Molasses is often associated with sugar, spice, and everything nice. During the holiday season you’ll find this sticky nectar in everything from cookies to quick breads, but do you have the inside scoop on this ingredient? You will now! From unsulfured to blackstrap, get ready with this primer for all things molasses.
What Is Molasses?
Molasses is made from either sugar cane or sugar beet juice. It’s essentially a byproduct of the sugar-making process—molasses is the thick, brown, syrupy liquid that’s left over after sugar crystals are removed.
Types of Molasses
Curious about unsulfured molasses versus pomegranate molasses? Here’s the breakdown.
Light and Dark Molasses
Whether a molasses is light or dark entirely depends on how long it’s cooked.
- Light molasses is finished after the first boiling of the sugar, and the sweet flavor works well in marinades, sauces, or in meals like oatmeal. In baking, it’s known for helping make breads crustier and cookies softer for the perfect chew.
- Dark molasses gets its richer color from the second boiling, when more sugar is extracted. This results in a thicker and less sweet flavor (perfect for gingerbread cookies).
If you thought all the boiling was finished, there’s actually a third round, which is where blackstrap molasses comes from. This version is extra thick, even darker in color, and slightly bitter. And since blackstrap molasses is so concentrated, it’s believed to have greater health benefits, delivering more vitamins and minerals.
Wholesome’s Organic Blackstrap Molasses offers 115mg of calcium per serving (1 tablespoons), plus 15 percent of your recommended daily dose of iron. Try blackstrap molasses in savory dishes like pulled pork and baked beans.
Sulfured and Unsulfured Molasses
If your bottle of molasses is labeled as “sulphured,” it contains sulphur dioxide, a preservative that can leave the molasses with traces of a chemical flavor, and also makes it less sweet. For baking, look for “unsulfured” for a more authentic smoky flavor that pairs well with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
Pomegranate molasses isn’t molasses in the traditional sense. This version is made from pomegranate juice that’s been reduced to create a thick, intensely flavored syrup that’s a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine.
Other Types of Molasses
Molasses made from sugar cane is the most popular option, but molasses can also be made from sorghum (a Southern ingredient), carob, and dates.
4 Recipes With Molasses
Need a go-to molasses cookie recipe? Look no further! Desserts with molasses are easy to find, especially for fall and winter baking.
Get in the holiday spirit with this sweet cookie recipe! A trio of warm spices—ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon—will make your kitchen smell delish while you wait for the treats to bake. And here’s a tip: Let them fully cool before biting in! (We know, hardest thing ever.) The cookies will puff up when baking, then deflate to the perfect, crinkly texture while they rest.
The secret ingredient in these cinnamon rolls is orange. A hint of zest adds just enough brightness to the filling, and molasses keeps every bite sticky and sweet. Once you’ve mastered the original recipe, get creative! Try adding chopped nuts or dried cranberries to mix things up.
For a show-stopping (and gluten-free!) fall dessert, this recipe takes the cake. It’s deceptively simple—just a single 8-inch round cake, but the flair comes from the thick, white icing that drapes over the top like a bed of fallen snow. For an extra festive touch, add sugared cranberries or sprigs of rosemary to decorate.
Get out those cookie cutters! Nothing says the holidays are here like an afternoon baking session, and these gingerbread men are filled with your favorite flavors like cloves, molasses, and black pepper, then covered in a luscious layer of frosting.