What is light syrup in canned fruit?

Canned fruit packed in light syrup is a popular grocery store item, but what exactly is light syrup? Light syrup is a sweet solution that canned fruit is packed in to add flavor and moisture. The term “light” refers to the syrup’s sugar content – light syrup has less sugar than heavy syrups. Understanding light syrup can help consumers make informed choices about the canned fruit they buy. This article will explore what light syrup is, how it’s made, its uses, and how it compares to other fruit packing liquids.

What is Light Syrup?

Light syrup is a mixture of water and sugar used to pack canned fruits. It is lighter and less sweet than heavy syrup, which has a higher concentration of sugar. The exact specifications for light syrup may vary between brands, but generally it contains between 10-20% sugar dissolved in water.

The sugar content of light syrup provides some sweetness to complement the natural flavors of the fruit. The syrup also helps retain the color, texture, and moisture of fruits during the canning process. Compared to fruits packed in water or juice, fruits in light syrup better maintain their quality after prolonged storage.

Common Light Syrup Sugar Percentages

  • 10% sugar
  • 15% sugar
  • 18% sugar
  • 20% sugar

The Code of Federal Regulations provides guidelines for the density and sugar content of syrups used in food products. For light syrup, it specifies a minimum of 15% sugar and minimum Brix measurement of 15° (1). Brix is a measure of sugar content in an aqueous solution.

How is Light Syrup Made?

Making light syrup simply involves dissolving sugar in water. The specific ingredients are:

  • Granulated white sugar
  • Water

To achieve a 15% light syrup, you would dissolve 150 grams of sugar into 1 liter of water and mix until fully dissolved. For a larger volume, use the same ratio of sugar to water.

Light syrup can be made at home for use in homemade recipes. Commercially, light syrup is produced in large quantities for packing canned fruits and other products. Manufacturers carefully monitor the syrup’s density, Brix measurements, and other quality control checks during production.

Tips for Making Light Syrup

  • Use cane sugar or beet sugar
  • Heat the water to help dissolve the sugar
  • Mix thoroughly until sugar fully dissolves
  • Allow to cool before using
  • Store in air-tight containers in the refrigerator

What is Light Syrup Used for?

The primary use of light syrup is for packing canned fruits. Pears, peaches, mandarin oranges, pineapple, mixed fruit medleys, and other fruits are often packed in light syrup. The syrup helps:

  • Retain moisture content
  • Maintain texture
  • Preserve color
  • Add light sweetness
  • Pad and cushion fruits during canning process

Compared to juice or water packing, light syrup better protects the quality of the fruits during months or years of storage before being sold and consumed.

Beyond fruit packing, light syrup sees some other uses:

  • A topping for desserts like cakes, pancakes or waffles
  • An ingredient in cocktails, lemonade, or punches
  • A sweet dip for fruits
  • A base for syrup flavored with herbs, spices, or extracts

Light syrup’s subtle sweetness makes it more versatile than heavy syrup for recipes.

How Does Light Syrup Compare to Other Packing Liquids?

Canned fruits are packed in a range of liquids from water to heavy syrups. Here’s how light syrup compares:

Light Syrup vs. Water

Light Syrup Water
– Contains 10-20% added sugar – No added sugar
– Provides light sweetness – No sweetness
– Helps fruit retain texture – Less effective at retaining texture
– 40-80 calories per serving – No calories

Water-packed fruit has a more subtle, light flavor. Light syrup offers a touch of sweetness and better preservation.

Light Syrup vs. Juice

Light Syrup Fruit Juice
– Consistent mild sweetness – Sweetness and flavor varies
– Added sugar – Natural sugars only
– Helps retain texture – Less effective for texture
– 40-80 calories per serving – 60-90 calories per serving

Juice, such as pineapple or apple juice, adds some natural sweetness and fruit flavor. Light syrup has a more uniform mild sweetness level.

Light Syrup vs. Heavy Syrup

Light Syrup Heavy Syrup
– 10-20% sugar – 20-40% sugar
– Mildly sweet – Very sweet
– 40-80 calories per serving – 100-160 calories per serving

Heavy syrup has a thicker, more sugary taste and higher calorie content. Light syrup offers sweetness with far less sugar.

Selecting Canned Fruit in Light Syrup

When buying canned fruit in light syrup, keep these tips in mind:

  • Check the label: Confirm it is packed in light syrup, not heavy syrup or another liquid.
  • Watch the calories: Light syrup has fewer calories than heavy syrup.
  • Know the fruit: Delicate fruits like pears benefit more from light syrup.
  • Consider added sugar: Canned in juice or water has no added sugar.
  • Get the right sweetness: Choose light or heavy syrup based on your taste.

