Simple Syrup

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Simple syrup is a breeze to make yourself and keeps for a very long time! It’s an essential ingredient in many Lebanese pastries, plus a staple for cakes, cold beverages, and cocktails.

Simple syrup being poured into a glass mason jar
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What is Simple Syrup?

Simple syrup is essentially a liquid sugar made with a mixture of sugar and water, cooked until slightly thickened. By definition, simple syrup is called that because of its most common ratio, a simple one-to-one recipe: one part sugar to one part water. Heavy syrup or rich simple syrup has a lower ratio of water to sugar, and the light version includes more water than sugar. But generally no matter the ratio of sugar to water, we often call any sugar syrup “simple syrup.” The consistency is much like pure maple syrup.

Often other flavorings are included, depending on how it will be used in recipes. 

Many Lebanese pastries such as Lebanese Baklava rely on simple syrup (or attar, UH-tar) for flavor, fragrance, and moisture. Though it is truly simple in its method and short ingredient list, there are a few different recipes: some with more sugar than water, longer or shorter cooking times, and a mix of flavorings such as rose water and orange blossom water, as well as lemon juice. 

Simple Syrup Ingredients of sugar and water in measuring cups on the counter

Ingredients

My recipe is actually a slightly heavier yet still free-flowing syrup version, with more sugar than water. This is the perfect simple syrup recipe to use for baklava as well as to moisten cakes, sweeten cocktails, and more.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup of water

Optional ingredients, especially for Lebanese pastries:

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Orange blossom water or rose water, or a combination of the two

How to make simple syrup

Traditional simple syrup is indeed very simple to make. The key is not to overcook it. The resulting clear liquid may look quite thin but it does thicken slightly as it cools and particularly when chilled.

Step 1. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice (if using) and bring to a boil over medium high heat. 

Step 2. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 3. Remove from the heat and add extracts or flavorings, such as orange blossom water. 

Step 4. Pour the hot simple syrup into a heat proof container. 

Simple syrup being poured into a glass mason jar from a pot

Recipe Variations

The beauty of simple syrup is how easily and deliciously it takes different flavors. The variations are many and you can have fun getting creative with it. For flower waters used in Lebanese and other baking, these have pronounced flavor, so it is best to err on the side of conservative amounts. Then taste your batch and add more if needed.

The recipe yields a neutral flavor on its own, and tastes like liquid sugar. It makes it an excellent sweetener in recipes where other flavors need to shine through (such as iced tea). For other uses such as moistening cake before frosting it, flavorings are a great addition: vanilla extract, lemon oil, almond extract, peppermint extract, banana extract, coconut extract…you name it, and simple syrup flavors can be yours!

Infuse with fresh herbs and spices as well, for heady deliciousness! Try rosemary, mint leaves, basil, thyme. Whole spices to try include vanilla bean, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and more. 

Fruit flavors are wonderful here. Try citrus peels and/or juice of orange, lemon, grapefruit, and lime. 

Can I double or triple the recipe?

This recipe doubles, triples, and beyond with ease. I often make large batches so that I always have some on hand when baking. It’s one less step needed on baking day, and in the case of baklava, there is plenty of time to chill it when made ahead, so it’s ready to go when I am! 

Simple Syrup in a pitcher next to a pan of golden Lebanese Baklawa

How to Use Simple Syrup

One of the reasons this recipe is so useful is its ability to dissolve. Plain sugar dissolves easily when heated, but in cold drinks like iced coffee, regular sugar won’t easily or quickly dissolve. This is a liquid sweetener that dissolves immediately and takes the place of superfine sugar and sugar substitute. It’s a bar staple because it is a perfect way to sweeten and flavor cocktail recipes and other cold beverages. A bottle is always available to purchase for the bar, but you can make your own simple syrup very easily and economically for your favorite cocktails at home.

This ingredient is essential in many Lebanese baking recipes. The sweet syrup lends incredible flavor to knafeh and baklawa pastries, and once the pastry cools, it is a binding element to hold the pastry together. 

It’s also a favorite of cake bakers, sprinkled on cake layers to help keep the cake moist and tender. It adds another layer of flavor to cakes when complimentary flavors are added to the syrup. Coconut cake for example takes on so much more coconut flavor when soaked in simple syrup flavored with coconut extract.

Fresh mint lemonade with fresh mint sprigs in small glasses on a strawberry printed napkin

How Long Does Simple Syrup Last?

My basic simple syrup recipe will hold for a month or longer at room temperature in a cool, dry place, or in the refrigerator for 6 months or longer.

How to Store Simple Syrup

Store in an airtight container. I like to use a glass mason jar.

Simple syrup in a mason jar on a marble countertop

Recipes to try

The most iconic of all: Lebanese Baklawa. Try my many versions, such as Nut-Free Baklawa, Olive Oil Baklawa with Pistachios, and Chocolate Baklava (yes!).

