I lived in Vermont for a few years and quickly learned several important lessons while in the Green Mountain State, including how to control my speed when going downhill on cross-country skis, the importance of boot spikes for winter hiking, and the right way to store maple syrup. The first two lessons came after some slipping, sliding, and screaming, while the maple syrup lesson came when I was rooting around in the test kitchen pantry for my job at EatingWell and was told by a somewhat scandalized coworker that it was in the refrigerator—because of course the refrigerator is the right place to store maple syrup.
“You should store maple syrup in the fridge once it has been opened,” confirms Laura Sorkin, co-founder of Runamok, a Vermont-based producer of maple syrup and other products. “If it is unopened, it can stay in your pantry.”
Who knew? Well, obviously my coworkers at EatingWell, the folks at Runamok, and apparently everyone else in Vermont—which is by far the largest producer of maple syrup in the United States, according to Statista. Here’s why your maple syrup belongs in your fridge.
What Happens If You Don’t Refrigerate Maple Syrup?
Until my time in Vermont, I always put maple syrup in the same category as honey, which should be stored at room temperature to help prevent the honey from crystallizing. After being chastised by my EatingWell coworker I duly transferred my maple syrup from the pantry to the fridge, but I confess I didn’t really know why this was the correct way to store maple syrup until I interviewed Sorkin.
Here’s why: “Maple syrup is hot-packed, just like jam,” Sorkin says. “Sugar is a very good preservative but once opened it can develop mold on the surface if left at room temperature.”
How Long Does Maple Syrup Last When Stored in the Pantry vs. the Fridge?
Unopened maple syrup can be stored in the pantry for about a year, according to the USDA, though Sorkin and other maple syrup producers say it should last much longer than that.
You could probably get away with storing your maple syrup in the pantry briefly once it’s opened, but unless you go through it very quickly, you’re going to want to put it in the fridge.
“If it is stored in the fridge, it could last for years,” says Sorkin. (The USDA, which tends to be conservative, says opened maple syrup should last for about a year in the fridge.) “At room temperature, it may or may not develop mold within a few weeks (but only if it has been opened),” Sorkin adds.
Is It Safe to Eat Moldy Maple Syrup?
Sorkin says the mold that grows on maple syrup’s surface is “unappealing” but generally not dangerous. “You can skim it off and then heat the syrup to re-pasteurize it,” she adds. “Then store it in the fridge and you should be fine.” A number of other maple syrup producers share similar advice about scooping off surface mold and reheating the maple syrup, but food safety experts—who tend to be quite cautious—recommend playing it safe and discarding maple syrup that’s developed mold.
How Can You Tell If Maple Syrup Is Bad?
According to the food safety website Still Tasty, maple syrup that develops an off odor, flavor, or appearance, or grows mold should be tossed. You should also discard maple syrup if the can or bottle is leaking, rusting, bulging, or severely dented, according to Still Tasty.
“Just think of maple syrup like jam or any other sweet topping: once opened, refrigerate it, otherwise it is shelf-stable for years,” says Sorkin. Properly stored in the fridge, your maple syrup should keep for at least a year.
Another thing I learned in Vermont is how to use maple syrup quickly, not just for pancakes and baked goods but to add wonderful sweetness and depth of flavor to savory dishes like pork chops, chicken wings, and baked salmon. Armed with my knowledge of how to correctly store maple syrup plus a bunch of maple-forward recipes, I’ll never worry about my maple syrup going bad—and now neither will you.