Maple Extract Substitutes

12 Maple Extract Substitutes – Pros and Cons

From an early age, I was hooked on the taste of maple.

Maple syrup, maple donuts, maple candy.

Maple. Maple. Maple.

Nowadays, it seems like there’s a maple-flavored everything – bacon, whiskey, coffee, sausage, cereals – the list is practically endless.

But how are such delectable delights possible?

The answer is maple extract.

Believe it or not, I didn’t even know maple extract existed until I was older and began cooking on my own. Now, I’m never without it whenever a recipe calls for it.

But what if you don’t have any around the kitchen?

You’ve got nothing to worry about!

This article will cover all the most common maple extract subs in detail. The best substitutions for maple extract are imitation maple flavoring, real maple syrup, maple sugar, maple honey, maple butter (or cream) and molasses. Some extracts you can try are almond, butter pecan, butterscotch, rum, and vanilla.

While none of them may be as good as the real thing, it beats using nothing at all!

Before We Begin…

The challenging part of deciding what to use as a substitute depends on why you are using it.

Ask yourself…

Does the recipe call for it or is it possible to add maple flavor later on once the dish is prepared?

Even though we’ll talk about several choices, keep in mind that none of them (aside from imitation maple flavoring) will impart the exact maple flavor that you want.

Some compromises will have to be made – either in how you prepare the meal or your expectations of how it will taste.

With that out of the way, let’s dig in!

1. Imitation Maple Flavoring

If you don’t have any pure maple extract, or can’t get any, the next easiest option to consider would be imitation maple flavoring. The differences between the two basically come down to how they are created.

Natural extracts use maple concentrates, whereas imitation maple flavorings are created synthetically using chemical processes. In terms of taste, you won’t be able to tell much of a difference between them.

Pros

  • Tastes the same as natural extracts

Cons

  • Artificially made if that is a concern for you

2. Real Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is probably the ingredient you’re most likely to have on hand, so we’ll talk about that next. Before we do, though, if you’re thinking about trying to use maple syrup as a sub, you need to understand that it’s not the same thing as pancake syrup (more on that later).

Maple syrup comes in four different grades – Golden, Amber, Dark and Very Dark. The amount of maple flavor in each grade corresponds to the darkness of the syrup. In other words, the darker the syrup, the sweeter it is, and the higher concentration of maple flavor.

So the first thing to do is check and see if you have actual maple syrup (and not just pancake syrup). After you’ve checked, the next thing to do is to determine the grade.

The two very darkest types (Dark and Very Dark) are the most likely to hold up well when cooking or baking, and would be the best options for using as a substitute. If you don’t have one of the two darker types, getting a significant amount of maple flavor will be difficult because you’ll need to use much more syrup to achieve the same result.

The reason for that is most brands on the market have a much sweeter taste profile (thanks to the high sugar content) focusing less on the maple component. 

In simplest terms, this means you’ll probably wind up having to alter your recipe. By adding greater amounts of maple syrup, you’ll need to adjust other ingredients and/or cooking times which can cause problems.

Pros

  • Widely used in most homes

Cons

  • May need to alter recipes/prep times
  • Can change the consistency of the food
  • Additional calories

3. Maple Sugar

Maple sugar is little more than maple syrup that has been cooked down to form granulated crystals/powder. It’s available in stores or can be made at home in about fifteen minutes.

As you might expect, starting with the darkest maple syrup you have will yield the best results.

Pros

  • Easy to make at home
  • More maple flavor thanks to concentration as crystals or powder

Cons

  • Additional prep time if converting from maple syrup
  • Additional calories
  • Moderate flavor loss when cooking or baking

4. Maple Honey

Maple honey is not the same thing as maple syrup, but it is honey produced from the maple blossom. Because of this, it has a similar, but not identical, flavor profile to maple syrup.

Honey is also much thicker than maple syrup and has a consistency similar to molasses. If maple honey is an option, treat it as you would molasses in your recipe and use it accordingly.

Pros

  • Similar flavor profile to maple syrup
  • Less is needed to impart a maple flavor thanks to its natural thickness

Cons

  • Not widely available
  • Additional calories
  • Moderate flavor loss when cooking or baking

5. Maple Butter (Maple Cream)

Maple butter or cream is exactly what it sounds like – a spreadable combination of maple syrup and butter. It can be purchased in stores or made at home. Most recipes you’ll find will call for one part syrup to two parts butter.

As a substitute, it’s best used after the food has been prepared to add a pop of maple flavor. Since it has the consistency of creamy peanut butter, it can also be used as a frosting on desserts.

Pros

  • Easy to make if ingredients are on hand

Cons

  • Additional calories
  • Moderate flavor loss when cooking or baking

6. Molasses

Molasses is much thicker and more concentrated than maple syrup, so that’s something you’ll need to keep in mind when considering using it. It’s derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. Sugarcane molasses is the most widely used of the two and is also the key ingredient in brown sugar.

Most recipes that substitute molasses for maple syrup use a one-to-one ratio (i.e., one cup molasses for one cup maple syrup).

Pros

  • Widely used in most homes

Cons

  • May need to alter recipes/prep times
  • Can change the consistency of the food
  • Additional calories

7. Pancake Syrup

Unfortunately, most commercially available pancake syrups will not be a good option for substitution since the vast majority of them have less than 5% maple as an ingredient in their product.

They are not recommended as a good substitute for maple extract.

Pros

  • Widely available and likely in most kitchens

Cons

  • Trace amounts of pure maple (usually less than 5%)
  • Additional calories

8-12. Extracts (Almond, Butter Pecan, Butterscotch, Rum, Vanilla)

Rather than discuss each type of extract in detail, it’s best to keep in mind that unlike the previous substitution options, these are highly concentrated – a little goes a long way.

For example, overusing almond extract will turn your meal bitter while too much rum extract can impart an overly sweet, boozy taste.

It should also go without saying that none of these taste like maple because, well, they aren’t!

Rather, if you’re considering using these as a sub, then think about your recipe and try to use extracts that would complement it. Luckily, most recipes that call for maple go well with almost all of these extracts since they have warm tones and rich, caramel flavoring.

Pros

  • Widely available and likely in most kitchens

Cons

  • No true maple flavor
  • Taste profiles vary widely, can be difficult to get right
Scroll to Top