A familiar flavor in gingerbread and pecan pie, molasses is a byproduct of sugar-making: When sugarcane or sugar beets are boiled to isolate their solids (which are made into sugar), molasses is the thick, syrupy liquid that’s left behind. Depending on how many times it is boiled (and how much sugar is extracted), molasses will vary in color, flavor, and nutritional content.
Light molasses, the result of the first boiling cycle, is light in color and contains the most sugar. Dark or medium molasses (also called robust), from the second cycle, is darker and less sweet. The third cycle produces blackstrap molasses. Viscous and slightly bitter, it’s rich in calcium, magnesium, and other minerals: Ounce for ounce, blackstrap molasses contains more iron than steak.
Shopping and Storage
Besides the three varieties of molasses, you might also see sulfured and unsulfured options at your grocery store. Sulfur is often added as a preservative, but it changes the color and mutes the sweetness of the syrup and is not really necessary. Molasses is naturally antimicrobial, so even unsulfured varieties will keep in a cool, dark pantry for several years.
Make gingerbread cookies with blackstrap molasses (see our gingerbread cookie recipe here), or use it as a sweetener in homemade energy bars. Blackstrap molasses also shines in savory dishes, like Chef Bryant Terry’s Molasses, Miso, and Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes.
This article originally appeared as “Molasses” in the December 2022 issue of Experience Life.