Molasses is the dark brown syrup which remains during extraction of sugar from sugarcane. It is considered a healthy sugar alternative as it is less refined than table sugar.
In the making of table sugar, sugarcane juice is boiled for about three times until the sugar crystallizes. The remaining liquid after the sugar is extracted is known as molasses. This dark liquid has less of the sugar but more of the nutrients of natural sugarcane. It is thus a healthy sugar alternative, better than refined sugar as it has less of the sugar and more of the nutrients of sugarcane juice.
Molasses differ widely according to the maturity of the sugarcane, how much sugar has been extracted and the method of sugar extraction used. The usual method is to boil the sugarcane juice three times. The liquid which remains after the first boiling is called first molasses. First molasses is also known as mild molasses or Barbados sugar. That which remains after the second round of boiling is called dark molasses while that which remains after the final or third boiling is known as blackstrap molasses.
The first boiling extracts only a little of the sugar from the sugarcane juice so that the resulting molasses is higher in sugar and has a lower concentration of nutrients. This first molasses is the most syrupy of the three kinds of molasses and has the lightest color. After the second boiling, the molasses now has less sugar and has a higher concentration of nutrients. The color turns darker and the consistency is thicker. The final boiling results in molasses which has the least concentration of sugar and the highest concentration of nutrients. This blackstrap molasses is the darkest and thickest of the three.
In contrast, brown sugar is refined sugar mixed with a measly 5% molasses, while white sugar is pure sugar. When you come to think of it then, sugarcane juice is simply molasses plus sugar, with the molasses retaining much of the naturally-occurring nutrients. As such, from a nutritional standpoint, molasses are far more superior to either brown or white sugar.
Blackstrap molasses, in particular, is a healthy sugar alternative. Although it only has traces of vitamins, it has significant quantities of the important minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. A single tablespoon of blackstrap molasses supplies 20% of your daily needs for each of the minerals mentioned.
Molasses has a rich, complex, caramel-like sweetness which leaves a tangy, slightly bitter aftertaste. Personally however, I find molasses a bit cumbersome to use as an everyday sugar alternative. I guess pouring out a very viscous liquid is way too messy for me. But I do like to use molasses as pancake syrup, as a sort of caramel syrup to drizzle over my homemade popcorn and as a sweetener for porridge-like foods such as oatmeal. It is also good for marinade mixes.
As much as molasses is a healthy sugar alternative, consumption of it should be limited to one’s regular daily allowance. A cup of coffee, for instance, should be sweetened with no more than a teaspoon of molasses. Remember, molasses is still sugar, albeit with more nutrients than the refined ones.
Here are other healthy sweeteners I’ve written about: