Meet Your Ingredients: Maple Syrup

Meet Your Ingredients: Maple Syrup

A breakfast staple, maple syrup is also found in baked goods and sauces. Get all the info on nutrition, selecting, storing and using it in this guide.

The Basics

About three times as sweet as table sugar, maple syrup is a breakfast staple, especially in North America.

So how is it made? Starting in early March, maple syrup producers tap maple trees from March through end of April. The harvested sap is then transported to a sugar house, where it’s boiled down into the sweet, liquidy goodness that we slather over pancakes and waffles.

While we’ll get to the details later in this guide, the flavor and color of the syrup varies by how early in the harvesting period that it was obtained, evaporated and bottled.

Nutrition Overview

While the exact nutritional composition will vary by brand, 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup contains approximately:

  • 104 calories
  • 0 grams fat
  • 26 grams of carb
  • 0 grams fiber
  • 28 grams of sugar.

Maple syrup is a bit more nutritious than granulated sugar as it also contains small amounts of minerals, such as potassium, zinc and magnesium. It also contains a number of different antioxidants.

However, while replacing sugar with pure maple syrup will provide a little more nutrition, maple syrup is still a concentrated source of sugar, so keep an eye on portions (especially when pouring over pancakes!).

How to select

While some swear by Vermont or Canadian maple syrup, the most important thing to look for is that you’re buying 100% pure maple syrup. Yes, it’s more expensive than the imitation bottles, but the quality is leaps and bounds better.

Plus, imitation maple syrups, like Mrs. Buttersworth, Log Cabin, or Aunt Jemima, are made of only 2-3 percent of pure maple syrup (while some actually don’t contain any real maple!). Instead, they get their flavor from artificial maple extract, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup and then are colored using caramel color, which can contain a potentially carcinogenic chemical called 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI). These bottles are also filled with thickeners, stabilizers, water, and salt.

So, make sure to check the ingredient list before buying syrup. The only ingredient listed should be 100% pure maple syrup.

Pure maple syrup

What’s the difference between Grade A and B?

Okay, so now that you know to look for the real stuff, how do you decide between the different types?

All pure maple syrup, regardless of Grade, is made the same way and contains the same amount of maple sugar. However, the flavor and color of the syrup vary by the time of year that the syrup is harvested. In the United States, we classify maple syrup based on these different colors.

Grade B syrups have the darkest colorings and are harvested at the end of the sugaring season. They have a much deeper maple flavor, and are traditionally used for baking and cooking, but more and more people are starting to use it for pouring over breakfast foods as well.

Grade A syrups are lighter in color and flavor than Grade B, and are further broken down into Light Amber, Medium Amber and Dark Amber. The lighter the color, the earlier in the season it was harvested and the more mild the flavor will be.

In Vermont, Light Amber syrup is also known as “Vermont Fancy” and is described as a “sophisticated” table syrup. However it’s the Medium Amber syrup that most of us think of when it comes to traditional maple syrup.

For baking purposes, if you want a strong maple flavor, your best bets are either Grade B or Grade A Dark Amber syrup.

How to store

Unopened pure maple syrup will keep indefinitely stored in a cool, dry place. However, after about 1-2 years, the flavor and color can start to deteriorate. The best way to preserve freshness of unopened syrup is to actually keep it in the freezer.

Once opened, pure syrup keeps for about a year in the refrigerator, just be on the lookout for mold growth the longer it’s been stored.

Pouring maple syrup over stack of blueberry pancakes

How to use in cooking/baking

Similar to honey, maple syrup can be used as a topping on foods, such as oatmeal, pancakes and waffles, french toast, and yogurt. It also makes for a great sweetener for granola and homemade protein/granola bars.

For baking, maple syrup and honey can be substituted 1:1 without needing to adjust other ingredients. Just note that the flavor will be different.

However, when using maple syrup in place of white sugar in a recipe, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Maple syrup is a more concentrated source of sugar, so for every cup of white sugar, use ½ cup of syrup
  • It will add extra liquid to the batter, so for every 1 cup of white sugar replaced with syrup, decrease the other liquids by about ¾ cup (you may need to play around with this based on the recipe).
  • Maple syrup is also slightly acidic, so to get a proper rise out of your baked good, add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of baking soda per cup of maple syrup being used.
  • Finally, as with honey, maple syrup will caramelize faster, resulting in more rapid browning. It’s recommended to reduce the oven temperature by 25oF.

Recipes

Chocolate amaranth pudding with raspberries and fresh mint

I use maple syrup A LOT on THT, but here are some of my go-to recipes:

What’s your favorite way to enjoy maple syrup? Share in the comments below!

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About Kelli McGrane Headshot

I’m Kelli MS, RD, and my mission is to prove that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Follow along to learn more about food and cooking, with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

About Kelli McGrane Headshot

Welcome to The Healthy Toast!

Here you’ll find realistic healthy recipes designed by a registered dietitian with your busy lifestyle in mind.

Whether you’re a busy professional or new mom, the goal of The Healthy Toast is to provide you with the recipes and nutrition info you need to live your healthiest life, even when life gets crazy. As I’m a firm believer in a whole-foods, non-diet approach, I hope my website shows that good nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. 

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