Let’s settle this debate once and for all: what the heck is the difference between a sauce and syrup at Starbucks?

Don't worry; I already did the research for you, so here's what you need to know about the Starbucks sauce vs syrup.

  • Sauces are a thick drizzles with a creamy rich taste that are best suited for hot drinks
  • Syrups are thin and sweet add-ons that are versatile enough to suit hot and cold drinks
  • There are more flavor options for syrups, and they are typically vegan and dairy-free
  • Starbucks' sauces are typically higher in calories and often contain milk
  • You can buy a few of the Starbucks sauces and syrups for home use - one sauce and three syrups

What Is The Difference Between Starbucks Sauce & Syrup?

Starbucks sauce and syrup differ in their consistency, versatility, taste, and more.

These things are like magic. They make plain and boring (sorry, Starbucks!) coffee beverages more interesting. You can even use them to create your concoction at Starbucks.

However, Starbucks sauces and syrups are two different things. Below are their most notable differences:

Consistency & Texture

Let’s start with Starbucks sauces. This coffee add-on is thick and viscous. By nature, it's dense and has a rich texture that is prone to freezing in iced drink, creating clumps.

This is why it is recommended to only use a sauce with Starbucks hot beverages.

At hot temperatures, the sauce dissolves slowly, allowing the thick consistency and rich texture to melt properly without creating lumps.

This allows the sauce to mix with the hot drinks properly, evenly distributing the flavor in your cup.

With Starbucks syrups, you get a fluid-like consistency. This makes this ingredient perfect for hot and cold beverages, like Starbucks iced coffee drinks.

caramel sauce being poured over a coffee drink

Versatility & Uses

If you love flavored traditional lattes (the hot one), Starbucks sauces are a perfect addition to these coffees.

As mentioned, their consistency and texture are made to be added to hot drinks only, which makes them less versatile.

When it comes to versatility, the apparent winner is Starbucks coffee syrups. This is because you can add them to both hot and cold drinks, even those that aren’t coffee-based, such as Starbucks Refresher drinks.

Flavor Options

Okay, this is probably the most important difference you should know about: the flavor options.

Because of the versatility of Starbucks coffee syrups, they have more flavor options.

While there are still some choices with Starbucks coffee sauces, the flavor options are limited compared to Starbucks syrups.

Ingredients

When it comes to ingredients, both the sauces and syrups contain sugar, water, natural flavor, and potassium sorbate (preservative).

However, Starbucks sauces have other different ingredients like corn syrup, puree, and milk, depending on the flavor of the sauce. In general, they contain more ingredients than syrups.

For the Starbucks syrups, the only additional ingredient they have apart from those mentioned is citric acid.

Starbucks caramel sauce on top of a hot drink

Calories

Whether you add sauces or syrups, both of them can add more calories to your beverage. However, the exact amount depends on what flavor you’ll add.

In general, a serving of sauce contains 30 calories, while a single pump of syrup has approximately 20 calories.[1]

Dairy Free & Vegan Options

Starbucks sauces contain cow’s milk. This is why they have a thicker consistency and creamy flavoring.

I highly recommend eliminating them from your hot and cold drinks, especially if you are vegan or lactose-intolerant. But don’t fret - you can still enjoy flavored beverages with syrups.

Most Starbucks syrups are vegan and dairy-free.

Here are the vegan syrups:

  • Almond syrup
  • Caramel/sugar-free caramel (not the caramel drizzle)
  • Gingerbread syrup (seasonal)
  • Hazelnut/sugar-free hazelnut syrup
  • Macadamia syrup
  • Mocha syrup
  • Peach syrup
  • Simple syrup
  • Toffee-nut syrup
  • Vanilla syrup
Note: Do note that some flavors, like pistachio and pumpkin spice, are not vegan and dairy-free.
Starbucks syrups in a box

Is Starbucks Syrup or Sauce Better For Customizing Drinks?

My fave thing about grabbing a coffee from Starbucks is just how many customization options there are thanks to the sauces and syrups.

But which is best for getting creative with your coffee?

