One of the best parts of travel is enjoying the local flavors. And maple syrup is such a big deal in Vermont that it was named the Green Mountain State’s state flavor in 1994. While you might immediately link Vermont maple syrup to pancakes, this sticky delight can do so much more to bring a taste of Vermont to your kitchen.
In the northeast corner of the United States, Vermont is known for meme-inspiring Bernie Sanders, delicious Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and amber-colored pure maple syrup. But while this naturally gluten-free and vegan-friendly sweetener is best known as a pancake topping, it is so much more. Whip up condiments, dress a salad, glaze main dishes, and more with these Vermont maple syrup recipes.
A special thanks to my friends at Branon Family Maple Orchards in Fairfield, Vermont, for sending me a box of delicious maple syrup products from their environmentally friendly, family-owned sugarbush to try.
How is Maple Syrup Made?
Once a maple tree has grown to about a foot in diameter, it can be tapped for sap. (Surprisingly, it can take 40 years to get there!) Maple syrup makers drill a hole in the tree and collect sap in either a bucket or via a tube that connects the flowing sap into the sugarhouse.
Maple sap starts to run when the daytime temperatures rise above freezing and drop back below freezing at night. In the largest maple syrup-producing state of Vermont, this window typically lies between mid-February and mid-March.
As the collected sap is mostly water, with only one to four percent sugar content, the water must be evaporated to convert the sap to syrup. In the sugarhouse, this process begins by pushing the sap through a reverse osmosis machine to extract a portion of the water. Then the liquid is heated, evaporating more water and causing the sap to thicken. Once the syrup reaches its boiling point, it is ready to be graded and bottled.
Fun Fact: It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
Vermont Maple Syrup Grades
When you think of maple syrup grades, you may picture a bowl of alphabet soup, not because Vermont maple syrup would taste good stirred into the tomato-based dish accented with pasta letters, but because maple syrup used to be classified as Grade A, Grade B, and Grade C.
In 2014, Vermont awarded an A rating to all of the syrups that give the state its official flavor and introduced a more descriptive grading system. Now, instead of memorizing the difference between the old letters, the Vermont maple syrup grades clearly define how the syrup looks and tastes.
- Golden Color with Delicate Taste – best maple syrup for pouring over pancakes and waffles or stirring into yogurt
- Amber Color with Rich Taste – with its richer flavor, this is the best maple syrup to sweeten coffee and tea
- Dark Color with Robust Taste – this maple syrup is the best choice for glazed ham and grilled salmon
- Very Dark Color with Strong Taste – nearly black, this Vermont maple syrup is a good substitute for molasses
Fun Fact: A year after Vermont introduced its new grading system, the USDA adopted the same maple syrup grades.
Maple Syrup Benefits
Unlike white sugar, which offers little nutritional value, maple syrup naturally includes minerals like calcium, manganese, potassium, and magnesium. It also contains antioxidants, which have been shown to help prevent cancer, support the immune system, lower blood pressure, and slow the effects of aging. While it’s still a sweetener that contains 52 calories per tablespoon, substituting maple syrup for corn syrup, honey, brown sugar, or white sugar delivers more health benefits per bite.
10 Ways to Enjoy Vermont Maple Syrup (Besides Pancakes)
1. In Your Morning Joe (or Cuppa Tea)
Whether you prefer cold coffee “brewed” in the fridge overnight or a hot cup fresh from your Keurig, sweetening your favorite coffee (or tea) with maple syrup will kick off your day with more minerals (and antioxidants) than other popular options.
While it’s easy to drizzle a little Vermont maple syrup into your coffee or tea at home, that’s a lot harder when you’re on the road. Most hotel breakfast buffets and restaurants only offer granulated sugar and occasionally honey (and the honey is usually refined to a point of no return). As a traveler, I love the new Maple to Go! product from Branon Family Maple Orchards. These 3.4-ounce, TSA-compliant pouches of USDA-certified, organic, Grade A amber/rich Vermont maple syrup topped with a resealable, no-mess twist cap make it easy to travel with real maple syrup.
