Very few persons readily know what (and how) to substitute for molasses when they suddenly run out of this super thick sweetening syrup in the middle of a baking session.
Sometimes, this could end up being the difference between a well-baked dessert and a poorly planned disaster. Because even fewer persons know what molasses really is or what it is made from in the first place, we’ll begin our journey into discovering quality molasses substitute right from scratch!
Molasses – How Much Do You Know About It?
Molasses is actually a close relative of refined sugar. No kidding, these two go way back. Probably why they are used for quite similar purposes. A little bit of digging tells us that their family tree can be traced back to the legendary sugarcane.
Let’s face it, the gatherer who discovered molasses probably set out trying to see what good the thick syrup left from the crystallization of juice extracted from sugarcane would amount to. And to be frank, it hasn’t turned out quite bad, especially for such a gooey byproduct.
Before we move on to the point of identifying our molasses alternative, let us try to examine the steps our innovative ancestor must have taken before he arrived at the discovery of this useful ingredient:
- Using a carving knife, he definitely stripped the leaves completely off the sugarcane. Molasses would have no need for them.
- Then he extracted the juice (melon-colored) after crushing the sugarcane in a standard sized pestle and mortar.
- He then would have poured the juice in a pot and heated it until it reached boiling point.
- And removed the byproduct before leaving it to cool considerably.
- Finally, he found it edible and safe to use and decided to call it molasses!
We really must give kudos to our gatherer here. He very much deserve a place in our Bakers Hall Of Fame, right guys? But of course let’s not forget that this might not be how it happened but sure enough, no matter how it was discovered, those 5 steps up there were definitely involved. That’s a simple way of extracting molasses.
Why We Have Different Flavors of Molasses
In trying to understand the usage of alternatives and substitute, a study of the varieties of molasses is fundamental as they help you determine why molasses is used and in what quantity should it be used.
Molasses come in flavors of different kinds. This mostly boils down to how soon or later in the boiling process it was collected and cooled, and sometimes how many more times it was re-boiled and cooled. The type of molasses with the most concentration of sugar is commonly referred to as the First Molasses.
This type is derived from the first stage of heating. It is quite light in color and not as gooey or as sticky as others. It is mostly used in baking, rubs and sauces, marinades or served as topping on toast and oatmeal. Light Molasses is said to make bread more crusty and cookies softer and so light molasses substitute should be able to perform the same function.
Another type of Molasses is the dark molasses variety. Discovered after our gatherer ancestor (or maybe this time around, it was someone else) must have boiled the molasses for a second time, it is thicker, darker in color and of course less sweet.
This variety is more commonly used in the baking of gingerbread cookies. It can also be used as a substitute for molasses but we will come back to that much later. So just chill for a bit.
Then there’s the blackstrap molasses which is produced after boiling the molasses for the third time. Apart from being very thick and of a darker shade, this variety is also bitter in taste, which effectively rules it out as a potential molasses alternative.
You need a sweet alternative, not something bitter.
Because of its pronounced bitterness, it can only be used in a few select dishes like savory baked beans and pulled pork.
It is however easy to see how our Hall Of Famer must have found this useful, as the blackstrap molasses has been tested and found to be the one with the greatest health benefits. Having been concentrated by three boilings, it contains the highest mineral and vitamin content.
So the next time you walk into a health food store and find a jar of blackstrap molasses, know that you just found yourself a nutritious goldmine so consider purchasing a jar of it.
There are also other types of molasses which are not as common as the ones listed up there. One of such is unsulfured molasses. Derived from sugarcane which had not been treated with sulfur dioxide, this type of molasses is known for not having the slight chemical taste which is usually associated with more popular molasses.
It is more organic but also more difficult and more expensive to find as most sugarcane farmers use sulfur dioxide to improve the yield of their sugarcane crops.
Now that we know how molasses is made and we also have a fair knowledge of the various varieties of molasses we have, it is now time to finally unveil our exclusive list of molasses alternatives which you can call upon the next time you find yourself in a… well, let’s call it a sticky situation. Pun definitely intended!
