levels, and create delicious sticky meat glazes.

If you’ve run out of maple syrup without notice, or you can’t get any at your local grocery store, keep calm and keep cooking.

In this guide, we’ll provide you with a range of options you can use in a pinch. You can even make your own homemade maple syrup.

In this article, you’ll find the best options to substitute maple syrup.

What Is Maple Syrup?

This thick sticky liquid is made from the sap of a maple tree. The sap is collected from maple trees in early spring and reduced into a rich treacle.

Pure maple syrup has at least 66% sugar concentration with no more than 33% water content. The later the sap is collected from the trees in season, the darker the treacle is.

The pure syrup is then graded into Grade A Golden, Grade A Amber, or Grade A Dark classifications.

Grade A Golden has a lighter color and mild flavor. This type is ideal for drizzling over breakfast items, desserts, and confections. Grade A Amber has a richer, classic maple flavor. The dark variety is the best choice for savory cooking since it has a robust flavor.

There are also many imitation products available; however, these (by law) may not be labeled as maple syrup. Imitation or diluted versions are mostly sold as maple-flavored products or pancake syrup. They generally contain only 3% pure maple or contain artificial extracts.

Maple Syrup in Cooking

Besides drizzling it over your favorite breakfast items, desserts, and yogurt, it is also included in many savory recipes. From sweet potatoes and meat glazes to barbecue sauce, vegetables, and baked goods, it is a lot more versatile than many people realize.

Besides how dark the syrup is, the flavor will also vary according to the type of tree and the region it came from.

The best substitute for your dish will depend on what you are using it for. A savory recipe will be more successful with a substitute that is rich in toasty flavors rather than a light sugary syrup.

However, when needed mainly to add sweetness, almost anything will do. The below options can all replace maple syrup in equal quantities.

Best Replacements for Maple Syrup

#1. Molasses

Molasses is also available in light and dark varieties. It is manufactured as a by-product of cane or beet sugar refinement.

Molasses is ideal for use in sweet and savory recipes and is our top choice as a substitute for maple syrup in baked goods, frosting, veggies, baked beans, and roasts.

Light molasses works well in almost any dish. Dark molasses is best used in robust dishes since its intense flavor can overpower subtle ingredients.

Avoid using blackstrap molasses as a replacement for maple syrup since the flavor is too bitter and the color too dark to serve as a suitable substitution.

#2. Honey

The flavor and color of honey vary vastly according to its source and how it has been processed. It can be produced from a blend of nectar sources or made from one specific type only.

Processed honey contains additional sugars or compounds that reduce production costs and also affect taste and thickness.

Pure honey won’t spoil since microorganisms don’t grow in the sticky nectar. This technically gives it indefinite shelf life, although crystallization may occur.

So can you substitute honey for maple syrup? Yes, honey can be used in any application as a maple syrup replacement, whether drizzling over treats, meat glazes, dressings, fruit salads, or baking. Keep in mind that although honey is gluten-free, it is not a vegan option.

#3. Golden Syrup

Otherwise known as light treacle, this is a cost-effective alternative that is easy to find. 

Golden syrup is made by reducing sugar cane juice to a thicker consistency to yield a sweet caramel flavor and similar golden color. Use it to drizzle over pancakes, for baking, and granola mixes.

#4. Brown Rice Syrup

Also known as rice malt syrup, this vegan substitute is made from rice starches as opposed to sugar cane or sugar beet. The simple sugar is reduced to a nutty sticky liquid.

It has a similar consistency and color to maple, which makes it a superb alternative. Use it in sweet and savory recipes for sauces, baked goods, glazes, marinades, dressings, pies, waffles, or sweetening coffee.

#5. Corn Syrup

Dark corn syrup is a closer match to maple since it has a rich caramel taste and deeper color. The light version is almost clear and has a fairly neutral but sweet flavor. This is a good option for baking and pies.

#6. Agave Syrup

Agave nectar has recently gained popularity. It is made from agave plants and is best used in recipes that don’t require too much heating as it brown’s pretty quickly.

Use it in dressings, sauces, raw snack bars, and for drizzling over crumpets, pancakes, and waffles.

#7. Coconut Nectar

Coconut nectar is not a common pantry staple, but if you happen to have it on hand, you have a good substitute. This product is made from the blossoms that grow on coconut trees.