Breakfast Drink Recipes with Maple Syrup
2. As a Condiment, Spread, or Dipping Sauce
Here in Kansas City, we love our barbeque. And one of the things that makes our regional version unique is the sauce. But did you know that most barbeque sauces — including the spiciest — typically contain at least four to six grams of sugar per serving, with some brands packing in eight grams of sugar per tablespoon? And what’s worse, the store-bought varieties often use high-fructose corn syrup. In fact, it’s the number one ingredient in this popular brand.
Condiment, Jam, and Dipping Sauce Recipes with Maple Syrup
3. To Dress a Salad
Before we talk about salad dressing, let me ask you this: Have you heard of mason jar salads? If not, you’ll want to keep reading, because they are life changing! In one fell swoop, you can wash, dice, and chop an entire batch of mix-and-match salads that stay fresh in your fridge all week. At mealtime, simply dump the jar onto a plate or into a large bowl and dig in! The greens will be at the bottom, followed by all of your favorite toppings, and the dressing tops it all off. And, whether you select romaine lettuce, spinach leaves, kale, or another option, the salad greens will stay crisp and fresh for a full week!
Sage Advice: You can turn any salad into a mason jar salad by simply layering the ingredients into a mason jar in the order above. 32-oz, wide-mouth mason jars work best for mason jar salads.
Salad Dressings Made with Maple Syrup
From drizzling over fresh tomato chunks and diced cucumbers to creating the bottom layer of a mason jar salad, these quick and easy salad dressings include maple syrup:
Sage Advice: For an added twist, substitute the balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar in the last two recipes with organic maple bourbon vinegar.
If you want to try these maple syrup dressings in mason jar salads, here are some of my favorites:
Note: The numbers below indicate the order in which the ingredients should be layered into your mason jar per my handy-dandy graphic above.
Mediterranean Mason Jar Salad
- Easy maple tahini dressing (recipe link above)
- Cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onion
- Romaine lettuce
Fall Mason Jar Salad
- Maple bacon vinaigrette (recipe link above)
- Thinly sliced apples and pears plus diced celery
- Blue cheese crumbles and chopped walnuts
- Belgian endive
Summer Mason Jar Salad
- Maple bacon vinaigrette (recipe link above)
- Sliced strawberries, mango chunks, and/or grilled pineapple
- Goat cheese and pecans (try these candied pecans)
- Butter lettuce or spinach
4. Sweeten A Side Dish
Whether you like them whole, sliced, cubed, or whipped, maple syrup always pairs well with sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash. But have you tried maple syrup with brussels sprouts? While my kids have always been good eaters, the sometimes bitter taste of these mini cabbages often turned them off. Drizzling them with a touch of maple syrup (and bits of bacon), allowed my kids to give them a second chance.
Side Dishes Made with Maple Syrup
From veggies to starches, try maple syrup in these delicious side dishes:
5. Stir Vermont Maple Syrup into Soup
Because maple syrup pairs well with root vegetables — like carrots and sweet potatoes — and squash — like acorn and butternut — it’s a natural fit for pureed soups from those same ingredients.
Soups Made with Maple Syrup
6. As a Marinade or Glaze
Because our family tends to follow a pescetarian diet, we love brushing a maple syrup glaze over salmon. But there are so many other ways to use maple syrup as a glaze, from marinating chicken to building a bowl of sticky maple ginger tofu!
Recipes with Maple Syrup Glaze
From pork to poultry and salmon to tofu, these mouthwatering recipes use maple syrup to marinate or glaze main dishes:
- Maple Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops
- Grilled Pork Chops with Apple Bacon Jam
- Instant Pot Pecan Glazed Ham
- Maple Glazed Ribs
- Maple Grilled Chicken Kabobs
- Maple Dijon Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner
- Maple Bourbon Smoked Chicken Quarters
- Maple Balsamic Roasted Duck
- Bacon-Wrapped Maple Baked Cornish Game Hen
- Sheet Pan Salmon with Asparagus
- Sticky Maple Ginger Tofu Noodle Bowl
- Seitan Stir-Fry
And of course, don’t overlook the incredible chicken and biscuits that accompany the maple-butter dipping sauce I mentioned in tip #2 above!
7. To Manage the Munchies
From running my daughter to dance team practices and tennis matches all week to winding down by binge watching Netflix, these maple syrup snacks help us manage the munchies when we’re on the go or chilling at home.
