A friend gave me a beef and macaroni casserole. It had an odd sweet taste, so I asked about the ingredients and seasoning.

Turns out it included a half-cup of dark corn syrup[1]. I am wondering where the idea for this came from (she doesn't know where her mother got the recipe originally) and if there is too much sweetener for the casserole, or there shouldn't have been any in there in the first place. Was it perhaps somebody's substitution for molasses?

I'm not planning on making it myself so I don't necessarily want to fix the recipe, I'm just baffled by the flavor profile and trying to understand the intent :)

[1] For an idea of the proportions, other ingredients included 1 pound of ground beef, a large can of tomatoes, a half-teaspoon each chili powder and salt, 3 cups cooked macaroni, and 1/2 cup cheese on top.

1 Answer 1


The only reason to sweeten a dish like this is personal taste, you could add less or leave it out, it's not essential for a beef casserole. It could be a substitute for molasses, although why you'd add 1/2 cup of molasses to a beef casserole it beyond me.

As for why it's in there who knows? It may be when the recipe was first made that some of the ingredients added bitterness or sourness and the sweetener was added to offset it. Some brands of canned tomatoes can be pretty tart, although 1/2 a cup of corn syrup seems a bit....excessive to counteract that. Or maybe her mom added sugar to get her kids to eat it. Or maybe someone in the family owned stock in Karo. Perhaps she served it to people she didn't like in hopes they'd go into a diabetic coma. You'll probably never know.

  • 1
    Hahahaha... speculating on the motivation for that quantity will clearly only lead to increasingly paranoid possibilities :D I've never encountered sweetener of any sort with ground beef before -- guess I'm lucky!
    – Erica
    Oct 28, 2014 at 16:20
  • 1
    I can see a tablespoon or two of sweetener if you need to counteract acidity or bitterness, or just want a slightly sweet undertone, but 1/2 of syrup? Blech!
    – GdD
    Oct 28, 2014 at 16:32

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