There's more to this Southern staple than meets the eye.

Molasses is a thick, dark syrup and a by-product from processing sugar beets or sugar cane. When sugar is produced, the sugar cane or sugar beets are first crushed and their juice is extracted. Then that juice is boiled down until it forms sugar crystals, which are extracted as sugar. The remaining liquid is molasses.

What are the Different Types of Molasses?

In sugar production, the boiling down of sugar juice is repeated several times, and each round yields a different type of molasses.

Light, Dark, and Blackstrap Molasses

Light and dark molasses are obtained from the first and second boiling. Blackstrap molasses comes from the third boiling. This is the thickest, darkest, and least sweet but rather bitter-tasting of all molasses.

Unsulphured vs. Sulphured Molasses

No sulphur dioxide, a preservative that prevents molasses from spoiling, is used during the processing of unsulphured molasses. Unsulphured molasses is made from naturally ripened sugar canes so they are sweeter and have a cleaner sugar cane flavor than sulphured molasses.

Other types of molasses are pomegranate molasses, sorghum molasses, carob molasses, and date molasses.

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What Is Molasses Used For?

Light molasses is used as a syrup for pancakes and waffles. Dark molasses is used mainly in baking, especially during Christmastime for gingerbread, as well as for Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly Pie, and for Boston Baked Beans.

You will most likely find molasses in the baking aisle or by the pancake syrups.

Molasses Nutrition

While molasses, unlike refined sugar, contains some vitamins and minerals — and blackstrap molasses, the most concentrated of all molasses, has the highest nutrient content — you need to keep in mind that molasses are mainly carbohydrates and very high in sugar with about 116 calories per 2 tablespoons. So like all sugars, molasses should be consumed only in small amounts.

Molasses Substitutes

The best replacement for molasses is dark brown sugar, especially in recipes where molasses flavor is important. Substitute 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar for 1 cup molasses. The next best substitute is to replace molasses with corn syrup, honey or maple syrup in a 1:1 ratio.