Syrups are the absolute best option thanks to their wide range of flavors and versatility in both hot and cold drinks. However, sauces are excellent toppers on whipped cream for a final hit of flavor.

Adding Starbucks Syrup To Secret Menu Drinks

If you're planning to customize your Starbucks drink or want to try some of its popular secret menu drinks, this is the list you need to read.

In fact, I want you to bookmark this page right now.

This can serve as your cheatsheet for some of the most popular secret menu recipes at Starbucks and which add-ons are best for them.

Let’s begin!

1. Fruity Pebbles

If you love the popular cereal Fruity Pebbles, this secret menu recipe is for you! Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Order Strawberry and Creme Frappuccino.
  • Add vanilla syrup (2 pumps tall, 2.5 pumps grande, 3 pumps venti)
  • Add classic syrup (1/2 pump tall, 1 pump grande, 1.5 pumps venti)
  • Add raspberry syrup (1/2 pump tall, 1 pump grande, 1.5 pumps venti)
Barista HQ Tip: Ask the barista to splash some orange mango juice to achieve that fruity kick. You’ll be surprised how it will blend perfectly with the drink.

2. Butterbeer

Harry Potter fans, this drink is for you. If you fancy trying its popular drink, Butterbeer, here’s what you need to tell your local barista:

  • Line the cup with caramel drizzle. (FYI, this is a sauce, not syrup.)
  • Ask for a Creme Frappuccino base. Make sure you order it with whole milk to achieve the right consistency.
  • Add Starbucks caramel syrup (2 pumps tall, 3 pumps grande, 4 pumps venti)
  • Add toffee nut syrup (2.5 pumps tall, 3 pumps grande, 3.5 pumps venti)
  • Top it with whipped cream and drizzle with more caramel sauce

If you want the hot drink version, here’s the recipe:

  • Whole milk steamer
  • Add caramel syrup (2 pumps tall, 3 pumps grande, 4 pumps venti)
  • Add cinnamon dolce syrup (2 pumps tall, 3 pumps grande, 4 pumps venti)
  • Add toffee nut syrup (2 pumps tall, 3 pumps grande, 4 pumps venti)
  • Top it with whipped cream and salted caramel bits (You can also request a creme brulee topping)
  • Optional: Add a shot of espresso if you want a caffeine kick

3. Caramel and Nut Chocolate Bar

Do you love Frappuccinos? If you do, you should try the Caramel and Nut Chocolate Bar Frappe. Here’s how you can get this customized drink:

  • Java Chip Frappuccino
  • Add toffee nut syrup (1 pump tall, 2 pumps grande, 3 pumps venti)
  • Line and finish the beverage with a caramel drizzle

4. Piña Colada

Another cold drink that you’ll surely love is the Piña Colada. Here’s how you can order this refreshing tropical drink:

  • Order a Creme Frappuccino with coconut milk and add it to the first line
  • Add a pineapple infusion tea to the second line
  • Ask for extra ice and an extra pump of the creme base

5. Cookie Dough

If you’re looking for a chocolatey cold beverage, the Cookie Dough is a must-try! Here’s what you need:

  • Order a Cinnamon Dolce Creme Frappuccino
  • Add mocha syrup (1 pump tall, 2 pumps grande, 3 pumps venti)
  • Blend in some java chips
  • Top it with some chocolate whip and cookie crumble

6. Ferrero Rocher

I am a fan of Ferrero Rocher. So when I found out that you can have this as a Frappuccino, I immediately saved the recipe. This is how you can enjoy this drink:

  • Order a Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino or Java Chip Frappuccino (I prefer Java Chip, but it's up to you)
  • Add hazelnut syrup (1 pump tall, 1.5 pumps grande, 2 pumps venti)
  • Add mocha Syrup (2 pumps tall, 3 pumps grande, 3.5 pumps venti)
  • Top it with whipped cream and hazelnut drizzle
Barista HQ Tip: Make this drink healthier by requesting almond milk instead of whole milk. The natural flavors of the almond make this drink even nuttier.
Starbucks Butterbeer Frappuccino

What Exactly Is Starbucks Sauce?

Starbucks sauce is a way to add creaminess and richness to your drinks.

