Homemade Pancake Syrup Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • A tiny amount of brown sugar is all you need for a rich and complex flavor.
  • Cream of tartar acts as a catalyst for acid hydrolysis, breaking a portion of the sucrose into fructose and glucose and making this syrup wonderfully smooth and thick.
  • Baking soda neutralizes the cream of tartar's acidity, so the syrup tastes deep and rich rather than tart or tangy.

I'd like to tell you I'm the sort of person who's tasted her way through every sugar shack in Vermont, that I know a guy who knows a guy across the border, that I skip past lesser grades in pursuit of the elusive "Canadian No. 3." I want to say those things because they're so much more romantic than the truth of my childhood in Kentucky, where Home Milling Company (formerly known as Aunt Jemima) was the norm.

To my picky, picky, much-put-upon palate, that sweet and simple supermarket syrup was bliss. Not so much because of its flavor, but because of the utter lack thereof—sticky, uncomplicated perfection that transformed my Eggos into a saccharine delight. While I've cultivated somewhat more discerning tastes through the years, I've never quite outgrown my nostalgia for the glorious neutrality of "Original Syrup" (as all such products are properly styled).

Which is why I've invested an obscene amount of time and sugar in perfecting the replacement you see here. Because, no, that isn't maple syrup in the photo above. It's awarm, made-from-scratch syrup of my own. Not brown sugar simple syrup. Not caramel. Not treacle, corn syrup, or molasses, just a quick combination of pantry staples assembled on the fly.

It's easy and cheap enough to make you think twice about ever settling for mass-market syrup again, and unbelievably handy in a pinch. Even if you're the sort of die-hard whosmuggles maple syrup into your favorite diner, there are surely times you've found yourself between bottles of BLiS.

To make emergency pancake syrup, I start out by assembling what beekeepers would call a heavy syrup—one part water and two parts sugar by weight. A half ounce of that comes from brown sugar, adding a whisper of malty color and complexity without any domineering notes of caramel or molasses. There's plenty of salt for balance, and a little cream of tartar, too.

It's simmered until it's incredibly thick, during which time the cream of tartar serves as a catalyst for acid hydrolysis, a process that breaks down a portion of the sugar (pure sucrose) into molecules of glucose and fructose. These highly soluble monosaccharides help the super-saturated syrup resist crystallization, keeping it silky-smooth. Without cream of tartar, the syrup would recrystallize in a matter of minutes.

The downside is that cream of tartar has an acidic flavor, sharp and bright in a way that seems totally weird. So, in the final stages of cooking, when the acid has done its job, I throw in a pinch of baking soda (an alkali). It foams up furiously in response, neutralizing the acidic flavor in a steamy burst of carbon dioxide.

Technically speaking, that should be that. I've made up a syrup that's deliciously rich and thick. Trouble is, it'ssothick, all that carbon dioxide can't actually escape, clouding the amber syrup with a million tiny bubbles.

The problem may be strictly cosmetic, but it's easily cleared away with a splash of water.

That loosens the syrup enough for the gas to escape, and then, a moment later, the extra water is cooked away. With its luscious consistency restored, I season the syrup with a touch of butter and a few drops of vanilla, giving it a subtle but rich aroma perfect for everything from pancakes to French toast.

After it cools to an edible temperature, the syrup's ready to be served...or bottled up!

From there, you could slip a cinnamon stick or an empty vanilla pod into the jar, or even a bourbon barrel chip if you're feeling fancy. But for me, the syrup's charm lies within its childlike simplicity—a clean yet earthy sweetness that brings out the best in my favorite waffles, letting their inherent flavor shine.

Since the syrup isn't fully inverted (which would require an industrial setting), it may show some crystallization if refrigerated over a period of time, much like an old jar of honey forgotten on the shelf. In my experience, this is a very subtle thing, no more than a thin layer of sugar along the bottom of the glass. It's easily avoided because it sticks to the bottle, but, should any crystals happen to slip through, they'll be quickly warmed away.

Homemade Pancake Syrup Recipe (2)

So, whether your heart belongs to maple or Mrs. Butterworth, don't let a lack of syrup derail the breakfast of your dreams! With this recipe in your repertoire, sweet salvation is at hand.

April 2016

Recipe Details

Homemade Pancake Syrup Recipe

Serves6to 8 servings

Makes12 ounces


  • 5 ounces water(1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons; 140g)

  • 9 ounces granulated sugar(1 1/4 cups; 250g)

  • 1 3/4 ounces light brown sugar(3 tablespoons; 50g) or 1/2 ounce dark brown sugar (1 tablespoon; 14g) (see note)

  • 3/4 teaspoon (3g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight

  • 1/4 teaspoon (1g) cream of tartar

  • Scant1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 ounces water(1/4 cup; 55g)

  • 1/4 ounce unsalted butter(1/2 tablespoon; 7g)

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Combine water, sugar, brown sugar, salt, and cream of tartar in a 1-quart stainless steel pot. Place over medium heat and stir with a fork until bubbling hard around the edges, about 5 minutes. With a damp pastry brush, wipe all around the sides of the pot to wash down any visible sugar crystals. Clip a digital thermometer to the pot and cook the amber syrup until it registers 234°F (112°C), about 8 minutes.

