7 Molasses Substitutes for Baking

Thick, dark molasses poured into a bowl


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Molasses is a thick, dark-brown syrup that is often used as a sweetening agent in baking, especially in the South. It is made during the sugar-making process when sugar syrup is boiled and the crystals are removed. This process is repeated to produce different types of molasses, each additional batch becoming thicker, darker, and more bitter.

There are several different types of molasses, which are determined by how many times they are boiled. These include light molasses, dark molasses, blackstrap molasses, and more. The most common type of molasses is light molasses, which is lighter in color and flavor as the name suggests. It is the result of the first boiling.

The second boiling yields dark molasses, which is darker, thicker, deeper in flavor, and less sweet. Blackstrap molasses comes from the third boiling. It is somewhat bitter but popular for its health benefits.

Molasses is commonly used to make cookies, glazed meats, bread, pie, baked beans, barbecue sauce, gingerbread, and more. In many places, molasses is not as common as other sweeteners, such as sugar or honey. If a recipe calls for molasses and you have run out or you have allergies to sulfites, do not fret — these molasses substitutes will yield similar results.

Why Use an Alternative?

We have all run out of a core ingredient when following a recipe and wondered if it can be salvaged with an alternative. If you have checked your pantry and didn’t find molasses, you may have success with these molasses substitutes.

Certain types of molasses are considered better for baking. If you need light molasses and you only have blackstrap, you may want to consider your other options since the latter is not recommended for sweet recipes.

Sometimes people opt to substitute molasses because they are allergic to sulfites. Unfortunately for allergy sufferers, sulfites are often abundant in molasses. The key is knowing how to spot the different names of sulfite ingredients.

Ingredients Containing Sulfites

Some molasses products contain sulfites, which is a general name for six ingredients:

  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Sodium sulfite
  • Sodium bisulfite
  • Sodium metabisulfite
  • Potassium bisulfite
  • Potassium metabisulfite


Overall, sulfites are food additives that act as preservatives to prevent spoiling and discoloration. An estimated 5% to 10% of people with asthma are allergic to sulfites. Molasses is a high sulfite level food, and strict avoidance is recommended for people with sulfite allergies.

Molasses Nutrition

Molasses is a byproduct of sugar, and sugar products are not known for being a significant source of nutrients. However, molasses is a popular source of some micronutrients, and it is associated with some health benefits. This nutrition information for 1 tablespoon (20g) of molasses is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 58
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 7.4mg
  • Carbohydrates: 15g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 15g
  • Protein: 0g
  • Potassium: 1460mg

Molasses is not a significant source of protein or fat, but it is rich in carbohydrates. All of the carbohydrates in molasses come from sugar, which isn’t surprising since it is a byproduct of sugar.

In terms of micronutrients, molasses contains some vitamins and minerals, unlike regular sugar. It is a source of potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, choline, and some B vitamins.

Popular Substitutes

The sweeter types of molasses are nearly interchangeable with other sweeteners. If you do not have molasses on hand or choose not to consume it due to dietary allergies, there is a good chance you will have some of these alternatives in your pantry.

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is a simple substitute for molasses since it actually contains molasses. It is made of granulated sugar and molasses, which gives it its brown color. Like molasses, there are different types of brown sugar, and they are usually classified by their shade of brown.

Light brown sugar contains has a lower molasses content, and dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavor. Dark brown sugar also has more moisture.

Both light and dark brown sugar can be used to replace molasses in baking. One cup of molasses can be substituted with 3/4 cup of brown sugar.

If you are looking for the closest flavor match for your recipe, try brown sugar. Because brown sugar contains molasses, you are likely to have the greatest success by swapping brown sugar in place of molasses.

Like molasses, brown sugar products may contain sulfites. Those with asthma or allergies may want to consider other substitutes that are free of sulfites.

Maple Syrup

Molasses can be tricky to substitute with other sweeteners because it is a liquid. If you are worried about throwing off the balance of wet and dry ingredients in your recipe, you may want to try maple syrup since it is also a liquid. Maple syrup is a natural sweetener that is often preferred over sugars and syrups. 

While it offers similar sweetness and moisture as molasses, it does not have the same flavor. For those who do not like the flavor of molasses, this is an advantage. Maple syrup can be substituted for molasses at a one-to-one ratio.

Honey

Honey is considered one of the best sugar alternatives. It is a natural sweetener that is associated with many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.

If you are looking for the best type of honey to use as an alternative to molasses, Manuka honey is full of beneficial nutrients. While honey and molasses can be substituted at a one-to-one ratio, using large quantities of honey in baking can become expensive. So, keep that in mind when making your decision about substitutes.

Granulated Sugar

Molasses comes from sugar, so using sugar in place of molasses will be an easy swap. If you are looking to swap out molasses without sacrificing sweetness, granulated sugar will accomplish that.

Unlike brown sugar, granulated sugar does not contain any molasses, so it does not have a comparable flavor or moisture level.

To replace molasses with granulated sugar, mix 3/4 cup of granulated sugar with 1/4 cup of water in place of 1 cup of molasses. The water helps add moisture and create a more liquid consistency that is similar to molasses.

Dark Corn Syrup

Dark corn syrup and molasses share a similar deep color. Dark corn syrup also contains molasses as well as corn syrup, another type of liquid sweetener. Because dark corn syrup is made with molasses, it makes for a suitable molasses substitute in baking. 

You can use dark corn syrup at a one-to-one ratio when using it as an alternative for molasses. People with asthma and sulfite allergies should note that dark corn syrup also may contain sulfites. So, this syrup may not be the best alternative for you.

Sorghum Syrup

Sorghum has a high sugar content, making it an appropriate sugar substitute in some recipes. Like molasses, sorghum syrup is a dark, thick liquid. However, sorghum has a thinner consistency, so it may add more moisture to your recipe. It can also have a more sour flour that may need to be balanced with other ingredients.

Sorghum syrup can be used as a one-to-one substitute for molasses. It is not as commonly used in baking as molasses, but it is a great sweetener for sauces, salad dressings, and other condiments.

Golden Syrup

Golden syrup, or light treacle, is a thick sugar syrup. With its golden, amber color, it is lighter than molasses, though the two are similar in their thickness.

Golden syrup also a liquid sweetener, so 1 cup of golden syrup can replace 1 cup of molasses.

Golden syrup has a unique flavor, so it may alter the flavor of your recipe slightly. It is often described as having a mild buttery flavor, which may enhance the flavor of some recipes. This may be a suitable molasses substitute for those who are looking to avoid sulfites.

A Word From Verywell

Replacing molasses in baking with other sweeteners often yields similar results. Because molasses contains more moisture than some alternatives, you may need to adjust the wet and dry ingredients accordingly.

People with asthma and people with sulfite allergies may want to avoid molasses products because they may contain sulfites. In that case, you can use one of these molasses substitutes in its place. If you do not have any dietary restrictions regarding molasses, it can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. 

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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