10 Best Molasses Substitutes To Use Instead

Poor molasses. Whenever we want to say something is taking too long, it's always "slow as molasses." Slowness aside, this unique syrup is a vital ingredient in a number of dishes, ranging from baked beans and gingersnaps to pumpernickel bread and pecan pie. That doesn't mean it's irreplaceable, however.

Before we can fully explore how other items can be substituted for molasses, it's important to remember that not all types of molasses are the same. As MasterClass explains, the number of times you boil sugar cane or sugar beet juice makes a big difference in not only the molasses' sweetness but also in its texture and color. Light molasses, for example, is created after just one boiling and has more sugar than its syrupy cousins, dark molasses (two boilings), and blackstrap molasses (three boilings). In fact, blackstrap molasses has a bitter quality, which means you can't use it in recipes that call for light or even dark molasses. When you're choosing a substitute, you need to consider which type of molasses is being called for in a recipe.

The good news is that there are quite a few foods that can not only be swapped in for molasses, but also might help you alter a recipe to fit special dietary needs. Of course, you should experiment, since sometimes these substitutions require changes to the overall recipe. With a little creativity, you might find a flavorful twist to one of your favorite meals or desserts.

1. Sorghum Syrup

You may have heard of sorghum grains, which are popular not only for their nutritional content, but also as an alternative to wheat flour, since sorghum doesn't contain gluten (via Taste of Home). Like sugar cane, the stalks of the sorghum plant can be crushed to produce a syrup that can be used in place of molasses. Before you run to your local grocery store, you should know that there are a few key differences between sorghum and molasses.

For one, sorghum syrup's flavor is a little different than light, dark, or blackstrap molasses (via Food & Wine). In fact, it's curiously a little sweeter while still having a hint of sourness — at least in comparison to molasses. Another thing to keep in mind is that sorghum is usually not as thick as even light molasses, the thinnest member of the molasses family. With all of that said, it still can be a good substitute if you make the right adjustments.

Since sorghum is sweeter than molasses, Taste of Home recommends reducing the amount of sugar called for in a recipe. Food & Wine notes that sorghum is popularly used in barbecue sauces. You might also want to consider it for the next time you make homemade baked beans. Just remember, a little can go a long way with this sweet syrup, so make sure to be careful about how much you add.

2. Dark Corn Syrup

Before you dismiss this suggestion as unhealthy, remember that, like molasses, not all corn syrups are the same (via LEAFtv). Yes, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has made the headlines and, in the process, gained a dubious reputation for its negative impact on your overall health. But don't let this discourage you from considering dark corn syrup as a possible substitute for molasses in your favorite recipes.

As LEAFtv explains, nutritional labels have to specify if a corn syrup contains HFCS. So, with a little research, you can find a dark corn syrup that's HFCS-free. And it can be worth the effort since corn syrup can add smoothness to decadent treats like pecan pie. Corn syrup doesn't crystalize, which makes it a good textural addition to many high-sugar foods. However, there are a few minor drawbacks that you'll need to address to make this particular molasses substitution work.

Dark corn syrup doesn't have the same flavor as molasses, and you might find it to be too mild for certain recipes. This, of course, is a matter of preference and can be corrected with the right combination of spices. While dark corn syrup does help baked goods come out nice and moist, it doesn't help to activate baking soda the way molasses does. Fortunately, this can be addressed without greatly altering the recipe. Simply include a little cream of tartar or lemon juice, or use baking powder instead of baking soda.

3. Treacle

Depending on where you live, this next substitute for molasses might be hard to find, but don't let that discourage you. Treacle, which is another syrup made from sugar cane, comes in multiple varieties, just like molasses (via Food & Wine). Because of this, treacle might offer a certain amount of versatility that isn't possible for every item on this list.

For example, if your recipe calls for blackstrap molasses, then you might want to consider black treacle since it has a similar bittersweet flavor profile. On the other hand, light treacle, also known as golden syrup, might be a better substitute for a recipe calling for light molasses. Black treacle is very strong, so depending on the flavor you're going for, you should use a light hand with it in your recipes.

The terms "molasses" and "treacle" are often used interchangeably in recipes in the U.S., where molasses is easier to come by than treacle (via Food & Wine). If you really are having difficulty getting your hands on dark or light treacle, don't be afraid to do a little exploring online, where you can find tins of both types pretty easily. Light treacle is also a good substitute for honey and light corn syrup, so it's a useful go-to item for any pantry.

4. Agave

The syrup made from the blue agave plant is a good replacement for white sugar in your morning coffee or your favorite recipes (via The Spruce Eats). But don't make the mistake of thinking agave syrup isn't a good substitute for other items in your pantry, including molasses.

According to The Spruce Eats, agave syrup can make a good substitute for molasses. However, that doesn't mean you can replace molasses with agave in a recipe without making some adjustments. Agave syrup is significantly sweeter than cane sugar, so if you're using it in place of molasses, you'll need less agave to get to the same level of sweetness. This could mean a little trial and error, but the results can be well worth the extra effort.

Although agave has its pluses, its price tag isn't one of them. Yes, it's much sweeter than sugar, but it's also considerably more expensive. The good news is that this sweet syrup is not just a good alternative for molasses, but also for honey and granulated sugar. If you're a fan of pancakes, amber agave syrup can make a sweet substitution for your favorite flapjack topping too.

