No more pancake syrup - now what?
January 29, 2010 7:29 AM   Subscribe

What are some alternatives for pancake syrup? Ideas, recipes, etc., needed.

My husband finally realized what I've been saying for years -- his fake syrup is basically HFCS with coloring in it -- and switched to maple syrup. Only he didn't actually like the maple syrup, because it's not like the fake stuff he's been eating since childhood! So now he's hardly eating his favorite breakfast food (pancakes) because he won't eat the fake syrup and doesn't much like the real syrup. I need some ideas for pancake toppings, ideally that add moisture, but other things are okay too. A few things we've tried:

Fruit syrups -- I've experimented a little with making fruit syrups from scratch, and with just heating up jam. This works okay, but I'd like better recipes!

Glazes -- some cake glazes have worked okay on pancakes.

Pancake as sammich base -- melting a slice of swiss cheese on top of the pancake under the broiler makes a nice proteiny breakfast; the pancakes can also be a base for an egg sandwich, say.

In short, any non-syrup ideas whatsoever for serving pancakes are welcome and wanted! And recipes are definitely wanted.

(I did suggest he use the fake syrup, just in moderation, but he correctly pointed out he is totally incapable of syrup-related moderation.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Food & Drink (62 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
posted by rabidsegue at 7:32 AM on January 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

Melted butter. Which has got to be at least as bad as HFCS.
posted by amro at 7:33 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by raztaj at 7:33 AM on January 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

applesauce, peanut/almond butter, or chop up an apple, microwave it with a little cinnamon and sugar (butter optional) and serve warm over pancakes.
posted by kmavap at 7:34 AM on January 29, 2010

Add maple flavoring to real maple syrup or agave? It's the taste he wants but with an arguably better sweetening source.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:34 AM on January 29, 2010

posted by Jaltcoh at 7:35 AM on January 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine adores coconut syrup on pancakes. Haven't tried it myself, though.
posted by kookaburra at 7:36 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: One thing to keep in mind is that Grade A maple syrup, which one would think is the best (it's Grade A, after all!) does not taste HALF as good as Grade B--which has a really awesome rich dark flavor. It's still not the processed stuff, but it's different enough that your hubby may love it for what it is, the King of Syrups.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:36 AM on January 29, 2010 [6 favorites]

n-thing Nutella.

But I'd also recommend giving maple syrup a better go. Like many natural flavors, it's a bit of an acquired taste when you've grown up with the fake substitute. But it's a taste worth acquiring. Anything else you try is probably going to take some getting used to anyways, so this may not be a bad option.

Stick it out. He may be surprised. The stuff grows on you.
posted by valkyryn at 7:37 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: My favorite brunch place serves pancakes topped with granola, plain yogurt, and raspberries, and it's great. You could probably skip the granola if it seems like carb overkill.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:38 AM on January 29, 2010

Honey or fruit compote. A minute in the microwave can turn a cup of blueberries or raspberries and a dash of sugar into a great pancake topping.
posted by rokusan at 7:41 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: I love that fake syrup crap and am not at all ashamed to say it. But I live in a country where it's not available so I've had to learn to make do.

Peanut butter and cinnamon is by far the best thing you can put on a pancake. (It's even better with a little bit of "syrup".) Make sure the peanut butter is warm so it gets almost liquidy then sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. Seriously.
posted by wallaby at 7:42 AM on January 29, 2010

lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon
posted by Kololo at 7:43 AM on January 29, 2010

Lyle's Golden Syrup is great on pancakes. So is powdered sugar and lemon.
posted by neroli at 7:44 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Fruit (esp berries -- strawberries are great), macerated with a little sugar, maybe with a pinch of vanilla and/or lemon juice added. Frozen strawberries &c work well.
posted by kmennie at 7:44 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sugar and lemon juice. Sugar and lime juice. Squashed raspberries warmed up a bit. Blackberry liqueur. Fried cherry tomatoes and asparagus with a bit of feta. This blueberry port chutney.
posted by severalbees at 7:46 AM on January 29, 2010

I've switched from the fake stuff to maple syrup last year. It did take some time to get used to the taste but I'm okay with it now. Warming it helps so it's more liquid and less thick.

