Why So Many Southerners Grew Up Putting Karo Dark Corn Syrup on Their Pancakes
Who needs maple syrup? Not Nana.
Most of us know Karo Syrup from the sugar coma-inducing delicacy known as classic pecan pie, typically made around the holidays or anytime a sweet tooth needs satisfying. In fact, pecan pie was once (and still is, in our opinion) so synonymous with Karo Light Corn Syrup that it was often referred to as a Karo Pie back in the day. The recipe even took center stage on the back of every bottle; a simple combination that turned out the perfect warm, gooey pecan pie every time.
But if you ever asked your grandmother, you’d know that Karo Syrup (invented in 1902) was once favored for many other things down South, like drizzling over a hot split biscuit or stack of buttermilk pancakes in lieu of the maple syrup we mostly see today. Specifically, the Karo Dark Corn Syrup, which favors molasses and has an extra rich caramel-like taste. In fact, between Karo Syrup and old-fashioned cane syrup, there wasn’t much preference for maple syrup in the Southern kitchen until more recently.
Much like my mother who raised me to drizzle local cane syrup or Georgia honey on biscuits and waffles instead of butter—just like she’d been raised to do—many Southerners grew up with a humble bottle of Karo Syrup in the kitchen. Because who needs fancy Vermont maple syrup when you have a piece of American history to pour over your pancakes? We like to have a connection to our food, and thanks to pecan pie, Karo Syrup is as real and comforting to us as it gets.
It might taste slightly less “traditional” to those who grew up with store-bought maple, but it does taste full of character, which beats out any watered-down generic syrup in our book. So grab a bottle here and taste for yourself.
And for the record, Karo Syrup does not contain any high-fructose corn syrup. Take that, rumor mill.