Known for its thick and creamy consistency, this ingredient is mostly added to hot beverages like caramel macchiato, cappuccinos, cafe mochas, and other mocha-flavored lattes.

It can also be added to some iced drinks such as Frappuccinos and Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte.

Most of the time, you can see the available flavoring sauces on the Starbucks menu. Sometimes, they don't disclose this information.

Also, most Starbucks coffee shops have individual coffee sauce bottles that you can squeeze to add to your drink.

Coffee Sauces

  • Mocha sauce (the only vegan sauce!)
  • Caramel sauce
  • Dark caramel sauce
  • White chocolate mocha sauce

Seasonal Sauces

  • Caramel Brulee
  • Pumpkin sauce
Barista HQ Tip: Do you want to elevate your coffee experience at home? If so, you can buy a Starbucks caramel sauce at selected Starbucks stores and grocery stores. The Starbucks caramel sauce can be added to any drink of your choice, like coffee and other beverages. This added flavor can level up even a simple cup of brewed coffee.
Chocolate sauce being poured over a coffee drink

Starbucks Syrup Overview (How Best To Use It)

When you ask for "flavoring" in your drink, syrups are the default add-ons unless you state what flavor you want.

This is because Starbucks syrups are versatile, which means they can be added easily to any beverage, like iced coffee, without ruining the drink.

On top of that, most of them are suited for those on vegan diets and lactose intolerant.

Standard Syrups At Starbucks

  • Classic syrup
  • Cane sugar syrup
  • Honey blend syrup
  • Brown sugar syrup (Vegan-friendly)
  • Caramel syrup (Vegan-friendly)
  • Peppermint syrup (Vegan-friendly)
  • Pineapple ginger syrup
  • Toffee nut syrup (Vegan-friendly)
  • Hazelnut syrup
  • Raspberry syrup (Vegan-friendly)
  • Vanilla syrup (Vegan-friendly)
  • Sugar-free vanilla syrup (Vegan-friendly)

Seasonal Syrup Flavors

  • Apple brown sugar syrup
  • Funnel cake syrup
  • Cinnamon dolce syrup (Vegan-friendly)
  • Pumpkin syrup
  • Sugar cookie syrup
  • Chestnut praline syrup

Syrups For Home Use (Available In Grocery Stores!)

  • Vanilla syrup
  • Caramel syrup
  • Hazelnut syrup

Frequently Asked Starbucks Sauce Vs Syrup Questions

Can you buy Starbucks syrups and sauces for home use?

Yes, Starbucks offers sauces and syrups for home use. For the sauces, the only flavor available is caramel. For syrups, you can get vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut flavors. Their website also has recipes for making your own flavored syrups![2]

Is caramel drizzle sauce or syrup?

The caramel drizzle is a Starbucks sauce that you can add to almost any drink.

How many pumps of sauce are in a venti?

There are four pumps of sauce in a venti cup for hot drinks and five pumps if it’s an iced venti.

How many pumps of Starbucks syrup are in a grande?

For a grande-sized cup, there are four pumps of Starbucks syrup.

Are syrups free at Starbucks?

Yes, syrups are free at Starbucks if the drink you're ordering comes with a flavored syrup in its recipe. However, you need to pay an extra $0.80 for any number of syrup pumps, regardless of the amount and number of flavors.


Final Words

Now that you know the key differences between sauces and syrups, you can add them to any of your favorite drinks to achieve your desired flavor.

If you're like me and don't like the bitter taste of coffee, you'll surely be addicted to these two!

References:

1. https://www.myfitnesspal.com/nutrition-facts-calories/starbucks-syrup
2. https://athome.starbucks.com/recipe-overview/syrups

Kim Fernandez

Author

Kim Fernandez
Kim offers a unique perspective on coffee culture and trends. Kim's writing is personal and experiential, providing readers with firsthand advice on the latest in coffee. Beyond her writing, Kim is an avid explorer of new coffee trends and spots, always seeking to share the most genuine advice and latest trends. True to her love for coffee, you'll often find her in a café, immersed in a book with a freshly brewed cup of joe.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... A freshly brewed cup of joe

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