I ran across this recipe for caramel-ly buttermilk syrup the other day. I've not tried it but it looks quite tasty.
posted by bluesapphires at 7:49 AM on January 29, 2010

Maybe he could use the "switching-dog-food" method.

Week 1: 75% Mrs. Butterworth's, 25% Good Stuff
Week 2: 50% Mrs. Butterworth's, 50% Good Stuff
Week 3: 25% Mrs. Butterworth's, 75% Good Stuff
Week 4: 0% Mrs. Butterworth's, 100% Good Stuff
posted by chazlarson at 7:49 AM on January 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

Huckleberry syrup. We got some on a trip up to Montana last summer. (obviously, it's only available in season, and this ain't the season.) They elevate pancakes to a whole 'nother level.
posted by notsnot at 7:49 AM on January 29, 2010

Plain yogurt and agave syrup.

Fruit jam.

Brown rice syrup is getting more popular, but I've never tried it. Seems like it would be too sticky but might be worth a try because it's considered to be a healthier option.

Also, and this is strange to me, but while living in Mexico I was always served Karo corn syrup (the clear stuff) with pancakes. Interesting... made me think of Crystal Pepsi each morning, and I often had Van Halen songs stuck in my head for the rest of the day...
posted by belau at 7:54 AM on January 29, 2010

Lyle's Golden Syrup is great on pancakes.

This. End of conversation. Go no further. Lyle's is nectar from the gods.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:55 AM on January 29, 2010

I just recently read a recipe for pancakes that changed up the traditional maple syrup by simmering it with some dried fruits (apricots? golden raisins? I forget). Basically just put the fruit and the syrup in a saucepan and heat it until the fruit puffs up with juicy mapley goodness. It might change the flavor enough that he could tolerate it.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:58 AM on January 29, 2010

I like to top mine with a layer of strawberry jam & a scoop of cottage cheese.
posted by belladonna at 8:03 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Molasses is my favorite, learned from my dad.

Whipped cream and a little chocolate syrup, but that's basically candy for breakfast. Which is not at all bad sometimes.

Having come of age in Kentucky/Tennessee I also like the whiskey-tinged syrups, it's just a little different and funky.

If we're going to talk about alcohol, beer reduction (especially something nice and fruity and Belgian-influenced) is nice, especially for a lazy weekend breakfast.
posted by pupdog at 8:03 AM on January 29, 2010

molasses and butter. OMG.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:04 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We always used honey growing up in rural NYS. My SIL lived in Alabama for a while and uses Karo Syrup. Pumpkin and apple butter are good. Pear butter is out there also. Try mashed bananas. Molasses would be good, too.
posted by jgirl at 8:05 AM on January 29, 2010

Has he tried sugar-free fake syrup? I can't stand it myself, but my stepmother swears by it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:06 AM on January 29, 2010

My kids like lemon curd and Nutella on their pancakes.

Butter and powdered sugar is good, too.
posted by cheapskatebay at 8:11 AM on January 29, 2010

My wife doesn't like maple syrup either, but really likes molasses.
posted by electroboy at 8:12 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Previously, with an emphasis on budget friendly solutions.
posted by zamboni at 8:22 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: The best breakfast I've had this year was french toast topped with Bourbon Cranberry Sauce. I'm thinking it would be just as good on pancakes.

Oh, and if you don't approve of bourbon for breakfast you can just leave the bourbon out.
posted by geeky at 8:22 AM on January 29, 2010

More often than not, I eat pancakes with melted butter and homemade strawberry jam. I'm not going to pretend it's super healthy or should be eaten regularly (carbs ahoy!), but then again I don't even really eat them for breakfast...just whenever I'm in the mood for pancakes, really.
posted by asciident at 8:22 AM on January 29, 2010

Sweetened condensed milk sounds like it could be completely awesome on pancakes. Or terrible. I've never tried it but now I want to.
posted by 6550 at 8:24 AM on January 29, 2010

6550: Certainly you can turn it into dulce de leche and put that on pancakes!
posted by asciident at 8:27 AM on January 29, 2010

Have you tried making a simple syrup, it is pretty much the same thing as the fake syrups, but it uses sugar instead of HFCS, so it is a little more justifiable. Also you can flavor it however you like so you could put some maple sugar in there, or some orange or lemon zest, or vanilla beans, whatever you like.

