I posted a recipe yesterday that got me thinking. It was adapted from a whole food recipe I’ve been making forever for blueberry pecan baked oatmeal. The original recipe is made with maple syrup, but I wanted the new recipe to be made with brown sugar.

So I worked out the conversion from maple syrup to brown sugar and I thought it might be helpful for you too, since understanding ingredient substitutions can really up your cooking and baking game. So, let’s break this down.

A small bowl of brown sugar with a spoon in it sitting with a jar of maple syrup.

Understanding the Differences

Maple Syrup: Derived from the sap of maple trees, maple syrup offers a rich flavor profile with hints of caramel and vanilla. Its viscosity can vary, depending on the grade, making it a versatile addition to both sweet and savory dishes.

Brown Sugar: A blend of white sugar and molasses, brown sugar has a moist texture and a distinct caramel-like taste. It’s available in light and dark varieties, each different depths of flavor to recipes.

Similarities and Compatibility

Despite their differences, maple syrup and brown sugar share key characteristics that make them interchangeable in many recipes:

  1. Sweetness: Both sweeteners provide sweetness to dishes, though with varying intensities. Their shared ability to sweeten recipes makes them good substitutes for one another (in most cases).
  2. Moisture Content: Maple syrup and brown sugar contribute moisture to recipes, influencing the texture and consistency of the final product. This aspect is particularly crucial in baking, where moisture levels can impact the outcome significantly.
  3. Caramel Flavor: Thanks to the caramelized sugars and molasses content, both sweeteners offer hints of caramel flavor. This shared profile makes them compatible in dishes that benefit from a touch of caramel sweetness.
A small bowl of brown sugar with a spoon in it sitting with a jar of maple syrup.

Substitution Guidelines

Now that we’ve established the similarities between maple syrup and brown sugar, let’s talk about how to substitute one for the other effectively:

Maple Syrup to Brown Sugar:

When replacing maple syrup with brown sugar in a recipe, follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Ratio: For every cup of maple syrup, substitute 1 cup of packed brown sugar. Keep in mind that brown sugar is denser than maple syrup, so it’s essential to pack it firmly when measuring.
  2. Adjust Liquids: Since maple syrup is a liquid sweetener, you’ll need to adjust the liquids in your recipe accordingly. Reduce the amount of other liquids, such as water or milk, by approximately 3 to 4 tablespoons per cup of maple syrup replaced.
  3. Consider Flavor: While brown sugar shares similar caramel notes with maple syrup, it lacks the maple flavor.. To enhance the flavor profile of your dish, consider adding a dash of vanilla extract or a pinch of cinnamon when substituting brown sugar for maple syrup.

Brown Sugar to Maple Syrup:

When substituting brown sugar with maple syrup, follow these guidelines:

  1. Ratio: For every cup of brown sugar, substitute ¾ cup of maple syrup. Since maple syrup is sweeter and more flavorful than brown sugar, you’ll need less of it to achieve the desired level of sweetness.
  2. Adjust Dry Ingredients: Since maple syrup adds moisture to recipes, you may need to reduce the amount of other wet ingredients or increase the quantity of dry ingredients slightly to maintain the proper consistency of your dish.
  3. Consider Texture: Keep in mind that maple syrup is a liquid sweetener, whereas brown sugar has a granular texture. Depending on the recipe, this difference in texture may affect the final outcome, particularly in baked goods. Be prepared for potential adjustments in baking time and temperature.

My Final Thoughts

By understanding the differences and similarities between maple syrup and brown sugar, as well as following these super easy substitution guidelines, you can seamlessly interchange these two sweeteners in your favorite recipes when needed (or better yet, when wanted).

Whether you’re whipping up a batch of cookies, glazing a roast, or sweetening your morning oatmeal, with a little know-how, the swap between maple syrup and brown sugar is both effortless and delicious.


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  1. This is just what I was looking for. Great explanation, Kristine!

    1. Hi Melanie! Thank you so much, I’m glad you found it helpful. Happy baking! 🙂