Everything You Need To Know About Molasses

Choose the right kind of molasses the next time you bake.

When preparing for fall baking, take a quick inventory of your pantry to ensure your spices are fresh and you have plenty of molasses, one of the South's favorite sweeteners. This syrup can vary in flavor and intensity, so you need to understand the different types of molasses to choose the right one for your recipe. Whether baking cookies or grilling pork tenderloin, molasses syrup is available to add some flavor to your dish. Find out how to choose the right molasses for your sweet and savory dishes.

dark molasses
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What Is Molasses?

Molasses is a thick, dark syrup made during the sugar-making process. First, the sugar cane is crushed and the juice is extracted. The juice is then boiled to form sugar crystals and removed from the liquid. The thick, brown syrup left after removing the sugar from the juice is molasses. This process is repeated several times to produce a different type of molasses each time.

The Difference Between Sulphured and Unsulphured

Sulphured molasses is just that—molasses treated with Sulfur dioxide as a preservative. Also, to make it taste more like a mature cane, Sulfur is added when processing young sugar cane. This process can leave the syrup with a strong, chemical flavor, so most people prefer the cleaner, sweeter taste of unsulphured molasses. Most commercial brands in grocery stores will be the unsulphured type. Now that you know the difference between sulphured and unsulphured, you can choose the intensity of the flavor.

What Is Light (Original, Regular, or Mild) Molasses?

The most commonly sold molasses is light molasses, which comes from the first boiling of the sugar syrup and is more delicate in flavor and color. It's the tamest flavor and works well to boost other supporting ingredients instead of being intense and overpowering. Use regular molasses for holiday cakes, pecan pies, and molasses cookies. When a recipe calls for any molasses, regular is your best option.

What Is Dark (Robust, Full, Second) Molasses?

Dark molasses comes from a second boiling and is darker, thicker, and less sweet than light or regular molasses. Its flavor dominates, so you must be careful when you cook with it. It balances well with ginger, so dark molasses is ideal for gingerbread cake. Use it in baked beans and barbecue sauces on fatty meats for savory dishes.

When To Use Blackstrap Molasses?

This very thick, dark, and somewhat bitter molasses comes from the third boiling sugar syrup and is the dregs of the barrel (bottom of the barrel). While popular with some because of its purported health benefits (blackstrap is fractionally richer in some minerals than other molasses). Blackstrap, commonly used in livestock feed, is why some cooks like molasses' strong flavor on meats and barbecues. Never use it in sweet dishes or substitute blackstrap molasses for any other kind.

What Are Substitutes for Molasses?

Suppose you are low on molasses and can't run to the store. These easy substitutes will work in a pinch. For savory dishes, replace one cup of molasses with the same amount of honey, dark corn syrup, or maple syrup. For baked goods, substitute one cup of molasses with a mixture of three-fourths cup sugar, one and one-quarter teaspoons cream of tartar, and one-fourth cup of hot water or other liquid in the recipe. If there are spices in the recipe, increase them just a little to compensate for the loss of the molasses flavor.

Recipes Using Molasses

01 of 04

Sliced Sweet Potato Pie with Molasses Whipped Cream

Sliced Sweet Potato Pie with Molasses Whipped Cream
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Sliced Sweet Potato Pie with Molasses Whipped Cream

A sweet and sugary molasses glaze covers the stacked sweet potatoes in this pie. Upgrade your traditional sweet potato pie for this flavorful and fall-spiced dessert. Use a store-bought pie crust to simplify this recipe.

02 of 04

Old Fashioned Gingerbread

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread
Emily Laurae / Southern Living

Recipe: Old Fashioned Gingerbread

The spicy aroma of gingerbread baking is the easiest way to make your home smell like the holidays. Adding molasses to a classic gingerbread recipe boosts the sweet quality without overpowering the buttery, spicy mix. Pumpkin pie spice can substitute the ground spice if you don't have them all on hand.

03 of 04

Molasses Crinkles Cookies

Molasses Crinkles Recipe
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Molasses Crinkles Cookies

Some things are classics for a reason. This holiday staple cookie has the perfect blend of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. The robust molasses flavoring complements the mixture by adding just enough sweetness.

04 of 04

Molasses-Soy Glazed Salmon and Vegetables

Molasses-Soy Glazed Salmon and Vegetables
Alison Miksch; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food styling: Karen Rankin

Recipe: Molasses-Soy Glazed Salmon and Vegetables

Molasses isn't just for baking. You can have a delicious, healthy, and flavorful salmon in under an hour, paired with a molasses and soy glaze. Substitute the salmon for chicken or shrimp because this glaze works well in many recipes.

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