The smell and deep, rich, slightly caramel flavor of a great molasses makes any baked good somehow feel more traditional.
If you get the wrong kind of molasses, however, you might end up with more bitter flavor than you bargained for.
So what is the best molasses for baking? The best molasses for baking is light, unsulfured molasses. This is the sweetest and least refined type of molasses, meaning it has a mild, but sweet flavor. However, some recipes will call for stronger, less sweet flavors and may require darker molasses.
If you’d like to better understand the ingredients you’re cooking with, this article will explain the different types of molasses you might come across as well as share our top 5 suggestions to try for all your baking needs.
What is Molasses?
Molasses is more or less a by-product of sugar processing.
When sugar is being made from sugar cane or beetroot, very little of the actual vegetable turns into what we know as refined sugar.
The leftover flesh of the vegetable itself is condensed into pellets and sold into the petfood market.
The sugar continues to be boiled down and reduced until a thick, dark brown syrup is all that is left. This gets boiled some more, to the point where crystals develop.
Those crystals are what become granulated sugar and the leftover syrup is what we know as molasses. From this basic syrup, we get a few different types of molasses.
Types of Molasses
The different types of molasses are developed depending on how many times the sugar syrup was boiled down, getting thicker and more caramelized with each process. Types can also vary by additional ingredients.
Light Vs. Dark Molasses
The earlier in the sugar-making process the syrup is converted into molasses the lighter in color and sweeter in taste it will be.
Light molasses may also be called first, sweet or mild molasses. Light molasses is usually pulled from the first boil of the vegetable, whereas standard dark molasses will be from the second or third boil.
Some sugar production goes through up to 6 rounds of boiling, which leads us to another type of molasses:
As the syrup continues to cook and boil down, it develops a smoky, earthy flavor. Blackstrap molasses is made from syrup pulled after the third boil.
Refined white sugar crystals are very sweet. If all that sweetness is removed from the liquid, it makes sense that a dark molasses will be thick and very robust in flavor. It has a bitterness that is not unlike black coffee.
In cooking, most recipes will specify what type of molasses you should use because the sweetness varies quite a lot.
Blackstrap will always be specified. It should not be used as a substitute for light or even dark molasses because the flavor, texture, and consistency are quite distinct.
In exchange for the loss of sweetness, blackstrap molasses contains the most nutrition. All the vitamins and minerals that are lost in refined white sugar are gained in a really rich, dark blackstrap molasses.
Molasses tends to ferment so sometimes sulfur dioxide is added to the mix to prevent this from happening.
If a molasses is labeled “unsulfured” it means they haven’t added this particular preservative.
Sulfur dioxide dampens the sweetness of the molasses, so in baking, you’ll typically want to look for unsulfured products if possible.
Fancy molasses is more like a syrup that you’d use on top of ice cream or pancakes, similar to maple syrup or honey. It’s very sweet because it’s a mixture of molasses and condensed sugar juice.
If you find a bottle of molasses labeled “Cooking Molasses” it’s probably a mixture of Fancy and Blackstrap molasses.
Other Kinds of Molasses
Molasses can be made from almost any fruit or vegetable that has high sugar content. Though it’s less common, you can find molasses made from pomegranates, dates, carob, sorghum, and even grapes.
Lite molasses should not be confused with Light molasses. Lite means that sugar has been removed from the molasses, regardless of type. It’s not common at all and very hard to source.
Best Molasses for Baking
Now that you know all about the types of molasses, you must be wondering what the best molasses for baking is.
Light, unsulfured molasses is the most commonly sold type of molasses and the one most likely to be used in baking. It’s the sweetest with the least amount of refinement which means it also has the mildest flavor.
Now, let’s look specifically at which brands have the most to offer in terms of molasses for baking:
|1.||Golden Barrel Supreme Baking Molasses||Unsulfured|
|2.||Grandma's Original Molasses||Unsulfured|
|3.||Swanson Certified Organic Blackstrap Molasses||Blackstrap, unsulfured|
|4.||Eat Well Premium Foods Pomegranate Molasses||Pomegranate|
|5.||Plantation Blackstrap Molasses||Blackstrap, unsulfured|
We’ve also got more on each brand below so you can make the best decision for your baking needs.
