Did you go crazy at Maine Maple Sunday Weekend and buy more syrup than you’ve any hope of ever using? We’ve got you covered. And guess what? Maple syrup swings savory, not just sweet. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

So you’ve stocked up on syrup this Maine Maple Sunday Weekend, but, like many home cooks, you’re not sure how to use it all up.

Sure, you can put it on pancakes and waffles, maybe drizzle some on your oatmeal. Some folks might use it to sweeten their coffee or tea, others pour it over vanilla ice cream, while bakers work it into coffee cakes and muffins.

But maple syrup isn’t just for breakfast, or sweets like baked goods and desserts. It can enhance all kinds of savory dishes too, lending nuance and depth of flavor to everything from salad dressings and marinades to roasted meats, grilled tofu and even cocktails.

“I feel that maple syrup is so much more than just a sweetener. It’s a way of life here in New England and an incredibly versatile and precious ingredient,” said Jasper Ludwig, co-owner of the James Beard Award-nominated Alna Store. “The inherent sweetness in maple is a great tool to balance acids, for example in a vinaigrette, mignonette, or 50/50 with Maine apple cider vinegar to baste roasting meats over a fire. And its unique flavor profile is extremely complementary for earthy and umami flavors like black garlic, soy and herbs.”

As Ludwig notes, what makes maple syrup so good for savory cooking boils down to the culinary principle of flavor balance. A vinaigrette where the vinegar’s acid is balanced by a touch of sweetness from maple syrup – along with say, fresh, floral thyme, pungent garlic and a little kick from hot mustard – tastes better than dressing that relies on tang alone.

In general, when cooking with maple syrup, it’s best to use darker grades, which have stronger maple taste than more delicately flavored golden- or amber-grade syrups. Golden and amber syrups will still lend a welcome touch of sweetness to the savory dishes, but with much subtler maple flavor.


And keep in mind that a little maple syrup goes a long way (you may already have considered this while sizing up the jug you just brought home from the sugar shacks). As you’ll see in the recipes here, a few tablespoons tend to do the trick.

It’s maple sugaring season. This year, challenge yourself to think beyond pancakes and sweets. Maple syrup adds balance and subtle sweetness to many savory preparations. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


Maple syrup balances the sharp tartness of vinegar, helping to round out the flavor of a dressing. But it plays better with some vinegars than others: More acidic ones like white vinegar and wine vinegars don’t meld as well with the soft maple sweetness than fruitier vinegars like cider or balsamic vinegar, which is made from grapes and bears a faint natural sweetness of its own. Mild rice vinegar also pairs well with maple syrup, particularly in Asian-inspired dressings.

Since you’re adding a little sweetness to the dressing, it helps to use it on boldly flavored salad greens. Bitter greens like arugula, kale, mustard greens, radicchio and endive make great choices for a maple syrup-infused dressing.

Unless you’re going for a simple sweet-sour contrast in the dressing, you may also want to include other components to broaden the flavor balance. Ingredients like salty fermented miso paste and bitter sesame tahini are used in all kinds of dressing recipes and make ideal foils for the sweet maple flavor.

Dressings with maple syrup work nicely in grain bowls, too, especially if the bowls contain a naturally sugary component like dried fruit or roasted winter squash to echo the maple sweetness.



Marinating is all about giving the main ingredient a big boost of flavor before the cooking begins. Brining meat and fish takes the approach even further, using salt to trap the seasoned liquid inside the protein.

In either case, the argument for including maple syrup is the same: You’re adding a delicious touch of sweetness that balances and enhances the other flavors in the mix.

The same strategies of building a balanced dressing also apply to marinades, which usually contain oil, an acid like vinegar or citrus juice, aromatics like garlic and shallot, fresh herbs and bold-flavored condiments like Dijon mustard, sriracha or soy sauce. When you blend maple syrup in a marinade with the tart, bitter, spicy or salty components, the contrast heightens the maple flavor, while the syrup tames any harshness from the other flavorings.

Maple syrup works the same way in brines for pork, turkey or chicken, adding pleasant sweetness that complements the umami in the meat and rounds out the saltiness of the brine solution.

Keep in mind that your marinade or brine will coat the exterior of the protein you’re soaking with small amounts of maple sugar, which, like any sugar, is susceptible to scorching at higher temperatures. So pork chops soaked in a syrup-enhanced marinade might not fare well over grill flames, for instance, but do just fine in an oven at 375 degrees F.


Try roasting winter root vegetables with a little maple syrup. Robyn Mackenzie/Shutterstock


Maple syrup works wonders with winter vegetables, and root vegetables in particular. Tossing chopped sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots or winter squashes like butternut, delicata and kabocha in oil, a little vinegar and syrup amplifies the vegetables’ natural sugars.

But bitter root veggies benefit even more from the added sweetness of maple syrup. For anyone averse to the likes of Brussels sprouts, turnips or rutabaga, roasting them with a touch of syrup can be a game-changer.

A syrup coating also helps the vegetables caramelize while roasting, so they brown nicely and develop more complex flavor. For optimum balance, try a vegetable medley using sweet roots along with the bitter ones.

And while it’s not for everyone (and they’re technically a fruit), some cooks swear by tomatoes roasted with a little maple syrup, which they say helps balance the acidity.



Maple syrup pairs wonderfully with milder meats like pork or poultry, or even gamier proteins like duck or lamb. It doesn’t partner well with beef, though – the minerals in that particular red meat tend to clash with maple flavor.

