Greg DuPree

Don't panic—here are 4 ingredients you can substitute for molasses in sweet and savory recipes.

Elizabeth Laseter and Marge Perry
August 14, 2012

Molasses is a key ingredient in gingersnap cookies, gingerbread cake, glazed ham, baked beans, and more—and during chillier months, we can’t get enough of its robust, full-bodied flavor. But what do you do if your recipe calls for molasses, but you don’t have it on hand?

Are you completely out of luck, or is there a suitable molasses alternative out there? Luckily there is. In fact, there are a few solid options—but what you end up using largely depends on if the recipe is savory or sweet. Below, find a breakdown of the best molasses substitutes and exactly how to use them.

Savory Recipes

Briana Riddock

If you’re making a savory recipe that uses molasses—like our Molasses-Barbecue Sauce or these Instant Pot Oxtails—there are three suitable substitutes that you can use: honey, dark corn syrup, and maple syrup. Here’s how to do it: Simply replace one cup of molasses with the same amount of the replacement ingredient. While this shouldn’t affect the texture of your sauce, glaze, or braising liquid, you won’t get the big, robust flavor of molasses.

Honey

Honey is a touch sweeter than molasses, but its thicker consistency makes it a good substitute. It lacks the complex spiciness of molasses, however, so you may want to consider adding additional spices like ground ginger or cinnamon into the recipe to boost the flavor.

Dark Corn Syrup

Dark corn syrup is a sweet, thick syrup that’s similar in color to molasses. While it’s a close match, it’s still going to be a touch sweeter and not as complex. Make sure you’re using dark not light corn syrup, as the latter is much less flavorful.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is thick and syrupy like molasses, but similar to honey and dark corn syrup, it packs a sweeter flavor. The other major difference is price—pure maple syrup tends to be expensive than molasses.

Sweet Recipes

Photo: Alison Miksch; Styling: Missie Neville Crawford

For baked goods like these Chewy Molasses Cookies or this stunning Gingerbread Latte Cake, you can replace 1 cup of molasses with this simple mixture:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup of hot water (or other liquid used in the recipe)

The resulting syrup won’t have the same deep dark brown color of molasses, but the flavor will be similar. If there are spices in the recipe, you can increase them by a little to compensate for the loss of molasses flavor.

Caution: Don’t use blackstrap molasses if your recipe specifically calls for light molasses: blackstrap has a strong, bitter flavor that may be overpowering. Use this variety for savory recipes, such as grilled meats and ribs.

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