Whether you’re making a sweet dish or a savory dish, you might need some maple syrup. If you don't have any, you'll need a substitute. Or, maybe you're looking for something different than maple syrup on your pancakes and want to try something like a nut butter or fruit syrup?
Either way, this post has all the best maple syrup alternatives you could need, no matter what you’re making!
What is Maple Syrup?
Maple syrup is a popular product in North America, used as a sweetener in baked goods and topping for breakfast foods and desserts. It’s often used with meats and vegetables in savory recipes as a sweet glaze or for its unique maple flavor.
Maple syrup is usually used as a healthier alternative to processed white sugar in various diets. It is delicious in its own right.
How is it made?
Maple syrup is made by boiling down the sap of a maple tree until it’s a rich, golden color and quite sweet. The sap is collected from late winter to early spring when it’s running up from the roots to the branches in preparation for growing leaves and seeds for the year.
The sap of maple trees is clear when collected, and not very sweet at all because it is roughly 98% water and only 2% sugar. To get maple syrup, the sap must be boiled down to eliminate the moisture. Fun fact: it takes nearly 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of pure maple syrup.
Another fun fact: Maple sap, also known as "maple water" when the sap is pasteurized, can be a refreshing drink with potential health benefits. Supposedly, Canadians drink it straight!
Since most people don’t have access to the fresh sap, they only get to eat maple syrup on a stack of pancakes, French toast, waffles, and lots of different desserts.
Where do you find maple syrup?
A high-quality bottle of maple syrup might be harder to find in corner stores, but there’s sure to be an alternative pancake syrup made from cheaper ingredients that has a similar flavor and sweetness. Most medium and large grocery stores will have one or more options.
Grade A pure maple syrup is the most expensive, but the best quality. It’s harder to get, but you can often find it at farmers’ markets. Grade B, sometimes just called Grade A Dark, has a deeper flavor. Either works just fine for whatever you want to do with them.
Some find they like the lighter Grade A better for topping things, and the darker, richer Grade B for baking so the maple flavor really comes through.
Best Maple Syrup Substitutes
There are lots of liquid sweeteners you can use instead of maple syrup. Here are the best ones:
1. Pancake Syrup
Pancake Syrup is made from corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and and usually has a caramel, butterscotch, or vanilla extract added to it for better color and flavor. It is often used as a cheaper alternative to real maple syrup as a pancake topping.
In fact, some people prefer it to real maple syrup because its what they ate while growing up. Nostalgia, especially when it comes to food, can be undeniable.
The most popular brands you might recognize are Log Cabin or Mrs. Butterworth's.
It isn't just for pancakes, though, because it works just as well in other recipes.
Pancake syrup is a one-to-one replacement.
2. Maple Sugar
Maple Sugar is maple syrup that’s been simmered to the point of “sugaring off”. This means as much of the water content has been taken out as possible, and the syrup has turned into granulated maple sugar.
This sugar is used for its strong maple flavor and is an excellent alternative to maple syrup. Because it is essentially maple syrup in a different form, it makes the best substitute.
To transform maple sugar into something that resembles maple syrup, simply add a small amount of water and gently heat it to dissolve the granules. Increase the amount of water if needed to achieve the proper consistency.
3. Agave Syrup
Agave syrup is made similarly to maple syrup but from the nectar of the agave plant.
The best agave syrup comes from blue agave nectar and is a perfect alternative to maple syrup. You can use it in anything you’d use maple syrup one-to-one. It's also healthier than maple syrup and has a lower glycemic index.
You can find agave nectar syrup at most retailers.
4. Corn Syrup
Plain corn syrup, either light or dark, can easily be used too. Corn syrup would work as a substitute for maple syrup when baking. Not recommended for use as a topping.
Corn syrup is a convenient alternative because it can be found at most grocery stores in the baking aisle.
5. Brown Sugar Syrup
Brown sugar syrup, sometimes known as caramel syrup, is made by boiling a cup of water and a cup of brown sugar down into a thick, sweet syrup with a signature golden color.
Homemade caramel syrup is great for replacing maple syrup, as it’s usually closer in texture and sweetness than store-bought.
Store-bought caramel syrup usually has many other ingredients added to it to make it thicker and creamier, and it isn’t a very good substitute.
Properly made, brown sugar syrup is a one-to-one replacement, and will give your baked good or pancakes a delicious caramel flavor.
Because sweet honey is a natural sweetener, it could be considered one of the best substitutes for maple syrup. Honey is made by bees and is essentially reduced flower nectar.
