Real Maple Syrup Versus Imitation Maple Syrup

Do you prefer real or natural maple syrup on your pancakes? For most people, this decision involves not only taste preferences, but also nutritional concerns, and cost. Here's how these two popular sweeteners compare.

Real Maple Syrup

Natural maple syrup is made by boiling the sap of maple trees in the early spring. It is commonly made from sugar maple, as well as red maple, and black maple trees. It takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.

After the maple sap is collected, it is boiled to evaporate the water until a specific temperature is reached. The resulting syrup will be two-thirds sugar and one-third water. The primary sugar is sucrose with lesser amounts of fructose and glucose.

Imitation Maple Syrup

Imitation maple syrup, also known as fake syrup, is typically made from high fructose corn syrup with caramel food coloring, artificial flavors, cellulose gum, and food preservatives added.

U.S. labelling regulations prohibit imitation syrups from having the word "maple" in their names. That's why such products have names like "Original Syrup", "Pancake Syrup", "Table Syrup", and "Waffle Syrup".

Taste Differences

Imitation syrup tends to have a milder, less "mapley" taste than actual maple syrup. Some people, especially children, prefer this milder taste. On the other hand, once you develop a taste for the real thing, it's hard to go back to imitation.


Real and imitation maple syrup have roughly the same number of calories. Almost all of these calories come from carbohydrates.

Reduced calorie versions of imitation syrup are available that use alternate sweeteners such as aspartame. The taste of many of these products is a further departure from real maple syrup.


Real maple syrup is healthier than fake syrup. It contains nutritionally significant amounts of manganese and zinc, minerals that can boost immune and reproductive health, as well as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and riboflavin.

Imitation syrup is mainly composed of sugars with no vitamins or minerals. Whether the high fructose corn syrup (or brown rice syrup) it contains is less healthy than the sugars in real maple syrup is still unclear.


Real maple syrup is considerably more expensive than imitation syrup. This is due to the limited maple resource, short collection season, and effort involved in producing syrup from tree sap.