Syrup is a thick, viscous liquid that is commonly used as a condiment or sweetener for foods like pancakes, waffles, French toast, and more. Traditional syrups like maple syrup, corn syrup, and agave nectar contain high amounts of sugar. This has led some people to wonder if sugar-free syrup options exist.
What is syrup?
Syrup is defined as any thick, viscous liquid that is added to foods as a condiment, glaze, or cooking agent to provide sweetness, moisture, and flavor. There are many types of syrups that originate from different sources:
- Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees.
- Corn syrup is made from cornstarch.
- Agave nectar comes from the agave plant.
- Honey syrup is made by dissolving honey in water.
- Fruit syrups are made by reducing fruit juices.
- Flavored syrups like chocolate, caramel, and vanilla are made by dissolving sugar and flavorings in water.
The main ingredients in traditional syrups are sucrose, glucose, fructose, and water. These provide the characteristic viscosity, sweetness, and glossy sheen of syrups. However, they also add calories and carbohydrates, mainly from sugars.
Do traditional syrups contain sugar?
Yes, traditional syrups like maple syrup, corn syrup, agave nectar, and honey syrup contain significant amounts of sugars like sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Here is the typical sugar content per serving:
- Maple syrup: 12-15g sugar per 2 tablespoon serving
- Corn syrup: 16g sugar per 2 tablespoon serving
- Agave nectar: 12-20g sugar per 1 tablespoon serving
- Honey: 17g sugar per 1 tablespoon serving
The sugar content gives these syrups their characteristic sweet taste. The sugars also influence texture and viscosity. Sugars like sucrose form sticky, viscous solutions when dissolved in water. The higher the sugar content, the thicker the consistency of the syrup.
Do flavored syrups contain sugar?
Yes, flavored syrups like chocolate, caramel, vanilla, and coffee syrups get a large percentage of their sweetness from added sugars. These flavored syrups are popular for coffee drinks, milkshakes, ice cream sundaes, and cocktails. Here are some typical nutrition facts per 1 tablespoon serving:
|Syrup Type||Total Sugars|
|Chocolate syrup||12-16 grams|
|Caramel syrup||14-18 grams|
|Vanilla syrup||12-15 grams|
|Coffee syrup||15-18 grams|
These flavored syrups are primarily made from corn syrup or invert sugar syrup along with flavorings, colorings, and preservatives. So the majority of their calories and carbohydrates come from added sugars.
Are there sugar-free syrup options?
Yes, there are some syrup options made with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar to reduce the calorie and carbohydrate content. These are considered “sugar-free” or “no sugar added” syrups. Some examples include:
- Maple-flavored syrups: Made with maple flavoring instead of true maple syrup. Sweetened with sugar alcohols like sorbitol or artificial sweeteners like sucralose.
- Pancake syrups: Made with corn syrup or maltodextrin as a base, and sweetened with nutritive sweeteners like fructose or non-nutritive sweeteners like sucralose.
- Flavored coffee syrups: Made with a sugar-free simple syrup base sweetened with sucralose, then flavored.
Maple-Flavored Sugar-Free Syrup
Maple-flavored sugar-free syrups provide the taste of maple without the sugar content of real maple syrup. They are made with:
- Maple flavoring – provides distinctive maple taste
- Sugar alcohol like sorbitol or maltitol – provides sweetness with fewer calories than sugar
- Cellulose gum or xanthan gum – provides viscosity and thickness
- Sucralose or aspartame – additional non-nutritive sweeteners
- Food coloring
Brands like Walden Farms, Maple Grove Farms, and DaVinci offer sugar-free maple-flavored syrups. A 1⁄4 cup serving may have about 15 calories and 4g of carbs compared to 200 calories and 44g of carbs in real maple syrup.
Sugar-Free Pancake Syrup
Sugar-free pancake syrups provide the thick, viscous texture and sweet taste of regular syrups without sugar. They are made with:
- Liquid sweeteners like corn syrup, maltodextrin, or erythritol syrup
- Cellulose gum for viscosity
- Sucralose or aspartame for sweetness
- Maple, vanilla, or other flavors
- Caramel color
Popular brands like Walden Farms, Mrs. Butterworth’s, Log Cabin, and Maple Grove Farms make sugar-free versions. A 1⁄4 cup serving may have about 15-45 calories and 5-15g carbs compared to 200 calories and 44-52g carbs in regular syrup.
Sugar-Free Flavored Coffee Syrups
Flavored coffee syrups can be made sugar-free by using:
- Sugar-free simple syrup base – water plus erythritol or sucralose
- Natural and artificial flavorings
- Fumaric acid for tartness
Popular brands like Torani, DaVinci, and Skinny Syrups offer sugar-free versions of coffee flavorings like hazelnut, vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon. A 1 tablespoon serving may have around 5 calories and 1g of carbs compared to 20 calories and 5g of carbs in the regular sugar-sweetened versions.
