What are natural syrups?

What are syrups?

Syrups are thick, viscous liquids that are made by dissolving sugar or another sweetener into water. They are used to sweeten a variety of foods and beverages, adding flavor and texture. Syrups are made by combining sugar and water and heating them together until the sugar dissolves. The ratio of sugar to water determines the thickness and sweetness of the syrup. Traditionally, syrups are made from natural sources like fruits, vegetables, grains, tree saps, and honey. Maple syrup, agave nectar, and molasses are examples of natural syrups.

What makes a syrup “natural”?

A natural syrup is one that is made from plant-based ingredients, without any artificial additives or preservatives. The primary ingredients in natural syrups are:

– Fruit juices and purees – berries, citrus fruits, stone fruits like peaches or cherries are commonly used. The fruit is crushed and cooked to extract the flavorful juice.

– Vegetables – carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, and tomatoes can be used to make savory syrups.

– Grains like rice, barley, or wheat are cooked down into a thick, sweet syrup.

– Tree sap or coconut palm nectar – maple syrup being the most popular example. Sap is collected and boiled down to concentrate the sugars.

– Honey – Made by bees from flower nectar. It has a distinctive flavor depending on the flowers.

– Herbs, spices, and flowers can also be infused into syrups to add flavor.

The key is that the ingredients are plant-based, minimally processed, and do not have any chemical additives. Preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and high fructose corn syrup are not considered natural.

Types of natural syrups

Fruit syrups

Popular natural syrups are made from fruit juices which are strained, sweetened, and reduced into a thick concentrate. Common fruit syrups include:

– Berry syrups – strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry syrups have a sweet, intense fruit flavor.

– Citrus syrups – orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit syrups taste refreshing.

– Stone fruit syrups – peach, cherry, apricot, plum syrups are delicious drizzled over desserts.

– Exotic fruit syrups – passionfruit, guava, dragonfruit, lychee, and mango syrups.

– Apple syrup and pear syrup are tasty in baking applications.

Fruit syrups pair well with yogurt, pancakes, waffles, ice cream, and cocktails. The fruit can be fresh or frozen. Lightly cooking the fruit helps release the juices.

Vegetable and herb syrups

In addition to fruit syrups, vegetables and herbs can be used to produce flavorful syrups:

– Spiced ginger syrup, excellent mixed into coffee or tea
– Sweet onion syrup for glazing meats or adding to dressings
– Rosemary infused syrup, nice addition to lemonade
– Thyme syrup to drizzle on cornbread or biscuits
– Lavender syrup for making floral lattes and desserts
– Roasted garlic syrup to enhance the flavor of soups and savory foods
– Jalapeno pepper syrup to add heat and sweetness to a dish
– Beet syrup has an earthy, rich flavor for salad dressings
– Carrot syrup brings natural sweetness

Herb and veggie syrups add an intriguing savory note to both sweet and savory recipes. They can be made by simmering chopped fresh or dried herbs in a simple syrup mixture.

Tree and plant syrups

– Maple syrup, made from the sap of maple trees, has a distinctive flavor loved on pancakes and in baking.

– Agave nectar comes from the agave plant, with a mild taste similar to honey. Popular sweetener for vegans.

– Palm syrup derived from the sap of coconut palms. Rich, caramel-like taste.

– Sorghum syrup comes from a cereal grass. It has a robust, molasses-like flavor.

– Rice malt syrup is made by fermenting rice and has a neutral, mildly sweet taste.

Tree syrups provide an unrefined, low-glycemic natural sweetness with their own unique flavors.


Honey is a gift of nature, produced by bees from flower nectar. With over 300 unique varieties in the US alone, honey is prized for its aromatic, regional flavors. Common honeys include:

– Clover honey – popular, mildly sweet honey.
– Orange blossom honey – citrusy, light honey.
– Wildflower honey – flavor varies based on the flowers.
– Buckwheat honey – dark, hardy flavor.
– Tupelo honey – buttery, vanilla-tinged honey.
– Manuka honey – rich, complex honey with healing properties.

Honey makes a delicious natural syrup on its own or infused with spices, citrus, herbs, and more. It brings a distinct, irreplaceable flavor to recipes.

Other natural sweeteners

Some other less common natural syrups and sweeteners include:

– Brown rice syrup – made from fermented brown rice, with a malted flavor.
– Barley malt syrup – earthy, molasses-like syrup from barley.
– Yacon syrup – low glycemic sweetener made from a Peruvian root.
– Lucuma powder – caramel-flavored powder from a tropical fruit.
– Monk fruit syrup – zero-calorie sweetener made from monk fruit.
– Stevia syrup – intense sweetness from the stevia leaf.

