As we have mentioned in our article “Is maple syrup a pure substance?”, many people use pancake syrup as an alternative to pure maple syrup. In fact, pancake syrup is purchased annually by thousands of families in the United States. It is particularly popular for breakfasts of all types. While it may be a more affordable or accessible option than pure maple syrup, pancake syrup does not compare to its genuine counterpart in terms of taste and quality. Truth be told, if you look at it closely, they are both very different products apart from the purpose they are generally used for. Indeed, there are many differences between them and I will try my best to explain them to you.
Firstly, you need to understand what pancake syrup really is. While it may look like the original, its goal is simply to mimic the flavor and texture of real maple syrup, and that is why it has to go through a lot of processing. That is right: without all the additives it contains, it has nothing to do with the real deal. In fact, most of the pancake syrup products found on store shelves are made from corn syrup and, therefore, contain no maple syrup at all. In order for corn syrup to be produced, corn starch has to be extracted from corn kennels and then combined with water. The starch is then heated and mixed with chemical enzymes; the longer this step, the sweeter the corn syrup produced will be. This manufacturing process completely transforms the raw material as a bunch of artificial additives and flavors are added. This is a huge difference compared to the process through which goes pure maple syrup. The methods used for its production require a lot of time and efforts and are much more natural than those used for pancake syrup. At first, maple water is extracted from maple trees and it is then boiled to create pure maple syrup. That is as far as pure maple syrup goes in terms of transformation and its environmental impact is thus less important than its lower-grade alternative.
The differences in those methods might explain the pricing variation between the two of them. As you might have noticed, pure maple syrup is generally higher-priced than its corn alternative. While pancake syrup is relatively inexpensive to produce, it takes approximately 40 gallons of maple water to create one gallon of pure maple syrup. The evaporation process used to make maple syrup is fastidious as it has to reach the perfect color, texture and flavor. If the maple syrup fails to meet the precise requirements of both the industry and the producer, it simply cannot be sold. For example, I know the quality control to which our syrup must submit is very rigorous, and only the best batches can be bottled to be sold. The additional work the producers have to put in also justifies the higher cost of the pure maple syrup. Plus sugar season comes only once a year, whereas pancake syrup can be produced all year.
If you were to compare a bottle of pancake syrup and one of pure maple syrup, you would notice a great contrast between the two lists of ingredients. Pure maple syrup only contains one ingredient: maple syrup. Pancake syrup, on the other hand, generally has an extensive list of additives – the first ingredient often being corn syrup and the second, high-fructose corn syrup. Other ingredients like salt, caramel color and various chemicals are also often found in pancake syrup.
Consequently, pancake syrup and pure maple syrup also differ in terms of health and nutrition. Sure, both are used as sweeteners and have some calories to them, therefore they should be consumed in reasonable amounts. Even then, pure maple syrup remains a much healthier option if you truly care about what you eat. It contains tons of minerals and antioxidants such as calcium, potassium and iron, and may also help prevent cancer, which is not the case for its cheaper alternative. Not only is pancake syrup an over-processed product, it would not exist without the help of the various chemicals used for its production. Even worse, one of its main ingredients – high-fructose corn syrup – has been linked to obesity and diabetes, as well as to many heart diseases.
As a strawberry-flavored candy is different from the real thing, the flavor of those two products is obviously not the same. Pure maple syrup has much tastier and richer hints to it, as it is truly reminiscent of its very natural origins. For instance, I find the maple syrup produced by my colleagues has a sweet, irresistible mountain taste, which reminds me of the Sugar Loaf where their maple trees grow. Pancake syrup, to the contrary, has a plainer, more industrial flavor and is not as enjoyable as purer forms of syrup. According to many people, the liquid texture and the beautiful, deep yellow color of the real thing are also more interesting.
In the end, there is nothing wrong with being used to pancake syrup, especially if you are on a budget. Simply keep in mind that pure maple syrup might be a more suitable option if you wish to treat your family to the best syrupy products available.