    Homemade Pancake Syrup Recipe (3)

  2. Immediately stir in the baking soda with a heat-resistant spatula (the syrup will bubble vigorously), followed by the remaining portion of water. Continue cooking until the syrup returns to 234°F (112°C), about 2 minutes longer. Pour into a Pyrex measuring cup to halt cooking, then stir in butter and vanilla. Cool to a safe eating temperature, about 100°F (38°C), and serve. Cover leftovers as soon as possible to prevent syrup from forming a skin and refrigerate up to 3 months in an airtight container.

    Homemade Pancake Syrup Recipe (4)

Special Equipment

1-quart stainless steel pot, pastry brush, digital thermometer, heat-resistant spatula


You'll be surprised at how intense a touch of dark brown sugar can be, so don’t add more than a half ounce until you’ve made a batch for yourself. For light brown sugar, you’ll need about three times as much to get the same malty flavor.

Homemade Pancake Syrup Recipe (2024)


What is pancake syrup made from? ›

Pancake syrup is typically made from high fructose corn syrup and/or corn syrup. If you've seen brands like Mrs. Butterworth's or Log Cabin on a store shelf, those are both popular pancake syrup brands.

What is the best alternative for pancake syrup? ›

Honey is the closest match and will work with a 1:1 substitution. The flavour profile of honey tends to be more aromatic and floral than maple syrup but it does have it's own characteristic flavour which can be equally appealing.

How to make long lasting simple syrup? ›

According to Camper English of Alcademics, the shelf life of simple syrup can be lengthened two ways: upping the ratio of sugar to water, or adding neutral spirit. The difference is surprising. Simple syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar to water) will only stay good for about a month.

What is the best thickening agent for syrup? ›

Make a 1:1 ratio of cornstarch and water.

Mix them together with a spoon until they form a gritty paste. Cornstarch is a thickening agent that won't change the flavor of your syrup.

How do you make syrup that doesn't harden? ›

So the answer is the length of time spent heating the sugar and water solution, which makes the syrup. To prevent the crystals from forming you need to prolong the heating or cooking time. Instead of just bringing the sugar and water to a boil you need to simmer it covered for 10 minutes.

How is Aunt Jemima syrup made? ›

Originally Answered: Is there any maple syrup in Aunt Jemima? Don't think so. The first two ingredients are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, followed by water, cellulose gum and caramel color.

What syrup does IHOP use? ›

Does IHOP have real maple syrup? Generally no, IHOP only serves a chemically synthesized and sweetened syrup with artificial coloring and flavors. However of the 1400 locations in the US, there is one in South Burlington, VT that serves real maple syrup. As New Englanders, we unfailingly bring our own.

What is Aunt Jemima pancake syrup made of? ›


How do you thicken homemade pancake syrup? ›

To thicken your pancake syrup you can also add a little extra sugar. Thicker syrups tend to have lots and lots of sugar. Another commonly used method for thickening syrup is mixing in a cornstarch slurry. Mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch with 1 teaspoon of water and add the mixture to your syrup while it cooks.

What is the primary ingredient in most pancake syrup brands? ›

In contrast, pancake—or table—syrup is a highly processed product. The primary ingredient is corn syrup and/or high-fructose corn syrup. Some experts suggest that high-fructose corn syrup may be processed differently by the body than other types of sugar, while others say that there's little difference.

What is the closest thing to simple syrup? ›

If you're looking for a simple syrup substitute, there are three favorites you probably have right in your home: honey, maple syrup and agave. For honey or agave, add warm water to them, to help turn the mix to syrup. You can also use a sweet, juicy fruit, like an orange.

What is the formula of simple syrup? ›

Traditional simple syrup is made from one part water to one part sugar (1:1). White granulated sugar is the standard sweetener, but once you've mastered that basic base, feel free to experiment with different sugars, while being sure to keep the ratio the same.

Does homemade simple syrup last? ›

Most homemade simple syrups are good for one to six months, depending on how much sugar is in them, explains Tales of the co*cktail: simple syrup made with a one-to-one ratio of sugar to water is usually good for about a month, while rich simple syrup, made with a two-to-one ratio of sugar to water, should be good for ...

Why is my homemade syrup hard? ›

Stirring or bumping the pot can result in sugar clumping together and hardening into crystals. If you're making syrup with water, stir the sugar into the water to fully dissolve it before you add heat. Use a clean spoon every time you need to stir. The same goes for candy thermometers and any utensils.

What makes syrup thicken? ›

Boil it more. Maple syrup is typically boiled down to 219 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have syrup that was boiled to less than that, or you like your syrup thicker than standard, just put it in a pot on the stove and boil it to your desired temperature. 240 degrees will get you maple syrup candy.

How do you harden syrup? ›

Heat a volume of maple syrup till the temperature is about 40° F above the boiling factor of water (to 252° F). Remove from warmth and being stirring immediately. When the syrup starts offevolved to thicken and sugar crystals form, pour the partly crystallized syrup into molds to harden.

Is homemade simple syrup supposed to be thick? ›

Rich simple syrup means that you're using more sugar than water to create a richer syrup. It has a 2:1 ratio and is sweeter and thicker. You can also make a simple syrup with equal parts (1:1) of sugar and water. It will be a little thinner, and it will add just a touch of sweetness to your drinks.

What is a thick syrup called? ›

Golden syrup – or light treacle (also known as "Refiner's Syrup"), is a thick amber-coloured form of inverted sugar syrup made in the process of refining sugar cane or sugar beet juice into sugar, or by treatment of a sugar solution with acid.

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