Is Karo pancake syrup the same as corn syrup?

Karo pancake syrup and corn syrup are two common pantry staples used for sweetening and cooking. While they share some similarities, there are important differences between Karo syrup and corn syrup in terms of ingredients, nutrition, flavors, and best uses.

The Main Ingredients in Karo and Corn Syrup

The key ingredient in Karo pancake syrup is corn syrup. Corn syrup is made from corn starch that has been broken down into glucose through an enzymatic or acidic process. The main ingredients in traditional Karo light or dark pancake syrups are:

  • Corn syrup
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Salt
  • Preservatives
  • Color and flavorings (in dark karaoke syrup)

So in essence, Karo syrup is a blend of corn syrup and other additives to make it thicker, prevent spoilage, and enhance flavor. On the other hand, plain corn syrup contains just one or two ingredients:

  • Corn syrup
  • Preservatives or stabilizers in some brands

While Karo syrup uses corn syrup as its main component, it isn’t exactly the same thing as pure corn syrup. Key differences include:

  • Karo syrup contains high fructose corn syrup, while plain corn syrup does not.
  • Karo syrup has more added preservatives, salt, and flavorings.
  • Plain corn syrup comes in different grades and viscosities, while Karo is formulated to have a thick, pourable consistency.

Nutritional Profile

Since the main ingredient in Karo pancake syrup is corn syrup, their nutrition facts are quite similar. However, Karo syrup contains a few additional ingredients that alter the nutrition profile slightly.

Karo Nutrition Facts

A 2 tablespoon (30ml) serving of original Karo pancake syrup contains:

  • 105 calories
  • 0 grams fat
  • 4 mg sodium
  • 29 grams carbohydrates
  • 24 grams sugar
  • No protein, fiber, vitamins, or minerals

Corn Syrup Nutrition Facts

A 2 tablespoon (30ml) serving of corn syrup contains:

  • 110 calories
  • 0 grams fat
  • 3 mg sodium
  • 29 grams carbohydrates
  • 24 grams sugar
  • No protein, fiber, vitamins, or minerals

As you can see, the nutrition information is nearly identical. The main differences are that Karo syrup contains a tiny amount of added salt, resulting in 1 extra mg of sodium per serving compared to plain corn syrup.

Flavor Profiles

In terms of taste, Karo pancake syrup and corn syrup have some similarities but also some distinct differences.

Karo Syrup Flavors

Karo pancake syrup comes in three main flavor varieties:

  • Original – Sweet, neutral flavor without any molasses taste
  • Dark – Deeper, more caramelized flavor with molasses taste
  • Lite – Extra sweet flavor, made with a blend of corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup

Corn Syrup Flavor

Plain corn syrup has a relatively neutral, mildly sweet flavor. It does not have the more robust caramel/molasses taste of dark Karo syrup. The corn syrup flavor is also not as sweet or viscous as Karo lite syrup.

Overall, Karo syrup has more complex, stronger flavors depending on the variety, while corn syrup alone is simpler with a light sweetness.

Best Uses

Due to their different properties, Karo pancake syrup and corn syrup each shine in certain recipes and applications.

Best Uses for Karo Syrup

  • Pancakes, waffles, French toast
  • Sweet glazes for ham, chicken, roast pork
  • Pecan pie, sweet potato pie, chess pie, and other desserts
  • Candy making and confections
  • Adding flavor to smoothies or milkshakes

Best Uses for Corn Syrup

  • Commercial and homemade candy production
  • Dips, sauces, salad dressings, marinades
  • Canning jams and jellies
  • Baked goods and desserts
  • Ice cream and sorbet

In summary:

  • Karo shines in pancakes and waffles, for pouring over foods, and in desserts.
  • Corn syrup is preferred commercial and homemade candies, dips, dressings, baking, and ice cream.