5. Brown rice syrup

Usually when we think of brown rice, the first adjective that comes to mind is not "sweet." And to be fair, the syrup made from brown rice is not as sweet as other alternatives to molasses on this list (via The Spruce Eats). However, that doesn't mean it doesn't bring its own unique qualities to any recipe.

While brown rice syrup is not nearly as sweet as honey or agave, it does add a nutty touch to what you're cooking or baking. Let's not forget that not all varieties of molasses are super sweet, nor is a very sweet flavor what you're looking for in every dish that calls for molasses. Sometimes the consistency of molasses is just as crucial to a recipe as its overall flavor notes. If this is the case, then you definitely should consider subbing brown rice syrup, since according to Epicurious, its texture is very similar to that of molasses. As a bonus, it's also great on ice cream and waffles, so a super sundae is just a few spoonfuls of brown rice syrup away.

Although you shouldn't have trouble finding brown rice syrup either online or at your local supermarket, The Spruce Eats explains that it goes by more than one name. If brown rice syrup doesn't pop up on your go-to grocery website's search engine, try maltose syrup, rice malt syrup, or even just rice syrup.

6. Date syrup

Don't overlook date syrup if you need to swap out molasses. As The Kitchn explains, this sweet syrup is not only similar in color to caramel, but also adds a distinctive caramel taste to whatever you're baking. And that's not the only advantage date syrup brings to the table.

Besides being a good substitute for molasses, date syrup can also replace honey and maple syrup, depending, of course, on the recipe. You can also use it as a topper for waffles, pancakes, and oatmeal. If you want to use it in baking, you definitely need to adjust your ingredient ratios. In general, you can use less date syrup than you would sugar in most recipes. Also, unlike granulated sugar, date syrup is liquidy. Because of this, you might want to reduce the amounts of your other liquid ingredients to make sure you don't wind up with something closer to soup than batter.

If you'd like to try your hand at homemade date syrup, The Kitchn has a few suggestions. For example, the type of date you choose can make all the difference. They recommend Medjool dates for the best, most flavorful results. However, Barhi dates and Deglet Noor dates are also good choices for syrup.

7. Sugar

While both brown and granulated sugar can make good substitutes for molasses, brown sugar is by far your best choice, because it actually contains molasses (via PureWow). Yes, the secret behind brown sugar's color is its molasses content. Since brown sugar has a milder flavor than molasses, you might want to compensate for that by adding extra spices. Also, you can cut down on your measurement by 25% when swapping brown sugar for molasses. Per The Kitchn, dark brown sugar has more molasses than light brown sugar, so use that if it's available. If all you have is white sugar, use 3/4 cup mixed with 1/4 cup of water in place of a cup of molasses.

And if your brown sugar dries out, The Kitchn has a lifehack: Put it in an air-tight container with a piece of bread or an apple. You'll soon have moist brown sugar (and either a harder piece of bread or a less juicy apple).

8. Honey

We agree with Winnie the Pooh: There's nothing quite like honey. This bee byproduct can be a sweet, sticky substitute for molasses in a number of recipes (via MasterClass). However, there are some drawbacks when you swap in honey.

While honey can be used instead of molasses, doing so could noticeably change the flavor of your final culinary creation. And to complicate matters a little further, The Spruce Eats notes that not all honey tastes exactly the same. This is because bees use different flower nectars depending on where they are and what plants are available. In fact, honey can have a variety of different flavor notes, ranging from fruity to woodsy, just based on what type of nectar the bees used to make it.

While the number of different types of honey, all with their unique flavors, can be overwhelming, don't let that discourage you from trying it in your recipes that call for molasses. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to add additional flavors and create something entirely unique. 

9. Barley malt syrup

If you're cooking or baking for someone who's concerned about their sugar intake, this next molasses substitute might be perfect for your needs. Although barley malt syrup does have sugar, it's low in fructose, the type of sugar associated with the most health risks (via Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery). It also contains more nutrients than other sweet syrups. Okay, but is it really a good substitute for molasses in cooking, or is it just a healthier alternative?

Actually, according to The Vegan Atlas, barley malt syrup's texture and taste is very much like molasses, specifically the blackstrap variety. However, it's less sweet than molasses, and has a less intense flavor.

Of course, you can purchase barley malt syrup either online or at brick-and-mortar stores under a number of names like malted cereal syrup, malt syrup, barley syrup, and dark malt syrup (via recipetips.com). As LEAFtv explains, you can also make your own barley malt syrup at home. However, this is not a quick DIY project. The full process, from soaking the grains to straining the syrup, takes several days.

10. Maple Syrup

Any fan of IHOP will be very familiar with this next molasses substitute. But did you know that there is more than one type of maple syrup (via Verywell Fit)? Golden maple syrup, for example, is probably what you use on your pancakes. However, if you're baking using molasses and really want a maple syrup that lends itself well to baked goods, you might want to opt for dark maple syrup instead of its lighter, sweeter cousin.

Of course, golden and dark maple syrup aren't your only options. Some desserts you might find work better with amber maple syrup, which falls between the two in terms of color and taste. Or, if your recipe calls for a darker variety of molasses, then you might want to kick things up a notch with very dark maple syrup. 

Whichever maple syrup you pick, it has a big advantage over some other molasses swaps: While you might have to adjust the measurements when using other substitutions on this list, you're less likely to need to make any major modifications to your recipes if you use maple syrup instead of molasses. Still, you should always do a little testing in the kitchen whenever you make any changes to a recipe's formula.