The Best Pancake Syrups Ranked Worst To Best

If we've learned anything from IHOP, it's that nothing can top a stack of pancakes better than a generous drizzle of syrup. This tempting topping is versatile enough to stretch beyond being pancake accompaniment and become a crucial part of waffles and French toast, too. Pancake syrup is different from maple syrup, and decidedly less expensive. If you've cruised the grocery store pancake syrup aisle lately, you've undoubtedly seen that there are more flavors and varieties on the shelf than you can shake a French toast stick at.

Why so many? Isn't pancake syrup all the same, just a sticky, fragrant blend of corn syrup and maple flavoring? The best and brightest brands of pancake syrup would tell you no, not all pancake syrups are created equally even if they all look like the same stuff in different bottles. The right syrup might even inspire you to step up your homemade pancake recipe. To determine which pancake syrups are worth sticking with and which should stay in the bottle, we gathered up an armload and put them to the test. It turns out that in the world of pancake syrups, the competition is as fierce as it is sweet.

Log Cabin Sugar Free

This far into the 21st century, sugar-free foods that don't taste like a science experiment aren't too much to expect. Log Cabin Sugar Free hasn't gotten the memo. This is such an unsatisfactory take on maple syrup that it's hard to consider it as anything more than an example of how not to make syrup. Yeah ... it's that bad.

Early tasting notes give very convincing maple vibes, which set us up for a great breakfast experience. But that hope quickly gives way to the terrible, late-'80s version of sugar substitutes that made people regret having taste buds. A glimpse of the ingredients listed on the label reveals the inclusion of both sorbitol and aspartame. Maybe using one or the other rather than both would have reduced the essence of topsoil that's sure to ruin your perfect pancake moments. Since there's no way of separating that taste out of this product, it's best to find another topping to grace your stack. And that places this bottle firmly at the bottom of our stack.

Walden Farms Pancake Syrup

The strange sugar-free flavor of Walden Farms Pancake Syrup likely stems from the zero-calorie alternative sweetener used in the recipe. It may be calorie-free and carb-free, but it's also enjoyment-free and as one of the more expensive options on this list, not at all worth the extra price. It makes sense that syrup, a substance that is, by nature, sugar-based, doesn't translate as well in a no-sugar iteration. Walden Farms confirms the need for real sweeteners in pancake syrup in order to compete.

More than just having an unappealing flavor, Walden Farms includes erythritol in its syrup, a fruit sugar-based artificial sweetener that the National Institutes of Health has reported to be a possible cause of cardiovascular health problems, including elevated risk for strokes and heart attacks. While more research is needed on this sugar alcohol, consider the poor performance in the tasting arena as a warning sign that directs your shopping for a pancake pour-over in a better direction.

Great Value Original

If sweetness is what you want in a pancake syrup, then Great Value Original is the perfect pour for you. If you're hoping the sweetness comes with a fair amount of maple-flavored goodness, keep shopping. Walmart may be trying to trim your grocery costs, but that shouldn't come at the expense of your breakfast enjoyment. The pricing difference between this private-label concoction and the bigger players on the syrup stage isn't substantial enough to justify the gustatory sadness.

Great Value items are always just shy of hitting the mark they aim for, whether it's an analog of a brand-name cereal or a replacement for a baking mix. With its pancake syrup, the near-miss brand plumbs new depths of disappointment. It's a corn syrup-heavy combination that whispers "maple" as it drizzles from the bottle instead of shouting it out loud. This is likely due to the two forms of corn syrup that make up the bulk of the recipe. Having less than 2% of natural flavoring doesn't do the formula any favors, either.

Market Pantry Original

There's not much flavor to enjoy in Market Pantry syrup, Target's house-brand take on pancake juice. This isn't a surprising discovery, considering the combination of ingredients is nearly identical to that of Walmart's own poorly performing pour. Not even a jazzy red label can distract from the deflation of dipping a silver dollar cake into what amounts to a corn syrup cocktail. Is it too much to ask for just a little more of anything resembling actual flavor? Apparently, it is.

With a price point under $3, shoppers might be tempted to pick up a bottle or two of Market Pantry's maple misstep just to have something on hand to soak their short stack or zhuzh up their waffles. That would be a mistake. It's a better idea to save up a little and splurge on a more appealing syrup to get your day off to a sweeter start.

Country Kitchen Original

When a pancake syrup calls itself Country Kitchen Original, there's an expectation of downhome goodness and wholesome flavor that represents the peak of what a syrup can be. Maybe that's too much to hope for, but it's easy to get swept up in a well-chosen name, especially when you're hungry for flapjacks.

