The Mushroom Variety You Can Use In Place Of Maple Syrup

How sweet is maple syrup?! Obviously, it goes great with breakfast foods such as bacon, eggs, and waffles, thanks to its sugary taste. Yet, it also goes well with notably more savory lunch-or-dinner dishes, like stews, or even baked desserts, like cakes, pies, and scones. The only problem is — if you're going for the real stuff and not those imitation maple-flavored syrups — it's expensive, because it's hard to make.

Maple syrup specifically comes from the sap of North American maple trees, found almost exclusively in the northeastern corner of the continent. It's not just any sap, either; it's particularly the sap they produce for about a month sometime between January and April (depending on their exact location). Unfortunately, not every season goes smoothly. As lately as 2023, for instance, the maple syrup harvest had producers worried. Thankfully, there exists another natural American product that can substitute for maple syrup.

Candy cap mushrooms are sugary sweet

There are many different types of mushrooms with myriad uses, but candy cap shrooms may be some of the most unique. They feature a surprisingly strong flavor (and smell) like that of maple syrup, making them perfect for inclusion in desserts. This is because candy caps share with maple syrup a chemical compound known as sotolon. As for the standard mushroom taste that many are familiar with (and which some detest), it's barely even present. Indeed, you can utilize candy caps in anything from cookies and ice cream to marshmallows and syrup. Just be careful to use them in moderation, so the recipe doesn't end up bitter.

If you want to try out candy cap mushrooms, simply keep in mind they go by several different names, like the somewhat similar "curry milk caps." Additionally, from a scientific standpoint, candy caps all belong to the Lactarius genus, and their species names include fragilis, rubidus, and rufulus. Monikers aside, you can go forage for candy caps yourself if you live in the Pacific Northwest, where they grow on the mossy bark of oak and pine trees. If you're located elsewhere, you still might be able to find them at your nearby specialty store or, more likely, through online retailers. They're not exactly the most affordable, though, costing about $20 per ounce, but if maple syrup ever becomes unattainable (or you're just feeling adventurous), it's nice to know candy cap mushrooms are around as a backup.

Candy caps (almost) stand alone in the mushroom kingdom

Sweet mushrooms sound a little bit strange, though, right? There's a whole culture of foraging, purchasing, and cooking shrooms, but typically, such fungi aren't very sugary in nature. Instead, they taste earthy, nutty, or rich, and they're used with things such as butter, eggs, fish, herbs, meat, olive oil, pasta, sauces, and vinegar. We're talking varieties like chanterelle, enoki, maitake, portobello, royal trumpet, and shiitake, usually prepared via grilling, roasting, or sauteing. Despite the existence of products like Moku Foods' maple-and-pineapple-sweetened oyster mushroom jerky, there simply isn't usually a lot of sugariness involved when it comes to consuming mushrooms.

This means that candy cap mushrooms truly stand out, but they don't exactly stand alone. A few other shrooms, such as chaga, have caramel-like notes, which are right at home in creamy treats. When it comes to replicating the maple syrup profile, though, candy caps are going to be your best bet. Forget fun-gi; these are sweet guys!