Maple syrup is a natural sweetener made by boiling and concentrating the sap of the maple tree, which results in a golden brown liquid with a distinctively sweet, earthy, and piney flavor.
Maple syrup is a popular alternative to table sugar, though it still contains a large amount of sugar itself and is best used in moderation.
If you are looking for the purest and healthiest maple syrup, we’ve ranked the ten best brands available right now. Read on for our rankings, plus more info on the benefits and side effects of maple syrup.
1. Runamok Maple Sugarmaker’s Cut Maple Syrup
Runamok Maple makes a maple syrup that’s exceptionally smooth and has an unparalleled depth of flavor. It’s great for classic dishes like pancakes and desserts, as well as making cocktails or adding sweetness to hot beverages.
The tree sap used to produce this maple syrup comes only from Vermont maple trees, and users love the versatility of this light-bodied but richly-flavored maple syrup. Thanks to its great flavor and wide variety of uses, this is our top pick.
2. Escuminac Maple Syrup
Escuminac Maple Syrup is an artisanal brand of maple syrup that’s produced in Canada and has an ultra-smooth flavor.
Its light and smooth flavor is not overwhelmed by sweetness, making it an extraordinarily well-balanced maple syrup.
The 17 ounce bottles are well-suited for occasional use, though people who go through a lot of maple syrup might want to opt for something that comes in a larger package.
3. Mead and Mead’s Maple Syrup
For those who are looking for a deep, richly-flavored maple syrup, Mead and Mead’s Maple Syrup is the best option. The buttery and earthy flavors put bland and mild maple syrups to shame.
It’s an excellent choice for those who appreciate the unique qualities that separate maple syrup from other liquid sweeteners.
4. Hidden Springs Maple Syrup
Hidden Springs Maple Syrup is an organically certified maple syrup that comes in a 32 ounce jug. It’s a deeper and darker flavor than most other maple syrup brands on the market, so if you are looking for something with strong flavor and earthy tones, this should definitely be your choice.
5. Canada’s Finest Maple Syrup
Canada’s Finest Maple Syrup makes a 17 ounce maple syrup that’s made from Canadian maple trees and is organically certified.
It’s a darker and more robustly flavored maple syrup, so while it might be a bit complex for people who prefer their sweeteners on the mild side, you’ll love this maple syrup if you appreciate a richer and earthy flavor.
6. Coombs Family Farms Maple Syrup
Coombs Family Farms Maple Syrup makes a very approachable and high quality maple syrup.
If not everyone in your family is ready for deep, robust maple syrup, but you want something that’s a step up from typical store-bought brands, definitely consider Coombs Family Farms Maple Syrup.
7. Butternut Mountain Farm Maple Syrup
Butternut Mountain Farm Maple Syrup comes in a large 32 ounce jug and is produced entirely from maple trees in Vermont.
This rich, amber-colored maple syrup has a deep flavor without being overwhelmingly complex at the expense of sweetness. It’s a versatile maple syrup that’s definitely a step up from your typical store-bought brand.
8. Tristan Foods Canadian Maple Syrup
Tristan Foods Canadian Maple Syrup is a light and particularly sweet maple syrup that’s likely to be well-received by just about anyone.
The primary downsides are that the bottles contain only eight ounces of maple syrup, and the lightness of the syrup means you’re losing some of the complexity and richness that gives maple syrup its distinctive benefits.
9. ChocZero Maple Syrup
If you are on a low-carb or low sugar diet and miss maple syrup, ChocZero has a solution for you. This maple syrup has zero grams of sugar per serving.
How is this accomplished? ChocZero uses a combination of natural maple flavoring, monk fruit extract, caramel color, and liquid vegetable fiber to create a thick, sweet, syrup that’s sugar-free.
Obviously, it doesn’t have nearly the depth of flavor as real maple syrup, and the large amounts of fiber per serving could upset your stomach if you consume a lot of it. Despite these drawbacks, it’s the best option on the market for a sugar-free maple syrup replacement.
10. Highland Sugarworks Pure Maple Syrup
Highland Sugarworks Pure Maple Syrup is a darker and robust maple syrup that’s made from maple trees in Vermont.
While it is not organically certified like many of its competitors, it’s still a decent choice for a larger bottle of a dark maple syrup.
Maple syrup benefits and side effects
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener made from the sap of maple trees, and may be somewhat better for your health than regular sugar.
Even though it sounds like an improvement over white sugar, maple syrup has many of the same drawbacks and only a few slightly redeeming attributes, including some minerals and antioxidants you’d do better to get from real, nutritious food instead of a sweetener.
Maple syrup is less processed than table sugar. The process for making maple syrup is another plus over white sugar, since there are no chemicals involved. The circulating fluids of maple trees (sap) are siphoned off by tapping into tree veins and inserting tubes to carry out the goods.