While Country Kitchen doesn't embarrass itself by being anything less than a passable pancake soaker, it also doesn't do itself any favors by maintaining the middle ground. This is what you might expect to find in kitschy carafes on the countertops of lesser diners, the ones where the breakfast menu is limited but the food comes fast. Sure, you'll pour it on and enjoy what it offers — uncomplicated sweetness and a hint of maple flavor. But you could do so much better where your syrup situation is concerned. It doesn't quite live up to the farmhouse fantasy conjured up by its branding.

Pearl Milling Company Lite

Formerly known as Aunt Jemima but rebranded as Pearl Milling Company for very necessary reasons, this company's Lite Syrup is several steps ahead in the race to create a sugarless sauce for the breakfast table. In this instance, "lite" refers to a reduction in calories that somehow avoids using artificial sweeteners. A two-tablespoon serving has only 50 calories compared to the 100 calories found in the original version. True, you're still eating corn syrup. But every bit of assistance helps when it comes to keeping pancakes on your plate while maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

As with all so-called lite foods, the true test begins with a cautious taste that assumes an off flavor will kick in soon. Happily, it never arrives; just the gentle taste of almost-maple presented with no heartbreaking chemical strangeness. For breakfast fans in search of a slightly healthier bottle to keep in the fridge, Pearl Milling Company Lite comes through with a flavor you'll be happy to have in the pantry. However, it is blander than the full-sugar version of the same syrup.

Kroger Original

Store-style syrup gets a bit of a break with Kroger Original, a workable compromise for a second-tier bottle. There is enough suggestion of maple to emulate a more natural form of the amber ooze, and the price is one of the lowest we could find. In an industry in which spending less money usually means getting products of lesser quality, it's refreshing to know that some companies go to great lengths to provide a thrifty product that keeps consumer satisfaction top of mind.

Though Kroger doesn't come through as a bold offering on the lazy Susan of syrup options, it also doesn't pull up as short as many in the pack. It's more palatable a pancake dressing than most of the other non-name brand syrups you're likely to toss in your cart. But if you have a little more to spend in your syrup budget, there are better bottles in the bunch to be found.

Log Cabin Original

When it comes to repping maple forests, Log Cabin Original is a standout entry for our list. It's difficult to advertise actual trees on the label without coming up with a proper take on pancake syrup, and yet this bottle is remarkably unremarkable. It has all the hallmarks of a proper brand, but it doesn't go to any extra effort to get you rushing to the table in the morning.

Think of Log Cabin as a great base syrup for adding other things to, such as fresh berries or a smear of butter. Even a bit of melted margarine added to a warmed-up dish of this so-so syrup will give it that missing element that could make it a much more delightful drizzle. But why should you have to add flavor to a syrup that's supposed to perform perfectly straight out of the gate? You're better off searching for an example of a pancake syrup that knows what it's doing without needing further instruction.

Pearl Milling Company Original

When something is as authentic as Pearl Milling Company Original syrup, it doesn't need to do fancy flips over your French toast to assert its flavorful prowess. It simply livens up the table as it has for generations, making breakfast fiends happy to have functioning taste buds. For a syrup with decades of experience under its lid, it's comforting to know that its makers don't feel the need to mess with a formula that works.

On the flip side, there's nothing overtly outstanding about the gold standard of syrups. It may be the most classic option in the round-up, but it also lacks some excitement because you've likely tasted it a thousand times before. Things are like that for companies that last one-hundred-plus years in the food game. It's no gourmet go-getter, but it's no small shakes, either. If you're looking for dependability at the center of the syrup spectrum, Pearl Milling Company is where you'll find it.

Hungry Jack Original

There are worse ways to upgrade your boxed pancake mix than by covering them with a hearty pour of Hungry Jack Original. It's a superior selection with serious flavor that tops many of the other familiar faces on this list. And it comes in a package shaped similarly to an old-fashioned jug, a charming touch that undeniably draws shoppers' eyes. Clever move, Jack.

The flavorful flex of this stout bottle is that it's microwave-safe, so you can warm up the syrup inside for a restaurant-style breakfast experience. If there's anything that can improve maple-flavored ambrosia before it runs in golden rivers along your plate, it's the application of heat. None of the other syrups on the list have this nifty feature. Maybe they assume users will heat syrup in a separate dish. Maybe microwaving plastic isn't a great idea in general (per ScienceLine). At the very least, Hungry Jack ups its game by reminding diners that warm syrup is a possibility.

Walden Farms Maple Walnut

The label may say Walden Farms Maple Walnut, but the flavor that comes streaming out of the bottle is closer to caramel ice cream topping, which is not a bad thing at all. Being zero calories but missing the fake taste of the other Walden Farms syrup, this pour turns out to be a delicious surprise for a sugar-free pancake spread. Though the walnut essence is subtle, the flavor offers a winsome difference in the pancake syrup pantheon.