Snack Recipes with Maple Syrup
From adding a little sweetness to nuts to transforming basic popcorn to anything but boring, these snack recipes include maple syrup:
8. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
From bread and muffins to cake and cookies, you can substitute maple sugar and maple syrup for other less-nutritive sweeteners in your favorite recipes.
One of the easiest ways to make the swap is by using an equal amount of granulated sugar made from organic Vermont maple syrup in lieu of white sugar. You can also substitute maple syrup for other sugars. For each cup of white sugar, brown sugar, honey, or corn syrup, use ¾ cup of maple syrup and reduce other recipe liquids by ¼ cup.
Desserts with Maple Syrup
From pies and cakes to ice cream and donuts, these recipes have already replaced some or all of the sweetness with maple syrup:
- Homemade Cherry Pie Filling
- Maple Brown Sugar Bourbon Blackberries
- Maple Grilled Peaches with Fresh Mint
- Cranberry Blueberry Maple Crisp
- White Chocolate Blondie Sundaes with Maple Sauce
- Gluten-Free Maple Vegan Blondies
- Maple Pecan Baklava
- Maple Syrup Cheesecake
- Vegan Pear Cake
- Maple Snickerdoodles
- Maple Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Cake Pop Maker Maple Bacon Cake Balls
- Coconut Blueberry Ice Cream
- Maple Chocolate Zucchini Donuts
- Banana Maple Donut Holes
9. To Quench Your Thirst
These non-alcoholic beverages featuring Vermont maple syrup are a delicious way to wet your whistle and please non-drinkers or the under-21 crowd.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks Made with Maple Syrup
10. To Cap Off Your Night
The last delicious way to enjoy Vermont maple syrup is to mix or stir it into your favorite adult beverage. From a refreshing margarita to a grown-up milkshake to a soothing Old Fashioned, these are the best cocktails featuring maple syrup.
Cocktails with Maple Syrup
- Thanksgiving Margaritas
- Maple Bourbon Milkshake
- Maple Stout Float
- Maple Champagne Cocktail
- Maple Old Fashioned Cocktail
- Spiced Maple Old Fashioned
- Peach-Maple Bourbon Smash
- Whiskey Orange Juice
- Maple Bourbon Cider
And no list of Vermont maple syrup recipes would be complete without mentioning a Bernie Paloma, the grapefruit juice, tequila, maple syrup, and lime cocktail named after Senator Bernie Sanders.
Frequently Asked Questions About Vermont Maple Syrup
How Much Maple Syrup Does Vermont Produce Each Year?
Producing more than two million gallons of maple syrup a year, Vermont maple syrup farms supply the US with roughly half its maple syrup.
Does maple syrup need to be refrigerated?
Until it’s opened, maple syrup is shelf stable and does not need to be refrigerated. But once it’s opened, maple syrup should be tightly sealed and refrigerated.
How long does maple syrup last?
According to the USDA, unopened maple syrup will last up to a year in your pantry, and opened maple syrup will last at least a year in the refrigerator. However, some maple syrup producers state that their products will last up to two years when refrigerated after opening. As long as the maple syrup appears to look, smell, and taste normal, it’s typically okay to consume.
Does maple syrup go bad?
Unlike honey, one of the only foods that doesn’t spoil, maple syrup can go bad. If your maple syrup is approaching its expiration date, or if you’re not certain it’s been properly refrigerated since it was opened, first check for mold or other obvious signs of spoilage. If everything looks fine, then smell and taste the maple syrup. If it passes this test, then it’s good to go!
Is maple syrup vegan?
Yes! Real Vermont maple syrup is the perfect sweetener for vegans who don’t want to consume honey (because it is produced by bees) or processed sugar.
Is maple syrup gluten free?
Yes, pure maple syrup is naturally gluten free.
Can dogs have maple syrup?
As long as you’re stirring pure maple syrup into Fido’s homemade dog treats, it is an excellent source of manganese and zinc. But carefully read the label before using imitation maple syrup. It can contain xylitol, a common sugar substitute for humans, which is extremely toxic to dogs.
What’s Your Favorite Way to Enjoy Pure Maple Syrup?
Beyond topping your pancakes, what is your favorite way to enjoy pure maple syrup? Any favorite recipes to pass along? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
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