Benefits of sugar-free syrup
Some benefits of using sugar-free syrup include:
- Fewer calories – Sugar-free syrups can have 90% fewer calories than regular syrups.
- Less added sugars – Sugar-free types contain little or no added sugars.
- Lower carbohydrate – The carb content can be up to 90% less compared to regular syrup.
- Diabetes friendly – The reduced carbs and sugars may help control blood sugar.
- Tooth friendly – The non-nutritive sweeteners won’t promote tooth decay like sugar.
- Weight loss – The lower calories can help reduce overall calorie intake for weight loss.
Using sugar-free syrup allows you to flavor foods like pancakes and coffee with less impact on blood sugar, weight management, and dental health.
Downsides of sugar-free syrup
Some potential downsides of sugar-free syrup include:
- Artificial sweetener aftertaste – Sugar substitutes like sucralose may have an unpleasant aftertaste.
- Gastrointestinal effects – Sugar alcohols can cause bloating and diarrhea if over-consumed.
- Less thick texture – The texture may be slightly thinner than regular syrup.
- Not ideal for baking – Sugar-free syrups don’t perform as well for baking.
- Higher price – Sugar-free syrups sometimes cost more than regular syrup.
- Contains additives – They are more heavily processed with sweeteners, thickeners, and preservatives.
The artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols may cause digestive issues in sensitive individuals. And some people dislike the taste compared to regular syrup.
Ingredient substitutes in sugar-free syrups
Sugar-free syrups use a variety of substitute ingredients in place of sugar to provide sweetness, texture, and flavor:
|Sucrose||Aspartame, sucralose, stevia, sugar alcohols like erythritol|
|Glucose syrup||Maltodextrin, corn syrup solids|
|Honey||Maple or brown rice syrup|
|Fruit juice concentrate||Natural flavorings|
|Molasses||Maple flavoring, caramel color|
These substitute ingredients mimic the texture, viscosity, and flavor impact of sugars and syrups but with fewer calories and carbs.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It provides sweetness without calories or carbs. Common brands are NutraSweet and Equal.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is about 600 times sweeter than sugar. Popular brands are Splenda and SugarTwin.
Stevia comes from the stevia leaf and is up to 150 times sweeter than sugar without calories or carbs. Common stevia-based sweeteners are Truvia and Pure Via.
Sugar alcohols like erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol provide about half the sweetness of sugar with fewer calories and carbs. Large amounts can cause digestive upset.
Maltodextrin is a lightly sweet carbohydrate made from corn, rice, or potato starch. It provides texture and body similar to corn syrup without the intense sweetness.
Corn syrup solids
Corn syrup solids are made from dehydrated corn syrup. They provide viscosity, body, and some sweetness.
Maple and brown rice syrup
Maple syrup and brown rice syrup provide neutral, mildly sweet flavors along with texture in sugar-free syrups.
Overall, these sugar-free substitutes allow syrups to maintain the expected taste, texture, and pourability while reducing sugars.
Natural low-sugar syrup options
Some syrups made with natural ingredients are lower in sugar than traditional syrups, though not completely sugar-free:
- 100% pure maple syrup – Has about 13g sugar per 2 tablespoons versus commercial syrups with 16-20g.
- Maple syrup blends – Maple syrup blended with coconut sugar, dates, or monk fruit to reduce overall sugar content.
- Honey – Has slightly less sugar than maple syrup at 17g per tablespoon.
- Fruit syrups – Made from whole fruit juice concentrates which provide natural sugars.
While not sugar-free, these syrup options made with less-processed natural ingredients provide incremental reductions in sugar content for a more natural approach.
Best sugar-free syrup uses
Some of the best uses for sugar-free syrup include:
- Pancakes and waffles – Top your breakfast carbohydrates without adding more sugar.
- Oatmeal – Sweeten your bowl of oats.
- Yogurt parfaits – Mix into Greek yogurt along with fresh fruit.
- Coffee drinks – Add flavors like vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut to coffee without the sugar crash.
- Smoothies – Blend sugar-free syrup into smoothies for extra sweetness.
- Cocktails – Rimmer cocktail glasses with sugar-free flavored syrups.
- Baked goods – Use small amounts in baking for sweetness without affecting texture.
- Ice cream and desserts – Drizzle over desserts like ice cream sundaes.
The syrup consistency makes it easy to incorporate small amounts of sugar-free sweetness into both foods and beverages.
There are several syrup options on the market that provide the familiar thick, pourable consistency and sweet taste of syrup without the added sugars. While not exactly like regular syrup, sugar-free syrups made with non-nutritive sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and other substitutes allow you to flavor pancakes, waffles, coffee, and other foods with a significantly lower impact on blood sugar and weight. Some trial and error may be needed to find a sugar-free syrup with an acceptable taste and texture for your preferences. But the wide range of options makes it possible to find a reduced-sugar syrup alternative for most dietary needs.