Is Maple Syrup Vegan? (5 Problematic Ingredients)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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Maple syrup has proven to be a fantastic substitute for table sugar that many vegans rely on, but some maple syrups can hide unexpected animal ingredients.

So, what should you watch out for when selecting a bottle of this sticky, unique-tasting sweetener? Do vegans eat maple syrup?

As a certified personal trainer, I teamed up with a few colleague fitness experts and a dietitian to fill you in on everything you need to know about possible non-vegan ingredients in maple syrup.

Quick Summary

  • To determine if maple syrup is vegan, check for labels indicating 100% pure or organic, as these are typically free from animal-derived ingredients.
  • Vegan maple syrup avoids ingredients like bone char-processed sugar, animal-derived food colorings and flavors, honey, butter flavor, and animal fat.
  • A study on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website found that twenty-nine percent of respondents believe artificially colored and flavored foods are not harmful and perceive them as more natural.
  • From my perspective, while pure maple syrup is a healthier sweetener choice, vegans need to be vigilant about hidden non-vegan ingredients in some brands.

How to Choose a Vegan Maple Syrup?

If you’ve been racking your brains trying to figure out ‘’is maple syrup vegan?’’ and "do vegans eat maple syrup?", just pay attention to two things. As long as the label says it’s 100% pure maple syrup - it’s the real deal, meaning that maple syrup is vegan. If the label from the specific maple syrup company product also reads ‘’organic’’, you can be sure it’s vegan-friendly.

According to the Vermont Organic Farmers,

‘’Any organic product can only use certified organic vegetable oils in production.’’

- Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, nofavt.org 

A short ingredients list is another factor that makes maple syrup vegan. Kosher brands are usually safe bets, too.

5 Problematic Ingredients

Close up shot of a maple syrup being poured out of a bottle

Through my research and discussions with vegan clients, I've identified common ingredients in maple syrup that raise vegan concerns:

1. Sugar

The production process of white sugar often involves animal ingredients, namely, animal bone char, which is a deal-breaker for many vegans. According to an article found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, refined sugar is a processed product containing 99% sucrose, which is obtained from sugarcane (70%) or sugar beet (30%) [1].

2. Food colorings and flavors

These ingredients are commonly found in all sorts of processed foods, and some maple syrups are no exception. Some of these flavorings and colors may be animal-derived, like castoreum or red food dye that often comes from insects.

According to another study found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, twenty-nine percent of respondents agree that artificially colored and artificially flavored foods are not harmful to health, and they perceive all products as more natural [2].

3. Honey

Another ingredient that most vegans frown upon since it’s extracted from bees.

4. Butter Flavor

Some Pancake Syrups and Maple Syrups don’t qualify as vegan since they contain this milk-derived ingredient. However, some maple syrups that include “butter” in their name are vegan-friendly; and you can find the exact brands in the vegan maple syrup list below.

5. Animal fat

Finally, there have been reports that some maple syrup manufacturers use animal products, such as animal fat, in the process of defoaming the maple tree sap. Still, we were not able to confirm this.

However, keep your eyes open for allergy warnings on your maple syrup bottle such as ‘may contain traces of milk’ or similar as this might be a sign that some dairy-based defoaming substance may have been used on the pancake syrup.

10 Vegan Brands

Vegan maple syrup brands

If you can’t be bothered by checking the ingredients list to make sure your maple syrup is vegan, next time you want to restock on your plant-based sweetener, just pick some of these vegan-certified brands:

  1. Log Cabin Maple Syrup (Original, Sugar-Free, All-Natural, Light)
  2. Mrs. Buttersworth (Original, Sugar-Free, Light)
  3. Aunt Jemima (Original, Sugar-Free, Light, Butter-Lite, Country Rich)
  4. Hungry Jack (Original, Sugar-Free, Light, Butter, Cinnamon Brown-Sugar)
  5. Great Value (Walmart) Pure Maple Syrup
  6. Abbie’s Pancake Syrup (Classic)
  7. Maple Grove Farms Syrup (All Maple Syrups and Pancake Syrups)
  8. Eggo Syrup (Original)
  9. Kirkland Maple Syrup (Original)
  10. Wholesome Maple Syrup (All Varieties)

Whether you’re after a thicker, more robust syrup or a lighter version, high-end or more budget-friendly products, a variety of vegan-friendly maple syrup products will have you covered.

Is It Healthy?

From my professional experience, I can confirm that pure maple syrup, despite being sweeter than table sugar, is a healthier alternative due to its lower glycemic index and nutrient content. I often recommend it to clients looking for natural sweetener options, emphasizing moderation due to its high sugar content.

‘’The glycemic index of maple syrup is around 54. In comparison, table sugar has a glycemic index of around 65. This implies that maple syrup raises blood sugar slower than regular sugar.’’

- Kris Gunnars, BSc, healthline.com 

Maple syrup is also a bit more nutritious than granulated sugar as it contains small amounts of minerals, such as zinc, potassium, and magnesium. It also comes with a couple of antioxidants. Although these are good reasons to add maple syrup to your diet, try not to go overboard with it.

Despite being a healthier substitute to other sweeteners, it’s still loaded with sugar, which is not something you should consume in high doses if you want to avoid diabetes, obesity, and a number of other health issues.

FAQs

How Do Processing Methods Affect the Vegan Status of Maple Syrup?

Some maple syrups are processed using bone char or animal fat to remove foam during boiling, which can make them non-vegan. Vegans need to be aware of these processing methods and choose syrups that avoid such practices.

What Does a Certified Vegan Label Indicate on Maple Syrup?

A certified vegan label on maple syrup assures consumers that the product is free from animal products and byproducts, from tapping to bottling. This certification is particularly important for those following a strict vegan diet.

What Is the Difference Between Maple-Flavored Syrup and Pure Maple Syrup?

Maple-flavored syrup often contains artificial flavors and additives and may not be vegan, whereas pure maple syrup is made solely from maple tree sap and is generally vegan. Consumers should read labels carefully to ensure they are choosing genuine, vegan-friendly maple syrup.

What Non-Vegan Ingredients Are Commonly Found in Commercial Maple Syrups?

Some commercial maple syrups include non-vegan ingredients like added honey or milk-derived butter flavor. Vegans should check ingredient lists for these additives to avoid non-vegan products.

Can You Provide Examples of Vegan and Non-Vegan Maple Syrup Brands?

Vegan maple syrup brands include Butternut Mountain Farm and Coombs Family Farms, which ensure their products are plant-based. Non-vegan syrups, like those containing honey or butter flavor, include brands like Tree Hive Maple Syrup & Honey and Vermont Sugar-free Syrup by Maple Grove Farms.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9519493/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6722695/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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