Treacle and molasses are sugar byproducts with similar properties. Their properties and how interchangeable they are depends a lot on the type of treacle and the type of molasses. Let’s take a look at how treacle and molasses compare in this SPICEography Showdown.
How does treacle differ from molasses?
Treacle is a U.K. term for any syrup produced during the sugar refining process. Sugar is extracted by boiling sugarcane juice and extracting sugar before boiling it again twice more. Treacle is a term for the reduced sugarcane syrup after it has been boiled.
Molasses is the word used in the Americas and elsewhere for the same reduced, caramelized cane syrup after most of the sugar has been extracted from it.
The term treacle encompasses light treacle, which is also known as golden syrup. It includes black treacle as well. Molasses includes light, dark, and blackstrap molasses. Light molasses is what is left after the first boiling of the sugarcane juice; the dark variety remains after the second.
Light treacle has some similarity to light molasses but the product sold as light molasses in the United States is still noticeably darker. Dark or black treacle is a closer match for dark molasses.
Light treacle is usually unsulfured, which means that it has not been treated with sulfur dioxide. Dark or black treacle and molasses are sometimes sulfured to lighten the color and to extend the shelf life.
Light treacle is primarily sweet with a subtle caramel flavor profile and a strong buttery note. Black treacle, dark molasses, and blackstrap molasses all have stronger caramel flavors. Blackstrap molasses is the most flavorful but also the least sweet. It is bitter with a metallic edge to its flavor profile.
Light treacle is amber-colored; all three types of molasses are darker than light treacle with blackstrap molasses being the darkest of all.
Can you use treacle as a substitute for molasses and vice versa?
You can use treacle as a molasses substitute as long as you use the right treacle to replace the right molasses. If you are replacing light molasses, you could use a 50/50 mix of light and dark treacle. Similarly, you would use dark treacle as-is to replace dark molasses.
If you are following a recipe from the United Kingdom, you may see treacle listed among the ingredients. Imported treacle may not be the easiest product to find in the standard brick and mortar grocery store. Light molasses may not be the best substitute for light treacle but may work in a pinch, especially if you use less of it and add refined sugar to compensate.
Dark molasses can stand in perfectly for dark treacle. Blackstrap molasses should not be used as a 1:1 substitute for any kind of treacle as it is too bitter and may ruin baked goods and other dishes. To use it as a substitute for dark treacle, you can try replacing a portion of the treacle required in a recipe and add extra sugar or another sweetener.
When should you use treacle and when should you use molasses?
Use light treacle in dishes that require its neutral sweetness and pale color. It can also work as a substitute for corn syrup in some dishes though it will crystallize sometimes unlike corn syrup. Even though the difference between treacle and dark molasses is slight, you want to use dark treacle in British recipes since they are formulated for it rather than for molasses.
Use molasses when a deep caramel flavor is required. It works in barbecue sauces, marinades, as well as in gingerbread.