Homemade maple sugar is so surprisingly easy and quick to make yourself. The recipe requires only one ingredient — maple syrup. Use maple sugar in desserts, savoury dishes (especially with pork), drinks like hot chocolate, or place in cute little containers to give away as charming gifts.
Have you ever been intrigued by a tiny bottle of maple sugar at the grocery store only to be shocked at the price tag?
Same. And that's if you have ever even seen it in your grocery store. Maple sugar is generally sold online or in specialty grocery stores making it difficult to source if you want to use it in a recipe.
The good news is that making maple sugar yourself at home is easy and requires only one ingredient — maple syrup. Although I'm well aware that maple syrup itself is a pricey ingredient, it is still cheaper to buy the syrup and then spend the 20 minutes or so to make the sugar.
We source our maple syrup from our local Rod & Gun club where the old-timers sit around an ancient wood-fired stove slowly boiling down the maple sap into syrup each spring. We also buy from the local Amish and Mennonite communities.
If you have an Amish or Mennonite community near you, it can be a cheaper source of syrup, especially when bought in bulk.
What Is Maple Sugar?
Maple sugar is a natural sweetener and can be used as an alternative to white sugar.
It has a much more complex and nuanced flavour than white sugar which can lend itself well to baking. And it smells amazing too.
You can swap maple sugar to granulated sugar in a 1:1 ratio in recipes which means you don't have to worry about altering any of the other ingredients.
Maple sugar is made by continuing to heat and simmer the maple sap after it has boiled down to the ideal maple syrup consistency. If you keep heating, the syrup will eventually crystalize and give you sugar granules that look like a slightly darker version of plain cane sugar.
There is no special equipment needed outside of heat and a pan.
Maple syrup also contains minerals (potassium, copper, calcium), vitamins (riboflavin, thiamin), amino acids (proline, arginine, threonine, leucine, histidine) and about 67 different polyphenols.
Two tablespoons of pure maple syrup contain 35% of the Daily Value of Manganese and 15% for Riboflavin.
Obviously, I'm not suggesting you start eating maple syrup or maple sugar for the health benefits, but I find this both surprising and fascinating.
Maple syrup has a season (early spring) and it takes place between February and April when farmers extract the sap from the trees to produce maple syrup. The sap is actually indistinguishable from water unless you taste it! We collect several gallons of this maple sap or water to drink while it is still available.
The maple trees produce sugar during the summer before storing it as starch in their root tissues in the winter.
(See the recipe card for quantities.)
That is really all it takes.
Now let's talk briefly about maple syrup grade because that really does matter to how your maple sugar will turn out.
I highly recommend that you find dark maple syrup (formerly called Grade B) for the most intensely maple-y flavour.
Lighter grades of syrups (like ambers) can produce less complex maple sugar. And what you want is an end-product that has an intense maple taste and aroma.
The instructions are very simple:
Pour your maple syrup into a deep pan or pot. Heavy enamelled cast iron is what I personally use, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
Allow the maple syrup to bubble away over medium-high heat on your stovetop.
It is important not to stir right away as that can initiate the crystallization process early and we do not want that.
It is important to watch the pot as the process of the syrup turning into sugar can be quite quick.
Hint: if your maple syrup starts to look like it may overflow the pot from the boiling and bubbling — don't panic. Grab a long-handled wooden spoon or a silicone spatula and quickly stir it once or twice. The bubbles will subside. You can periodically lower the heat or remove the pot from the heat entirely for a few seconds too.
Your maple syrup is ready once it has reached the target temperature of 260°F to 262°F (126°C to 128°C) on a candy thermometer (or meat thermometer). This is known as the hard ball stage in candy making and should take about 15-20 minutes.
(Tip the pan to the side for the most accurate reading.)
The syrup is removed from the heat at this point and you know have two options: you either stir the maple in the pot with a wooden spoon or transfer the very hot syrup into a stand mixer.
If you choose to stir by hand, it takes about 5-10 minutes of continuous stirring and you will be switching hands to get a break!
As you stir the syrup, it begins to thicken even more, becoming quite difficult to manage but you cannot stop because it will harden into a solid brick of sugar if you do.
If you have a KitchenAid Stand Mixer (or similar) this part will go easier. After about 1-3 minutes on low, the sugar is already starting to form into crystals.
Keep your mixer paddling away on low until you have achieved maple sugar like in the photos. The colour will completely change from dark to light.
Uses For Maple Sugar
Maple sugar is versatile and can be used in place of granulated sugar in a 1:1 ratio in recipes. These are some of my favourite uses and recipes.
- Maple Pecan Ice-Cream Recipe - instead of maple syrup, use maple sugar or combine the sugar with cinnamon as a topping.
- Old Fashioned Fresh Apple Cake - use maple sugar in cakes like this one and my Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake to elevate the flavours.
- Pulled Pork - use maple sugar instead of brown sugar (or a mixture of the two) to give the smoked pork a distinct maple flavour. It works beautifully in many pork dishes.
- Maple sugar works beautifully in this Smoked Cranberry Sauce too.
- Add maple sugar to Hot Spiced Milk or a Raw Kefir Smoothie.
As you can see — the possibilities are endless. Cookies, cakes, drinks, even savoury meat dishes can be made more special with some simple maple sugar.
Maple sugar also makes a lovely and thoughtful gift.
Not much in the way of equipment is required here. You very likely have everything at home already.
- Digital Candy Thermometer (one that is suitable for candy making and not just meat)
- Heavy-bottomed pan with deep sides. I use my Le Creuset enameled cast iron but anything stainless steel of a similar dimension that is not flimsy on the bottom (to prevent scorching) will be perfect.
- A simple wooden spoon for stirring.
Maple sugar stores indefinitely at room temperature and it is best to keep yours in an air-tight sugar canister.
If the sugar ever starts to clump together from humidity, you can throw it in a blender to break up the granules.
Remember — if the maple syrup starts to boil and bubble up and threaten to escape your pan, you can quickly tame it back by briefly stirring, quickly removing from heat, or just lowering the heat! Otherwise do NOT stir until it reaches the appropriate temperature on your digital thermometer. Some people will even add a pat of butter to the pan and let it melt before adding their maple syrup but I think this is unnecessary.
- 3 Cups of Pure Maple Syrup Dark Grade
- Pour three cups of pure maple syrup into a heavy-bottomed pot or pan that has high sides (to prevent boiling over).
- Turn the heat to medium-high on your stovetop and carefully watch (but do not stir) as the maple syrup begins to heat up, then bubble and foam and boil.
- If your maple syrup starts to look like it may overflow the pot from the boiling and bubbling — don't panic. Grab a long-handled wooden spoon or a silicone spatula and quickly stir it once or twice. The bubbles will subside. You can periodically lower the heat or remove the pot from the heat entirely for a few seconds too.
- Your maple syrup is ready once it has reached 260°F to 262°F (126°C to 128°C) on a candy thermometer (or meat thermometer). This is known as the hard ball stage in candy making and should take about 15-20 minutes.
- Now it is time to stir or use your stand mixer!
- If you choose to stir by hand, it takes about 5-10 minutes of continuous stirring and you will be switching hands to get a break! As you stir the syrup, it begins to thicken even more, becoming quite difficult to manage but you cannot stop because it will harden into a solid brick of sugar if you do.
- If you have a KitchenAid Stand Mixer (or similar) this part will go easier. After about 1-3 minutes on low, the sugar is already starting to form into crystals. Keep your mixer paddling away on low until you have achieved maple sugar like in the photos. The colour will completely change from dark to light.
- Store your maple sugar in an airtight canister. It will keep indefinitely at room temperature just like cane sugar.