Namoura is a Lebanese semolina cake drenched in simple syrup. Try my version, Semolina Coconut Cake with Sugared Rose Petals

Make Fresh Mint Lemonade too.

In this recipe

Simple syrup being poured into a glass mason jar
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5 from 3 votes

Simple Syrup Recipe

This syrup is an essential part of many Lebanese pastries. For baklawa, it is important to pour cold syrup over the hot pastry when it comes out of the oven, or to pour hot syrup over cooled pastry, so make it in advance. I keep some on hand at all times in the refrigerator so it’s ready anytime I am. This recipe doubles easily.
Prep: 2 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Servings: 1 generous cup syrup (about 240 ml)

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
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Instructions 

  • In a small heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and cool.
  • Pour the syrup into a heatproof container.

Video

Notes

Simple Syrup for Lebanese pastries

Add a tablespoon of lemon juice with the sugar and water. When the syrup is finished cooking. add two teaspoons of orange blossom water or one teaspoon each or orange blossom water and rose water.

Nutrition

Calories: 1155kcal | Carbohydrates: 299g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 12mg | Potassium: 6mg | Sugar: 299g | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Maureen Abood
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Servings: 1 generous cup syrup (about 240 ml)
Calories: 1155
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18 Comments

  1. gabi says:

    Hi Maureen! I can never ever get this syrup to be thick, i feel like it’s always too thin. What am i doing wrong? I ever double the amount of sugar (typically it a 50/50 ratio for me) and I boil the syrup closer to 10 mins but i still can’t get it right. Suggestions?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Hi Gabi! My syrup isn’t particularly thick here. But I do think if you’re looking for thicker, reduce the amount of water and increase the sugar and cooking longer should get results. I have found though that thicker syrup poured on the baklawa isn’t ideal. But thicker syrup for desserts like knafeh is great!!

  2. Josephine Bustos says:

    Hi! How do I make orange blossom water? Or I can buy that from a store?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Hi! You can buy that in the ethnic aisle of many grocey stores, and I sell pure imported orange blossom water in my online shop here!

  3. Tex Hooper says:

    I didn’t know that syrup kept forever. I need to get some syrup for Saturday’s pancakes. I’ll have to consider getting some maple.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Hello, I am excited to try this, it will be my first time. Question, if I am making it Sunday and bringing it to the office on Monday, should I pour the cold syrup on the cake Sunday and let it sit, or refrigerate it? Will it be OK to do that as long as I follow the temperature rule and only pour cold over hot or vice versa? Thanks!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Hi–yes, pour the cold syrup over the hot pastry (my preferred way), then leave the pastry at room temperature til your ready to cut and serve anytime over the week after that.

  5. Sharon says:

    Thank you so much regarding the orange blossom and cold syrup over hot baklava. Is there a reason why rose water is not added to your recipe thank you so much

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Hi Sharon–we traditionally make baklawa with orange blossom in my clan, but you can absolutely add a touch of rose water, either in addition to the orange blossom water or in place of it. But use less; rose is to be used more sparingly, so use about half the amount in your syrup, then taste and see if you want more.

  6. Mary says:

    Thanks for that tip! I have to try it next time I prepare my dessert. Now I know that I poor hot syrup over cooled cake or cold syrup over hot cake!!
    Also it’s good to know that cooking time is only 5 min. I left mine to simmer for too long untill it got so thick.
    Thanks!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Bingo Mary! Enjoy your wonderful pastry with orange blossom syrup!

  7. Corinna says:

    My Baklava always turns out soggy on the bottom. What am I doing wrong? Please help. Sincerely a Baklava Lover ☺️

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Hi Baklava lover! My guess is you’re adding too much syrup. Do you pour cold syrup over hot pastry? Which recipe do you use (is it one of mine?)?

  8. B. Rodriguez says:

    Thank you for sharing your recipe! As a bartender, I am always looking for alternative ways to sweeten cocktails. I was so inspired by this, that I made some right away! I just used it in a fresh Orange-pressed ‘Skinny’ Margarita and I have to say, it certainly makes a wonderful alternative to the blue agave syrup that’s traditionally used. It has a lighter/brighter presence than the agave, which can really weigh-down a drink with it’s caramel flavor and smoky notes. This on the other hand is so much more refreshing! Thanks again!

    p.s. I’d be happy to share the margarita recipe.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Thanks so much! This is so good in cocktails and we’d love your recipe!

  9. siena says:

    this is a beautiful recipe, what a pretty pitcher. do you know where one can find such a thing?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Oh Siena, I love that pitcher too! I found this one among the treasures at an antique shop.You might try googling around for a small glass vintage pitcher with metal handle. Hope you find one!

  10. Amanda says:

    I don’t know if I would have ever gotten that nuance of temperature and marrying. Thank you! Expecting a pastry recipe now…