Hickory Syrup vs. Maple Syrup: How Do They Compare?

Hickory syrup is a unique type of syrup made from the bark of hickory trees, giving it a deep, rich, smoky flavor that distinguishes it from the more common maple syrup.

While both hickory and maple syrups share some similarities and uses, hickory syrup has a more complex, robust taste profile in comparison.

Hickory Syrup vs. Maple Syrup

Key Takeaways

  • Hickory syrup is made from the bark of hickory trees, giving it a deep, smoky, woodsy flavor compared to the lighter maple taste of maple syrup.
  • The process of making hickory syrup is more labor intensive, requiring drying and smoking of the bark over a fire. Maple syrup comes directly from maple tree sap.
  • Hickory syrup has strong notes of burnt sugar, caramel and vanilla. Maple syrup tastes primarily of earthy, sweet maple.
  • Both can be used in cooking and baking, but hickory syrup pairs well with savory foods like pork where its robust flavor won't be overpowered.
  • Maple syrup production is much higher globally than small batch hickory syrup production.
  • Hickory syrup provides some nutrients like calcium, zinc and iron. Maple syrup has a bit more antioxidants.
  • Hickory syrup adds a unique smoky complexity in contrast to maple syrup's light sweetness.

How Hickory Syrup is Made

The process of making hickory syrup is more labor intensive than maple syrup production. Hickory syrup is derived from the dried and crushed bark of hickory trees, which is then boiled into a syrup.

Traditionally, the hickory bark is dried over a fire, giving the syrup its trademark smoky essence and woodsy notes.

Maple syrup, on the other hand, comes directly from the sap of maple trees and does not require any drying or smoking of the sap.

The clear sap is simply boiled down to evaporate the water content, creating the familiar sweet maple syrup.


While both hickory and maple syrup contain sweetness, hickory syrup is characterized by its deep, smoky, woodsy flavors.

It has an almost burnt sugar taste with hints of caramel and vanilla. The flavor is more robust and aggressive compared to the lighter, more delicate sweetness of maple.

Maple syrup gets its distinctive sweet, earthy maple taste directly from the maple tree sap.

Its flavor is less complex than hickory syrup, though there are some subtle notes of vanilla and caramel.

Higher grade maple syrups will have a more pronounced maple flavor.

Uses in Cooking and Baking

Like maple syrup, hickory syrup is very versatile in cooking applications. It can add sweetness and depth of flavor to everything from meat glazes to baked goods.

Hickory syrup pairs especially well with pork, baked beans, oatmeal, and pecans.

It also makes an excellent sweetener in cocktails, lending its signature smoky essence.

Maple syrup is better suited for dishes where you want the pure, clean maple taste to come through.

It is most commonly used as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and French toast, and can also add sweetness to granola, yogurt, baked goods, candies, and more.

Maple syrup is lighter tasting than hickory syrup, allowing other flavors to shine.

Grading and Production

Hickory Syrup vs. Maple Syrup

There is no formal grading system for hickory syrup like there is for maple syrup.

Maple syrup is classified into various grades based on color and flavor, which corresponds to when in the season it was harvested.

Hickory syrup has a more uniform look and taste since it derives from tree bark rather than sap.

Maple syrup production is also much higher than hickory syrup.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States produced 4.2 million gallons of maple syrup in 2019.

Meanwhile, hickory syrup production is small batch, with producers numbering in the hundreds rather than thousands.

Nutrition Comparison

Both hickory and maple syrup contain some nutritional benefits despite being high in sugar.

Maple syrup has small amounts of minerals like calcium, potassium, and manganese. It also contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Hickory syrup is higher in calcium than maple syrup. It also provides small amounts of iron, zinc, and magnesium.

The drying process helps bring out antioxidants in the bark as well. However, maple syrup has a slightly higher antioxidant content overall.

The Takeaway

Hickory syrup offers a smoky, robust alternative to traditional maple syrup.

While maple syrup has a delicate, sweet flavor that highlights the taste of foods, hickory syrup can add deeper, more complex flavors.

Hickory syrup works especially well in savory preparations where maple would be overpowered. Both syrups add natural sweetness and their own unique flavor contributions.

So next time you are looking for a flavorful syrup, try the smoky sweetness of hickory syrup and savor its rich complexity.

Just a small drizzle can provide big flavor to your favorite foods. Whether on meat, baked beans, oatmeal, or more, hickory syrup is sure to add its signature touch.

Wyatt Keith

Wyatt is a hickory tree expert with 25 years of experience studying and working with these majestic trees. Wyatt has worked on various research projects and has conducted extensive field work, studying the growth and behavior of hickory trees in different regions of the country. In addition to his research, he has also worked with landowners and land managers to help them properly care for and manage their hickory trees. Wyatt is passionate about sharing his knowledge and expertise with others, and he frequently gives talks and presentations on hickory trees to various audiences.

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