Also simple syrup is just 1 part sugar to 1 part water that you gently cook down in a sauce pan, beyond that it is a blank canvas.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:29 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: I like to make a half-and-half combination of orange marmalade and apricot jam and put that on my pancakes with a bit of butter.
posted by trip and a half at 8:31 AM on January 29, 2010

Shorty Seamus eats his pancakes (really crepes 'cuz they're easier to make when half asleep) with agave nectar. He used to do syrup or honey, but for some reason all he wants is agave nectar. If he's like me, it's probably because he doesn't crash as hard afterwards.
posted by Seamus at 8:34 AM on January 29, 2010

I use flavored honey sticks that I get at the farmers market. It’s amazing, but I have no idea where you’d get them commercially.

Honey butter is also delicious and much easier to find. Maybe with a little cinnamon.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:34 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This chunky blueberry sauce is good (especially on blueberry ricotta pancakes).
posted by amarynth at 8:38 AM on January 29, 2010

Once you've tried the gloriously sweet tanginess that Saskatoon Syrup, you won't want anything else. Unless you're, like, crazy or something. It is OMG-so-good. I buy some from a local farm, but I've also made and used the Saskatoon Berry Sauce in this link. (The sauce is better than the syrup, which is really too sweet, IMHO.)
posted by Kurichina at 8:44 AM on January 29, 2010

Really good balsamic, especially a flavored one like strawberry or raspberry.
If your balsamic isn't thick or sweet enough, you can reduce it with some brown sugar and it will become more of a syrup.
Also, creme anglaise would be good.
posted by rmless at 9:06 AM on January 29, 2010

I like pumpkin butter or apple butter on my pancakes.
posted by fancyoats at 9:16 AM on January 29, 2010

Organic raw blue agave, a spoonful of raspberry jam, fresh raspberries, and a dash of cinnamon. This combination works great over yogurt, too...
posted by aquafortis at 9:34 AM on January 29, 2010

I'm all about the agave syrup on my pancakes.
posted by dchrssyr at 9:36 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: Orange Sauce:

In a pan, mix 3/4 cup sugar with 4 teaspoons cornstarch and a dash of salt. Add 1 & 1/2 cups orange juice. Heat (stirring often) until it boils rapidly and becomes clear-looking. (i.e., until the undissolved cornstarchy look is gone) Take it off the heat and add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 T butter. Mix and serve over pancakes, waffles, etc.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:44 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer:
  1. My grandma would make a sort of hot simple syrup out of dark brown sugar - dissolve as much brown sugar as you can into very hot water. It was delicious, although much more 'watery' than the syrup Mr McGee is used to.
  2. Steens is outstanding.

posted by dirtdirt at 10:24 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: I make a boozy fruit sauce like so:

Toss some frozen/fresh fruit into a pan.

Add a bit of sugar and a splash or two of liqueur/brandy.

Let it bubble on the stove while you're making pancakes/french toast/waffles. The alcohol cooks off, but the flavor from the liqueur stays.

If it's too thick, add a bit of water or juice.

If it's too thin, shake up a bit of corn starch or glutinous rice flour in some water and add that to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes until thickened.

A few of the syrups I have tried:
Blueberries with Chambord
Raspberry with Peach Schnapps
Apple with Brandy and cinnamon
Fresh cherries with Brandy
posted by burntflowers at 10:33 AM on January 29, 2010

My grandmother would make pancake syrup out of sugar syrup and Mapeline extract.

I've also made the move from "pancake syrup" to real maple, and have found that Grade B is my favorite. The grades isn't a rating of quality as such - rather, it indicates how dark/maple-y the syrup is.
posted by zombiedance at 10:37 AM on January 29, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, guys, a lot of good ideas! I marked some of the ones I'm most likely to try in the near future.

He won't eat yogurt at all, but I'm definitely trying some of the yogurt ones!

I also kind-of love that the alcohol syrups means we get to have grown-up pancakes and the mini-McGee can't have any. :D
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:38 AM on January 29, 2010

At the cabin, I cooked up a bunch of pancakes and then discovered I was out of syrup. I cobbled together a butter-sugar-water syrup and added frozen blueberries and an cut up overripe peach. Syrup? What syrup - that stuff was awesome!
posted by sarajane at 10:46 AM on January 29, 2010

Mix real maple syrup with the fake stuff and gradually adapt to real maple by reducing the amount of fake.

