A favorite breakfast condiment, maple syrup is a tasty way to add a natural unrefined sweetness to all sorts of recipes. But is it safe to eat when you have celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity? In this article we’re discussing the common question – is syrup gluten free?
…and if you need a refresher on what gluten is, check out our Ultimate Guide here.
Whether or not syrup is gluten free depends on the type of syrup. Below we discuss both maple syrup and pancake syrup (or imitation syrup).
The Different Types of Syrups
When looking for syrup, you will come across two main types that sound similar but are really quite different. These two different types can mean the difference between the product containing gluten and being gluten free:
- Maple syrup: Pure maple syrup is a natural sweetener made from sap of the maple tree. The sap is boiled down and reduced until it’s amber in color. The only ingredient in true maple syrup is maple sap or syrup.
- Pancake syrup: Pancake syrup is often sold or served as a substitute for maple syrup and is essentially artificial or imitation maple syrup. Pancake typically contains a number of different ingredients, none of which are real maple syrup. Instead, it contains ingredients like artificial maple flavor, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, preservatives, and gums.
- Agave syrup: Also known as agave nectar, agave syrup comes from the sap of the agave plant. The plant is also known to some as its sugars are fermented to make tequila. Pure agave is gluten free, however, it is not an ideal sweetener. Agave syrup is marketed as a low glycemic sweetener, but it is extremely high in fructose (even higher than pure sugar) which can be detrimental to your metabolic health and may contribute to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
- Cane syrup: Cane syrup is a thick syrup that is made by boiling down cane juice from sugarcane. Pure cane syrup is gluten free. However, we generally do not recommend cane syrup as it lacks any nutritional qualities. An unrefined sweetener like maple syrup, raw honey, or blackstrap molasses can provide certain nutrients with the same sweetening effect.
- Corn syrup: Corn syrup is made by reducing down the starch from corn to form a syrup. High fructose corn syrup is further processed by converting a large proportion of its glucose into fructose using an enzyme. This produces a sweeter substance than corn syrup. Since corn contains its own form of gluten which can trigger a reaction in those with celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity, we recommend avoiding corn syrup in your diet.
Is Maple Syrup Gluten Free?
Typically, pure maple syrup is gluten free since it is made simply with the boiled sap of maple trees. To be sure you have pure maple syrup, look for the words “real maple syrup,” “pure maple syrup,” or “100% maple syrup” on the label. Then double-check the list of ingredients – it should only list maple syrup as an ingredient! If possible, select an organic maple syrup.
A major analysis of naturally gluten free foods found many to be contaminated with gluten. It is important that you are aware that there is always a chance for cross contamination, so be sure to research brands of interest to learn more about their manufacturing processes. If you’re uncertain about anything, ask questions of the company to get clarity around a products gluten free status.
A major analysis of Canadian based maple syrups and products showed that of over 300 products tested, 99% were found to be clean and free of gluten contamination. The brand, Escuminac, is a pure and organic Canadian based maple syrup.
Is Imitation Syrup Gluten Free?
Most imitation syrups are made with a number of artificial ingredients, including corn syrup, which can trigger a gluten reaction. Additionally, some brands are made with malt syrup made from barley, which contains gluten. Therefore, it is best to avoid synthetic syrups and stick to pure maple syrup.
In addition, it is important to ask questions when dining out. Restaurants typically list maple syrup on their menus, but many are actually using a less expensive pancake syrup as a replacement for maple syrup. Restaurants also refill syrup bottles, thus putting patrons at greater risk for gluten cross contamination.
Gluten free recipes with maple syrup
Maple syrup is commonly used as a topping for breakfast dishes like pancakes and waffles, but the truth is, maple syrup can be used in many different recipes. Below are some healthy and gluten free ways to enjoy the unrefined sweetness of maple syrup.
The Bottom Line
Pure maple syrup is gluten free and is a great way to naturally sweeten a variety of gluten free dishes. As always, read labels carefully and avoid imitation syrups like pancake syrup in favor of 100% pure organic maple syrup.