Pomegranate molasses is the new hit ingredient of the year, despite actually not being so new to the market. This ingredient has gained popularity around the world over the past few years and has recently hit an all-time high!
Pomegranate molasses this and pomegranate molasses that! We cannot seem to get away from it! Unfortunately, the supply is short and it is very difficult to find.
Even if you eventually get your hands on some, because it is such a luxurious product, it also comes with a very luxurious price tag!
Are there any substitutes for pomegranate molasses? The best possible substitution is pomegranate juice or cranberry juice. Both are very easy to find and have the closest possible flavors to authentic pomegranate molasses. Alternatively, you can use Grenadine, raspberry jam, balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice.
Today is a jam-packed article. We will be looking at literally every aspect of pomegranate molasses.
We will also have an in-depth look at all the possible substitutes you can use, the many different ways you can substitute them, and finally all of their pros and cons.
What Is Pomegranate Molasses?
Most people are very familiar with pomegranates, especially because they have dramatically increased in popularity over the last few years. Pomegranates are well known for their deliciously sweet flavor and juicy texture.
They are very versatile fruits and also add a touch of exotic sophistication to any dish. They can be used in cocktails or other drinks, as a garnish for many savory and sweet dishes, or as part of dishes like salads, dips, or stews.
Not many people know about a delicious product made from this juicy fruit. It is called pomegranate molasses, and yes, it is basically molasses made from pomegranates.
All that it consists of is pomegranate juice and sugar. The ingredients are reduced creating a very thick and deep red syrup.
Pomegranate molasses, despite not being so well known in Western countries, is an extremely popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine and has been used for decades.
You can also find it labeled as pomegranate syrup or pomegranate concentrate.
It is gaining popularity worldwide for its unique taste and complex sweet flavors it adds to food. However, unfortunately, it is still a bit difficult to find.
How Is Pomegranate Molasses Used In Food?
Pomegranate molasses has a ton of different functions and different ways it is used in dishes and drinks. The way it has been used in a recipe will give you an indication of which substitute will work the best.
This molasses can be used as a syrup and either garnish a dish, add moisture to things like cake, or simply be used as a dressing on salads.
It is also used as a flavoring ingredient and can be incorporated into stews, desserts, custards, cakes, marinades, and a thousand other dishes. The possibilities are endless.
You can think of it like chocolate sauce or honey – it gets used in the same way and for the same reasons.
How To Substitute Pomegranate Molasses
Choosing a substitute can be difficult sometimes, especially for something like a syrup that has been made from fruit.
Naturally, the first substitute you think of is pomegranate seeds, however, they have such a different texture that it won’t always work.
What makes pomegranate molasses so fantastic and unique is that it has an intensely sweet and slightly tart flavor—not to mention the very concentrated pomegranate notes.
Plain pomegranate seeds aren’t as sweet, don’t have the same texture as the syrup, and don’t have a concentrated pomegranate flavor.
So, if pomegranate seeds aren’t a perfect substitute, what can be?! Well, first you have to look at why you are adding the pomegranate syrup.
If you are adding it for color, you can easily substitute it with syrup or honey and food coloring. Simple, isn’t it?
If you are adding it to help thicken a batter, sauce, or liquid, then you can also just add another type of syrup like honey, glucose, or any other flavored syrup.
Most often the pomegranate syrup is used to add pomegranate flavors, in which case you will have to look at where it is used.
As an example, let’s say you are using pomegranate molasses as part of a dressing or sauce, then it is very easy to substitute it with the seeds.
However, if you are using it to add pomegranate flavor in a recipe like cake, marinades, stews, or roasts, you will have to get more creative with your substitutes.
Luckily, we are here to give you the ultimate guide on how to substitute pomegranate molasses as well as when to use it and why.
The 7 Best Substitutes for Pomegranate Molasses
Here are our top recommendations for pomegranate substitutes. Each of these has its own pros and cons, but overall they will work great in any situation.
1. Pomegranate juice
Pomegranate juice is a very easy to find, affordable, and easy-to-use substitute. How it differs from pomegranate molasses is mostly in consistency and sometimes sweetness.
