Ibrahim Belo Written by Ibrahim Belo

What’s the difference between golden syrup and maple syrup?

Golden syrup and maple syrup may both share the same amber appearance – and certain other characteristics – but they are not the same product. This blog explains the key differences between the two syrups and how these distinctions impact their respective uses.

Golden syrup is mellower and made from sugar

Golden syrup has a unique caramelised flavour that is mellower than maple syrup. It also contains more sucrose than maple syrup and, as a result, has a sweeter flavour.

Side-by-side image of sugar cane on the left and sugar beet on the right. These are the raw materials that golden syrup is made from

Left: sugar cane. Right: sugar beet.

Unlike maple syrup, golden syrup is produced from sugar. It is a derivative of sugar cane and sugar beet, with the former grown in hot, tropical climates, such as South America and Asia, while the latter is grown in temperate climates, such as Europe and North America. Once these crops have been harvested, they are refined into granulated white or raw sugar and only from there can they be manufactured into golden syrup.

You can learn everything you need to know about golden syrup’s production process by watching the below video.

As golden syrup is made from sugar, it can perform several core functions that maple syrup cannot. The most important of these is that golden syrup is a natural preservative and humectant and can therefore act as a shelf-life extender in its various applications. This is because golden syrup is a type of invert sugar, which means the sucrose has been inverted into glucose and fructose, and these independent molecules offer additional functional qualities.

As a result of these capabilities, golden syrup is highly suited to commercial food production, offering manufacturers greater control and commercial viability.

Maple syrup is stronger and made from maple sap

Maple syrup also has a distinctive caramelised flavour but this is noticeably stronger and richer than in golden syrup. This is partially because there is less sucrose present in maple syrup.

Crucially, maple syrup is not produced from sugar. Instead, it is made from the sap of maple trees, which contain natural sugars within – just like honey or even the sap of a daffodil. As such, maple syrup can be produced from sugar maple, red maple and black maple trees. It is worth noting that the vast majority of these trees are grown in the US and Canada, though they can also be grown elsewhere.

Picture of maple syrup production, where maple sap is taken from a forest of maple trees

Maple sap being extracted from sugar maple trees. 

As maple syrup is made from sap, it does not perform the same number or quality of functions as golden syrup. For example, it does not contain high levels of fructose – which is what helps golden syrup act as a shelf-life extender – and this means it is less suited to commercial food production.

Different uses of golden syrup and maple syrup

As highlighted above, golden syrup is more widely suited to commercial manufacture due to its unique functional properties. For example, golden syrup’s humectant properties and ability to withstand higher baking temperatures enable it to be primarily used in bakery and dessert products that require a maximum shelf life, with popular applications including cakes, tarts, biscuits, cookies, flapjacks and pastries.

Close up picture of golden syrup's key uses and recipes: treacle tart and flapjacks.

Key golden syrup uses: treacle tart and golden flapjacks.

But while it is ideally suited to commercial bakery production, golden syrup is of course used in domestic settings too. Consumers in the UK will be familiar with golden syrup lining supermarket shelves in its iconic metal tins – in fact, these metal tins are part of what makes golden syrup the world’s oldest branded food product – and will likely recognise it as the core ingredient in treacle tarts and syrup sponges. On top of these uses, consumers also use it to pour over porridge, fruit and pancakes.

Maple syrup, on the other hand, is not widely used in commercial bakery and dessert production. Instead, it is predominantly used in household settings as a pour over for pancakes, ice cream and fruits. Furthermore, to compensate for its limited functionality in comparison to sugar, maple syrup is often blended with invert sugar to create a more viable ingredient – maple flavoured syrup.

Where does the confusion originate?

It is not hard to identify where the confusion between golden syrup and maple syrup originates. Both products are syrups with the same golden colour and share a similar medium viscosity. Furthermore, both products have naturally occurring caramelised flavours that could be mistaken for each other.

Close-up of golden syrup being drizzled onto pancakes and fruit

Drizzling golden syrup over fruit and pancakes.

But while their appearances might make some consumers think they are the same product, those that examine the two products more closely will see that there are several key differences between them. And in terms of commercial production and price, there is only one winner – pure sugars.

Ragus’ founder, Charles Eastick, invented golden syrup in 1883, meaning our golden syrup expertise and manufacturing capabilities are second to none. To discuss your product requirements or arrange a sample today, contact a member of our customer services team on +44 (0)1753 215424 or enquiries@ragus.co.uk. For more sugar news and Ragus updates, follow Ragus on LinkedIn.