What does maple syrup taste like?


Much more than a topping for pancakes, maple syrup is a versatile ingredient that serves a natural and delicious alternative to other sweeteners. 

From desserts and hot drinks to cocktails and main courses, maple’s rich taste can be used to enrich a wide range of dishes. 

But what does maple syrup actually taste like? And how can you get the most out of maple in your cooking and baking? Let’s find out! 

What does maple syrup taste like?

Maple has a sweet, distinctive flavour with subtle hints of toffee, caramel and vanilla. Many people describe maple syrup as having floral qualities, with this unique combination of tastes and smells lending itself to a variety of dishes. 

Using a team of professional tasters and sensory evaluation specialists, Agriculture Canada developed a maple flavour wheel that contains no less than 91 different flavours. These range from nutty almonds and hazelnuts to subtly spiced cinnamon and cloves.

The incomparable sweetness and aroma of maple breathe new life into family favourites and traditional recipes.

During the tapping season, the maple flavour grows stronger and more refined as the sugar content of the sap decreases. Depending on its colour and taste, maple syrup is categorised into one of four grades. 

The complexity of the maple flavour is unique to pure maple syrup, derived entirely from the sugary sap found in maple trees. With cheaper ‘maple-flavoured’ blends, heavy processing and the addition of other ingredients weaken maple’s natural flavour.

The different maple syrup grades

The flavour of maple syrup will vary depending on its grade. There are four different maple syrup grades – amber, golden, dark and very dark – with each having its own unique flavour and recommended set of uses.


Golden maple syrup – not to be confused with golden syrup – is synonymous with the start of the tapping season. This is when the antimicrobial activity within the sap is at its lowest, resulting in a sweet, rich taste that is milder than the other grades. 

Suggested uses: 

  • Drizzle over granola 
  • Pour over French toast 
  • Mix into vinaigrettes


Harvested a few weeks into the sugaring season, amber maple syrup has a rich, well-rounded taste that makes it one of the more versatile grades. It’s the perfect middle ground for those who are looking for that classic maple flavour. 

Suggested uses: 

  • Mix into cocktails 
  • Pour over pancakes 
  • Add to iced coffees


As the tapping season progresses, increased antimicrobial activity lowers the amount of sugar in the sap, darkening the colour of the resulting syrup and intensifying its flavour. Dark maple syrup, produced towards the end of the harvest, is described as having a robust taste. 

Suggested uses: 

  • Glaze roast vegetables 
  • Marinate meats and fish 
  • Stir into sauces

Very dark

Very dark maple syrup is harvested at the end of the tapping season when the sap’s sugar content is at its lowest. This creates a strong taste that is often used by chefs and food manufacturers in dishes where the flavour needs to be more pronounced.

Suggested uses: 

  • Mix into doughs 
  • Make glazes for meats 
  • Make maple taffy

Learn more about the different maple syrup grades below.

Maple syrup in cooking and baking

Maple’s sweet, distinctive flavour invites cooking and baking enthusiasts to reinvent a wide range of classic dishes, with the ingredient serving as an excellent substitute for sugar and many other sweeteners. 

The lighter grades are great for drizzling directly over desserts, but they can also be used to enhance sweet doughs, as with these macadamia blondies and this lemon myrtle cheesecake. 

The more delicate flavours lend themselves to many simple sauces and glazes. Amber maple syrup makes a delicious satay sauce for these BBQ chicken skewers, while the golden grade forms a key part of the green chilli sauce in these breakfast tacos. 

Another area in which the lighter grades are generally preferred is drinks. They make for a great addition to iced coffees, as with this vegan vanilla latte, as well as cocktails like our spicy margarita and passion fruit martini.

From drinks and desserts to sides, snacks and mains, there’s virtually no limit to maple’s versatility.

The darker grades are often favoured for glazes, marinades and more complex dishes. Dark maple syrup is ideal for adding to doughs and batters for classic bakes like rum balls, pumpkin pie and cinnamon rolls. 

It’s also used regularly alongside other ingredients to season meats, as with this maple-glazed ham and these jerk chicken burgers. Verk dark maple syrup serves a similar purpose, forming a key part of the glaze for this beef yakiniku and these tamarind chicken wings. 

Whatever you’re looking to make, there really is a grade for every dish!

Maple syrup: a special flavour

Maple has a rich and complex flavour that is truly unique within the world of food. Not only that, but the nuances in flavour that come with each grade make maple one of the most versatile ingredients around.  

Hungry for more recipe inspiration? Want to find more ways to use maple in your cooking and baking? Check out our full range of maple syrup recipes, covering everything from drinks and desserts to snacks, starters and mains! 

Did you know?

Pure Canadian maple syrup is 100% vegan

Pure Canadian maple syrup is 100% natural, so is completely vegan! Packed with vitamins and minerals, maple syrup is an ideal replacement for honey, as well as some refined sugars and artificial sweeteners due to its additional health benefits. 

Maple is a natural sugar containing vitamins and minerals

Pure Canadian maple syrup is a natural product, with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. But did you know it’s also a source of the minerals manganese and riboflavin?

Maple syrup can be used in a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes

Pure Canadian maple syrup can add rich and sweet flavours to almost any meal, with breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes all benefitting from the addition of this natural sweetener.

Hundreds of Delicious Recipes

Maple is a special addition to any recipe, from appetiser to dessert. Find one that’s perfect for you!