What is the difference between syrups and sauces at Starbucks?

Starbucks offers a wide variety of syrups and sauces that can be added to drinks to customize and enhance the flavor. While they may seem similar, there are some key differences between syrups and sauces at Starbucks.

Syrups at Starbucks

Syrups at Starbucks are concentrated, sweetened flavorings that are used to add or complement flavor in drinks. Starbucks offers both classic syrups, which are available year-round, and seasonal syrups, which are only available for a limited time.

Some examples of classic Starbucks syrups include:

  • Vanilla syrup
  • Caramel syrup
  • Cinnamon Dolce syrup
  • Hazelnut syrup
  • Classic syrup (simple syrup)
  • Sugar Free syrups (such as vanilla, cinnamon dolce, hazelnut)

Seasonal Starbucks syrups rotate throughout the year and are usually themed around a holiday or time of year. Some examples include:

  • Pumpkin spice syrup
  • Peppermint mocha syrup
  • Toasted marshmallow syrup
  • Gingerbread syrup

Syrups are an integral part of many Starbucks drinks. They are commonly used in:

  • Lattes
  • Frappuccinos
  • Macchiatos
  • Mochas
  • Hot chocolates
  • Steamers (steamed milk beverages)

Adding syrup provides an extra layer of flavor and sweetness to these drinks. Baristas will pump syrup directly into the cup before pulling espresso shots or building the rest of the drink.

Some popular syrup flavor combinations at Starbucks include:

  • Vanilla latte
  • Caramel macchiato
  • Pumpkin spice frappuccino
  • Hazelnut mocha

Syrups add a sweet, concentrated flavor punch to Starbucks beverages.

Sauces at Starbucks

While syrups are pumped directly into drinks, sauces at Starbucks are thicker fluid toppings that are drizzled or swirled on top of a finished beverage.

Some examples of sauces at Starbucks include:

  • Caramel sauce
  • Mocha sauce
  • White chocolate mocha sauce
  • Dark caramel sauce
  • Pumpkin sauce

Like syrups, sauces are used to complement and enhance the flavor of Starbucks drinks. However, because they are drizzled on top, they add a flavorful finishing touch rather than get fully incorporated into the beverage.

Some popular Starbucks drinks with sauce drizzles include:

  • Caramel macchiato – vanilla syrup in the milk, caramel sauce drizzled on top
  • Mocha – mocha sauce and milk swirled together, then drizzled over espresso shots
  • Pumpkin spice latte – pumpkin sauce drizzled inside the cup before the espresso and milk is added

The thick, fluid consistency of Starbucks sauces allows them to layer nicely on top of foam rather than sinking into the drink. They create a flavored topping that you sip through as you drink the beverage.

Key Differences

While both syrups and sauces add flavor to Starbucks drinks, there are some key differences between the two:

Syrups Sauces
Concentrated, liquid sweetener Thicker, fluid topping
Pumped directly into drinks Drizzled or swirled on top of finished drinks
Integrates into drink Creates a flavored layer on top
Year-round and seasonal flavors Mostly classic flavors available year-round

Syrup vs Sauce Uses at Starbucks

The different consistencies and uses of syrups versus sauces means that they each tend to be used in different Starbucks drink types.

Syrups are commonly used in:

  • Hot espresso drinks like lattes, mochas, macchiatos
  • Frozen blended drinks like frappuccinos
  • Hot chocolate and steamers

The syrups mix well into the milk and espresso components of these drinks.

Sauces are commonly used in:

  • Hot espresso drinks like lattes, mochas, americanos
  • Iced espresso drinks like iced mochas, iced coffee
  • Blended creme frappuccinos

The sauces layer nicely on top of the foam and milk in these drinks without sinking to the bottom.

Adding Syrups and Sauces to Drinks

At Starbucks, baristas are trained on which syrups and sauces pair best with which drinks. However, customers can always customize and ask for syrups or sauces to be added or substituted.

Some tips for adding syrups and sauces:

  • Syrups are added directly to the espresso shot or steamed milk before the drink is assembled.
  • Sauces are drizzled inside cups before pouring espresso shots and milk so they swirl together.
  • For iced drinks, sauces are drizzled on top after the drink is assembled.
  • Usually 1-2 syrups or sauces maximum are added to keep the flavor balanced.
  • Sugar-free syrups are available for low/no sugar customizations.

Some popular customizations include:

  • Adding vanilla syrup to a latte
  • Extra caramel drizzle on an iced coffee
  • Sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup in a cappuccino
  • Mocha sauce in a hot chocolate
  • Subbing mocha sauce for chocolate sauce in a mocha frappuccino

Keep in mind that extra syrups or sauces will add on an extra charge to your drink.

Nutrition Information

When considering whether to add syrups or sauces to your Starbucks drink, it can be helpful to keep the nutrition information in mind:

  • Syrups and sauces significantly increase the sugar and calorie content of drinks.
  • A single pump of syrup adds around 10 grams of sugar and 20 calories.
  • Sauces contain even more sugar, ranging from 14-24 grams per serving.
  • Sugar-free syrups are lower calorie alternatives.

To keep your drink relatively low in sugar and calories, opt for fewer pumps of syrup and easy on the sauce drizzle. Or enjoy them in moderation as an occasional treat.


Adding syrups and sauces to your Starbucks drink does come at an additional charge:

  • Each additional pump of syrup is typically $0.50-$0.75.
  • Extra sauce drizzle is usually $0.50-$1.00.

Some tips to save on customizations:

  • Order the smallest size drink possible to limit the pumps of syrup needed.
  • Ask for light drizzle of sauce instead of extra.
  • Choose sugar-free syrups which are usually the same price as regular.
  • Take advantage of seasonal syrups included in limited-time drinks.


To see exactly what goes into Starbucks syrups and sauces, you can check the ingredients listed on their website or packaging:

Syrup ingredients typically include:

  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Natural and artificial flavorings
  • Salt
  • Potassium sorbate (preservative)
  • Colorings

Sauce ingredients typically include:

  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Condensed nonfat milk
  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • Salt
  • Guar gum or carrageenan (thickeners)
  • Potassium sorbate (preservative)

As you can see, syrups and sauces are primarily made up of sugar, flavorings, and preservatives. So while tasty, they should be enjoyed in moderation.


The availability of Starbucks syrups and sauces depends on the type:

  • Classic syrup flavors are available year-round.
  • Seasonal syrups rotate throughout the year.
  • Core sauces like mocha, caramel, and white chocolate are always available.
  • Specialty sauces like pumpkin, gingerbread, or peppermint are seasonal.

Syrups can always be purchased in-store or online to enjoy at home. Bottled sauces are sometimes available seasonally.

Be sure to try out new syrups and sauces during the limited times they are on the Starbucks menu!

Making Syrups and Sauces at Home

If you love Starbucks syrups and sauces, you can recreate simplified versions of them at home for a homemade Starbucks-style drink whenever you like!

To make a simple coffee syrup, combine:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or other extract

Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool completely before using.

For a caramel sauce, heat together:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Pinch of salt

Whisk constantly over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Drizzle over coffee drinks or desserts.

You can also find many copycat Starbucks syrup and sauce recipes online to recreate their signature flavors!


While it may seem like Starbucks syrups and sauces are similar, they serve different purposes in crafting the perfect coffee drink. Syrups are concentrated sweeteners that incorporate into the layers of the beverage, while sauces are decadent toppings that add flavorful finish. Both allow you to customize your drinks to your taste preferences. Understanding the differences between syrups and sauces at Starbucks can help you get the most delicious drink to fuel your day.

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