Pomegranate juice can be commonly found in two ways; sweetened or unsweetened. Unsweetened pomegranate juice doesn’t contain any sweetener or sugar, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it hasn’t been processed.
Unprocessed pomegranate juice is also called “fresh” or labeled as “freshly made”. Organic pomegranate juice will also be unprocessed.
It doesn’t contain any artificial colorants, flavorings, or preservatives. It is simply pomegranate juice.
Then you get sweetened pomegranate juice. This form is usually easier to find as it has a much longer shelf life.
This is mainly because it has added sweeteners and very often artificial colorants or flavorings, and definitely some form of preservative.
While unprocessed pomegranate juice will give you a more authentic flavor, it is often just as difficult to find as pomegranate molasses.
This is why we recommend using literally any type you can find, which will usually be the sweetened, processed one.
You can experiment with different types of pomegranate juices to see what effect it has on the flavor of the dish you are making.
Pomegranate juice has a very runny consistency compared to pomegranate molasses. Depending on what you are making, you may want to adjust the consistency.
Substituting for Flavor
If you require only the flavor of pomegranate molasses, you can easily get that with sweetened pomegranate juice. If the mixture is still not sweet enough, add something like honey, glucose, a simple syrup, or granulated sugar.
If you need the thickness of pomegranate molasses, you have a few options using pomegranate juice.
The first, and in our opinion the best option, is to reduce the juice until it becomes much thicker in consistency. This will also help concentrate the flavor.
The problem with this method is that your liquid will not have a thick syrup-like consistency (like molasses) and it takes quite some time to reduce.
You may as well make pomegranate molasses then! (We will of course discuss this as an option).
However, it is still the best method and requires the least amount of adjusting (compared to the other methods).
The second more realistic option is to use the juice as is, and simply reduce the quantity used in the recipe.
This is the best option if you are making baked goods or anything that requires a specific consistency. By adding more runny liquid, you make the mixture runnier.
Substituting Flavor and Thickness
You can combine some pomegranate juice and a type of syrup, preferably simple syrup or glucose that has a neutral flavor.
It would be even better if you use concentrated pomegranate juice! Then you get the concentrated flavor as well as the thickness.
This is kind of a make-shift molasses, but still not close to the real thing.
2. Cranberry Juice, Syrup, or Concentrate
If you cannot find any products with pomegranate flavors, cranberry flavored products are the next best thing! Cranberry products are a bit easier to find compared to pomegranate products.
This is fantastic because if you want to substitute the thickness of pomegranate molasses, you can simply buy cranberry molasses or syrup.
The best cranberry-flavored products that we would choose are cranberry juice, cranberry concentrate, syrup, or molasses. Any reduction of juice that only has cranberry flavors.
The only thing to note with cranberry products is that it has a slightly less sweet and more sour taste to it. It does however have similar tart flavors. If you want to you can simply add sugar, honey, or syrup to the mixture to make it sweeter.
Cranberry juice can also be a substitute for pomegranate juice and can be used in exactly the same ways.
It also comes sweetened or unsweetened so you may want to adjust the flavor slightly. But remember, always taste first before adjusting the flavor! You don’t want an overly sweet product.
When substituting pomegranate molasses with cranberry juice, you can also use the same methods as stated above for pomegranate juice. Alternatively, buy a similar product.
To substitute the thickness of molasses, simply buy cranberry molasses or syrup. If you simply want similar flavors and the texture doesn’t matter, cranberry juice or jelly will work well.
You can even use fresh or dried cranberries over a salad instead of adding them to a dressing. It is a very versatile substitute so the possibilities are endless.
Now, stay with us, because this confused us a lot at first. Grenadine, pomegranate syrup, and pomegranate molasses are almost the same thing, however, there are slight differences.
We feel it is necessary to oversimplify this because it was the only way we understood the differences.
All three of these products are made using pomegranate juice and sugar. The biggest difference is the concentration of sugar.
Pomegranate molasses has the least amount of sweetness (thus sugar) between these three products. This creates a very deep and complex, intensely pomegranate flavor.
Pomegranate syrup can be seen as the middle ground between the two. It is sweeter than molasses but less sweet than Grenadine.
Grenadine is the sweetest of all three. Pomegranate syrup and Grenadine is often used and marketed in the same way as well as used interchangeably.