Molasses Replacement – We’ve Picked the Top 8 Alternatives
There are quite a number of ingredients in your pantry which can serve as substitutes for molasses in case you either run out of it or simply become put off by the price, so I’ll try to do an in-depth break down for you here.
Most people think because molasses is made from sugarcane, corn syrup is also made from a sweet corn variant but this is however not the case. Corn Syrup is actually a byproduct of corn, but made from the tough, starchy corn variety commonly used as animal feed.
Yes, you read that right. Starches actually contain hordes of glucose molecules crammed together in tidy bundles which are then broken down by a combo of enzymes and acidity, into glucose- sugar that doesn’t crystalize but instead stays liquid.
Corn syrup is also of two variations: light corn syrup which is often glucose, caramel colored and maybe a bit of vanilla; and dark corn syrup which often has a few other ingredients (molasses included) added to it to give it a distinct dark color and unique flavor.
Dark corn syrup is often used as a light molasses substitute as well as a dark molasses substitute although it is important to know before using that it won’t necessarily give off the exact flavor, nor will work in tandem with baking soda to help your pastries rise.
You might have to use baking powder or include an acid (say lemon) to help with those functions. Dark corn syrup will, however, help keep your regular sugar from crystalizing easily, add sheen, moisten and sweeten your baking just as molasses would have done.
While there are a few health concerns about the usage of corn syrup as replacement for molasses, most of the focus has mainly been on high-fructose corn syrup, also referred to as HFCS. It is made by breaking down- via certain enzymes- the glucose in the syrup to fructose, which is sweeter and cheaper when purchased in voluminous conditions.
This is, however, a completely separate issue. While molasses is certainly more nutritious when placed side by side this able substitute if you consume molasses well enough for its nutritious value to matter, you’re already consuming too much sugar. Note that, for adequate results, make sure to substitute a cup of molasses for a cup of dark corn syrup.
Brown sugar is a sucrose product with a unique brown color. It can be unrefined or refined (partially) soft sugar with some residual natural brown sugar. It is usually produced by adding a measure of molasses to commercial brown sugar.
Brown sugar produced thus is often more coarse than its refined counterpart and the sugarcane molasses can be easily exposed by washing. This would reveal the white sugar crystals lying underneath.
Brown sugar is an easy substitute for molasses, given that molasses itself is a part of its makeup. Brown sugar is often used quite similarly to granulated white sugar but it comes with an extra touch of flavor -the right touch.
Just like molasses, it is often used in sweetening pastries, sauces, beverages, and marinades. In some places, a variety of brown sugar is also used to make alcoholic drinks like rum.
And because of the pH, which is slightly acidic, as well as the granules, brown sugar has also become a common ingredient in body scrubs. Common varieties of brown sugar include light brown sugar (contains 3.5 percent molasses by weight), dark brown sugar (contains 6.5 percent molasses and used when an extra rich flavor or color is desired).
Others are sugar in the raw and liquid brown sugar. In order to retain its moisture content, brown sugar is stored in the airtight container as it may harden and the moisture will evaporate if exposed to air. For the right results, substitute one cup of molasses for ¾ cup of tightly packed brown sugar.
More often than not, maple syrup is made from the xylem sap of black maple, red maple or sugar maple trees. Sometimes it is made from some other maple species. Before winter, these trees store starch in their roots and trunks in cold climates, this starch is then transformed to sugar rising in the sap in early spring and late winter.
In order to tap maple trees, holes are drilled into their trunks and the sap collected, which is then processed to evaporate most of the water, leaving to the tapper the concentrated syrup.
The indigenous people of North America were the first to collect and use maple syrup. This production method was gradually refined by European settlers who adopted the practice. The Canadian province of Quebec is responsible for about 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup output.
