What is Blackstrap Molasses?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Blackstrap molasses is a dark, viscous liquid that is a byproduct of table sugar production from either beets or raw sugarcane. It is usually the darkest molasses available, but it is also the most nutritious when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Many people use it as a sweetener, though it does have a somewhat bittersweet flavor on its own. It's often more palatable when used in baking or as a topping for things like cereal and porridge.

Blackstrap molasses.
Blackstrap molasses.

Manufacturing Process

Blackstrap, like all varieties of molasses, is created when sugarcane or sugar beets are boiled down into a syrup. Commercial sugar manufacturers are most interested in the sugar crystals that form as the boiled liquid cools — these are isolated and processed into the granulated sugar popular around the world. The crystals aren’t the only thing that comes out of the boiling, however. When the residue is collected and strained, it forms molasses.

Sugar cane.
Sugar cane.

Making blackstrap molasses usually takes a bit of extra effort. The syrup compound must usually be boiled three times before the end result will qualify as “blackstrap.” In most cases, the syrup couldn’t be boiled any more without solidifying, making this molasses sort of a “final stop.”

Blackstrap molasses being poured from a spoon.
Blackstrap molasses being poured from a spoon.

Difference Between Blackstrap and Other Molasses

There are many reasons why manufacturers will undertake three separate boiling sessions, but taste and consistency are usually high on the list. Molasses that is stopped after the first boiling is usually the sweetest, and also the lightest in color. This sometimes leads to its being sold under the “light” name, a title that refers to its appearance more than its nutritional or caloric profile. It has the highest sugar content of any molasses, which means that it will spoil more easily. As a result, the chemical preservative sulfur is often added to enhance its shelf life.

Ginger molasses bread.
Ginger molasses bread.

Molasses collected after a second boiling is usually a bit deeper in color and has a more intense flavor. Most products sold as “full flavor” or “traditional” are from the second boiling. These versions have less sugar than “light” versions, but more than blackstrap. Blackstrap is the darkest and bitterest of all. It has the lowest sugar content, but the highest amounts of nutrients like iron and calcium. As the syrup grows ever more concentrated, the essential minerals that were originally present in the cane or beet become more and more pronounced.

Molasses cookie.
Molasses cookie.

Uses as a Sweetener

Blackstrap molasses makes a good substitute for more sugary sweeteners like syrup, particularly when used in small quantities. People often add it to oatmeal or other hot cereals, and they may also drizzle it over baked desserts or ice cream. Cooks may also use it to add a slight sugary kick to more savory dishes, like stir fries or baked fish or meats. It has a subtle sweetness that pairs well with a variety of different flavors.

Popularity in Baking

Many people use blackstrap in cookies, breads, and other baked goods. It adds a rich texture and flavor without making the end result overly sweet. Using it in traditional gingerbread adds a deep, often smoky flavor, for instance, and molasses cookies tend to be chewier and denser when made with blackstrap as opposed to other varieties. It is often used in conjunction with regular sugar, but it doesn’t have to be.

Health Properties

A number of health and medical experts recommend incorporating blackstrap molasses into the diet as a way of improving overall nutrition. It can be a good way to reduce overall sugar intake, for one thing, but it also has a number of important vitamins and minerals on its own. It is an excellent source of both iron and calcium — two elements that are essential for human growth and development — and also contains very high concentrations of both magnesium and potassium. Vitamin B6 and selenium are also found in it.

Some experts, particularly those practicing holistic medicine, recommend consuming small amounts of blackstrap on a regular basis as a way of improving health, mental focus, and general body balance. Few scientific studies have been conducted on whether or not regular use has any long-term health benefits, but this has not stopped many people from at least giving it a chance.

Like other types of molasses, blackstrap molasses can be produced by boiling sugar beets into a syrup.
Like other types of molasses, blackstrap molasses can be produced by boiling sugar beets into a syrup.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Can anyone please help me? I have white hair, but since I have been taking molasses for my blood (need more iron), my hair has turned a blonde (not a pretty blonde -- brassy looking). Any clue as to why this has happened?

