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!

Emily Racette Parulski
Emily has spent the last decade writing and editing food and lifestyle content. As a senior editor at Taste of Home, she leads the newsletter team sharing delicious recipes and helpful cooking tips to more than 2 million loyal email subscribers. Since joining TMB seven years ago as an associate editor, she has worked on special interest publications, launched TMB’s first cross-branded newsletter, supported the launch of the brand's affiliate strategy, orchestrated holiday countdowns, participated in taste tests and was selected for a task force to enhance the Taste of Home community. Emily was first mentioned by name in Taste of Home magazine in 1994, when her mother won a contest. When she’s not editing, Emily can be found in her kitchen baking something sweet, taking a wine class with her husband, or making lasagnas for neighbors through Lasagna Love.