1. Golden Barrel Supreme Baking Molasses
This mild flavor molasses from Golden Barrel is another great light choice.
It is their sweetest molasses and it is unsulfured, making it the perfect go-to choice for baking, and other uses.
- Certified Non-GMO and gluten-free
- Can also be used as a flavorful syrup for pancakes, porridge, and even to complement coffee or hot cocoa
Biggest Drawbacks: Comes in a glass bottle which is usually a huge pro, but depending on the circumstances, can make for tricky shipping logistics.
2. Grandma’s Original Molasses
For baking, Grandma’s original unsulfured molasses is hard to beat. It’s rich, sweet, and perfect for baking.
They do also make a darker, “Robust” version if you’re looking for something with a deeper flavor.
- Non-GMO, no preservatives, artificial flavors/colors, nor sulfur
- Made from sun-ripened sugar cane
- Fat-free, gluten-free, and Kosher
Biggest Drawbacks: It can be hard to find in local grocery stores, although shopping online is an option.
3. Swanson Certified Organic Blackstrap Molasses
This is our first blackstrap molasses recommendation. It’s certified organic and is perfect for all sort of baking needs.
It gives a healthy boost to your favorite baked goods, but it can also be used in sauces and other cooking applications.
It also boasts calcium, iron, and potassium in its makeup.
You get more flavor and a bit less sweetness for home bakers who prefer more variation in the taste of their baked goods.
- Certified organix
- No preservatives or artificial colors or flavors
- Great for use in sauces, marinades, glazes and, of course, baked goods
Biggest Drawbacks: It’s rich, semi-bitter flavors can be an acquired taste.
4. Eat Well Premium Foods Pomegranate Molasses
This molasses is not a standard sugar molasses; it’s made from pomegranates rather than sugarcane or beetroot.
But we think this just makes it all the more exciting and could be just what some of your baked goods need to stand out.
- Highly concentrated flavor – a little goes a very long way
- Smooth flowing and light syrup
- Unique flavor
Biggest Drawbacks: It’s made from concentrated pomegranate juice and sugar, so it’s not what most people think of as a true molasses.
However, this pomegranate molasses brings an entirely unique character of flavor to your baking and cooking, whether you’re making a cake, frosting, or a rack of lamb roast!
5. Plantation Blackstrap Molasses
This is another blackstrap molasses which is not traditionally used in baking but there are some people out there who love the flavor and just don’t get enough joy out of a light molasses.
- Organic, sustainably grown and harvested
- Best source of vitamins, minerals and other trace elements in any type of molasses
- Deep, rich, full-bodied flavor that can be duplicated with any other product
Biggest Drawbacks: Could be tricky incorporating into baking.
Can Molasses Go Bad?
Molasses is quite hearty and won’t go bad easily, but it is sensitive to heat and humidity.
You’ll want to store it in a temperature-controlled environment to prevent mold growth. It retains moisture very well, which is why it makes a welcome home to bacteria.
Unopened molasses will for up to 10 years and opened, well-sealed molasses stored in a cool, dry environment should store safely for at least a year, but much longer with the right care.
How Much Molasses to Make Brown Sugar?
This will vary depending on the type of molasses you’re starting with and how you enjoy your brown sugar. On average, use 1 tablespoon of molasses for every 1 cup of white sugar.
If you like a darker brown sugar, use 2 tablespoons or a darker form of molasses. To combine, just use a hand mixer until all the molasses is well distributed and incorporated.
What is a Good Molasses Substitute?
If you want the molasses flavor, your best bet is to use a good, dark brown sugar if you have it. You’ll want to use slightly less brown sugar because it’s sweeter than molasses. Try ¾ cup brown sugar to replace 1 cup of light molasses.
If you are just trying to make a recipe and you don’t have molasses but don’t mind if the flavor change, as long as the sweetness is there, you have a few options.
Molasses is a syrup, so swap for an equal serving of another syrup, such as maple syrup or honey. You can use corn syrup, but it’s much lower quality in terms of health and much sweeter as well.