I Tried 10 Bottles of Maple Syrup — This Is the One Worth the Money

published Oct 26, 2022
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Overhead photo of 5 white plates, each with pancakes and syrup. Forks, bites out of pancakes, on 2 of the plates
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Rebecca Jurkevich; Prop Styling: Paulina Velez

I have my uncle to thank for my strong feelings about maple syrup. He owns a small sugar bush in northern Vermont and I’ve been enjoying his maple syrup for most of my life. It was first gifted to my mom when I was a child and since I started my own family I’ve gotten a gallon or two each year, depending on his yield. It’s golden and delicious and is the perfect partner for morning pancakes, of course, but is also amazing in whiskey sours.

Small-batch, locally boiled maple syrup is hard to beat, but most of us don’t have access to it year-round. I generally run out of my gifted gallon by September, which means that I need a reliable store-bought backup for weekend waffles

Over the years, I’ve tried a handful of big and small brands, looking for a syrup closest to my uncle’s, so I jumped at the chance to test multiple grocery store maple syrups to find out if any brand could beat out my family’s recipe. 

Credit: Meghan Splawn

How I Tested the Maple Syrups 

First, before I even stepped into a store, I asked all my friends (IRL and online) if they had a favorite bottle of maple syrup. Costco’s Kirkland Signature organic maple syrup was the most popular answer. Trader Joe’s maple syrup came in a close second, with an equal split of amber and dark syrup fans. I borrowed a neighbor’s jug of the Kirkland brand maple syrup, pulled a bottle of another store brand from my own pantry, and then went shopping. 

I shopped at a Fresh Market, Walmart, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, sticking to mostly Grade A amber bottles where I could. I also grabbed two bourbon barrel-aged varieties — both of which had super fans that insisted these were the best of the best (spoiler: They were our least favorite).

One Sunday morning, my husband and two kids (ages 7 and 10) sat down and tasted our way through 10 different syrups. I poured the syrup into small cups to make sure we weren’t biased by the bottles. Small tasting spoons, as well as fresh waffles, were provided for tasting. (I used the King Arthur Waffle recipe that Kelli Foster recommended, if you’re curious.) Our goal was to find a syrup we all loved enough to drink (as my 7-year old did) and would happily eat on our favorite breakfast fare. By the end of breakfast, we had a clear winner.

It is worth noting that all of these syrups are made with 100% maple syrup — they don’t have any additives that make one brand better or worse than the others. The slight variance in flavor and thickness comes down to batch size and cooking time. Sap cooked down for longer makes for a thicker more robust flavor in the final syrup. For larger batches, cooking the sap down more isn’t always economical. All this to say, you really can’t buy bad maple syrup!

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Best Maple Syrup: Runamok Sugarmaker’s Cut 

I wrote about Runamok Sugarmaker’s Cut a few years ago when I first found it online. For some time it has felt like a well-kept secret, so I was delighted to find that the Fresh Market near me had it in stock. I honestly didn’t expect it to win this taste test — not when pitted against the beloved Costco jug or the more robust-looking bottles of bourbon barrel-aged syrup. 

Runamok’s Sugarmaker’s Cut has the prettiest light golden hue and a delicate maple aroma. While it looked thin in a glass or on a plate, Sugarmaker’s Cut had the purest maple flavor of any of the samples we tried. We came back to it again and again for dipping each bite of waffle. My son even tipped the sample glass back hoping for the very last dribble drip. 

Buy: Runamok Sugarmaker’s Cut Maple Syrup, $20.95 for 12.7 ounces at Amazon

Credit: Mara Weinraub

Runner Up: Coombs Family Farms

If you’re looking for a more readily available bottle of maple syrup, Coombs Family Farms was another favorite from our taste test and seems to be available at many of the markets I shop. The syrup is consistent in strong maple flavor and isn’t too thick or too thin. It strikes a good balance of sweetness without being cloying and didn’t have any distracting notes of bourbon as some of the aged bottles did.

Buy: Coombs Family Farms Organic Maple Syrup, $10.79 for 8 ounces at Amazon

Do you have a favorite maple syrup brand? A secret love of pancake syrup? Tell us below in the comments!