While buckets may still be used to collect the liquid in smaller operations, modern commercial outfits usually run lines to a central reservoir. (1)
This sweet liquid is boiled down to thick syrup and impurities are filtered out. Once the finished product is free of solids, it’s bottled and distributed.
Maple syrup has been around for centuries; Native Americans in the Northeast used it way back when, and today more than three-quarters of the world’s supply of maple syrup comes from Canada. (2)
In North America, maple syrup comes in two grades. Grade A syrup is broken down into three categories by color: light amber, medium amber and dark amber.
These are usually more expensive, and purchased for direct consumption, like pouring over waffles or pancakes.
The Grade B syrup is very dark, has a stronger maple flavor, and is harvested later in the season, when the sap is more concentrated. It’s often used for baking or other recipes.
The distinct flavor makes maple syrup a popular choice. With adjustments for extra liquid, it can be used to replace sugar in recipes, and has inspired many specialty desserts and beverages because there’s no other sweetener that tastes quite like it.
Not all maple syrup on the market is 100% pure maple syrup. Many syrups are labeled with carefully worded reference to “real maple flavor.”
These may contain various amounts of actual maple syrup or maple sugar, from a dollop to a little more, while delivering most of the sweetness through high fructose corn syrup or other inferior sources.
The truth is, even pure maple syrup is just another form of sugar, and most of us eat far too much sugar as it is.
A full two-thirds of the sweetness in maple syrup comes from sucrose, which is the same as table sugar.
A hundred grams of maple syrup translates to 67 grams of sucrose; it’s still a high glycemic index food at 54, compared with sugar at 65, although it doesn’t jack up blood sugar quite as quickly as table sugar.
In recipes, maple syrup offers about the same amount of sweetening cup for cup as sugar, which would cut total sugar by about a third and add some minerals and antioxidants .
Maple syrup is especially rich in manganese, providing 159% of the RDA for this essential mineral. Manganese is important for bone health, and has been used to treat anemia and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). (3)
The antioxidants in maple syrup offer another slight benefit. Antioxidants play an important role in suppressing free radicals, those unstable electrons that bounce around in our systems, creating oxidative damage, accelerating the aging process, and likely upping the risk for developing certain diseases.
Maple syrup contains several different antioxidants. One study found 24 different antioxidants present in maple syrup, giving it strong anti-inflammatory abilities. (5) The darker maple syrups are a richer source of antioxidants than the lighter ones, so definitely opt for a darker type of maple syrup if you want to take advantage of its antioxidant abilities. (6)
But don’t expect to add any appreciable amount of these helpful substances by going heavy on the maple syrup.
Researchers who studied the question estimated if you replaced every bit of sugar you usually eat with maple syrup, the extra antioxidants you’d get could be matched by a handful of nuts or a half cup of berries. (7)
A few other potentially beneficial substances in maple syrup have been isolated in lab studies conducted by Canadian growing companies, including one named quebecol for the Canadian province producing large quantities of maple syrup.
Active compounds found in maple syrup show potential for slowing the growth of cancerous tumors, as well as inhibiting the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract (8), but this doesn’t mean eating a lot of maple syrup is going to make you healthier.
Minerals and antioxidants aside, maple syrup is another form of sugar, and eating sugar does not contribute to good health. In fact, sugar may be the most detrimental dietary component of all.
Eating excessive amounts of sugar, whether it comes from maple syrup, raw agave nectar, organic cane sugar, or any other kind of sugar, is a fast and efficient way to hurt yourself.
What’s considered excessive? Most American men and teenagers consume more than 300 calories daily from sugars alone, with women typically eating around 200.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends about half that amount as a maximum. (9)
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement in 2015 recommending only 10% of energy intake should come from free sugars, adding that considerable health benefits could be realized by slashing that percentage in half (to about 6 teaspoons daily). (10)
Free sugars refer to added sugars like you’d find in soft drinks, processed foods, table sugar, fruit juices, jam and jelly, honey, and of course, maple syrup.
If you’re going to eat sweetened foods anyway, using maple syrup instead of sugar will cut your total intake by about a third.
But for those who are packing around extra pounds or need to improve metabolic health, including blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, choosing maple syrup as a sweetener won’t make an appreciable difference.
Maple syrup is a slightly better way to add sweetness to your food than table sugar. It adds some manganese to your diet, as well as a wide range of antioxidants. In an absolute sense, the antioxidant power isn’t that strong compared to something like a green superfood drink, but it’s still better than nothing. Even with these benefits, maple syrup is still a sugary sweetener, so you should use it sparingly. The unique flavor of maple syrup makes it an excellent choice for the occasional treat, but the minimal benefits of this natural sweetener don’t justify heavy everyday use.