Real Vs Fake Maple Syrup: Here's How To Tell The Difference

So you've sat down at your favorite diner or breakfast spot, ordered yourself a nice stack of pancakes or a thick slab of French toast, and you're waiting with calm anticipation as you sip a hot cup of coffee. Your fresh-off-the-griddle treat arrives, you anoint it with a not-conservative pour of maple syrup from the jug in front of you, and take a big bite — only to have your heart (and taste buds) sink at the realization that you've just spilled imitation, not real, syrup all over your breakfast.

We've all been there, right? True maple syrup is breakfast's dream companion, bringing an incomparable caramel flavor and a lush — but not cloying — sweetness to short stacks, crepes, oatmeal, and more (via Consumer Reports). "Pancake syrup," or artificially flavored maple syrup, just doesn't satisfy in the same way, adding a sweetness that's one-note and often sticky and cloying. So how to tell the difference between real maple syrup and the fake stuff — before biting into breakfast? Read on to find out.

Read the label

When it comes to making sure the bottle you're buying is real maple syrup and not imitation, the one foolproof way to inform your purchase is to carefully read the ingredients label. While the two might look similar in their color, according to Allrecipes, maple syrup will list just one ingredient — pure maple syrup — while the imitation stuff contains a laundry list of ingredients typically based on corn syrup as well as artificial maple flavoring, caramel color, and thickening agents.

There are other ways to tell maple syrup from imitation. The bottle's price tag will tell you a lot: while maple syrup usually costs at least $8 for a small 12.5-ounce bottle (as of 2021), pancake syrup will be half the price (via Allrecipes). The syrup's consistency is another giveaway, and one that can help when you're examining the mystery contents of a diner's syrup jug: true maple syrup is quite runny and pours easily, while pancake syrup is thick and sticky.

Other than its flavor, there are other reasons to choose true maple syrup over imitation. According to Anderson's Maple Syrup, real maple syrup contains an assortment of vitamins and minerals such as riboflavin, manganese, calcium, and magnesium — while pancake syrup is far from that nutritious. So the next time you're about to tuck into a big breakfast, do your due diligence to make sure you're topping your treats with the real deal.