Maple syrup is a natural sweetener that has a reputation for being relatively healthy. It has a robust and distinctive flavor that works well in many sweet and savory preparations. Maple syrup can be expensive compared to other sweeteners. If you can’t afford it or you can’t get out to a brick and mortar grocery store, here are a few useful maple syrup substitutes.
Your best bet: Make your own maple syrup substitute
Maple syrup brings three things to food: sweetness, moisture, and maple flavor. While real maple syrup is the best source of these three properties, there are other ways to get them.
You can make a version of maple syrup by adding natural or artificial maple flavoring to liquid sweeteners like corn syrup or even to a homemade simple syrup. You can then use this syrup in the same way that you would use natural maple syrup. This kind of maple syrup substitute will cost less than real maple syrup but will perform the same in most recipes.
A decent second choice: Maple sugar
Unlike the other substitutes on this list, maple sugar is a solid rather than a liquid. Like maple syrup, it is made by boiling the sap from the maple tree. The sap is boiled past the point where it turns into a syrup to the point where it crystallizes.
The process is similar to the one used to make sugar from sugarcane. You can change its physical state by dissolving it in water to get syrup, or you can add it to a recipe with the dry ingredients and increase the other liquids to compensate for its dryness.
In a pinch: Pancake syrup
The pancake syrup sold in most grocery stores is simply maple-flavored corn syrup. It has the same main properties as maple syrup, which are sweetness and maple flavor. Some varieties of pancake syrup will have butter flavoring in addition to the maple flavor.
Pancake syrup can work as a 1:1 substitute for maple syrup. Pancake syrup has the benefit of being much less expensive than pure maple syrup.
Corn syrup with no other additives is mostly the same as pancake syrup. You won’t get the maple flavor, but you will get the neutral sweetness of corn syrup. Plain corn syrup is cheaper than maple syrup and has other benefits, such as the fact that it won’t crystallize.
Honey is a little thicker than maple syrup but will still work in many of the same applications. It has a similar color and sweetness level though it won’t provide you with the same maple flavor. You can use it as a topping for waffles and pancakes or as a sweetener in recipes for baked goods like muffins and cookies.
Molasses is made from sugar cane and is a byproduct of the process used to extract sugar from sugarcane juice. Sugar is derived from boiled sugarcane juice, and molasses is what gets left behind. Light molasses is the sweetest type of molasses and has the palest color. It’s a good substitute for maple syrup, even though it is still much darker and has a deeper caramel flavor.
You can use light molasses as a topping and sweetener for pancakes and in your baked goods, just like maple syrup. The darker molasses varieties won’t be suitable maple syrup substitutes because of their dark colors and strong flavors.