Does Maple Syrup Go Bad? Here's What You Need to Do to Keep It Fresh

The real stuff needs to chill.

The aroma, the texture, the flavor. There's just something magical about pure maple syrup. It conjures up images of folks in flannel shirts, tapping into magnificent maple trees in the cool, Canadian air, and, of course, hot breakfast breads.

Unlike honey, which has a shelf life of pretty much forever, maple syrup can go bad easily if not stored properly. There are a few simple steps you can take to make sure your syrup stays fresh and ready to pour over buttermilk pancakes for Sunday brunch.

Maple Syrup Versus Pancake Syrup

You're probably thinking, "Why can't I store my maple syrup the same way I store my pancake syrup?" The reason lies in the differences between the syrups. On the surface, these two may seem very similar, but there's an important difference.

Pancake syrup contains preservatives and large amounts of high fructose corn syrup that make it shelf stable. (Some contain no real maple syrup at all.) You can safely store it in your pantry, even after being opened, for months. But pure maple syrup contains one ingredient: maple syrup. No matter the grade, all maple syrup is just one ingredient.

The only differences in grades of maple syrup are flavor and color, which is based on the season it's harvested. Cooler months produce a lighter color and flavor, while warmer months produce a darker, more robust syrup.

The sap from maple trees is lightly processed to make the syrup, but no additional preservatives or corn syrups are added. This is what gives it that superb flavor and texture that lets you know instantly it's pure maple syrup. And it's what requires it to be stored differently, too.

bottles of maple syrup on a white table

How to Store Maple Syrup

Because maple syrup doesn't have help from preservatives or corn syrups to stay fresh, it requires refrigeration. Popping it back in the fridge after each use will prevent the growth of harmful mold and bacteria.

For a longer-lasting syrup, it's best to store it in a glass jar, and most maple syrups are sold in glass containers for that reason. In a glass container it will last for a year in the fridge. A plastic container will only keep it fresh for up to three months.

But, if your maple syrup comes in a plastic container, don't worry — you can transfer it to an airtight glass container yourself to extend its freshness. A simple mason jar will do the trick.

Ball Glass Mason Jars with Lids & Bands

Ball, Glass Mason Jars with Lids & Bands

How to Tell if Maple Syrup Has Gone Bad

To be sure your maple syrup is at its freshest, check for these three things before you pour it on a pile of pancakes: visible mold, an off smell, and an off flavor.

Visible mold should be pretty easy to identify. It can appear fuzzy and light brown or green in color. Because mold can be subtle in its early stages of growth, it can be easily missed, so it's good to make a habit of glancing at the surface before agitating the bottle or using the syrup.

An off smell can be quickly identified in syrup that's gone bad. It will smell sour, musty, or even chocolatey. Err on the side of caution. If it smells strange, it's most likely gone bad.

An off flavor in maple syrup can come in many forms, too. Folks have described a cardboard flavor, a Tootsie Roll flavor, a sour flavor, or even a salty flavor. Again, if it tastes like anything besides delicious maple syrup, it's probably not fresh anymore.

Bottom Line: To keep your maple syrup as fresh as possible, store it in a glass airtight container, refrigerate it for no more than a year, and make a habit of glancing at the surface for anything out of the ordinary and giving it a good sniff before drenching your favorite breakfast.

And, of course, the best practice of all — drench your pancakes in it every chance you get. This 5-star fluffy pancake recipe with 17,000 reviews makes the perfect companion for pure maple syrup.

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