It's used in baked goods and marinades, but is molasses gluten free?
If you’re on a strict gluten free diet, you’ll want to read this post to learn what molasses is, how it’s made and if it’s safe for you to eat.
What is molasses?
Molasses is a sticky, dark syrup that is used in cooking and baking.
To make molasses, sugarcane and sugar beets are crushed and the juice is collected. This juice is boiled until sugar in the solution crystallizes, leaving behind a thick, sticky substance we call molasses.
Fun fact: if you mix a bit of molasses with the refined sugar crystals, you get brown sugar! (Wondering if brown sugar is gluten free? Learn all about it right here!)
There are many types of molasses, some of which are sweeter than others. It adds a deep flavour to baked goods (like gluten free gingerbread) and marinades.
Is molasses gluten free?
Molasses is the syrup that is left from boiling sugarcane and sugar beets, so it is naturally gluten free. It’s a rich, flavourful sweetener that can be used by anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
As always, check the product labelling before purchasing molasses to make sure there are no added gluten ingredients or warnings.
The many types of molasses
Think there’s just one type of molasses out there? Heck no! There are so many different products to choose from. Here’s the scoop on some of them:
- Light molasses: this is the sticky syrup that’s left after the first boil of the sugarcane and sugar beet juice. It has the highest sugar content and the least bitter taste. This version would be comparable to maple syrup.
- Dark molasses: if the sugarcane juice is left to boil for a second round, dark molasses is what is left. Darker (obviously) and much thicker than its lighter counterpart, darker molasses also contains less sugar. Deep flavour with a bit of sweetness.
- Blackstrap molasses: want to boil the sugar beet juice for a third round? Cool. You’ll end up with blackstrap molasses after additional sugar is removed. This is the thickest of the bunch and has a distinctly bitter taste. It's molasses for those who aren’t fooling around!
- Sulfured molasses: if young sugarcane and sugar beets are used, the molasses will need a preservative to keep it from going bad. This is where sulfur comes in, but it can also leave a chemical aftertaste. On the other hand…
- Unsulfured molasses: if mature sugarcane and sugar beets are used, no need for any preservatives. No chemical taste, just a rich syrupy flavour that makes the most delicious gluten free molasses cookies.
- Fancy molasses: nope, this molasses isn’t all dressed up to go to a party! It’s a mixture of molasses and condensed sugar juice, so it’s the sweetest version.
Other types of molasses
- Sorghum molasses: a bit of a faker in this roundup, sorghum molasses isn’t actually a traditional molasses at all. Sorghum is a naturally gluten free grass which has a high sugar content in the stalks, which are crushed to remove the juice. This juice is boiled to release water and leaves behind a delicious syrup. It’s not as thick as traditional molasses, but still tasty.
- Pomegranate molasses: also not a traditional molasses, but can you guess where it comes from? Pomegranate arils! They are crushed, blended, then boiled to create a deep red syrup that’s popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Ready to let molasses into your life? I’m so happy for you! Here are some specific brands that you may find at your local grocery store. They are all gluten free!
- Wholesome Molasses: organic, fair trade, unsulfured molasses. This brand is my favourite!
- Crosby Molasses: this brand offers fancy, blackstrap or cooking molasses. Remember, fancy molasses is a lighter shade (and sweeter taste) and blackstrap is the darkest. Cooking molasses is a blend of the two. All of their products are unsulfured.
- Brer Rabbit Molasses: you can get mild, medium or blackstrap flavours - all of which are unsulfured.
- Grandma’s Molasses: Original or Robust flavours - take your pick! Both are unsulfured.
Common questions about molasses
Is molasses healthy?
While molasses does contain more nutrients than refined sugar, I certainly wouldn’t put it in a “healthy food” category. It’s got iron, vitamin B6 and calcium, but molasses is still a sweetener. It contains varying amounts of sugar, depending on the type you use, but it’s fine as part of a balanced diet.
Is molasses corn free?
Sure is! No corn present in sugarcane or sugar beets, so molasses is safe for anyone who can’t eat corn.
Is molasses dairy free?
Yes, pure molasses is naturally dairy free! Which means you can totally make a batch of gluten free molasses cookies!
Is molasses nut free?
Yep - molasses is naturally nut free!
Is molasses soy free?
No soy is used during the manufacture of molasses, so it’s safe for anyone who is on a soy-free diet. Yay!
Pro tip for anyone who wants to bake with molasses - make sure to wipe the top of the bottle before you put the lid back on. Why? Any molasses around the rim of the bottle will stick the lid to the bottle. It’ll be a horrible mess and will take you forever to get that delicious syrup out. (I speak from experience…)
Store molasses in the original bottle in a cool, dark place. A pantry or cupboard is the perfect place. It should keep for up to a year when opened, but pay attention to any best before dates. If the molasses starts to crystallize, get yourself a new bottle for the best results.
Gluten free molasses cookies
Ready to bake with molasses? Here are a few recipes to get you started:
Gluten Free Gingerbread: Perfect for making adorable little gingerbread people, but sturdy enough to make a gluten free gingerbread house! Recipe for royal icing is included, just don’t forget the candies for decorations!
Gluten Free Molasses Cookies: Soft and chewy, these are great for the holidays but easy enough to bake year round! Freezer friendly and instructions on how to make them dairy free are included.
Alternatives to molasses
Molasses is gluten free, but it may not be an ingredient you keep in your kitchen. (I certainly didn’t for years.)
If a recipe calls for molasses, but you don’t have any, try these alternatives instead:
- Dark corn syrup: it’s corn syrup, plus a bit of molasses and caramel colouring, so it’s a great alternative! Use dark corn syrup as a 1:1 substitute for molasses.
- Maple syrup: use the darkest grade you can find (learn about those here) and substitute it in a 1:1 ratio. Your baked goods won’t taste the same, since maple syrup lacks the deeper flavour that molasses has, but it’s a suitable alternative.
- Honey: Use 1 cup of honey for 1 cup of molasses. Obviously, the colour of honey is much lighter than molasses, so your baked goods may not look the same, but they’ll still be delicious!
- Brown sugar: use ¾ cup for 1 cup of molasses in your recipes. The taste will be very similar, since brown sugar is just refined sugar plus a bit of molasses. Pretty neat!
Ok, I’m ready for some cookies now - are you??