These alternative natural sweeteners allow creativity and variety in recipes calling for syrup.

Benefits of natural syrups

Natural syrups made from plants offer a range of potential benefits compared to conventional pancake syrups made with corn syrup:

Greater nutritional value

Syrup made from fresh fruit provides vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. For example, maple syrup contains over 24 beneficial compounds like zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Herb syrups offer polyphenols and aromatic plant compounds. Honey contains enzymes, amino acids, and antioxidants. Overall, natural syrups offer more nutrients than plain refined sugar syrup.

Lower glycemic impact

The fiber and plant compounds in natural syrups help slow the rate of sugar absorption compared to corn syrup, resulting in a lower glycemic response. This helps prevent blood sugar spikes. Agave nectar, maple syrup, and yacon syrup, in particular, have lower GI values.

More distinctive flavors

Syrups derived from fruits, grains, sap, and herbs have distinctive, complex flavors you can’t replicate artificially. The terroir and unique traits of plants impart subtle flavors that reflect the growing region.

Artisanal appeal

Many natural syrups are produced on a small scale, like a microbrew. There is craftsmanship involved in harvesting sap or juicing fresh fruit that adds value. Consumers appreciate the artisanal, small-batch origins.

Sustainable harvesting

Natural syrup production can support sustainable agriculture and local food systems when growers use eco-friendly practices. For example, maple syrup production protects maple forests.

Avoid artificial additives

With natural syrups, you don’t get artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives that are potentially harmful. You get pure, unadulterated sweetness.

Uses for natural syrups

Natural syrups can be substituted for conventional pancake syrup, corn syrup, or plain white sugar in any recipe. Popular uses include:

Pancakes and waffles

The most common use for syrup is pouring it over pancakes, waffles, crepes, and French toast. Fruit syrups, honey, and maple syrup are delicious breakfast toppings.

Oatmeal and porridge

Drizzle your favorite syrup into oatmeal, porridge, or chia pudding to add comforting sweetness and moisture.

Yogurt parfaits

Stir syrup into yogurt or layer it into parfaits along with granola and fresh fruit. Syrup soaks into yogurt nicely.

Baking recipes

Use a natural syrup in place of granulated sugar or corn syrup in cookies, cakes, muffins, bread, and bars. It adds moisture and sweetness.

Cocktails and drinks

Sweeten up cocktails, lemonades, teas, and coffee drinks with a splash of herb-infused or fruit syrup.

Fruit salads

Drizzle berry or citrus syrup over mixed fruit salads. Or make a simple syrup and add chopped fruit to macerate.

Dessert toppings

Ice cream sundaes, cakes, and pies all benefit from the sweet tang of fruit or maple syrup as a topping.

Glazes and sauces

Brush syrup onto meats, desserts, and pastries to add a glossy sweet layer. Or simmer into a sauce.

Energy balls and bars

Add sticky sweetness to no-bake energy bites and bars with syrup. It helps hold the ingredients together.

Selection and storage

Read the label

When purchasing syrup, read the label closely to verify the ingredients are natural, with no artificial additives. Pure maple syrup will be labeled as such.

Know the different grades

Maple syrup has grade classifications, with Grade A Dark Color/Robust Taste being the strongest flavor. Honey may be labeled by flower source, raw or pasteurized. Know what you are buying.

Buy local if possible

Local syrups at farmer’s markets offer the freshest, seasonal flavors. You can also customize the ingredients.

Avoid added preservatives

Many major brands add preservatives to extend shelf life. Look for preservative-free syrup if you want to avoid additives.

Consider organic

Organic syrups use organic plant ingredients, free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Store in the refrigerator

For longest shelf life, keep opened syrup bottles in the fridge to prevent fermentation.

Freeze for longer term

You can freeze syrup in airtight containers to preserve flavor for months. Thaw in the fridge before using.


Natural syrups made from fruit, sap, honey, and herbs provide a flavorful, wholesome alternative to artificial pancake syrups. Benefits include greater nutrition, artisanal appeal, and avoiding additives. Feel free to substitute natural syrups into any recipe that calls for regular syrup or sugar. With some advanced planning and smart storage, these syrups can be enjoyed year round. Drizzle your favorite natural syrup on pancakes or waffles for a sweet start to the day.

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