Grenadine is a very easy-to-find product and is even a staple in many homes. It became popular as a cocktail syrup and ever since has expanded its uses into the food side of things.
Do not add more sugar to a recipe when using Grenadine. In fact, you can reduce the amount called for!
4. Raspberry Jam
Raspberry jam or any type of raspberry reduction will make a fantastic substitution! Raspberry is a naturally sweet fruit and once reduced the flavor intensifies and well as the sweetness.
Many raspberry products do have additional sweeteners added, but some are marketed as “less sugar” or “reduced sugar”. Use those instead to match the less sweet flavor of pomegranate molasses.
The raspberry jam will add a beautiful tangy and sweet flavor that very closely resembles that of pomegranate molasses.
Using raspberry jam is usually very thick and chunky and may require some adjusting depending on how you use it. If for example, you need to incorporate it into a drink, you may want to “melt” and strain it first to get a very smooth liquid.
However, if you are making salad dressings, smoothies, or marinades, the chunkiness won’t matter at all and can be used without any hassle.
You can use alternative raspberry-flavored products like raspberry syrup, concentrate, or even juice. These will work just as great and may even be easier to use.
5. Balsamic Vinegar and Sugar
What?! Balsamic vinegar? How could that possibly substitute pomegranate molasses?
When mixing balsamic vinegar and sugar you can get a beautiful balance of sweet and tangy, slightly acidic flavors, extraordinarily similar to that of pomegranate molasses.
Sure, it won’t have much of a fruity flavor; however, in a pinch, it will make a great substitute.
To create this beautiful blend, simply combine balsamic vinegar and granulated sugar in a pot, slowly bring it to a simmer while stirring. Start by only using a bit of sugar and slowly increase the amount to adjust the flavor.
Once the sugar and melted and you are happy with the flavor, you can use the mixture as is or reduce it to thicken the consistency.
We will only recommend this substitution for savory dishes, especially salad dressings and sauces. It will probably work for some dessert items, but we wouldn’t recommend it. And do not use it for drinks!
This mixture also, obviously, has a very dark brown or black color, so will completely change the look of the item you are making.
6. Lemon Juice and Honey
This substitution is very similar to the above-mentioned balsamic vinegar and sugar one. However, it is more likely that you have these ingredients in your cupboard compared to balsamic vinegar.
Lemon juice has a tartness and acidity that is very similar to that of pomegranates. The sweetness of the honey counteracts that acidity and balances it out. In the end, you are left with only a well-balanced syrup.
Alternatively to lemon juice, you can also use lime juice. It has similar characteristics and flavors.
A last-resort alternative can be grapefruits or kumquats. These will add a different flavor profile, however, again, the sweet and sour balance will be there.
Alternatively, to honey, you can easily use granulated sugar instead. The best would be to melt the sugar separately before adding it to the lemon or lime juice. You can also make a thick simple syrup using two parts sugar and one part water.
This is a fantastic method as you can very easily adjust the flavor and level of sweetness. It does however have no color, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
You can add food coloring if you really want that reddish color of pomegranate molasses.
As with the balsamic substitution, we don’t recommend using this one for anything other than savory dishes.
7. Homemade Pomegranate Molasses
While homemade pomegranate molasses is probably the best substitute you can use, we didn’t place it at the top of our list because it is labor-intensive and not a quick fix.
However, we will still highly recommend making some if you have the time.
All you have to do is squeeze out the juice from the pomegranate seeds. You can use a cheesecloth to help keep the pips and juice separate or simply blend the seeds and strain them to remove the tiny pips.
You can also use pomegranate juice, although we wouldn’t recommend it if you are going through the trouble anyway. It will change the consistency and reduce the intense and authentic pomegranate flavor.
Add some lemon juice and sugar and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it has begun boiling, reduce the heat to a gentle boil and allow it to reduce for about 45 minutes.
Then, taste the molasses and see if you want to adjust the sweetness. If so, simply add more granular sugar. If you are happy with the flavor, lower the heat even further and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
Allow the molasses to completely cool before storing it in a glass jar for up to 3 weeks! Without any preservatives!
Up Next: How Long Does Pudding Last?