It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes successfully. Since it comes from the blossoms and not the coconut fruit itself, it does not taste like coconut but has a more caramel-like flavor and appearance similar to honey.

#8. Barley Malt Syrup

If you are looking for something with a little less sweetness, barley malt syrup is a great choice. It is made from soaked and sprouted barley and has similar properties to molasses. This is ideal for savory recipes, marinades, sauces, dressings, and baking.

#9. Date Syrup

We love this replacement for baked goods, sauces, dressings, and even to spread on toast. Drizzling it over pancakes, waffles, granola, and even ice cream is also delicious.

To make your own date syrup, start by pitting the dates. Blend two parts date to one part of boiling water until you get a smooth consistency.

If you want it a little thicker, add less water when blending. If it is too runny, you can reduce it down slightly over low heat for a deeply sticky and delicious topping with a similar texture. If you find it on the sweet side, add a few drops of lemon juice.

Since it only contains pure dates and water, it is a healthier substitute than other processed sugar options.

#10. Caramel Syrup

This option is not the best for savory sauces and certainly not for vegetables, but it’s definitely a winner over pancakes and waffles. You can even use it as a glaze over bacon for a truly decadent breakfast.

This sweet sauce usually includes butter giving a rich flavor. Some versions also contain cream.

#11. Buttermilk Syrup

Similar to a cream-based caramel sauce, this option is best for desserts and sweet treats. Unlike other maple syrup alternatives, it doesn’t have a very long shelf life (not that we think that will be a problem).

You can make your own version at home by simmering buttermilk and white or brown sugar for four to five minutes or until the mixture thickens and develops a caramel color.

Let it cool for a few minutes before pouring over your waffles. It will thicken further to a sticky texture as it cools down.

#12. Homemade Maple Syrup Recipe

If you don’t have store-bought syrup at home, but you have brown sugar, white granulated sugar, and vanilla extract or maple extract, you can make your own in a pinch.

In a heavy skillet, place one cup of water with 1.5 cups brown sugar and half a cup white sugar. Warm over medium heat until it boils gently and sugars are dissolved. Stir frequently throughout the cooking process.

Turn the heat down and add one tablespoon of the chosen flavor extract to the sugar syrup. Continue stirring while simmering for three more minutes. Remove your mixture from the heat and let it cool until thickened.

Maple Syrup Substitute Recipe

Prep Time1 min
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time11 mins
Course: Side Dish
Servings: 32

Equipment

  • 1 heavy skillet

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • 0.5 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple flavor extract

Instructions

  • In a heavy skillet over medium heat, add water, brown sugar and white sugar in.
  • Stir constantly until the liquid begins to boil and the sugar is dissolved.
  • Reduce the heat then add the maple extract to the mixture.
  • Keep stirring and simmering for three more minutes.
  • Remove your syrup from heat and allow it to cool until thickened.
  • Store in a glass jar for later use.

FAQs

Does maple syrup go bad?

It won’t go bad when stored in a cool dry place such as a cool pantry cupboard or refrigerator. It can also be frozen. If it has not been stored correctly and starts to smell sour or yeasty, it should be thrown out.

Can I use brown sugar syrup as a sweet maple syrup substitute?

Yes, you can use it successfully in sweet and savory dishes. It is similar to light molasses with a mild, sweet taste and amber color.

Is maple syrup vegan?

Maple syrup that is 100% pure is vegan. Always check the ingredients list to ensure that it doesn’t contain any additives.

Conclusion

Maple’s delicious toasty and caramel notes make this unique sticky liquid a tantalizing addition to many sweet and savory dishes. If you’re looking for a decadent substitute to top breakfast pancakes, waffles, and French toast, caramel-, golden-, and buttermilk syrup are all great choices.

To add depth and a touch of sweetness to savory dishes, glazes, and baked beans, opt for molasses or barley malt syrup. Although the flavor will differ slightly, honey is an all-around winning choice in almost any application.

For the simplest maple syrup alternative, get a saucepan on the stove with water and granulated sugar and cook up your own sweet toasty treacle in just a few minutes.

See more: How long does maple syrup last?

*image by vectorfusionart/depositphotos

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