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5 Best Maple Extract Substitute Options

Looking for a delicious maple extract substitute for your sauce or sweets? You’re in luck! We’ve tried and tested the best substitutes for maple extract, from maple syrup to agave nectar.

Made from the concentrated sap of sugar maple trees, maple extract is available in two forms – pure and imitation. It’s a versatile food flavoring that can enhance the taste of baked goods such as cakes, cookies, bars, sauces, and syrups without adding much volume or altering the steps of the recipes. 

But what to do when you don’t have this natural condensed sweetener at home? Whether you just want to enhance your maple frosting or add a depth of sweetness to your cookies, we’ve got you covered with suitable replacements for maple extract in any recipe.

What Makes Up Maple Extract?

Maple extract has a distinctly sweet taste and aroma, commonly used as a food flavoring. It lends a prominent maple flavor and a distinct aroma to recipes. A small taste of maple extract leaves a bitter taste by itself, so like most concentrated extracts, the flavor shines best when used for cooking and baking. 

This tincture can even enhance the maple flavor of syrups, creams, glazes, and batter in recipes. But not all maple extracts are created equal. When looking to benefit from the full flavor of maple extract, look for “pure” on the product’s labeling. It should also read a concentrated percentage of maple sap or syrup in an alcohol base, with little to no other sugars or artificial ingredients. 

Pure maple extract brings all the characteristics of maple to your recipes. It’s delicately sweet, undeniably delicious, and naturally healthier than white sugar. Particularly, maple extract made from natural maple sap tapped during late-winter months boasts nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, polyphenols, and other nutrients. 

Depending on the species of maple sap, there can be as much as 2% sucrose, the predominant sugar in maple sap, in the extract. Classified as a superfood in recent studies, maple extract also aids in lowering blood pressure & boosting immunity and is good for brain and gut health. Enzymes found in maple sap have shown that when consumed, proteins in brain cells are less likely to ‘clump.’ 

Polyphenols in the sap have also been shown to impact the gut and metabolic health. Its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties are linked to preventing both cancer and Type 2 diabetes. While these health benefits sound incredibly alluring, it still contains a high amount of sugar and should be used in moderation. 

Some brands don’t contain maple syrup at all, making products called imitation maple extract. Malt and barley are often used in imitation maple extracts, along with sweeteners like molasses or corn syrup, artificial flavoring, chemicals, wood pulp, glycerin, and alcohol. Though only simulating the flavors of maple extract, it does lend a sweet taste with a bit of an alcohol smell, which can be cooked off.

You can find maple extract in specialty online shops, baking stores, and supermarkets (in the baking section, usually near vanilla extract). When a trip to the store isn’t possible, look for maple syrup as an excellent alternative to your recipe. If you have the time and patience to experiment, this recipe is a good starting point for combining fenugreek, alcohol, and water in a pressure cooker; alternatively, combine equal parts pure maple syrup and alcohol, and store in an air-tight jar for at least 3 days before using. 

How to Use Maple Extract

Maple extract is a natural and convenient way to flavor both savory and sweet recipes. Combine the delicious flavor and health properties of this superfood into your diet, without including a large amount of sugar. In savory dishes, it can enhance maple syrup’s flavor and aroma. 

We often see maple syrup in recipes requiring sweeteners and presenting itself as a healthier substitute. When maple syrup is mixed in a sauce or diluted in liquid, it often loses its flavor. This can be remedied by adding a few drops of maple extract to liven up the maple flavor. 

Maple soy chicken, baked fish, glazed carrots with maple butter, or even baked beans with a hint of maple are incredibly delicious. Enjoy this aromatic, sweet extract to round out the flavor in desserts. It’s delicious in a wide range of sweets, such as ice cream, cakes, fillings, icing, cupcakes, and even bread. 

Maple extract is commonly used in sweet syrups to enhance the delicate flavor. Douse pancakes, waffles, and French toast in this amped-up syrup, as well as add a few drops or up to a teaspoon of the extract into the batter before cooking. This enhances the aroma and sweetness of anything, including cakes and cookies.

Maple extract can also be used as a stand-in for vanilla extract, or to impart more richness to recipes. Use in a 1:1 ratio to the vanilla, or if using both ingredients in a recipe calling for only vanilla extract, use half vanilla and half maple extract. If you don’t have maple extract but want to make a recipe that needs it, read on for our top picks for maple extract substitutions.

cupcake frosted with maple cream cheese frosting

5 Best Maple Extract Substitutes

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup, like maple extract, is made from sugar maple sap that’s been concentrated into a syrupy consistency. It will provide the same great maple flavor, with a few drawbacks. For one, the flavor isn’t nearly as concentrated as maple extract. So if you want to have a prominent maple flavor in your dish, you will need to be able to use a sizable amount.

Using more liquid in your recipe will throw off your ingredient ratio, however; baking is an exact science. So you’ll need to add in more dry ingredients to offset the increase in liquid. Keep this in mind when using maple syrup as a substitute for maple extract. Start with a 1:4 ratio— if your recipe calls for a teaspoon of maple extract, use four teaspoons of maple syrup as a swap.

Vanilla Extract

Consider using vanilla extract as a replacement for maple extract in your recipe. Though it’s not an exact substitute in terms of flavor, we’re including it in the lineup because most pantries will have vanilla extract in stock, and it plays a similar role.

Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor in your baked goods. The real stuff is a liquid-extracted flavoring made from vanilla pods. In some recipes, you can swap one extract for the other without changing the flavor of your recipe. However in some cases, it would be prudent to use it in a 1:2 ratio, then taste it before adding more. You may also add nuts or seeds to add an earthy and warm flavor to your recipe. 


Molasses of any kind are refined sugar cane or sugar beet juices that have been turned into crystallized sugar. A thick syrupy dark liquid is then extracted, forming molasses, also known as treacle (in the UK). If you have molasses at home, you can use this as an alternative to maple extract.

Only use a small amount overall, to keep the texture of the dish as close to the original. Molasses imparts a different strong flavor to baked goods, so you can use this at a 1:2 ratio of maple extract to molasses. 

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is a popular substitute for sweeteners due to its lower glycemic index. When using this as a replacement for maple extract, expect that the taste and consistency will be different. Made from desert plant agave, this natural sweetener can be used in a 1:2 ratio in lieu of maple extract. 

Maple Candy

Maple candy is a sugar candy made by boiling sugar maple sap past the point of it becoming syrup. The liquid is then poured onto clean snow to harden turning it into candy.

Some confections contain high amounts of maple flavoring, which make them a good substitute for maple extract. Taste the candy first to gauge whether the flavor is a close match to maple extract. Utilize this in a 1:5 ratio by melting the candy on a skillet over low heat until it’s liquefied to use in place of maple extract. Add it to your recipe and follow the directions accordingly.

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