The label should always indicate if the fruit is canned in light syrup, along with nutrition facts. This makes it easy to find canned fruit packed with the sweetness and calories you desire.

Is Light Syrup Healthy?

Compared to heavy syrup, light syrup is a healthier option with less added sugar and fewer calories. However, syrup-packed fruit has more calories and sugar than fruit canned in water or 100% juice. For the healthiest option, fruit canned without any syrup or sugars provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber without added calories.

That said, fruits canned in light syrup can be part of a balanced diet in moderation. The small amount of added sugar and calories is minimal compared to many other snack foods and beverages. Just be mindful of portion sizes, and balance it with low-calorie foods. Enjoying fruit packed in its own juices or water is recommended for those monitoring sugar intake.

Nutrition Fact Comparison

Here’s how the nutrition facts for canned peaches generally compare per 1/2 cup serving:

In light syrup In juice In water
70 calories 50 calories 30 calories
17g sugar 11g sugar 7g sugar

As you can see, peaches canned in light syrup have more calories and sugar than juice or water-packed. But the differences are fairly small in a typical serving.

Recipes Using Canned Fruit in Light Syrup

Canned fruit in light syrup works deliciously in all sorts of recipes from salads to desserts. The light sweetness and syrup makes it more versatile than fruits packed in water or juice. Here are some tasty ways to use canned fruit in light syrup:

Fruit Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

In a bowl, mix together canned fruits like pineapple, mandarin oranges, and peaches packed in light syrup. Whisk together lime juice, olive oil, honey, and cilantro. Pour over fruit salad and toss to coat. The sweet and tangy dressing complements the light syrup.

Broiled Grapefruit

Cut a grapefruit in half. Top with a maraschino cherry and drained canned mandarin oranges in light syrup. Drizzle with a little syrup from the can. Broil for 3-5 minutes until bubbly and caramelized.

Syrup Soaked French Toast

Dip slices of French bread into a mixture of eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Fry in butter until golden. Top with canned peaches in light syrup diluted with a little maple syrup.

Chicken Waldorf Salad Sandwiches

Mix diced cooked chicken, chopped apple, celery, walnuts, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Spread on whole wheat bread. Top with canned pears packed in light syrup for sweetness.

The possibilities are endless for cooking with canned fruit in light syrup! It provides flavor as well as natural sweetness in meals and snacks.

Storing Canned Fruit in Light Syrup

An unopened can of fruit in light syrup has a very long shelf life of 2-5 years. Once opened, the fruit in syrup should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within a week.

To get the most out of canned fruit:

  • Store unopened cans in a cool, dry place.
  • Refrigerate opened cans and use within 5-7 days.
  • Keep the fruit immersed in syrup until ready to eat.
  • Transfer to an airtight container if not finishing the can.
  • Do not freeze opened canned fruit, the texture will degrade.
  • Discard any cans that are leaking, rusted, bulging or severely dented.

Proper storage helps canned fruit retain quality and avoid spoilage. Fruits packed in light syrup have a slightly shorter shelf life after opening compared to fruits canned in juice or water.

Canning Fruit in Light Syrup at Home

It’s possible to can your own fruits in light syrup at home with some simple kitchen equipment. Here’s an overview of the canning process:

  • Wash glass canning jars and prepare two-piece metal canning lids.
  • Make a batch of light syrup, bringing it to boil.
  • Wash, peel, and slice fruits as desired.
  • Pack jars with raw fruit and hot syrup, leaving 1/2″ headspace.
  • Process the filled jars in a water bath canner for the recommended time.
  • After processing, allow jars to seal and cool completely.
  • Check seals, then store canned fruit in a cool, dark place.

It’s crucial to follow validated canning methods and recipes exactly. The water bath processing step is what ensures the jars are safely sealed and shelf-stable. Refer to trusted sources like the National Center for Home Food Preservation for detailed canning instructions.


Canned fruit packed in delicately sweet light syrup is a pantry staple valued for its convenience, nutrition, and versatility. Light syrup provides just enough added sweetness to complement the natural flavors of the fruit. It also helps retain the texture and moisture compared to water or juice packing. While fruits canned without any syrup are lowest in calories and sugar, enjoying light syrup fruit in moderation can fit into a healthy diet. Understand how to select, store, and use canned fruits in light syrup to make the most of their quality and convenience.

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