Molasses got its name from the Latin word mellaceum, which means ‘resembling honey’. This sweet and sticky syrup is what makes gingerbread cookies uniquely complex in their caramel-like flavor and gives baked goods their fudgy, moist, and dense texture and taste. Besides being used in baking, molasses is often used in Caribbean and southern US cuisines.
To help you develop the same kind of molasses flavor without actually using molasses, we’ve rounded up a list of the best molasses substitutes for baking, sauces, and cooking. Here is everything you need to know when choosing a molasses alternative.
What Is Molasses?
Just like honey and maple syrup each feature a distinct flavor, molasses does too. The sticky syrup is derived from sugar or sugar beets. During the production of regular sugar, the juice squeezed from sugar cane is boiled and sugar crystals are extracted. The remaining liquid that is left as a byproduct of the process turns out to be molasses.
Types of Molasses
Molasses varies in type according to the number of times it is reduced. The light syrupy liquid left as a byproduct of sugar processing is light molasses. This has a light color and sweet taste.
As this is boiled down further, it becomes darker, thicker, and more complex in flavor with deeper caramel notes and less sweetness. If reduced down a third and final time blackstrap molasses is produced which is somewhat bitter, thick, and very dark in color.
In addition to these three types, the product can also be sulfured or unsulfured. The addition of sulfur dioxide will preserve, clarify, and lighten the product making it more appealing and long-lasting on a grocery store shelf. If you manage to find the unsulfured type, opt for the natural version.
Things To Consider Before Choosing the Best Replacement for Molasses
Molasses is used for different reasons in various recipes. It is integrated for its flavor, sweetness, slightly bitter notes, to impart a thicker consistency, dense texture, dark color, or for its moisture inhibiting properties.
When using an alternative, take into consideration that the flavor and color will most likely be different in the end product.
As a liquid sweetener that draws moisture, molasses will react differently in baked goods than dry sweeteners such as granular sugar. Some recipes won’t be affected by this, however, when baking you may want to swap it out for another liquid sweetener instead of a dry alternative.
What Can I Use Instead of Molasses?
There are many different kinds of honey out there and some have a much sweeter and more floral flavor than others. To match consistency, make sure you opt for pure honey which will be thicker than commercially processed products.
Deeper colored varieties such as buckwheat honey are a good choice. Honey that has a very floral flavor will change the taste of your end product so keep this in mind when making the substitution.
Substitute quantity: Use the honey in equal measures or slightly less to balance out the excessive sweetness or thinner consistency.
Related: Honey replacement
#2. Golden Syrup
Also known as light treacle, golden syrup is on par with honey when it comes to the best molasses replacement. The light sticky syrup is also made from sugar cane juice which is evaporated to get a thicker consistency, toasty taste, and golden color.
When using this as a replacement keep in mind that your end product will have a subtler color and flavor.
Substitute quantity: Replace in a 1:1 ratio
Related: Golden syrup substitute
#3. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup has much higher water content and thinner consistency so you may have to decrease the liquid content in baking recipes when using it as a replacement.
In some applications such as sauces, this will however not be much of an issue. Choose a maple syrup variety with a darker color.
Substitute quantity: Replace in a 1:1 ratio. If necessary reduce the liquid content slightly in baking recipes to prevent consistency changes in the batter.
#4. Brown Sugar
Light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, and muscovado actually already contain molasses. Having many of the same flavor notes, this is a great substitute in sauces and cooking, however, you may find that you lack some moisture when using light brown granulated sugar in baking recipes.
Substitute quantity: Replace in equal quantities when making sauces or savory recipes. In cake or cookie recipes substitute ¾ cup brown sugar for 1 cup of molasses and gradually add one tablespoon of water at a time until you reach the desired consistency. One to 3 tablespoons of water should do the trick.
See more: Replacement for brown sugar
Sorghum also referred to as sorghum molasses, is a syrup derived from sorghum grains. It is easier to find in some regions than others, but if you have any on hand this makes a great substitute.
It has a slightly sweet and sour taste, so consider if this will affect your end product. It is ideal for barbecue sauces or baked beans.
Substitute quantity: Replace in equal quantities.
#6. Dark Corn Syrup
Although dark corn syrup has a similar color and liquid consistency to molasses it is much more neutral in flavor. If consistency is a more important factor in your recipe, this makes a good substitute.
However, if you’re after some deep flavor you may want to consider using half dark corn syrup and adding a more flavorful option such as muscovado or maple syrup to make up the rest of the measurement. See more about mixing alternatives below.
Substitute quantity: Replace in equal quantities
See more: Substitute for corn syrup
Mix and Match Substitutions
Finding a substitute with all the same qualities can be tough. You may find that you have the color and consistency covered, but not the flavor, or vice versa. If you have a combination of ingredients in the pantry, mix them up to create something with the flavor and consistency you desire.
The total measurement of your mixture should equal the total measurement of molasses you are replacing. For example, substitute 1 cup of molasses with half a cup of brown sugar mixed with half a cup of honey.
Finding a molasses substitute can be as simple as swapping it directly for golden syrup, or concocting your own mix of the perfect dark brown sugar and agave blend.
Whether you are making barbecue sauce, baked beans, or warm holiday ginger cookies, keep an eye on the consistency of your recipe and make small adjustments if necessary to get the ideal result. You may even discover a new combination to call your own secret recipe!
*image by reflex_safak/depositphotos