Your Syrup Bottle Might Be Misleading You. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Pancake syrup and pure maple syrup are not the same thing. Gasp!

Grocery store shelf of maple syrupsPhoto: Taste of Home
Photo: Taste of Home

Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you thought that the pancake syrup you’ve been buying at the grocery store is the real deal (that is, pure maple syrup), you’re wrong. (Here are some other surprising facts about maple syrup.) But don’t fret. You’ll find what the difference is and why it matters.

What’s the Difference?

The biggest difference between pure maple syrup and pancake syrup is the list of ingredients. Pure maple syrup is simply maple tree sap that’s been boiled down to a thicker consistency. That’s it. Just one ingredient.

Pancake syrup, on the other hand, is made with corn syrup and artificial maple extract. If you look at the back of a pancake syrup bottle, you’ll likely find corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup listed as the first two ingredients. Other ingredients include caramel color and natural and artificial flavors.

Why Does Pure Maple Syrup Cost so Much More?

Pure maple syrup is expensive because it’s labor-intensive. How so? Sugarmakers (yes, that’s what they’re called and it’s a wonderful title) insert spouts into maple trees and collect the sap in buckets hanging below the spout. The sap is then taken to a sugarhouse, where it is boiled down so it evaporates until it reaches a thick and syrupy consistency. (Some sugarmakers use tubing to convey the sap from tree to sugarhouse.)

Pancake syrup is much cheaper to produce because it doesn’t use maple syrup. Producing large batches in a factory is also more efficient than producing smaller batches in a sugarhouse. This process cuts costs, which results in a lower price.

So Why Do We Even Use the Imitation Stuff?

It probably comes down to price. When you’re browsing the syrup aisle in the grocery store, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You’re trying to get the best deal, so you naturally look for the cheaper prices. If you have to decide between a $7.49 bottle and a $3.99 bottle that might be bigger, chances are you’d choose the $3.99 option, perhaps not realizing it’s an entirely different product.

Does It Really Matter in the End?

That depends on what you want. If cost is a serious concern, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with grabbing a bottle of pancake syrup to go with one of our best pancake recipes. Just because it’s not expensive doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good.

If you want a natural, handcrafted product, then definitely go for the pure maple syrup. It has a richer, fuller flavor and is free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Slather some on a decadent breakfast, like this Mixed Berry French Toast. Or, take it a step further and use it in one of these ultra cozy fall maple treats.

Can’t decide which kind you prefer? Make your own homemade syrup!

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Emily Racette Parulski
Emily Racette Parulski is a Senior Editor for Taste of Home, specializing in email newsletters. When she’s not writing about food, she’s baking something sweet to feed her chocolate obsession.