Syrup can be used in glazes to brush onto chicken, ham or pork chops while they roast or grill (often toward the end of cooking time so the glaze doesn’t burn).

You can also work some syrup into ground chicken, turkey or lamb patties, which gives the finished burger subtle maple flavor. It helps to add a touch of syrup into the mayonnaise or whatever other condiment you use for the burger buns to amplify the maple taste, since some syrup will run off with the juices while the patties cook.

When paired with umami-rich meats, maple syrup lends delicious contrast all on its own. But amplify its appeal with a little heat by seasoning the meat with chile flakes, chile powder, hot smoked paprika, or even a generous coating of freshly ground black pepper. A blend of maple syrup, butter and hot sauce makes for some killer chicken wings, too.

Try adding a little syrup to your favorite barbecue sauce when cooking ribs. With other pork and poultry dishes, you can play up the sweetness of the syrup by seasoning the meat with Chinese five-spice powder or warm, dessert-friendly spices like nutmeg, cinnamon or allspice.



It might seem odd to combine maple syrup and seafood, but it’s an absolutely scrumptious flavoring for certain fin fish. Oily, stronger-tasting fish like salmon, Arctic char, mackerel and black cod are particularly good companions for maple syrup – with enough bold flavor of their own to stand up to the sweetener – more so than milder, leaner white fish.

One surefire approach is to make an Asian-inspired glaze for your fish fillets. Combine maple syrup with soy sauce and/or miso paste, a little acid like lemon or lime juice or rice vinegar, and aromatics like fresh ginger, garlic and scallion.

Maple syrup can also be a revelatory addition to oyster mignonette, softening the vinegar’s sharp edge and pairing delightfully with the brininess of the oyster itself.

Try glazing or marinating tofu in a sauce that has a little maple syrup. DronG/Shutterstock


Tofu, made of soy bean curd, is very mild-tasting on its own, which makes it a great blank canvas for added flavorings. Treat it the same as meats you’d marinate or glaze with a maple syrup mixture. If you marinate tofu, press it first under a weighted plate for 20 minutes or so to squeeze out excess moisture, so it can better absorb the marinade.

Seitan, another plant-based protein, this one made from vital wheat gluten, is also relatively neutral-flavored. But it often has a faint bitterness that screams out for something like a maple glaze to counter it.



One of the easiest ways to incorporate maple flavor into your booze concoctions is to use it in place of simple syrup, using slightly less than the amount called for in the recipe. A hint of maple syrup works well with fruit and coffee brandies as well.

Maple syrup also makes fast friends with brown liquors like whiskey and especially bourbon, where it highlights the spirit’s natural caramel, vanilla and oak notes. It’s also great for balancing the pungency of bitters in a cocktail.

Henry’s Public House in Old Port serves a riff on an Old Fashioned called “Close Quarters” that puts maple syrup to use in exactly this way.

“Close Quarters” from Henry’s Public House, a riff on an Old Fashioned featuring maple syrup and an embossed ice cube. Photo by Anthony DiBiase

Close Quarters from Henry’s Public House

The buckwheat tea adds a roasty cereal grain note to the cocktail. Henry’s uses FullChea brand, available on Amazon. It’s okay to omit the buckwheat tea if you don’t have any, but if you do want to use it, heads up — it need 24 hours to steep in the bourbon. You can customize the type of bitters used as well – coffee, chocolate, smoked, etc. – and any bonded bourbon will work here.


2.25 ounces Toasted Buckwheat Bourbon (see recipe, or use an equal amount of plain bourbon)

0.25 ounces Allen’s Coffee Brandy

1 teaspoon maple syrup

3 dashes Angostura bitters

3 dashes orange bitters

Orange peel, to garnish


Add all the ingredients to a mix tin. Add ice and stir. Strain over new ice into an Old Fashioned glass. Serve with an orange peel expressed over top.


2 teaspoons sobacha (toasted buckwheat tea)

750 ml Evan Williams White Label Bourbon

Steep the buckwheat tea in the bourbon for 24 hours at room temperature. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and store at room temperature.

Ginger-Maple Mignonette

From “Real Maine Food” by Ben Conniff and Luke Holden of Luke’s Lobster.


Yield: Enough for 4 dozen oysters

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon grated fresh peeled fresh ginger

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir.

Maple and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

From “Maple Sugar” by Tim Herd. Store the dressing in the refrigerator, where it will keep for several weeks.

Yield: about 1¼ cups

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup


1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon chopped cilantro

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt


1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix the vinegar, syrup, lime juice, mustard, cilantro and garlic together in a small bowl. Add the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until the dressing is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

Easy Baked Maple-Glazed Arctic Char

From “The New England Seafood Markets Cookbook” by Mike Urban. The glaze will work equally well with other oily fish like salmon or black cod.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons maple syrup


1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon ginger, fresh grated

4 fresh Arctic char fillets (about 6 ounces each)

1 scallion sliced thin (white part plus about 2-3 inches of the green)

1 tablespoon toasted sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, cornstarch solution, soy sauce and ginger until well-combined. Place the Artic char fillets skin-side down in a shallow baking pan, and pour the syrup mixture over the fish.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, basting with the syrup mixture in the pan halfway through the cooking process. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Sprinkle the cooked fillets with the scallions and almonds (if using) before serving.

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