I have tried rust remover (we have a well) but to no avail. I went online to find an effective product and used it to no avail. Short of not taking molasses, I am at a loss. Has anyone had this problem?


You can get black strap molasses in Wisconsin at Woodmans.


Some of you are under the impression that sulphur is taken out of some molasses. No. Mineral sulphur is added to some types of molasses that would otherwise mold. Sorghum cane molasses needs either very careful preparation and packing, or sulphur, or both. Sugar cane molasses is more easily kept in good condition without it.

"Blackstrap" is a separate issue. What I grew up with as molasses was mostly sugar cane molasses, slow-cooked over coals all day and all night in large flat pans (12 feet long or so as I recall) and kept constantly moving with what looked like a long-handled metal squeegee by the master cooker. He would be up all night watching over the process and wiping the juice along the pan bottoms almost constantly to avoid scorching. The result was rich and thick, but still translucent, missing nothing and with no trace of bitterness. We ate it by the ounce, not by the pound, and cavities and diabetics were fewer in that time and place.

"Blackstrap" is a residue left over at the sugar plant after a third relatively fast (scorching) cooking and sugar extraction. This collection of liquid cinders they call "blackstrap". It is rich in minerals but tastes loathsome. Why would this be any less carcinogenic than the smoked and caramelized foods we've been warned against?


In Austin, Texas you can get it at Whole Foods Market. A few other places carry it as well, here in Austin. My Grandmother used it for her arthritis and I have just begun. We'll see!


The debate on sulphur v unsulphured is interesting. People who live near geysers and volcanoes suffer no side effects from sulphur which is continuously being emitted from fumaroles. What do you suppose is the reason then why manufacturers extract it from food such as sulphur?


Mardi Gras Zone in New Orleans, LA is open 24 hours a day 365 day a year except during Yom Kippur. The only molasses they sell is blackstrap. One quart is $7.49. It is in the baked goods aisle, and the employees do not know it is there (except the lovely young woman who does inventory).


I sent my daughter to a very well known health store to buy blackstrap only and they told her that it was all the same. she came home with the molasses only jar, and i was annoyed as i could have gone elsewhere.


Where can i get blackstrap molasses?


Comment 5: You are wrong. Sulphured is better than unsulphured blackstrap, however you can't find the sulphured anywhere anymore. Sulphur is in wine, eggs, onions, grapefruit, etc. We need it in every cell in our body. Molasses is already a stripped down version of the original stuff: sugar cane. To not be able to find the sulphered kind is a travesty.


So, are the health benefits of blackstrap the same as regular unsulphured molasses ?


I went to a local health store and told the clerk my

daughter had been trying to have another child for

several years. I told her I wanted to be a grandmother again! She recommended blackstrap molasses, and I am happy to say that she was pregnant within six or seven months. The taste was bad but well worth it.


The blackstrap molasses I bought at the store has 20 percent iron and 20 percent calcium per tablespoon. Other varieties such as "rich", "dark", "light" will have much less of those nutrients. It must say blackstrap.

Also, try to have vitamin C foods (glass of orange juice for example) in the same meal as high iron foods like blackstrap molasses as it will increase iron absorption.

Calcium supposedly inhibits iron absorption, but the Vitamin C may help to counteract this to some degree.

Don't forget to use blackstrap molasses in sauces such as with baked beans! :)


my grandfather told me stories of eating blackstrap molasses when he was a child. he was born in 1902. and i use blackstrap on my oatmeal every morning.


you can usually find it at local markets and small boutique stores in the fall of the year.


blackstrap molasses can be either sulphured or unsulphured. Unsulphured blackstrap molasses has more health benefits than sulphured.


Holland and Barret sell Blackstrap molasses about £1.65 a jar.


I am trying to see if you can buy this product from local markets.


Is there a difference between blackstrap molasses and unsulphured molasses? I read some posts today on an anemia site and blackstrap was highly touted. I went to the store and only found unsulphured.

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