Starbucks Sauce vs Syrup – Is There a Difference?

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If you’re a Starbucks regular, you may have noticed that coffee sauce is listed differently from coffee syrup on the mobile app. Or maybe you’ve noticed that your caramel latte tastes just that little bit different than that last time you had it… The good news is that you no longer have to worry!

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Here, I’ve outlined what separates sauces from syrups at Starbucks so you can figure out which one you need for your order! There’ll even be some interesting tidbits on what may have caused this confusion in the first place.

Table of Contents

white and brown starbucks coffee cup on brown wooden table

The Basic Differences Between Coffee Sauce And Coffee Syrup


Syrup Traits

Syrup is a thin, fluid liquid that diffuses into drinks. It’s used in both hot and cold drinks. The Starbucks syrup contains approximately 20 calories per pump.

Sauce Traits

Sauce is – ironically enough – a viscous syrup-like liquid that is most commonly used as a drizzle. It works best in hot drinks as it melts and mixes in with the drink, but is also commonly used as a drizzle on cold drinks. Depending on what type of sauce it is, it can contain approximately 30 calories per pump, but also could be higher.

What Is The Difference Between Sauces And Syrups At Starbucks?

According to Starbucks employees, ‘syrup’ is the ingredient added to flavor your drink. It’s a thinner liquid than the ‘sauce’ and is what you would be able to find in the tall bottles with pumps behind the counter. Sauces have a thicker consistency and tend to be used as drizzles. They’re also usually stored in smaller bottles.

In short, the sauce is closer to a drizzle you might put on ice cream, whereas syrup is thin and diffuses in liquid to flavor the base drink itself.

Are Starbucks Sauces More Expensive Than Syrups?

A significant difference between sauces and syrups is that sauce is usually more expensive – I say ‘usually’ because this isnt always the case.

The reason why sauces are pricier is because they are generally considered to be an ‘add-on’ ingredient rather than a base component of the drink. This is why they might register as an additional charge on the Starbucks app.

However, as I mentioned, this rule does have some exceptions – drinks like mocha or hot chocolate tend to have the cost of these ingredients included in their base price. This is because these beverages automatically come with ‘add on’ ingredients, so the cost is already factored in.

Another reason for this confusion is that the term ‘sauce’ is sometimes used to describe what is essentially just a thick syrup. This is the case for drinks such as white mocha, caramel brûlée, and the beloved pumpkin spice latte.

To add to the confusion, some drinks with these hybrid sauce-syrups were temporary menu items that have since been discontinued – in particular, the dark caramel sauce.

caramel sauce

What’s The Difference Between Caramel Sauce And Syrup?

The same rules as before apply to caramel syrup and sauce. Despite this, there’s been some understandable confusion between the two. This is because of an additional option that was present on the mobile app.

Dark caramel was a drizzle that was used on the waffle cone Frappuccino a few years ago. Despite no longer being served, the option for caramel sauce was not removed from the app.

Since the waffle cone Frappuccino was seasonal, dark caramel drizzle has since been substituted with regular caramel sauce. If you’re wondering why your caramel-based drink doesn’t taste the same as it maybe did in the past, that’s why!

Another reason for the confusion is that different drinks use different types of caramel! For example, both caramel macchiatos and Frappuccinos use caramel sauce with an alternate syrup base – but caramel iced coffees and lattes use caramel syrup.

Should I Use Caramel Sauce Or Syrup?

The answer to this question depends on what kind of drink you’d like to order!

Keep in mind that caramel syrup may already be a part of your drink – it’d be a good idea to look up the recipe and double-check so your drink isn’t too sweet.

Likewise, if you’re looking to add a drizzle to your drink, by all means, order some caramel sauce! But know that you might have to pay extra for it if it’s not already a part of the drink.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Starbucks Sauces and Syrups

Are Starbucks Sauces Available For Purchase?

If you’re looking to get that trademark Starbucks flavor from the comfort of your own home, you’re in luck. Syrups can be purchased from Starbucks for home use! They’re available to purchase from Starbucks stores, as well as most grocery stores. Don’t fret if you can’t find them locally, as they’re always available to order online!
Unfortunately, Starbucks brand sauces cannot be purchased. However, many alternative brands work just as well!

Are Sauces and Syrups Suitable For Those With Dietary Restrictions?

To ease your mind, I’ve added a table below with some information on potential allergens and restrictions regarding sauces and syrups from Starbucks specifically.
If in doubt, ask your local barista about allergen information – they should have a card with a list of restrictions and allergens. Alternatively, there are many websites dedicated to listing menu items with potentially restricted items. You can also check out the Starbucks nutrition and allergen guide in the below table.

LACTOSESome sauces are NOT dairy-freeAll syrups are dairy-free
GLUTENCaramel drizzle and other seasonal items are NOT gluten-freeSeasonal syrups are NOT gluten-free
ALLERGENSSome sauces are NOT allergen-freeSome syrups are NOT allergen-free
KOSHERNot kosherNot kosher
VEGANNot veganMost are vegan, but a few contain honey

Starbucks Sauce vs Syrup: Not The Same as You Might Think!

The most important difference to understand is that sauces are usually used as drizzles rather than flavoring – unlike syrups. The confusion over caramel sauce in particular is due to a seasonal ‘dark caramel’ sauce that is no longer available to order, despite showing up on the app. Sauces and syrups also differ in that they have different parts to play in your drink and that fact is sometimes reflected in the pricing – as well as the nutritional content, of course. Certain sauces and syrups also go against some dietary restrictions, so be sure to check before ordering your drink!

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By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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