You can use honey as a replacement for maple syrup, but keep in mind that it has its own unique, extra sweet flavor. If used as a replacement for maple syrup, you will certainly get the sweet but the maple flavor will be replaced by the unique flavor of honey.
Honey can be used as a one-to-one replacement as a topping. Alternatively, honey can be reduced by as much as one cup of maple syrup to one quarter cup honey, then diluted with water to get equal volume when baking.
7. Maple Extract
If your recipe is only using a few tablespoons of maple syrup for the flavor, maple extract is a perfect replacement.
It’s usually made by infusing alcohol with pure maple. It is then is used to lend that unique maple flavor to baked goods.
If you use maple extract as an alternative, use about ¼ teaspoon of extract added to a tablespoon of something like corn syrup per tablespoon of maple syrup required.
8. Coconut Nectar
Coconut nectar is a syrup made from, you guessed it, the nectar of coconut flowers. It’s very similar in consistency and sweetness to maple syrup. The flavor is not overbearing and slightly resembles caramel. It does have a lower glycemic index when compared to maple syrup, thus making it a great alternative.
It is a little harder to find at your local grocery store, however. You may have to go to a health store to get it.
It’s a one-to-one replacement for maple syrup.
9. Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is made in the same way as maple sugar but from coconut nectar. You can reconstitute it in much the same way you would maple sugar, and then use it as you’d use coconut nectar.
Coconut sugar is easier to find than coconut nectar, though, so it might be the better option of the two.
Molasses is actually a byproduct of the sugar making process. Derived from cane sugar or sugar beets, molasses is what is left over after the sugar crystals are removed from the boiled down juice.
You can use either light molasses or dark molasses in place of maple syrup, but I wouldn’t recommend using blackstrap. Blackstrap molasses is the darkest variety, and will probably be too bitter for baked goods or savory dishes that were meant to have the much lighter maple syrup in them.
For baking, one cup molasses to one cup maple syrup is a proper substitution, but it depends on whether you’re using light or dark. With dark, use less; more like three-quarters cup molasses to a cup of maple syrup.
Molasses is not recommended as a maple syrup replacement as a topping. The flavor is just too strong and robust.
11. Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is made by converting brown rice starch into a thick and sweet syrup, usually with diastatic malt powder. The resulting syrup is very similar to maple syrup but a little bit thicker, so you may need to add a few extra tablespoons of liquid to your recipe.
Other than that, it makes an excellent maple syrup substitute at a one-to-one ratio.
12. White Sugar Syrup
A white sugar syrup, also called simple syrup, is a great substitute for maple syrup. It doesn’t quite match the flavor of pure maple syrup, but has a similar consistency. You can buy white sugar syrup, but it’s much better to make it at home.
When simple syrup is made to have the same thickness and sticky consistency of pure maple syrup, it will likely be much sweeter. This must be taken into consideration when being used as a substitute.
An easy recipe for simple syrup is one cup of sugar to one cup of water, gently heated over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Once it’s cooled, one cup of sugar syrup to one cup of maple syrup.
13. Golden Syrup
You may have never heard of golden syrup because it is not too common in the US.
Also known as light treacle, it is a thick amber colored inverted sugar syrup. It is more similar to corn syrup or brown rice syrup than it is maple syrup.
To make homemade golden syrup, combine one part water to two parts sugar. The solution is boiled and the sucrose begins to caramelize. Citric acid is then added to prevent the solution from transforming into a solid.
Golden syrup is also pretty hard to find in the US but is everywhere in the UK.
It has a similar sweetness and consistency to maple syrup, but due to the limited availability and different flavor, it is not the best alternative.
14. Fruit Syrup
Fruit juice cooked with sugar to sweeten and thicken into fruit syrups make an excellent alternative to maple syrup. They have different flavors than maple syrup but make a great alternative to it as a breakfast topping for pancakes or oatmeal.
There are lots of options for fruit syrups on the market, and they can be found at most grocery stores. I'm particularly fond of passion fruit syrup, but various berry syrups are undeniably delicious.
15. Dark Syrup
The Scandinavian dark syrup is similar to molasses because of its rich flavor and thick syrup. It is basically a dark corn syrup derived from sugar.
It is possible to use dark syrup in place of maple syrup, but because of its taste and consistency, it could be more easily interchanged with a mixture of corn syrup and molasses.
Substitute Guide for Maple Syrup
All the information you need organized for you below!
Maple Syrup Substitution Graphic
Substitutes for Maple Syrup Table
Do you have any other tried and true substitution recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!