Molasses is a dark syrup derived from sugar, but many vegans still want to know whether molasses are vegan, particularly because bone char is oftentimes used in the sugar-making process.
Is molasses vegan? Molasses is a byproduct of sugar (a plant-based source), and therefore should be suitable for vegans. However, sometimes sugar is processed with bone char, a property derived from cattle bones, and that means it’s not always vegan.
In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about molasses.
What is Molasses?
During the sugar-making process, juice extracted from sugar cane and sugar beets is boiled until the sugars crystalize and begin to melt.
The syrup that is left over from that process is called molasses.
There are three cycles of boiling and crystallization that occur to extract as much cane sugar as possible, and with each successive cycle, the leftover molasses progressively contains less sugar.
Molasses can vary in color, taste, and nutrition depending on how much sugar is extracted.
There are a few varieties of molasses, including:
- Light Molasses: This is the syrup leftover from the first boiling cycle of sugarcane juice. It is the lightest in color, contains the most sugar, and is the least viscous in texture.
- Dark or Medium Molasses: This syrup is a byproduct of the second stage of the boiling cycle and as the name suggests, it has a darker hue and a more viscous texture. It’s not as sweet as the previous variety.
- Blackstrap Molasses: The byproduct of the final stage of the boiling process, blackstrap molasses contains the least amount of sugar and has the highest concentration of nutrients. It is very dark in color, and also has an extremely viscous texture. It tastes like the opposite of sugar— it is very bitter.
Molasses can also be found as sulfured molasses or unsulfured molasses.
Sulfured molasses has been treated with sulfur dioxide as a preservative. Sulfur is often used when processing young sugar to have it taste more like a mature cane.
However, this process often leaves the sugar with a strong, chemical flavor, so a lot of people prefer the sweeter and cleaner taste of unsulfured sugar.
For that reason, the great majority of the sugar found in grocery stores is unsulfured sugar.
Why Molasses May Not Be Vegan
Molasses doesn’t contain obvious animal ingredients. Even though it has a thick, rich texture, it contains no dairy or any related derivatives.
Molasses comes entirely from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are both plant sources. For this reason, one can say that molasses can be considered a vegan-friendly ingredient.
However, that depends on where they’re produced. There’s a good probability that molasses produced in the United States are not vegan— mainly because sugar refineries tend to use bone char to filter and bleach sugar to remove existing impurities.
The molasses are extracted after the sugar undergoes its filtration process, which means that it might be deemed as a byproduct of animal cruelty— as the bone char may have been previously used.
Many vegans are torn on this issue, so you’ll have some who continue to consume sugar (with no further questioning), and others who simply refuse to consume it.
According to the Vegan Society, veganism is “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals”. This can be interpreted in different ways across an entire population, and anyone is free to draw their line.
To be on the safe side, your best option is to consume organic molasses (and sugars), as sugar refineries are not allowed to use bone char to refine sugar.
Are Treacle and Molasses The Same?
Treacle and molasses are both byproducts of the sugar-making process but even though they’re both syrups, they have different properties and therefore can be applied in different ways.
Treacle is a lighter product with less sucrose extracted, which means it’s sweeter than molasses, though it still has some bitterness. Molasses is more viscous, and it has a much more bitter taste.
The major difference between them is that treacle is removed from the boiling process at an earlier phase than molasses, meaning that less sucrose is extracted, and thus you have different levels of sweetness to them.
Also, both are applied in different ways — while treacle is found in sweeter products, molasses is used as a thickener in bitter sauces, namely BBQ sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
How Long Does Molasses Last?
Molasses can last for a few years before it goes bad.
However, you must store it properly. An unopened jar of molasses must be stored in a cool and dry place, which means the back of any pantry is a good choice.
Molasses should not be stored in hot and humid conditions, as those will most likely cause bacteria to grow into mold— completely ruining the molasses. Molasses are not like fruit, where you can remove the rotten part of the fruit and consume the rest with no added risk.
As soon as you notice that your molasses have gone bad, it’s best to throw it away entirely.
If you live in a specially warm climate, you’re also free to store your molasses in the fridge, as it will help molasses maintain a cool, consistent temperature, which is essential to make it last.
Is Molasses Gluten-Free?
Yes, molasses are gluten-free and therefore safe for anyone that is allergic to gluten.
Molasses are either derived from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are plant sources that do not contain any gluten, unlike grains such as wheat, barley, or rye.
However, I would still suggest you read the list of ingredients on the label, as we never know whether gluten may have been processed in the same facility. It’s very unlikely, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Is Molasses Keto?
Molasses is not a keto-friendly ingredient, as it is a byproduct of sugar, which is a carbohydrate-heavy ingredient — which means it can take you out of a ketosis state upon ingestion.
For example, 20 grams of molasses contains 58 calories, all of which come from carbohydrates, making a non-keto ingredient.
Molasses is a tricky ingredient.
While it’s derived from sugar cane or sugar beets, there’s a likelihood that it might not be vegan since sugar refineries often process sugar with bone char.
This is not the case with sugar derived from sugar beets (and organic sugar), but oftentimes cane sugar is filtered and bleached with bone char, which is essentially a step that precedes the extraction of molasses— which suggests that molasses may result from a process that involves animal cruelty.
However, keep in mind that this is something that mostly happens in North America. Other countries (those in the European Union, for example), do not use bone char, as its use is currently banned.
In the end, it’s quite difficult to determine whether molasses (or cane sugar) is 100% vegan. Many vegans are torn on this particular issue, so you’re free to draw your own line.