Price Comparison

When comparing prices, Karo syrup tends to be a bit more expensive than plain corn syrup:

Product Typical Price
Karo Original Syrup – 16 fl oz $2.50
Karo Dark Syrup – 16 fl oz $2.50
Karo Lite Syrup – 16 fl oz $2.50
Corn syrup – 16 fl oz $1.50

Since corn syrup is simpler with fewer ingredients, it costs less per ounce. But Karo syrup offers more complex, robust flavors that justify the slightly higher cost for some consumers.


Karo pancake syrup and corn syrup can both be found in the baking aisle of most major grocery stores. However, availability may vary in different regions.

Karo syrup is produced by ACH Food Companies which distributes it widely across the United States. But it may be harder to find in limited international markets.

Corn syrup can be found with relative ease in the United States and Canada. Plain corn syrup may be harder to source in Europe and other regions where glucose syrup is more common.

Potential Health Concerns

Both Karo pancake syrup and plain corn syrup get their sweetness from processed glucose and sugars. Like most sugary foods, they should be enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet.

Potential health impacts of overconsumption may include:

  • Weight gain
  • Increased triglycerides
  • Elevated blood sugar
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Linked to certain cancers
  • May contribute to fatty liver disease

Karo syrup contains added salt, so those monitoring sodium intake may want to take that into account. Both products have minimal nutritional value beyond carbohydrates and sugars.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Controversy

Some brands of Karo pancake syrup contain high fructose corn syrup as an additional sweetener. There are conflicting studies on the health effects of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) versus regular corn syrup and sugar.

Some key considerations:

  • HFCS and corn syrup have nearly identical amounts of fructose and glucose.
  • Table sugar (sucrose) is 50% fructose and 50% glucose bonded together.
  • HFCS has been associated with increased weight gain vs. sucrose in some studies, but findings are mixed.
  • Too much added sugar from any source should be limited.

Overall, HFCS does not appear to be uniquely harmful compared to other added sugars. But moderation is still key, especially for those concerned about blood sugar control or weight management.

Specialty Diets

Here are some key considerations for Karo syrup and corn syrup with popular diets and food restrictions:

Keto/Low Carb Diets

Karo syrup and corn syrup are very high in carbs and sugar, so they should be avoided or minimized on low carb and keto diets.

Paleo Diet

These processed syrups would not be paleo compliant since they come from modern grain processing methods.

Gluten-Free Diet

Karo pancake syrup and plain corn syrup are naturally gluten-free products.

Diabetic Diet

Due to their high glycemic index, Karo and corn syrup in large amounts could cause blood sugar spikes and would need to be accounted for in a diabetic meal plan.

Vegan Diet

Karo syrup and corn syrup are both vegan friendly products.

Vegetarian Diet

These syrups would also be suitable for ovo-lacto vegetarian diets.

Substitutes and Alternatives

For those looking to replace Karo pancake syrup or corn syrup, here are some substitutes to consider:

Karo Syrup Substitutes

  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Fruit syrups like strawberry, blueberry, or cherry
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Coconut nectar

Corn Syrup Substitutes for Baking

  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Coconut sugar
  • Granulated white sugar plus water or other liquids

Depending on the application, substitutes like honey, fruit syrups, or brown rice syrup can provide similar sweetness and texture in recipes.


Karo syrup and corn syrup share similarities, as Karo uses corn syrup as its main ingredient. But Karo pancake syrup also contains HFCS, preservatives, salt, and flavorings that make it different than plain corn syrup.

In terms of nutrition, Karo and corn syrup are nearly identical – both provide calories mainly from sugars. For taste, Karo offers more flavor variety while corn syrup is more neutral. And each works better for certain recipes based on their thickness and sweetness.

Both products should be used in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Substitutes like fruit syrups, honey, and maple syrup can provide lower glycemic alternatives in some recipes.

Overall, while Karo pancake syrup contains corn syrup, it isn’t the same as pure corn syrup due to the additional ingredients blended in. But both can add sweetness to foods in different ways when used properly.

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