We all know and love maple syrup as a breakfast staple, whether drizzled over pancakes, in our coffee, or swirled into oatmeal. But contrary to popular belief, not all maple syrups are created equal. If you’ve ever found yourself standing in the grocery aisle, confused by the different grades of maple syrup, you’re not alone.
As maple syrup producers ourselves, we know the importance of selecting the right syrup for the right occasion. Let’s dive into the different grades of maple syrup available, as well as when to use each.
Understanding Maple Syrup Grading
Throughout the sugaring season, maple syrup’s color darkens and its flavor intensifies, an evolution influenced by environmental factors such as temperature fluctuations and soil composition, as well as the tree’s own biological processes.
Recognizing these variations, the maple syrup grading system has been established to categorize the syrup based on these differences in color and flavor. Grading helps producers standardize their offerings and assists consumers in selecting the right syrup for their purposes. For more about how maple syrup is made, check out our guide.
While previously maple syrup was simply separated into Grade A, produced earlier in the season, and Grade B, produced later in the season, that grading system became confusing and misleading. Now, maple syrup is divided into four Grade A varieties, explained below.
Grade A: Golden (delicate taste)
- Color: Light and clear, has a golden hue.
- Flavor: This grade has a mild, delicate taste. It’s perfect for those who prefer a subtle sweetness without a more robust maple flavor.
- Best Used: Ideal for drizzling over yogurt, fresh fruit, or as a sweetener in desserts.
Grade A: Amber (rich taste)
- Color: Amber
- Flavor: A more pronounced maple flavor than the golden variety, but still not overpowering.
- Best Used: Pancakes, waffles, and other breakfast dishes shine when paired with this grade.
Grade A: Dark (robust taste)
- Color: A deep, rich dark color.
- Flavor: This grade offers a strong maple flavor, making it a favorite for those who love a bold taste.
- Best Used: Excellent in cooking, especially when used in recipes where the maple flavor needs to stand out, such as barbecue sauces or baked goods.
Grade A: Very Dark (Strong taste)
- Color: Almost black in its intensity, formerly classified as Grade B maple syrup.
- Flavor: The boldest of all the grades, this syrup has a strong and intense maple flavor.
- Best Used: Perfect for recipes that require a deep maple flavor, such as in certain meat glazes or stews.
Choosing the Right Grade
Your choice of maple syrup grade largely depends on personal preference and the dish you’re preparing. For example, an amber syrup (our Sugarmaker’s Cut Pure Maple Syrup) might be right for drizzling over your morning stack of pancakes or adding to a vinaigrette, while a darker syrup (our Sugarmaker’s Dark Maple Syrup) might be the better choice for glazing meats or adding to baked goods.