Molasses vs. Maple Syrup

Last Update: September 15, 2023

There’s a lot to love about molasses and maple syrup (like the fact that they’re top-notch natural sweetener options) but what’s really the difference between these deeply hued nectars? Deciding between these two ingredients doesn’t have to become sticky situation—here’s our side-by-side comparison of the difference between molasses and maple syrup.

What Is Molasses?

Molasses is made from one of two things: sugar beet juice or sugar cane. Essentially, it’s a byproduct of the standard sugar-making process. [1] Once the sugar crystals are removed, molasses is the thick, syrupy liquid that’s left over!


Molasses Q&A

Here’s the lowdown on some of the top questions about molasses.

Is molasses gluten-free?

Technically, yes. [2] Just double-check the ingredient label to ensure it wasn’t made in a facility containing nuts.

Is molasses vegan?

Yep, molasses is vegan, and can be used in your favorite baking recipes, like cookies and quick breads.

What is blackstrap molasses?

Blackstrap molasses is made during a third round of boiling. It’s extra-thick, darker in color than regular molasses, and has a slightly bitter taste. [3]

Can molasses be substituted for maple syrup?

Don’t fret if you ever need to swap maple syrup for molasses (or vice versa). As a general rule, you can sub in molasses for maple syrup 1:1 as a liquid ingredient, but since molasses isn’t as naturally sweet as maple syrup, keep that in mind for how it might affect the final flavor.

Difference Between Molasses and Honey

You know both honey and molasses for their sweetness. But while honey has a lighter, more floral flavor, molasses tastes warmer, earthier, and slightly smoky. It’s not just taste—they’re made differently, too. To make honey, bees gather nectar from flowers and store it in a second stomach to bring it back to the hive. [4] When the bees are back at the hive, they store that nectar in the honeycomb. Over time, water evaporates and honey as we know it is formed. Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar-making process. Crystals are formed and turned into sugar separately, while molasses is left behind from boiling crushed sugar beets or sugar cane.

Light Molasses vs Molasses

Light molasses is produced after the first sugar cane boil. [5] The light color indicates that a smaller amount of sugar has been extracted, resulting in the less sweet, more mild form of molasses. Dark molasses is formed after a second boil, which naturally darkens the color due to higher sugar content. This will also make dark molasses thicker and more earthy or bitter in flavor.

Health Benefits of Molasses

When it comes to molasses nutrition, Wholesome’s Organic Blackstrap Molasses delivers 115mg of calcium per serving (roughly 1 tablespoon), plus 15 percent of your recommended dose of iron. Blackstrap molasses is believed to have additional health benefits since it’s so concentrated. [6],[7]

Molasses Recipes

Start your ovens and get ready to bake up some cookies, cinnamon rolls, and cake. Follow these molasses recipes to great success and full bellies!

Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies

This sweet cookie recipe is guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit! Ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg unite to add a delicious aroma to your kitchen.

Orange-Molasses Cinnamon Rolls

Orange zest is the surprising ingredient that adds brightness to these sticky buns. Get creative with the filling by adding chopped nuts or dried cranberries!

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

This gluten-free dessert is quite a showstopper, and a guaranteed molasses crowd favorite, as thick icing drapes the top of the cake like freshly fallen snow. Embellish the decorations with sprigs of rosemary or sugared cranberries.

Iced Gingerbread Men

Grab your cookie cutters and bake the afternoon away. These gingerbread men are filled with favorite fall spices like cloves and black pepper, and get the right amount of chew from molasses.

What Is Maple Syrup?

Hailing from maple tree sap, maple syrup is known for its amber hue and sticky yet runny texture. The sap is collected using a tap, then the liquid is quickly boiled to remove any water—this is the step that turns it into syrup.


Maple Syrup Q&A

Curious about maple syrup? We’ve rounded up some answers to common questions.

Are maple syrup and molasses the same thing?

While they have similar uses, molasses and maple syrup are different. Molasses is made using beet or cane sugar and maple syrup is made using maple tree sap.

So what’s the difference between molasses and maple syrup?

Besides the way they are produced, maple syrup and molasses have different tastes and textures. While you can swap maple syrup for molasses, maple syrup tends to be thinner and sweeter than molasses, so keep that in mind when choosing which one to use in your recipes.

Pancake Syrup vs Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is just one ingredient: sap from a maple tree that has been boiled down into a thicker reduction. Pancake syrup, on the other hand, is an artificial take on that process created with corn syrup and maple extract or natural flavors.

Does maple syrup need to be refrigerated?

Yes, but only after opening. Unlike raw honey that you can store in your cabinet indefinitely, maple syrup can be prone to mold if left at room temperature, so keep it in the fridge for your next pancake breakfast or baking session.

What do the different maple syrup grades mean?

Maple syrup is offered in four classifications:

  • Grade A Light Amber
  • Grade A Medium Amber
  • Grade A Dark Amber
  • Grade B

It’s a common misconception that one is better than another. Each bottle has the same amount of sugar—the only difference is how long the sap was boiled. The darker you go, the more intense flavor you’ll find.

How many carbs are in maple syrup?

If you’re watching your carb intake, check the nutrition panel for all the info you need. Coombs has 53 total carbs per 4 tablespoon serving (18 percent of the recommended daily value).

Is maple syrup vegan?

Yes, maple syrup is vegan!

Is maple syrup Paleo-friendly?

Depends on who you ask. Sugar is generally frowned upon when you’re following a Paleo diet, but since it’s considered a natural food that comes straight from trees, some people choose to incorporate maple syrup into their diet in moderation.

What is maple sugar?

Maple sugar is another alternative sweetener gaining popularity that’s less processed than conventional white sugar, and may offer naturally occurring minerals like potassium and calcium, too. [8]

Maple Syrup Recipes

Maple syrup often takes a supporting role in recipes, like sweetening a glaze or a batter. These maple syrup recipes make the most of it in creative ways from sweet potatoes to pumpkin pie.

Maple Old Fashioned With Walnut Simple Syrup

Step up your Friday night cocktail with this unique spin on a classic. The walnut simple syrup adds a toasty quality that’ll rock your evening.

Blueberry Buckwheat Waffles with Orange-Maple Butter

Nothing starts the morning off right quite like a fresh, fluffy waffle. The buckwheat flour adds nuttiness, while blueberries burst with every bite. The orange maple butter takes this breakfast to the next level.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes With Maple Crème Fraiche

Dress up this humble tuber for your next holiday feast! Fragrant sage, nutmeg, and just enough maple-spiked crème fraiche make it a winning vegetarian side.

Raw Honey Granola Cups

Running out the door? Don’t forget to grab a granola cup! This grab-and-go maple syrup recipe is made with oats, maple syrup, peanut butter, honey, and shredded coconut for the perfect chewy texture.

Vegan Pumpkin Hand-Pies With Maple Glaze

Here’s a portable dessert with classic fall flavors. Hand pies are stuffed with a pure pumpkin filling, and the maple glaze offers just the right amount of sweetness.

Paleo Maple Pumpkin Pie

This is the ultimate Paleo dessert, with a nutty crust and a creamy pumpkin pie filling sweetened with maple syrup and spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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