AskDefine | Define molasses

Dictionary Definition

molasses n : thick dark syrup produced by boiling down juice from sugar cane; especially during sugar refining

User Contributed Dictionary



mélasse or melaço compare Spanish melaza < mellaceus "honeylike", "honey-sweet" < mel, mellis, "honey". See mellifluous and compare melasses.


  1. A thick brownish syrup produced in the refining of raw sugar.


thick brownish syrup refined from raw sugar


  • Webster 1913
  • Online Etymology Dictionary

Extensive Definition

Molasses or treacle is a thick syrup by-product from the processing of the sugarcane or sugar beet into sugar. (In some parts of the US, molasses also refers to sorghum syrup.) The word molasses comes from the Portuguese word melaço, which comes from mel, the Portuguese word for "honey". The quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane or beet, the amount of sugar extracted, and the method of extraction.

Cane molasses

Sulfured molasses is made from young green sugar cane and is treated with sulfur dioxide, which acts as a preservative, during the sugar extraction process. Unsulfured molasses is made from mature sugar cane and does not require treatment with sulfur during the extraction process. There are three grades of molasses, Mild or first molasses, Dark or second molasses, and Black strap. These grades may be sulfured or unsulfured.
To make molasses, which is pure sugar cane juice, the sugar cane plant is harvested and stripped of its leaves. Its juice is extracted from the canes, usually by crushing or mashing. The juice is boiled to concentrate which promotes the crystallization of the sugar. The results of this first boiling and removal of sugar crystal is first molasses, which has the highest sugar content because comparatively little sugar has been extracted from the juice. Second molasses is created from a second boiling and sugar extraction, and has a slight bitter tinge to its taste.
The third boiling of the sugar syrup gives black strap molasses. The majority of sucrose from the original juice has been crystallized but black strap molasses is still mostly sugar by calories; however, unlike refined sugars, it contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. Black strap molasses is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. One tablespoon provides up to 20 percent of the daily value of each of those nutrients. Black strap is often sold as a health supplement, as well as being used in the manufacture of cattle feed, and for other industrial uses.

Sugar beet molasses

Molasses that comes from the sugar beet is different from cane molasses. Only the syrup left from the final crystallization stage is called molasses; intermediate syrups are referred to as high green and low green and these are recycled within the crystallization plant to maximize extraction. Beet molasses is about 50% sugar by dry weight, predominantly sucrose but also containing significant amounts of glucose and fructose. Beet molasses is limited in biotin (Vitamin H or B7) for cell growth, hence it may need to be supplemented with a biotin source. The non-sugar content includes many salts such as calcium, potassium, oxalate and chloride. These are either as a result of concentration from the original plant material or as a result of chemicals used in the processing. As such, it is unpalatable and is mainly used as an additive to animal feed (called "molassed sugar beet feed") or as a fermentation feedstock.
It is possible to extract additional sugar from beet molasses through a process known as molasses desugarisation. This technique exploits industrial scale chromatography to separate sucrose from non-sugar components. The technique is economically viable in trade protected areas where the price of sugar is supported above the world market price. As such it is practiced in the US and parts of Europe. Molasses is used for yeast production.


Cane molasses is a common ingredient in baking, often used in baked goods such as gingerbread cookies. There are a number of substitutions that can be made for molasses; for a cup of molasses the following may be used (with varying degrees of success): 1 cup honey, or ¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar, or 1 cup dark corn syrup, 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup water, or 1 cup pure maple syrup.

Non-culinary uses

Because of its unusual properties, molasses has several uses beyond that of a straightforward food additive. It can be used as a chelating agent to remove rust, as the base material for fermentation into rum, as the carbon source for in situ remediation of chlorinated hydrocarbons, and it can even be mixed with sand to make mortar for brickwork.


External links

molasses in Afrikaans: Melasse
molasses in Arabic: معسل
molasses in Aragonese: Melaza
molasses in Asturian: Melaza
molasses in Bulgarian: Меласа
molasses in Czech: Melasa
molasses in Danish: Melasse
molasses in German: Melasse
molasses in Spanish: Melaza
molasses in Esperanto: Melaso
molasses in French: Mélasse
molasses in Korean: 당밀
molasses in Italian: Melassa
molasses in Hebrew: דבשה
molasses in Hungarian: Melasz
molasses in Luxembourgish: Mëlass
molasses in Dutch: Melasse
molasses in Japanese: 糖蜜
molasses in Polish: Melasa
molasses in Portuguese: Melaço
molasses in Russian: Меласса
molasses in Simple English: Molasses
molasses in Swedish: Melass
molasses in Ukrainian: Меляса

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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