Usually when a food product boasts no calories, sugar, or carbs, there's a trade-off that may tempt consumers to leave the too-good-to-be-true product on the shelf. In the case of Walden Farms Maple Walnut syrup, that trade-off is the inclusion of erythritol in the seemingly magical recipe. This ingredient has been considered a minor miracle in the food world — a sweetener derived from fruit that delivers on its sugar and calorie-free promise. However, as we mentioned, recent scientific discoveries hint that consuming erythritol carries the risk of cardiovascular complications (per Nature Medicine). So, while sweetness abounds at Walden Farms, it isn't without certain risks.

Signature Select Original

Looking for a store-brand syrup that stands up to the pricier pours? Signature Select Original, the house brand offered by Safeway and Albertson's stores, is a safe move. The thoughtful balance of sweetness and actual maple flavor captures everything you love about syrup in a more budget-friendly option than its better-known shelf mates. In an age when having a greater selection to choose from can sometimes overwhelm shoppers, this syrup makes things simple.

Overall, Signature Select is a surprisingly convincing syrup that provides almost as much flavor as the top brands. This is one lesser label that hasn't skimped on culinary cleverness to keep its price point a little lower. For that, pancake lovers have reason to rejoice. Don't be afraid to drench your buttermilk pancakes in this tasty syrup. If a little gets on your sausage patties or in your fluffy scrambled eggs, so much the better.

Mrs. Butterworth's Original

In case the animated commercials from decades gone by have slipped from memory, Mrs. Butterworth's Original comes in a sculpted bottle that has been known to come to life and extol the virtues of this golden delicious nectar. If you listen closely, you can practically hear her comforting voice letting you know it's okay to pour a little more on your hotcakes, or your bacon, or your hashbrowns — the whole breakfast trifecta can all benefit from a touch of Mrs. Butterworth's. In fact, there's nothing on the plate that can't be made a bit better by getting a sweet soaking, even if it isn't intentional.

With such a celebrated pedigree on the line, it's good to know that Mrs. Butterworth's has held onto the simple goodness that has made it a breakfast favorite since 1961. When having syrup-topped pancakes for breakfast means stepping into treasured memories of mornings past, you know you have something special on the table.

Wholesome Organic

The brief list of ingredients in Wholesome Organic syrup includes organic invert cane sugar, natural flavor, and caramel color. That's it — nothing weird or unusual, which is a relief considering the name emphasizes the natural essence of the product. What comes through more than any sort of artificial attempt to replicate true maple flavor is a taste so similar to honey, it's tempting to think that might be what the bottle holds. It's a simple yet brilliant solution to the problem of competing with real maple syrup, which puts this pour in a league of its own.

Will you miss the maple magic that goes so notably missing from this special syrup? Maybe. But it does its own thing so well, the comparison may not even come to mind. The light touch it takes turns out to be a treasure perfect for pancake lovers searching for more mindful options when they circle the breakfast bar.

Pearl Milling Company Natural Butter Flavor Lite

You'll want to stick around for Pearl Milling Company's Natural Butter Flavor Lite pancake syrup, especially if you're looking for a low-cal dip for your French toast sticks that keeps flavor squarely in its sights. It does all of this without leaving out the real sweeteners or sneakily replacing them with bizarre substitutes that don't stand up to scrutiny. Other foods that wear the "lite" badge on their labels could take a lesson in how to keep customers satisfied.

For a topping that doesn't sacrifice taste in service of becoming a lighter foodstuff, this vibrant variant maintains most of the goodness of a full-blown syrup while slicing the calories in half. This tasty development leaves you with one of two options: either use the recommended serving size and stick to your low-cal lifestyle or double up and indulge a little without worrying that you've taken your nutrition too far astray.

Pearl Milling Company Butter Rich

There's no waffling when it comes to the best of the bunch. Pancake syrup victory comes in the form of Pearl Milling Company Butter Rich syrup, a superlative example of what a maple-flavored pour can become with enough imaginative food science on the case. There's no butter listed on the label, but whatever artificial essence is included in the blend adds just the right amount of creamy richness to take your short stacks into the stratosphere and send your hotcakes to the heavens. It's just a little bit better than the lite version of the same syrup — it turns out that being able to use the full amount of sugar is a bit of an advantage.

Once you learn to sidestep the mistakes everyone makes with homemade waffles and perfect your breakfast game, you can easily make Butter Rich your main squeeze and prepare for sweet satisfaction. It's a grocery store standard, so it's readily available. With this all-around pleasing pour on your table, you don't need anything else. Except maybe seconds. Or thirds, even. Go ahead — we won't judge.