Anyone who cooks needs to make a substitution occasionally. Sometimes, you have to use dried herbs and spices in place of fresh and in a pinch you might have to substitute half-and-half for cream in a recipe. Many times, imitation maple flavor can be used interchangeably with pure maple extract.
Maple extract is a natural ingredient taken from maple syrup, the sap of maple trees, as part of normal processing. Imitation maple flavor is manufactured by mixing natural and chemical ingredients to obtain maple flavor without getting it from a maple tree. The natural process is more involved than the artificial process, which usually means you’ll pay more for maple extract than you will for imitation maple flavor.
Being a naturally derived ingredient, pure maple extract has a shorter shelf life than imitation maple flavor. Both should be kept in a cool, dark place to maximize the freshness.
The quality of flavor maple extract lends to baked goods is more intense than that from imitation maple flavor. Because they are imitation, flavorings will enhance your cooking well enough, but you’ll find that using an extract will give flavor with an intensity and body that can’t be obtained using imitation flavor.
Quantity in Use
Imitation maple flavor is produced specifically to take the place of pure maple extract. It can be used in a 1-to-1 ratio when you are substituting it in a recipe. If, for example, you have a cake recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon of maple extract, you would use 1 teaspoon of imitation maple flavor. You can increase it by 1/2 to 1 teaspoon if you would like a more intense flavor.
References and ResourcesErma Monson, Baker/Cook; Martha's Cafe; Blackfoot, Idaho
Watkins: Extracts and Flavorings
Cooks: FAQs: Maple Flavoring Substitute
Backyard Sugarin': A Complete How-To Guide; Rink Mann