Frozen sweetened strawberries, defrosted. Or sweetened blueberries, mashed w/a bit of water.

If you make really good pancakes, with a bit of extra dark brown sugar, they're very tasty with just butter.
posted by theora55 at 11:08 AM on January 29, 2010

zombiedance > My grandmother would make pancake syrup out of sugar syrup and Mapeline extract.

My mom did the same thing. I think there was some Karo syrup in there, but that's not exactly the same thing as HFCS and you could decide how much sugar vs. how much corn syrup to include.

It's a bit watery, but tastes pretty much just like the fake stuff*. Mix a bit of butter in with it, leave it in the fridge overnight, and then heat up in the microwave, and it's nearly identical.

* Because it is fake stuff. But you have control over the ingredients.
posted by mmoncur at 11:32 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: This Spiced Pear Butter from Epicurious is the best thing ever on pancakes and waffles.
posted by peep at 11:42 AM on January 29, 2010

butter and brown sugar
posted by mmascolino at 11:42 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: In my family we grew up eating a simple but ridiculously good orange syrup whenever we had pancakes. Three ingredients heated up together and stirred:

Honey, frozen orange juice concentrate, butter

I can't remember the proportions, but you can experiment and get the mix you like. It shouldn't taste overly like any of the three at the expense of the other two. Maybe start off with a 1:1:1 ratio and tweak from there. When you strike that magical balance, you'll know it. The whole becomes something more and different than the sum of its parts. It's a unique and wonderful taste, and so fancy for something so easy. Serve really hot. Back them mom made it in pot on the stove, but here in the future you can just microwave it in a bowl and stir.

The key is the OJ concentrate since it's not watered down like juice. It makes the syrup very rich and tangy while also remaining thicker than it would with liquid OJ. The honey is the syrupy sweet base and the butter makes it all magic. Ours was more liquidy than Aunt Jemima's just so you know, which I always loved because that allowed it to really soak into the pancakes. I've considered adding a dash of Grand Marnier to go even more gourmet with it.
posted by Askr at 11:49 AM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: When I was a kid, my parents gave us brown sugar syrup to have on pancakes and anything else they had maple syrup on. Just a simple put-the-brown-sugar-in-a-little-water-and-heat-it-up thing. Basically, my folks just didn't want to waste good maple syrup when all the kids needed was sweet. To this day, I think pancakes taste a little odd with maple syrup.

My dad would sometimes just put a little brown sugar over his pancakes and then squeeze lemon over it, just enough to melt the sugar a little. It's pretty good.
posted by nickmark at 12:27 PM on January 29, 2010

My friend's mom used to serve us melted ice cream as a pancake/waffle topping. It was delicious!
posted by vespabelle at 12:32 PM on January 29, 2010

I tried rum a few weeks back, but wasn't wild about it.
posted by jgirl at 12:42 PM on January 29, 2010

My friend's mom used to serve us melted ice cream as a pancake/waffle topping. It was delicious!

That reminds me, we used to eat cookie dough ice cream on pancakes. It sounds weird but ... well, just try it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:12 PM on January 29, 2010

I like to put superfine sugar on with a drizzle of orange or grapefruit juice. It has a different mouth feel than the larger, coarser table sugar.

Superfine goes by many names: Superfine sugar = ultrafine sugar = bar sugar = instant dissolving sugar = berry sugar = caster sugar.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 3:12 PM on January 29, 2010

Ghee with honey, cinnamon, and a dash of lemon juice. Blood orange marmalade. Lemon curd and clotted cream. NOM NOM NOM.
posted by elizardbits at 4:26 PM on January 29, 2010

I really love simple maple syrup modifications, like this banana maple sauce and Paul A. Young's chocolate maple syrup, for which the recipe is a pinch of sea salt dissolved in 50ml water in a saucepan over a gentle heat, add 250ml dark maple syrup and bring to a simmer, then pour over 100g of 70% dark chocolate broken into pieces in a bowl- so yum!
posted by Kirjava at 5:14 PM on January 29, 2010

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