Watch out, pumpkin—this fall it’s time for maple to shine. From maple-flavored lattes to maple sap water, the deliciously sweet flavor is popping up in more places than your grocery store’s breakfast aisle. (And, of course, we still love maple syrup on our pancakes.) Made from the sap of maple trees, pure maple syrup is full of flavor and is an incredible natural sweetener. While maple sugar candies are the common edible form, it can be used for so much more. “You can really sub maple syrup in anywhere you would use sugar,” says Taylor Stinson, a food writer and founder of recipe blog The Girl on Bloor. “You get that hint of maple at the end, but it’s not such a prominent flavor that it overtakes everything else.”
Health Benefits of Maple
Apart from being tasty, the sweet stuff even has health benefits. Pure maple syrup is rich in antioxidants and has a variety of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, manganese, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. There’s even research to suggest it can do long-term good, too.
Researchers found that certain compounds in the natural sweetener might help combat inflammation and support a healthy gut microbiome. Another study suggests that maple syrup can protect against diseases in the brain, particularly Alzheimer’s.
But don’t take these benefits as permission to drown every meal in maple. Because maple syrup is so naturally sweet, you don’t need a lot of it. One teaspoon of syrup contains slightly more calories than granulated sugar, so it’s important not to overdo it. Like any sugar, too much can harm your health goals.
How to Incorporate Maple Into Your Diet
Stinson says her recipes are inspired by seasonal ingredients and trending flavors. During fall and winter, it’s easy to incorporate pumpkin and cranberries into drinks and dishes, but maple also evokes a holiday feel.
“Because it’s fall, I use maple in a lot of cocktails,” Stinson says. “Instead of going through the trouble of making a simple syrup—boiling the water and waiting for it to cool—you just add [maple syrup] right in, and it dissolves pretty easily.” One drink Stinson suggests trying this season is an apple cider cocktail, which is simply apple-flavored cider, lime juice, and maple syrup.
Stinson says maple is also great in marinades, particularly for chicken, and in salad dressings. “My mom used to make this amazing salad dressing that’s balsamic, maple syrup, olive oil, a little bit of Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. It’s really, really good.”
Use it as a sweetener.
As Stinson pointed out, maple syrup can easily replace any sweetener—including sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, and simple syrup—in recipes. Its long shelf life means you can keep a bottle on hand and use it whenever needed, as opposed to buying different types of sweeteners. “I have these meal-prep oatmeal cups, and I use a third of a cup of maple syrup in them,” she says. “A lot of recipe blogs are using maple syrup as an alternative to sugar because it’s better for you, and it’s more of a natural ingredient.”
When it comes to dessert, maple is great in pies, tarts, and breads or on top of ice cream, instead of an artificially flavored chocolate or caramel syrup. You can also play with pouring some syrup on your yogurt (instead of honey) or drizzling some over popcorn, a twist on the caramel-coated variety.
Some advice for new maple-lovers? Keep your recipes simple, and don’t go overboard. “The fewer the ingredients, the better in terms of highlighting the [maple] flavor,” Stinson says. “When you have more ingredients, it’s hard to taste the flavors of everything because you have too much going on,” she explains. “Whereas when you simplify it and keep it to three or four ingredients, all of those flavors are getting the chance to mingle and make something new.”
Here, a few maple recipes to try.
1 serving coffee
1-2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- Pour the cup of freshly brewed espresso into a mug, and stir in the maple syrup. Then spoon in steamed milk.
Crustless Maple Vegetable Quiche
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 cup milk
¼ cup maple syrup
1 small carrot, grated
½ zucchini, grated
½ leek, sliced thin
¼ cup cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Oil a 10-inch quiche pan and coat with breadcrumbs. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, carrot, zucchini, and leek. Add the cheese, and season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the mixture into the quiche pan, and top with cherry tomatoes.
- Bake for 45 minutes.
- Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Cream Cheese Maple Walnut Tartlets
3 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
⅓ cup maple syrup
⅓ cup chopped walnuts
1 package (450 grams) frozen pre-rolled puff pastry sheets, thawed
125 grams (half of 250-gram package) brick cream cheese, cut into 24 cubes
- Heat oven to 375°F.
- Beat butter and sugar in small bowl with mixer for 1 to 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and then syrup until well blended. Stir in nuts.
- Unroll 1 pastry sheet on parchment paper; cut into 12 circles with 3-inch cookie or biscuit cutter. Discard trimmings. Line each of 12 mini muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray with pastry circle, and refrigerate. Repeat with remaining pastry sheets.
- Place cream cheese in each tart shell, pressing lightly onto bottom of shell to secure. Stir nut mixture and spoon into shells. Place muffin tin on foil-covered baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool in pan for 2 minutes before removing from tins to wire racks. Cool completely.
It’s maple season! Embrace the flavor and all its health benefits with these recipes.