Pure or real maple syrup isn't easy to find, so many home cooks look for a maple syrup substitute.
Whether you're looking for a healthy substitute for maple syrup in baking or on pancakes, you'll find my list helpful. I even included sugar-free pure maple syrup substitutes to ensure you can whip up dishes for your loved ones with dietary restrictions.
8 Best Maple Syrup Substitutes
As a home cook, I have tried several ingredients and substitutes before coming up with a good list. When it comes to what to substitute for maple syrup, here are my top recommendations:
"Can I substitute honey for maple syrup?" is a common question I hear because most of us have this natural sweetener in our kitchen cabinets. Yes, it is among the best maple syrup substitutes because it's gluten-free and offers several health benefits.
However, honey is non-vegan. It is also a bit sweeter than maple syrup and has its own natural flavor, which is noticeable when you use it as a drizzle or topping of your baked goods, french toast, fruit, waffle, and pancake syrup.
Nonetheless, its warm amber color will make your food look more appetizing.
Another important characteristic of honey I would like to share with you is it tends to lose some of its nutrients when exposed to high heat.
So, can you substitute honey for maple syrup in baking and cooking? Yes, but only when using cooking techniques that use low heat to ensure you still enjoy its nutritional benefits.
In terms of ratio, use the same amount indicated in the recipe when using honey as a maple syrup substitute honey in cooking and baking.
I also love using honey when preparing dressings for fresh salads. I just add a small amount of lemon juice and zest to a cup of honey. Sometimes, I even add a few herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.
I also use honey to replace sweet ingredients commonly used in fruit salads, such as condensed milk.
Pro Tip: When searching for a maple syrup substitute honey as a maple syrup substitute, I suggest you go for the pure, organic variety to get the best flavor, right consistency, and highest level of nutrition.
Best for salad dressings and low-temperature baking and cooking.
2. Coconut Nectar
Made from the pure sap of coconut trees, coconut nectar is my top choice for a vegan-friendly, healthy maple syrup substitute. It has the same consistency and caramel flavor notes as maple syrup, making it a perfect choice for drizzling, frosting, baking, and cooking.
Just note that coconut nectar is less sweet, but it still adds enough sweetness to your dishes and drinks. That's why I still follow a 1:1 ratio when using coconut nectar as a pure maple syrup substitute for baking and cooking ingredient.
Nonetheless, you can always add more than your recipe calls for; doubling the amount of maple syrup required is what I recommend to match the maple syrup's sweetness level.
Best for just about anything.
A common ingredient in making gingerbread, "Can you substitute molasses for maple syrup?" is another common question I hear. After all, you might already have it in your kitchen cupboard or cabinet.
This natural substitute for pure maple syrup is available in two varieties: light molasses and dark molasses, both resembling maple syrup's thickness. However, I find that the light variety is a better option because of its close resemblance to the maple syrup's rich flavor.
Dark molasses not only have a richer or stronger flavor profile, but it also has a slight bitterness that can entirely change the taste of your dish.
What I love most about light molasses is its versatility. Not only is it the best maple syrup substitute for baking and cooking, but it is ingredient and topping. It's also perfect for making granola bars and other sweet treats requiring a binding ingredient. That's all thanks to the molasses' stickiness.
Molasses is less sweet than maple syrup, so doubling the amount listed in your recipe for maple syrup is advisable, but you can always follow a 1:1 ratio.
Best for just about anything.
4. Golden Syrup
When asking, "What can I substitute for maple syrup on pancakes, bread, and fruits and in my baking recipes?", golden syrup isn't a common answer in the US. That's because of its limited availability in the country.
Why is this so? Well, golden syrup is considered the British version of molasses, as it's also a byproduct of the sugar-making process.
Like molasses and maple syrup, golden syrup is a thick liquid you can drizzle over simple dishes like pancakes, bread, French toast, and fruits and use as a baking ingredient.
A distinct difference is in the amount of sweetness and overall flavor tones. Golden syrup is a bit sweeter and has a butterscotch-like flavor instead of caramel.
Still, you can use the same amount of golden syrup as maple syrup when baking with it.
If you're worried about the added sweetness, you can reduce the amount of the other sweet ingredients in your recipe. But if you want to play it safe, you can use half the amount of what's required in your recipe.
Best for drizzling and baking cookies and cakes.
5. Yacon Syrup
Another unpopular answer to "What can you substitute for maple syrup?" is yacon or yacon root syrup. However, it is among the most suitable maple syrup substitutes for many reasons.
Not only is it a natural maple syrup replacement, but it also has a lot of proven health benefits, such as improved mineral absorption and GUT health. It also has the same consistency and flavor as maple syrup but is sweeter.
Like molasses, you can use half the amount or the exact amount of yacon syrup your recipe requires for maple syrup.
One thing I like to note about this substitute for pure maple syrup is it has a higher glycemic index than the first four options. Thus, don't use yacon syrup to replace maple syrup if you or someone you're serving the dish or beverage is on a special diet or has dietary restrictions.
Best for drizzling, baking, and sweetening drinks.
6. Agave Nectar
Also known as agave syrup, agave nectar is another plant-based maple syrup alternative I have tried and tested. It's available in three different varieties.