This syrup is made by boiling 20 to 50 volumes of sap, depending on the concentration, over an open furnace until a single volume of sap is obtained. This is usually done at a temperature of about 4.1 °C. Maple syrup can be boiled over one heat source or boiled in smaller batches at a temperature more controlled.
Boiling the syrup is perhaps the most tricky part of the process, as it must neither be over-boiled nor under-boiled. Over-boiled syrup will eventually crystalize while under-boiled syrup will be watery and can spoil quite quickly.
Although like molasses, it can be used as a sweetener for pastries, maple syrup is a lot more than just an ingredient for your baking table. It contains nutrients like potassium, thiamine, manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc. Maple syrup is a purely natural sweetener and a ½ cup serving provides over 40 percent of your daily zinc requirement.
When using maple syrup as substitute for molasses when baking, it is important to first line the measuring cup with cooking spray to prevent the syrup from sticking stubbornly to the surface.
When using as a replacement for molasses one cup of maple syrup is perfect for a cup of molasses to achieve desirable results. Too much will ruin your baking.
Honey really doesn’t need much of an introduction, does she? No, so let’s just dive right into it. Honey is a sweetener just like molasses and it seems like a natural thing to substitute molasses with honey. It is especially good as an unsulfured molasses substitute.
Honey is even thicker than maple syrup, hence your finished product should have a texture similar to what you would have gotten if you had used molasses.
The fact that honey is sweeter also means that there could be a slight difference in the taste. If you use honey, you might want to add a few extra spices to temper the sweetness and add similar flavor molasses would have given. Remember to use a cup of honey as substitute for every cup of molasses required in your recipe.
Like honey, this alternative to molasses needs no introduction. If you find yourself in a crunch situation and granulated sugar is all you can find, all you simply have to do is combine ¼ cup of water and ¾ cup of white granulated sugar to make an effective syrup.
You may not get the trademark deep brown color that molasses gives but you’ll get a desirable result. You can even add ¼ teaspoons of tartar to your mixture to aid its stability. This should be your last option.
Apple sauce as a molasses substitute is perhaps best for you if you’re generally trying to avoid processed sugars for whatever reasons. Quite easy to prepare, you can add sugar and some cinnamon to make your substitute healthier as you bake.
It is also a great choice for your unsulfured molasses substitute Apple sauce has no specific measurement because its consistency varies, all you need do is channel your intuition to help out with this one. Easy, right? Now it is time put those leftover apples from your recent picking trip to work.
This is another healthy and organic molasses alternative. It is quite similar to molasses, having almost the same properties but the difference in flavors will probably give you away if you tried to pass them off as the same.
So, you must once more consider adding a healthy amount of seasonings and spices into your recipe to make up for these aesthetic deficiencies. As for measurement, it is advisable to go with a one-to-one ratio, and then alter your measurement as needed, depending on the thickness of your yogurt.
Here’s another ingredient with which you could dig yourself out of a hole if you ever run out of molasses. Steeped in the traditions of the backcountry southern part of America, sorghum syrup production is considered an art in itself and fairs are organized where folks come to watch mules being used to power presses which then squeezes the juice from sorghum stalk.
The juice is afterward heated and the syrup extracted. Sorghum syrup is quite nutritious, containing nutrients such as calcium, iron, and potassium. To get the required effect when substituting for molasses, use to taste.
Other ingredients that could equally be used in place of molasses are brown rice syrup and barley malt syrup.
It’s been a wonderful journey through the land of molasses and her sweet talking cousins. While we enjoy the ride home, it is also important to note that when using one of these substitute for molasses, one must be careful not to use a substitute which would be totally ineffective for or cause great damage to a particular recipe.
This could again be the difference between a well-baked dessert and a poorly planned disaster. Thus carefulness, restraint, and much consideration are advised. Use the appropriate measurements for each alternative (as required) and leave nothing at all to chance.
Also, endeavor to make sure your health conditions are taken into consideration in your substitutions. Remember, one ingredient not to use as replacement for molasses is blackstrap molasses. Its bitterness could completely overwhelm your recipe. Bye!