How (and Why) to Use Molasses

It’s perhaps only slightly ironic that in the process of making cane sugar—which, beyond it’s addictive sweetness, is known for spiking blood sugar levels and leading to illnesses such as obesity and diabetes—a low glycemic, nutrient-rich sweetener is also created, but more often than not becomes a wasted byproduct of cane sugar production: Molasses.

Thick and dark, molasses probably brings to mind a strange old-timey world where homesteaders made do with what they had…figuring out ways to make blackstrap molasses—sugar’s less desirable sibling—fill a function. It’s found in a number of livestock feeds for its dense mineral content, and any baker worth their weight knows the value of molasses in gingersnap cookies or a gingerbread recipes.

Why to Use Molasses

While not nearly as sweet as refined cane sugar, the low-glycemic molasses does the job of providing sweetness in a number of recipes. But more important is its plentiful array of vitamins and minerals. (Ironically, refined sugar can pull nutrients from the body.) Molasses is an incredibly rich source of iron. Unlike iron supplements, it won’t cause constipation or other digestive disturbances, either. It’s also a rich source of B vitamins—an important consideration for vegans and athletes. You’ll find folate, which is especially important for pregnant women. Magnesium and calcium help with bone production, energy, balanced nervous system function and heart health. And the abundance of potassium makes molasses an excellent pre and post work out food.

How to Use Molasses

Molasses is about two-thirds as sweet as regular sugar. You can substitute it in recipes that call for brown sugar or even those calling for honey or maple syrup. Try using it in some of these methods:

  • The dark color and full flavor of molasses is essential in holiday baking, namely gingersnaps. Try adding it to fruitcake recipes, muffins and other cookie recipes for that warm and rich flavor.
  • Molasses can transform marinades and sauces, adding texture and a malty sweetness. It gives baked beans their distinct flavor, and can round out any glaze or marinade that needs a touch of sweetness. It’s often used on hams, but you can glaze your produce too. Think glazed sweet potatoes and squash brushed with a mixture of molasses, a little oil, salt and pepper.
  • Dress up holiday rum drinks with molasses. Rum is also a cane byproduct and the two mingle well with some cinnamon, amaretto and even coffee.
  • Drizzle it onto oatmeal, yogurt or mix into smoothies for a sweet, nutrient-rich treat!

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