We never miss an opportunity to satisfy our sweet tooth at breakfast time, which is why both pancakes and waffles just look plain silly when there’s no maple syrup around. An even bigger problem occurs when there is maple syrup around, but it’s been hanging out for so long that you’re not sure you can trust it. So, does maple syrup go bad? Spoiler: The answer is yes…but not for quite a while.
What is maple syrup?
We all know it as a staple of a good, indulgent brunch—but what is maple syrup exactly? The International Maple Syrup Institute tells us that this rich and decadent sauce is made from the “slightly sweet” sap of the Maple tree, which is then turned into an oh-so sweet concentrate by way of heat and evaporation. Don’t worry, though—no trees are harmed as a result of your hankering for pancakes, since the sap is collected using “small, tree-friendly spouts.” (Aw.)
Does maple syrup go bad?
According to the New York State Maple Producers Association (i.e., folks who know a thing or two about maple syrup) this sugary, delicious substance does indeed go bad. Per the experts, “Maple syrup is a natural food, and like all natural foods [it] can be subject to spoilage if not properly stored.”
Not only does this make sense, but it’s also sort of comforting to know that maple syrup can actually spoil (because let’s be honest, no one ever looked at a Twinkie the same after learning that it could survive the apocalypse) but adherence to storage guidelines is an easy solution to said problem.
How long can maple syrup last?
Although maple syrup can spoil, it’s probably one of the least suspect things in your fridge or pantry. Maple syrup is actually pretty hardy and will stay fresh for a very long (i.e., indefinite) period of time, under any conditions, until you break the seal. Indeed, the experts confirm that “maple is packed hot, and is preserved until opened.” So, there you have it—if you haven’t breached that bottle of maple syrup, you have nothing to fear.
If you don’t know where you stand with that already opened bottle of pancake sauce but can’t stand the thought of chucking it out on instinct, we don’t blame you; after all, high-quality maple syrup is a rather big ticket item as far as groceries go. Fortunately, an opened container of maple syrup still boasts a pretty solid shelf-life. Once opened, the stuff should be stored in the refrigerator where it will stay fresh for up to six months. If you suspect that you’ll be hanging onto your maple syrup beyond that, your best bet is to store it in the freezer—yep, that’s actually a thing you can do—where it will be safe until the end of time. In fact, the freezer might as well be your go-to storage spot for maple syrup since the liquid will not freeze solid and is sure to stay fresh.
How to tell if maple syrup has gone bad
Opened or unopened, the number one warning sign of spoiled maple syrup is the presence of mold. The pros tell us that even an untouched bottle of maple syrup that shows signs of mold should be discarded—so if you see some funky growth going on, don’t try to skim it and hit it. The good news is that mold is really the only indication of spoilage you’re likely to encounter when it comes to maple syrup, and it’s fairly hard to miss.
Can I eat expired maple syrup?
If you have stored your maple syrup properly—in the fridge once opened or in the freezer after six months—you needn’t put too much stock in the expiration date. These dates are fairly arbitrary and are really only there to indicate peak quality. In other words, the expiration date is not a safety measure so much as it is a means of covering the manufacturer’s behind, should you be dissatisfied with the product. Long story short: Yes, you can use expired maple syrup—provided you have followed the aforementioned storage guidelines and there is no mold present.
OK, my maple syrup is bad—what can I use instead?
So, you had big plans for that maple syrup...until you realized it was growing mold (ew). The good news is that there are substitutes for maple syrup that will work in most recipes. When baking, 1 cup of molasses or regular granulated sugar can be used to replace 1 cup of maple syrup—but if you go with granulated sugar, be sure to increase the liquid ingredients by ¼ cup as well. As for pancakes and waffles, honey doesn’t have that maple flavor, but it is every bit as sweet and delicious.
5 ways to enjoy maple syrup (beyond pancakes)
Now that you know the maple syrup in your fridge is most likely still safe for human consumption, it’s time to put it to work. Here are just a few ideas for using up that liquid gold.
- Dorie Greenspan’s maple syrup and mustard brussels sprouts
- Baked pears with maple syrup and almond crumble
- Dijon-maple chicken with brussels sprouts and butternut squash
- Maple French toast breakfast sandwich
- Maple pecan icebox cookies