6 Best Molasses Substitutes

Molasses is the dark, sweet, syrupy byproduct of extracting sugars from sugarcane and sugar beets. With a rich history in the Caribbean and Southern United States, molasses gained popularity in areas where sugarcane and sugar beets are grown.

Molasses was more popular during the early 20th century as a sweetener for old-fashioned recipes like gingerbread and molasses cookies. Today, most cooks use molasses in baked beans, barbecue sauce, syrups, and numerous other dishes enhanced by the dense sweetness.

Top Substitutions for Molasses

[1] Dark Corn Syrup with Honey

= 1 cup honey, dark corn syrup, or maple syrup as a substitute for 1 cup molasses.

Dark corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn. It’s used in many foods, especially baked goods.

Corn syrup is made from corn starch. The process of making dark corn syrup involves breaking down the starch into simple sugars, then heating and cooling it to create an amber-colored liquid that has a much higher concentration of glucose and fructose than regular corn syrup does.

It’s best not to use dark corn syrup in baking because the extra glucose and fructose can cause baked goods to brown too quickly and make them less fluffy or tender than expected. Instead, you should try using light or medium maltodextrin as a substitute for dark corn syrup in recipes that require it.

[2] Brown Sugar

= 3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water or liquid in a recipe as a substitute for 1 cup molasses.

Brown sugar is a type of sugar that has been processed to remove some of its molasses content. It’s typically found in the form of small crystals that are more moist and less granular than white sugar.

Brown sugar gets its color from the presence of molasses, which gives it a slightly caramelized flavor. This makes it ideal for baking or making sweet treats, as well as in cocktails like the Old Fashioned.

Brown sugar also adds moisture to baked goods, so it’s often used in recipes that require extra moisture like oatmeal cookies or brownies. Brown sugar makes an excellent substitute for molasses!

brown sugar substitute

[3] Granulated Sugar

= 3/4 cup granulated sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water or liquid in the recipe + 1-1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (for baking, cream of tartar adds acidity in molasses) is a replacement for 1 cup molasses.

Granulated sugar is a type of sugar that has been ground into small crystals. The word “granulated” refers to the fact that these crystals are small, and so they dissolve more quickly than larger-grain sugars.

There are several different types of granulated sugar available: white, brown, and confectioners’ (powdered) sugar. Brown granulated sugar is most often used in recipes where the color of the finished product will be brown (for example, chocolate chip cookies), and white granulated sugar is most often used in recipes where a white color is desired (like baked goods).

Granulated sugar comes in coarse, medium, fine and extra fine grinds depending on how many times it has been processed through a mill before being packaged into bags or boxes for sale.

[4] Golden Syrup

= 1 cup golden syrup (much lighter in flavor) can be a substitute for 1 cup molasses.

Golden syrup is a thick, sweet syrup made from a mixture of sugar and invert sugar. It’s often used as a substitute for honey.

It’s also known as “light treacle” or “black treacle,” depending on its color. Golden syrup is often used in British recipes for desserts like gingerbread or crumpets. It can be substituted for corn syrup or other syrups in recipes that call for those ingredients.

[5] Brown Rice Syrup

= 2 cups brown rice syrup (reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1 cup) and replaces 1 cup molasses.

Brown rice syrup is a sweetener that has been produced by cooking rice with enzymes to break down the starches in the rice into sugars. It’s made from brown rice and has a high concentration of maltose, which is why it’s brown. Brown rice syrup is used as a substitute for cane sugar in some foods and drinks, like ice cream or chocolate milk.

[6] Barley Malt Syrup

= 1-3/4 cups barley malt syrup (reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3/4 cup) can be used in place of 1 cup molasses.

Barley malt syrup is a sweetener made from barley malt. It is often used in baking and food production, as well as in coffee and tea.

Barley malt syrup is made by cooking barley malt with water to extract the sugars and flavor. This process also removes the protein, fiber, and minerals from the barley. The residual grains are then processed into animal feed.

Barley malt syrup can be used as a substitute for honey or maple syrup in recipes such as cookies or pancakes. It has a milder flavor than honey, so it may be preferable for people who want something more subtle than the taste of honey.

Barley malt syrup can also be used as a sweetener in coffee or tea when you don’t want too much sugar added to your drink.

How Molasses is Made

As sugarcane or sugar beets are boiled to create sugar crystals, the syrup left over becomes molasses. Repetitive cycles of boiling sugarcane will leave molasses, but the sugar content of each cycle diminishes. Molasses can vary in color, sweetness, and nutritional content depending on how much sugar has been extracted.

Can I Substitute Sorghum Molasses?

Sorghum molasses is not actual molasses, although it is often used in Southern cuisine. It is thinner than molasses made from sugar and has a sweet-sour taste. Sorghum is a grass that can be boiled down to create sugar, in much the same way as sugarcane or sugar beets.

Common Types of Molasses to Substitute

A few common types of molasses come from the different cycles of boiling down the sugarcane.

  • Light molasses is the syrup left over after the first boiling cycle of sugarcane juice. This molasses has the lightest color but the highest sugar content.
  • Dark or medium molasses – the dark or medium color is a result of the second boiling cycle of sugarcane, as well as less sugar content than the light molasses.
  • Blackstrap molasses is the product following the third boiling cycle of sugarcane. It has minor sugar content but the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals. Its flavor is deep, spicy, and almost bitter.

Variations of Molasses

  • Dark molasses is often used in baked goods for its thick and mildly sweet flavor.
  • Barbados molasses is usually found in pancake syrup for its light brown color and milder, sweeter taste.
  • Blackstrap molasses is used less often in cooking due to its color, thickness, and bitter flavor.

Each type or variety of molasses can be found sulfured or unsulfured. Sulfur is a preservative, but it distracts from the sweetness of the molasses and can leave a chemical-like aftertaste. It is added chiefly after using young sugarcane.

Mature sugarcane can be left unsulfured, so the molasses has a lighter, cleaner sugar flavor. Molasses has a long shelf life and can last for several years in the pantry.  

Uses for Molasses

Molasses is known to add moisture to a recipe, as well as add a darker color. Because it contains calcium, it helps slow down food’s softening, which may be why beans retain their shape after long cooking times. Use light molasses as a pancake syrup or stir it into hot cereals and oatmeal. Try it like honey to sweeten drinks.

molasses substitute


What are the uses of molasses?

Molasses made from sugarcane are used to make brown sugars. It is also used in baking, candy-making, and to make rum. Sorghum molasses is made from a grass and used in some southern cuisines, but it has a more bitter flavor.  Blackstrap and lower grade molasses is used in animal feed and commercial production of vinegar, citric acid, and other products.

How is molasses made?

Molasses can be made from sugar cane or sugar beets. It is the result of the sugar-making process and is the thick, dark syrup left after boiling down the sap to crystals. Molasses can also be made by boiling sorghum, a grass, but its taste is more bitter.

About Rachelle

Hi, I'm Rachel! I love cooking and finding new recipes but was always missing one of the ingredients in my kitchen. I created Can I Substitute? for people like me who are one substitute away from a great meal. If you're looking for great ingredient substitutes you've come to the right place. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.