Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

molasses (known as treacle in England) is a thick, syrupy liquid that ranges from dark brown to almost black in color. It is a byproduct of sugar production and can be prepared from cane, sugar beets, or grapes. See sugar refining. The English word comes from the Portuguese melaço, which in turn is derived from the Latin mellacium, meaning “must” from honey (mel).

There are several varieties of molasses, beginning with the lighter type prepared from the first boiling of the cane, which is known in the southern United States as cane syrup or light molasses. See cane syrup. The second boiling of the sugarcane juice produces dark molasses, and the third yields bitter blackstrap molasses. If the first or second molasses has been bleached with sulfur, it is known as sulfured molasses and has a distinctive taste. Recently, this type of molasses has become less popular because of concerns about the use of sulfur in its production.