Ibrahim Belo Written by Ibrahim Belo

What is the difference between molasses and black treacle?

Here at Ragus, we manufacture molasses and black treacle for the food industry. One of the questions that our in-house experts are often asked is: what is the difference is between the two?

Both black treacle and molasses are by-products of the sugar refining process. They are not as interchangeable as many believe, but rather the two syrups have different properties that make them ideal for different uses.

Dark, rich molasses close up to show its consistency.

Molasses vs treacle

Molasses is a viscous substance resulting from refining sugarcane. As a product, it is usually darker than treacle, and known for its strong, bittersweet flavour and dark, almost opaque appearance. Molasses varies in the amount of sugar content, but is a highly concentrated syrup, which is due to its production process.

Ragus source cane molasses from a range of certified mills and refiners around the world. At the mills, the sugarcane is stripped of its leaves and crushed to extract its sucrose content.  The juice that’s created is then boiled, meaning sugar crystals form, leaving a highly concentrated sugar syrup. And after repeating this process three times, the resulting liquid is cane molasses. Using a centrifuge, the crystallised sucrose is mostly removed, leaving a nutritious, bitter-sweet syrup.

The cane molasses arrives at our production facility either in temperature-controlled road tankers or Isotanks. At this stage, the raw molasses is not suitable for use in food, so it is pumped into evaporating vats. Here, it is heated to over 80˚C, purified, and the sugar content and acidity levels are adjusted.

The making of molasses undergoes a far longer boiling time than when producing treacle, resulting in a liquid that is thick and slow in consistency.  It is even used as a popular expression in America, to say something is “as slow as molasses.”

Molasses tends to be used in richer food products, typically savoury products such as marinades, BBQ glazes and sauces where its strong flavour complements and enhances the other tastes that are present. In addition, its properties make it ideal for acting as a binding agent and natural preservative.

This rich product is also the principal ingredient in the distillation of rum, is used to produce ethanol, and is the primary ingredient in animal feed. Its dark colouring means it is also used alongside caramel to produce certain beer styles such as stouts and porters.

Black treacle glaze over ribs to create a sticky sweet coating.

Treacle vs molasses

During the 1800s, treacle, or ‘black treacle’ was being used as a meat preservative, and gradually came into use in sweet baking and savoury loaves. From there black treacle was commercialised throughout the 1900s, largely used in sweet foods such as toffee, tarts and parkin.

Ragus’ black treacle is a mixture of refiner’s syrup and molasses. As a result, its flavour is similar to molasses but with a more rounded and softer taste.

Once we have sourced the raw molasses to make black treacle, at this point the process is exactly the same –  pumped into evaporating vats, heated to over 80˚C, purified, and the adjustments are made to the sugar content and acidity level. Once matured, the cane molasses is loaded into inversion pans and blended with refiner’s syrup, producing black treacle. This is then decanted through an 80-micron filter, before being packaged, ready for transportation to customers.

Black treacle is usually found in baked goods such as Christmas puddings, fruit cakes and gingerbread, as well as liquorice sweets and treacle toffee. It is also deployed in some savoury applications, helping to form the flavour in smoky marinades and sauces. Treacle coated over a roast ham is a wonderful way in which to create a sticky, sweet finish to this usually salty meat.

Due to the two products possessing similar deep flavours and dark colours, black treacle can be a great substitute for molasses. This can include ready-made oven bake casserole sauces and Worcestershire sauce style flavourings.

Black treacle is even used by brewers, especially when producing mild ales, and stouts. Mixologists have recently introduced a variety of dark rum cocktails, where black treacle is applies to create a sweeter taste. Rum, apple juice, fresh lemon and a large dollop of the treacle is then shaken vigorously to create what is called ‘Treacle’.

Molasses and black treacle is used in a variety of products, including drinks, sauces and confectionary.

When it boils down to it

Both molasses and black treacle are in high demand for Ragus Pure Sugars. And once molasses is ready for distribution, it is packed into containers ranging from 7 kilo sizes to 25,000 kilo road tankers and delivered to our customers around the world.

And black treacle, next to golden syrup, remains one the UK’s most recognisable and widely used sugar products. So Ragus continue to guarantee optimum taste, texture and appearance for our customers end products.

Ragus has over 90 years’ experience manufacturing molasses and treacle. To find out how we can help you select the best pure sugar product for your needs, contact our customer services team on +44 (0)1753 575353 or enquiries@ragus.co.uk. For more sugar news and Ragus updates, follow Ragus on LinkedIn.