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5 Substitutes for Maple Syrup: A Healthier, Sustainable Choice

Maple syrup, with its earthy sweetness and distinctive caramel notes, is an all-time favorite ingredient for home cooks and professional chefs alike.

However, for those looking to expand their culinary horizons or simply seeking healthy and sustainable sweetener options, there’s a world of alternatives beyond this amber goodness.

In this comprehensive guide, we’re exploring five of the best substitutes for maple syrup that not only offer unique flavor profiles but also cater to various dietary needs, are sustainably sourced, and can even be friendlier to the wallet.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you’re looking for a mellow, floral alternative, try honey.
  • Corn syrup is a neutral sweetener best used in recipes where a mild sweetness is desired.
  • Simple syrup is a versatile substitute that highlights the primary flavors of a dish without overpowering them.
  • Brown sugar offers a rich caramel flavor and can be used in place of maple syrup at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Molasses is a robust alternative with bittersweet notes that work well in dishes like gingerbread and baked beans. Remember to use it sparingly due to its intense flavor.

Why Look for a Maple Syrup Substitute?

In the pursuit of healthier cooking or due to dietary restrictions, many home cooks find themselves in need of substitutes for traditional sweeteners like maple syrup.

Whether it’s for topping your pancake stack on a lazy Sunday morning or as a key ingredient in your daily cooking, each substitute comes with its own set of flavors and nutritional benefits.

Before we start, it’s important to understand that while we aim to offer healthier options, all sweeteners should be used in moderation.

Overconsumption of any sweetener can have negative health impacts. It’s all about balance and finding what works best for your lifestyle and palate.

5 Best Substitutes for Maple Syrup

1. Honey

When you’re looking for a naturally sweet alternative with a mellow and floral flavor, honey is a top contender.

Coming in various shades and flavors depending on the nectar source, honey provides a complex taste that varies from light and delicate to dark and robust. It’s important to note honey should not be given to children under 1 year old due to the potential risk of botulism.

Honey’s flavor profile is diverse and heavily contingent on the floral sources the bees visited. Acacia honey is light and gentle, while buckwheat honey is rich and earthy.

Usage Tips

  • In baked goods, sub honey for maple syrup at a 1:1 ratio, but reduce the liquid called for in the recipe by about 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used.
  • When using honey as a table sweetener, drizzle lightly as it’s sweeter than maple syrup.
  • Local, raw honey is preferred for its possible allergy reduction benefits.

2. Corn Syrup

Often maligned due to its role in high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup can be a neutral, sticky-sweet alternative to maple syrup in the right applications.

Corn syrup’s sweetness is clean and its flavor neutral. It’s generally not considered a fragrant or flavorful sweetener.

Usage Tips

  • In most recipes, you can swap corn syrup for maple syrup on a 1:1 basis.
  • Ideal for recipes where a milder sweetness is desired, such as in some candies, frostings, or pies.
  • Steer clear of high fructose corn syrup due to its health detriments and highly processed nature.

3. Simple Syrup

Just as its name suggests, simple syrup is the most straightforward sweetener to substitute for maple syrup. Made from equal parts sugar and water, it’s invaluable for sweetening beverages, dressings, and more.

With no additional flavorings, simple syrup delivers a clean, sweet taste that doesn’t overwhelm other flavors.

Usage Tips

  • For each cup of maple syrup called for in a recipe, use 1 cup of simple syrup.
  • Simplicity is key—don’t overpower other ingredients and use it to enhance the primary flavors of a dish.
  • Adjust sweetness to your liking by adding more or less simple syrup to taste.

4. Brown Sugar

A mix of granulated white sugar and molasses, brown sugar can serve as an excellent maple syrup alternative when you’re aiming to attain that rich, caramel flavor.

Brown sugar offers a molasses undertone that is deep and rich, with caramel notes that are prominent in maple syrup.

Usage Tips

  • Sub brown sugar for maple syrup in a 1:1 ratio, but remember it’s sweeter, so consider reducing the sugar in the recipe by 1 tablespoon for each cup of brown sugar used.
  • It’s best used for recipes where a richer flavor is desired, such as marinades, barbecue sauces, or oatmeal.
  • Opt for natural brown sugars without added molasses for a cleaner, less processed option.

5. Molasses

Molasses is the sweet byproduct of refining sugarcane and sugar beets. It’s thick, dark, and full of robust flavors, and can be a stand-in for maple syrup in specific dishes.

Molasses imparts a rich, bold, bittersweet taste with hints of caramel and toasty notes, very similar to the flavor profile of dark-grade maple syrup.

Usage Tips

  • Use molasses for its flavor in dishes like gingerbread, baked beans, and barbecue sauces.
  • Substitute molasses at a 1:1 ratio for maple syrup and weave it into recipes that can handle its assertive taste.
  • Blackstrap molasses is highly concentrated and best used in small quantities and recipes that accommodate its intense flavor.

Homemade Maple Syrup Recipe

This homemade maple syrup recipe is a delicious and easy substitution for traditional maple syrup. Made with just a few simple ingredients, it's perfect for those looking to avoid processed sweeteners or for anyone who has run out of maple syrup at home.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Condiment
Cuisine American
Servings 2 cups
Calories 418 kcal


  • 1 saucepan
  • 1 whisk
  • 1 small jar


  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons maple extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt optional
  • Note: If you prefer a darker more robust flavor, you can use dark brown sugar instead of light.


  • In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar and water over medium heat.
  • Cook until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the maple extract and salt (if desired).
  • Allow the syrup to cool before serving.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


  • For a thinner consistency, add more water to the mixture while cooking.
  • If you don’t have maple extract, you can use vanilla extract instead. However, this will result in a slightly different flavor.
  • You can also adjust the amount of maple extract used to your preference.
  • This syrup can also be used as a topping for pancakes, waffles, or French toast. So, feel free to use it in place of traditional maple syrup in any recipe.


Calories: 418kcalCarbohydrates: 108gProtein: 0.1gSodium: 327mgPotassium: 146mgSugar: 107gCalcium: 95mgIron: 1mg
Keyword homemade maple syrup
Did you make this recipe?Mention @CooksCrafter or tag #CooksCrafter!
5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Tuesday 19th of March 2024

Trying to cut down on sugar, so this article couldn't have come at a better time! Agave syrup caught my eye – anyone have experience using it instead of maple syrup? Wondering if the flavor is similar.

Andrew Gray

Tuesday 19th of March 2024

Agave syrup is also a reasonable alternative to maple syrup! It has a similar sweetness but a milder flavor. It's perfect for those looking to cut down on sugar.