Light agave nectar is your ideal choice when it comes to what to substitute for maple syrup in baking since it has a neutral flavor. It's also commonly used in making cocktails and mocktails because it dissolves quickly in liquid. It's why I use it to sweeten my tea, coffee, and other beverages.
Meanwhile, opt for the stronger flavored one, the amber agave nectar, if you need a maple syrup alternative to whip up no-bake desserts, sauces, marinades, salad dressings, and glazes.
Lastly, dark agave nectar is the best substitute for maple syrup on pancakes, bread, toast, fruits, and more because it has the boldest flavor. It also boasts caramel tones that remind you of real and imitation maple syrup.
In terms of sweetness, agave syrup is sweeter than maple, so I replace one cup of maple syrup with ¾ cup of agave nectar.
One issue with agave that you need to consider before replacing maple syrup with it is its high level of nutrition calories and fructose. Don't use it when serving people in a calorie deficit and low glycemic diet.
Best for just about anything.
7. Brown Rice Syrup
If you're asking, "What is a substitute for maple syrup that's free of gluten and fructose?", brown rice syrup is one of your best options. It has the same color and caramel notes as maple syrup but with nutty flavors with a touch of butterscotch.
In terms of natural sweetness, brown rice syrup has a sweetness that I describe as half sweeter than white or brown sugar. Thus, when you use this real maple syrup substitute in cooking and baking, it's best to experiment with the amount you should add.
To find the perfect ratio that matches the sweetness level I want for my recipes, I followed a 1:1 ratio and added a few more until I'm happy with the sweetness.
Best for drizzling, glazing, baking, and making sauce and salad dressings.
8. Homemade Syrup
While seeking answers to "What can you substitute for maple syrup?", you'll come across recommendations to substitute sugar for maple syrup in baking and cooking.
Yes, you can use them as a maple syrup replacement, but the texture is different. Some advise you to dissolve the brown or white sugar in water before use.
Still, when you substitute sugar for maple syrup in baking and cooking, the remaining undissolved brown or white sugar gives it a gritty texture.
So why not make the most out of sparing some time to add an extra step by creating a sweet syrup out of brown or white sugar? Both white and brown sugar syrup has an almost similar thickness to maple syrup's and a shelf life of three months when stored in the refrigerator.
White Sugar Syrup
Making white sugar syrup is simple:
- Place equal amounts of water and white sugar in your frying pan or saucepan.
- Allow the mixture to simmer on medium heat.
- Once simmering, lower the heat and mix until the mixture thickens.
This simple syrup has an almost similar consistency to maple syrup but won't have the same level of sweetness. Consider using the ratio of one cup of maple syrup to ⅔ cup of this maple syrup sugar substitute.
Best for baking cakes and sweetening drink mixes.
Brown Sugar Syrup
Those who advise that you substitute sugar for maple syrup often highly recommend brown sugar more than white sugar. I agree with them because the white variety lacks the caramel notes maple syrup is known for.
As such, you'll get as close as the flavor maple gives your recipe when you substitute brown sugar for maple syrup.
Making this maple syrup sugar substitute is almost similar to the white sugar, but with the addition of a drop of vanilla extract. That said, you can omit the vanilla extract if you don't have one in your pantry.
When using light brown sugar syrup in baking and cooking, you won't need to adjust the amount needed.
Best for drizzling and baking.
2 Sugar-Free Maple Syrup Substitutes
Now, you might be wondering, "What can I substitute for maple syrup when serving food to those who need to limit their sugar intake or are on a sugar-free diet?" I have been in the same dilemma in the past but found these two excellent sugar-free maple syrup healthy substitutes:
Monk Fruit Syrup
Monk fruit syrup is one of Asia's most popular zero-calorie natural sweeteners, so it should top your list when you're looking for a healthy maple syrup substitute.
Like with the recommendation to substitute sugar for maple syrup, you can also use plain stevia, but I don't recommend it because of the difference in texture. After all, you can now find stevia syrup.
One thing I like to remind you of is that stevia is an artificial sweetener. So make sure you're okay with it before using it as a maple syrup substitute for sugar-free baking and cooking.
Time To Pick the Alternative To Maple Syrup
Do you need a standard or healthy substitute for maple syrup in baking or cooking? Maybe you just need it to have bread, toast, waffle, and pancake syrup?
It's time to pick from my recommendations for the best substitutes for pure syrup extracted from maple trees.
They might not 100% mimic its complex flavor, but they will definitely do a great job in making your food and beverage look and taste delicious.
Homemade Maple Syrup Alternative Recipe
- Small glass jar with a lid
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon maple extract or vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- Place the water and brown sugar in your large saucepan and whisk them together.
- Turn your stove on and set it to medium heat.
- Allow the solution to boil for five to eight minutes or until the mixture starts to coat the back part of your spoon.
- Set the heat to low.
- Add the butter, a pinch of salt, and maple extract (or vanilla extract) into the mix.
- Mix gently until you have a homogenous, smooth syrup.Transfer to a glass jar and allow to cool.
- Seal tightly and place in your refrigerator.
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