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Treacle vs molasses: what’s the difference?

06/07/2023 By Ibrahim Belo in Products Black treacle, Cane molasses

At Ragus, we manufacture both molasses and black treacle in bulk for industry. Although they’re both dark, sticky and decadent syrups, they’re not the same. They have unique functional applications in food and beverage products, enhancing taste, texture and colour in different ways.  

What’s the difference between treacle and molasses?  

Both have a deep, aromatic flavour and an intense dark colour, but they are two very different pure sugars. Black treacle is a sweeter product, lacking the slightly bitter flavour that molasses brings to the table. Molasses is thicker than black treacle, which has a comparatively runny consistency. 

Black treacle is slightly runnier than molasses.

It’s important to point out that there are other types of sugar syrup: golden syrup, for instance, is much lighter in colour than molasses and black treacle, and has its own range of applications, despite being closely related to black treacle. 

Black treacle has a more rounded and softer taste than molasses, making it perfect for a diverse range of sweet goods like Christmas puddings, fruit cakes and gingerbread, as well as liquorice and treacle toffee. You can also find it in many savoury applications, like smoky marinades and sauces. Black treacle gives a luxurious, sticky sweet finish to the saltiness of roast ham. 

Black treacle gives a round and soft sweetness, ideal for spicy cakes and salty ham.

Molasses: a strong, bittersweet flavour 

The distinctive flavour of molasses makes it a great pure sugar for many industrial food and beverage applications. Its dark colour and viscosity, alongside its bittersweetness means you’ll find it in many sauces and marinades, including barbeque sauces and the classic British Worcestershire sauce. Beers like stouts and porters may also include molasses, alongside caramel, for colour and flavour.     

You’ll see molasses in many sauces and marinades, and some stouts and porters.

Black treacle: a rounded and softer taste 

At Ragus, we put molasses in our black treacle, along with refiner’s syrup, creating a molasses-like flavour but a much smoother, softer and rounder taste. It’s the molasses content that gives our black treacle its dark colour.     

Our customers in industry use it for sweetening, colouring and flavour for sauces, baked products, confectionery and desserts. Classic winter desserts and treats like treacle tarts, fruit cakes, parkin and gingerbread all owe their sweetness to black treacle. 

 Uses of molasses and black treacle 

Both black treacle and molasses are ingredients for brewing some mild ales and stouts. Dark rum cocktails can also feature black treacle: For instance, rum, apple juice, fresh lemon and a large dollop of treacle all go in the cocktail shaker to make the now classic drink ‘Treacle’.  

Molasses’ slightly stronger flavour means it’s often used in richer food products like marinades, barbeque glazes and sauces, where it enhances other, gentler tastes. It’s also a useful binding agent and natural preservative, a principal ingredient in the distillation of rum, used to produce ethanol, and the primary ingredient in animal feed.  

Because black treacle includes refiner’s syrup, black treacle is a sweeter product that has less of a bitter profile than molasses. While it is possible to substitute black treacle for molasses in some industrial applications, such as sauces, marinades, beers and porters, the addition of the refiners’ syrup to molasses to make black treacle gives definite differences in the viscosity, colour, flavour and texture of the two syrups. 

Do molasses and black treacle have different production processes? 

There are key differences in the production processes of black treacle and molasses. 

Our molasses starts life as sugarcane: stripped of its leaves and crushed to extract the juice, which is then boiled, leaving a highly concentrated sugar syrup. And after repeating this process three times, the resulting liquid is cane molasses: a thick, dark bittersweet syrup. 

Cane molasses is a very thick, rich syrup.

The cane molasses arrives at our production facility either in temperature-controlled road tankers or Isotanks. It’s not suitable for human consumption until it’s been heated to over 80˚C, purified, and brought to the right sugar content and acidity level. 

Molasses is boiled for a lot longer than black treacle, giving it its characteristic thick and slow consistency, hence the American saying “as slow as molasses”! 

Ragus’ black treacle is a mixture of refiner’s syrup and molasses. As a result, its flavour is gentler than molasses. 

To make it, we load the cane molasses into inversion pans and blend it with refiner’s syrup. The resulting black treacle is then decanted through an 80-micron filter, before being packaged, ready for transportation to our customers. 

Checking the syrup during manufacturing at Ragus is an important part of the black treacle manufacturing process.

Alternatives: what to use instead of molasses or black treacle 

Like molasses and black treacle, dark corn syrup is a liquid sweetener with dark brown colour. But unlike molasses, dark corn syrup has a fairly simple taste compared to molasses’ robust flavour profile. This means in most applications, it is not an effective substitute.  

Golden syrup is another possible alternative, with its a honey-like colour and slightly caramelised flavour. Its properties are close enough to molasses or black treacle to use as a 1:1 replacement but expect differences in colour and flavour to your end product. 

If no liquid sweeteners are available, brown sugar can be a suitable replacement for molasses or black treacle. Because it is a crystalline sugar with molasses added to it, the darker the brown sugar, the more molasses it has, so the closer the flavour is. However, because it’s a crystalline sugar, using it could compromise a product designed for a liquid sweetener. 

While there’s no perfect substitute for molasses or black treacle, some sugars may give a near enough end result, if flavour, colour, mouthfeel and other properties can be compromised.  

Molasses vs treacle: key takeaways 

Molasses and black treacle are two of the leading sugar syrups we manufacture at Ragus, in bulk for industry. 

Although similar, both have unique food and beverage production functions, enhancing product tastes, textures and colours. 

Both are essential ingredients in a wide range of food and beverage applications. Treacle is also found in over-the-counter medicines such as cough syrups.  

Molasses is stronger, spicier and thicker than black treacle. 

Black treacle’s flavour lends itself more to sweet baked goods than molasses, which is generally founds more in sauces and marinades, although the two sugars can be substituted for one another. 

If neither black treacle nor molasses are available for a bulk recipe, manufacturers can use other sugars, with varying results. 

Ragus manufactures bulk pure sugars and syrups for industry. To explore our expertise and learn how our sugars provide the functional properties for your application, talk to our Customer Services Team. To see more sugar news and updates, continue browsing SUGARTALK and follow Ragus on LinkedIn. 

Ibrahim Belo

With a primary responsibility for manufactured product quality control, Ibrahim works within our supplier chain, factory and production laboratory. He has a focus on continuous improvement, implementing and maintaining our technical and quality monitoring processes, ensuring standards and product specifications are met.

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