Craving for something sweet? Perhaps a gingerbread man would quench the thirst. But what if you run out of that one essential ingredient? Yes, it’s molasses we are talking about. Without this sticky, gooey amazingness, your gingerbread would fall short and lack the texture, sweetness, and color we love so much. Molasses can be used for making many sweet and savory dishes. It is responsible for making your cakes soft and gives a sweet-smelling scent unlike any other sweetener. You can use this sticky syrup in your pancake or waffle batter instead of sugar. You can even use it to make a glaze over your red meat or make a perfect barbecue sauce. However, before we get into its alternative, let’s get to know more about molasses.
What is Molasses?
Many common molasses we normally see are mostly made from sugar cane or sugar beet juice which is later made into thick concentration or syrup. After that the remaining sugar crystals are extracted from the concentration and all the thick, brown syrup left over is called molasses. Molasses can also be made from pomegranate, dates, carob, and sorghum. The process of making molasses needs to be repeated numerous times, and every single time a different type of molasses is formed. You will come across many types of molasses on the market. Thus, it is better to know how each is made of and the different ways in which they are used.
Light molasses is mostly made from the very first boiling of the sugar cane or sugar beet juice and is light in color. Unlike the thick syrup that results from being boiled multiple times, light molasses is not so sweet and delicate in flavor. The light varieties are mostly bought and used in baking sweet dishes. They are responsible for making cookies lighter and bread crispier, and used in making marinades and sauces.
Made from boiling the sugarcane or the beet juice for a second time, dark molasses is much denser, darker in color, and richer in flavor than light molasses. It is also thicker, less sweet and stronger in flavor than light molasses. Dark molasses is what we generally use in making the famous gingerbread men during our holidays and enhances the flavor of the gingerbread.
Made from the third boiling of the sugarcane or beet juice, blackstrap molasses is considered the healthiest kind. Why? Because it preserves all the essential minerals and vitamins our body needs. Unlike the light and the dark molasses we described earlier, the blackstrap is the darkest in color, the thickest in terms of concentration and the most bitter in terms of flavor. Yes, you heard us right. Blackstrap molasses is not sweet like the other types of molasses. Therefore, you may not come across many recipes that will require the use of it. Blackstrap molasses cannot be used as replacements for the light or dark varieties. However, they are perfect for making savory dishes.
Sulfured & Unsulfured Molasses
Most of the molasses we know of are unsulfured. Always sniff the molasses before you buy them. If there is not a strong chemical flavor, it is unsulfured. The sulfured molasses have sulfur dioxide in them for preservation and has an intense chemical scent and flavor to them. So be careful what you choose.
Substitutes You Must Know About
1. Brown Sugar
Perhaps the best substitute to replicate the flavor of molasses is brown sugar. This is because brown sugar is nothing but granulated sugar with a little added molasses. If you are planning to bake something, we recommend using only three quarters (3/4) of the molasses necessary with hot water. Use ¾ cup of either dark or light brown sugar and diffuse in ¼ cup of water or any sort of liquid to substitute one cup of molasses. However, for other uses, it is better to use 1.5 cups of brown sugar to replace one cup of molasses.
2. Granulated Sugar & Water
Like brown sugar, even granulated sugar diffused in water can do the same wonders as molasses, especially in baking. Just ¾ cup of granulated sugar along with ¼ cup of water will be equal to one cup of molasses. However, we recommend using other spices to compensate for the true essence of molasses.
3. Maple Syrup
If you are looking to replicate the flavor of molasses you must know that maple syrup and molasses have near-identical flavor profiles. As a consequence, maple syrup is highly recommended if you are planning to replace molasses in your recipe. Just use an equal amount of maple syrup in your recipe as the amount of molasses called for, and voila. You’ll barely notice any difference. Nonetheless, you should know that maple syrup is slightly sweeter than molasses, so we recommend using other spices to balance the sweetness.
Another option to reproduce the flavor of molasses is honey. However, beware! Honey has a subtler flavor and is not dense like molasses, which will change the texture and flavor of the original recipe. Honey is an amazing alternative for light molasses, but if your recipe calls for dark molasses, honey will still work pretty well.
5. Dark Corn Syrup
Dark corn syrup is a great substitute for molasses. It has a warm flavor and an identical consistency to molasses. One cup of dark corn syrup is equal to one cup of molasses.
Another remarkable substitute that captures the acidic kick of molasses is applesauce. Applesauce recipes vary from person to person, therefore, we recommend everyone to use other spices and cinnamon to compensate for the difference in flavor. We also recommend making your own version of applesauce from chopped and skinned apples, water, cinnamon, and sugar as needed. With your own recipe, you will be able to alter the quantity of cinnamon or sugar depending on your taste.
7. Inverted Sugar Syrup
As inverted sugar syrup is prepared from glucose and fructose, it is popularly used by bakers to sweeten baked goods. Golden syrup is the most popular variety among the inverted syrups and is made from a mixture of sugar and sugary syrup. Therefore, it is considered to be another great alternative to molasses. Inverted sugar syrup is known to preserve moisture and is ideal for cakes and pastries.
This is great news for the health-conscious fanatics out there. You can now replicate the flavor of molasses without worrying about having too many calories, all thanks to none other than yogurt. Yogurt is known to have a high amount of calcium and protein and is undoubtedly a great substitute to maintain a healthy diet. Yogurt may not be an exact replacement for molasses in terms of flavor but it will certainly help in providing the texture and consistency you want for your dish. We recommend using a 1:1 ratio when substituting molasses out for yogurt.
9. Cocoa Powder
If you are looking for an ideal replacement for savory dishes to replicate that sweetness and bitterness of dark molasses, then cocoa powder is a wonderful option. And we all have an ample amount of it in our kitchen cabinet, so it’s super convenient too. Cocoa powder gives both sweet and bitter flavor, so varying amounts of cocoa powder can be used to provide a close flavor match to molasses, especially in making barbecue sauce.
10. Orange Marmalade
Like applesauce, if you are fond of a tangier taste in your recipe, orange marmalade makes a great substitute for molasses. As it is a known fact that orange is packed with Vitamin C, using this as an alternative is a great choice for your health. Moreover, it also helps to enhance the flavor, especially in sweet dishes. Be bold and add a bit to your savory sauce to enhance the flavor even more than any normal molasses could.
11. Other Alternatives
Apart from the incredible options we have discussed so far, there are other alternatives that you can try to recreate that distinctive molasses flavor profile. For instance, mixing 2 cups of dark brown sugar with 3/4 cup of water along with 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice will give you an amazing result that taste impressively similar to molasses. Another great option is mixing 1 cup of dark corn syrup with honey or maple syrup along with 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 3/4 cup of granulated sugar with 1/4 cup of water.