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What Is Treacle?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated May 16, 2024
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"Treacle" is a British word used to describe the sweet syrup that is created when sugar is refined. The syrup is actually a by-product of the process and is created from what is left behind when the sugar crystals are removed. It comes in a range of colors and may be anything from quite light to extremely dark. Commonly used as an ingredient in desserts such as tarts, it may also be poured over foods as a topping.

Light treacle is produced during the first boiling of cane juice. The lightest variety of this syrup, this is almost clear, with a golden tint similar to honey and is often simply called "golden syrup." This form has the lightest taste, and is typically what is called for in many different kinds of treacle recipes.

When the sugar cane syrup goes through a second boiling, the resulting syrup is much darker and thicker. In some countries, such as the United States, this is called molasses; in England, however, it is referred to as either simply treacle, or as dark treacle. This is the variety most often used in baking such treats as gingerbread, and often added to hot cereal or eaten on bread.

The final step in refining sugar, when the last of the crystals are removed, results in a very dark syrup. This syrup has little or no sweetness to it.Typically, this product is no longer referred to as treacle, but is instead called blackstrap molasses. It may be used in human foods and is popular in some areas as a health food, but most often blackstrap molasses is added to animal feed as a nutritional supplement for livestock.

One reason that treacle is so popular as a sweetener is that it retains many of the nutrients that refined sugar no longer contains. Refined sugar does not contain any vitamins or minerals. The refining process itself is largely responsible for removing the nutrients from sugar, which is why many of these end up in the syrup instead.

Treacle also has about the same number of calories per teaspoon, 16, as refined sugar; unlike sugar, however, it is rich in iron, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium. The calcium it contains interferes with the absorption of the iron, but the calcium itself is beneficial, as are the other minerals it contains. Those who are concerned about sugar’s empty calories might find this a suitable alternative sweetener.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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