Dark Corn Syrup: Corn Syrup With A Hint Of Molasses

Dark corn syrup had its roots in the original corn syrup invented by Gottlieb Kirchhoff. Kirchhoff was working in Russia when he discovered using sulfuric acid to convert the starch from corn into sugar. Corn syrup is that sugar in liquid form.

Dark corn syrup is a combination of corn syrup with a type of molasses called refiner’s sugar. The result is that it has a darker color and a more distinctive flavor profile than plain corn syrup.

A little less than a century after Kirchhoff’s 1811 discovery, the Corn Products Refining Company in the US would produce dark corn syrup and light corn syrup and release them at the same time in 1902. Within a few years, dark corn syrup was being used as a laxative, and by the 1920s, it was used as baby food. It was sometimes added to formula to help infants to gain weight.

Dark corn syrup flavor profile

In addition to its concentrated sweetness, dark corn syrup gets a strong caramel flavor from the molasses it contains. Like light corn syrup, it also has salt added to enhance its sweet flavors. The flavor profile and color allow it to work as a less-bitter alternative to molasses but a more flavorful substitute for light corn syrup.

Health benefits of dark corn syrup

Dark corn syrup is primarily sugar, which means that its health benefits are limited at best. That said, dark corn syrup does come with a few pros in terms of its effect on health. Its benefits come from nutrients like:

  • Minerals: Dark corn syrup contains many of the minerals that are important for health. You can get calcium, selenium, and magnesium from it.
  • Vitamins: While it does not contain as many vitamins as it does minerals, dark corn syrup does contain a few. You can get riboflavin, thiamin, and pyridoxine from it.
  • Constipation in infants: Because of dark corn syrup’s humectant properties — meaning, it helps retain moisture — it is believed to keep moisture in the infant’s stool to keep it from becoming too compacted. As a result, the stool passes more easily. It is important to note that modern corn syrup has a different chemical makeup than when this treatment first originated in the early 20th century. As a result, it is not a reliable treatment but may work in some cases.

Health concerns

Dark corn syrup is mostly sugar, which means that it can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and other serious illnesses if you consume it in excess.

Common uses

Dark corn syrup brings sweetness and deep brown color to recipes. It is sometimes used to make pecan pie, which is often called Karo pie. For the most part, you can use dark corn syrup in any recipes that call for light corn syrup. Which you choose is sometimes a matter of personal preference but dark corn syrup will impart a more robust flavor and darker color. Dark corn syrup can be used in recipes for soft caramel candy, fudge, and caramel popcorn. 

It has savory applications, too. Dark corn syrup is an excellent option for giving a glossy appearance to a barbecue sauce. It will provide the richness and deep brown color of molasses. It is also common to see dark corn syrup used in recipes for certain jams and jellies.