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(Editor's Note: Today's guest post is from a Texan turned Seattleite: Christie Ellis is a wife, mother of two, and author of the food blog, Pepper Lynn. She confesses to having spent the first few years of her marriage stressing about flawless entertaining and trying to impress others with her complicated cooking, but her world turned upside down when she became a mom in 2010. Without the time or energy to fret over perfect meals, she discovered that fresh food is delicious all on its own. Now, she focuses on using high quality ingredients to create simple, nourishing meals for friends and family).

Rich, blackstrap molasses has long been a staple ingredient in my favorite baked bean recipe, but other than that and the occasional batch of gingerbread cookies, it’s not something I’ve used very often. I’ve been doing a bit of research, though, about how it’s made and its nutritional benefits, and I’m bursting at the seams to share the information with you. After all I’ve learned, I’m ready to make this superfood a regular part of my diet.

What is it?

Blackstrap molasses is a byproduct of the sugar-refining process. Here’s how it works:

  1. Sugar cane is harvested, and then squeezed of its natural juices.
  2. These juices are boiled, and as they boil, sugar crystals form.
  3. The sugar crystals are skimmed or strained from the liquid and made into granulated sugar.
  4. The liquid that remains after the first boiling is called light molasses.
  5. The process is repeated, and again, the sugar crystals are removed and the remaining liquid is dark molasses.
  6. Lastly, there is a third boiling. The sugar crystals are removed and blackstrap molasses is the final byproduct.

With each successive boiling, the sugar content of the molasses decreases, flavor and color intensity increase, and the liquid becomes more viscous.

Any of the three types of molasses can be sulfured or unsulfured. If sugar cane is harvested when it is still green, sulfur dioxide is added to chemically ripen the plant. Unsulfured molasses comes from sugar cane that has been allowed to ripen naturally in the sun.

What are its benefits?

Blackstrap molasses has a low glycemic index (since the sugar content reduces with each boiling), and because it’s so concentrated, it is significantly more nutritious than the light and dark varieties. It’s no secret that refined white sugar has been stripped of its nutrients, but consuming blackstrap molasses is a delicious way to recapture the vitamins and minerals that are lost in the refinement process. Here’s the breakdown of what you can get from just 2 teaspoons:

  • Manganese
    • Contains 18% of the recommended daily value
    • Benefits: increased energy, essential to a healthy nervous system and production of healthy cholesterol
  • Copper
    • Contains 14% of the recommended daily value
    • Benefits: aids in the body’s utilization of iron, contributes to health of bones and connective tissue, helps eliminate free radicals, promotes healthy skin and hair
  • Iron
    • Contains 13.2% of the recommended daily value
    • Benefits: increased energy and metabolism, aids in oxygenation of the body
  • Calcium
    • Contains 11.7% of the recommended daily value
    • Benefits: contributes to bone and muscle health, aids nervous system, reduces risk of colon cancer, may help prevent migraines, aids in blood clotting
  • Potassium
    • Contains 9.7% of the recommended daily value
    • Benefits: aids in muscle contraction and nerve transmission, helps maintain proper electrolyte and pH balance in the body, may help promote healthy blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke
  • Magnesium
    • Contains 7.3% of the recommended daily value
    • Benefits: contributes to healthy bones and energy production, regulates nerve activity, helps promote healthy blood pressure

Source for nutrition information: Whole Foods

How can you use it?

Now that we’ve explored what blackstrap molasses is and why it’s good for our bodies, let’s talk about the flavor. Molasses is considered a sweetener, but along with that comes a very strong taste. I’d describe it as rich, strong, and slightly bitter. On its own, it can be overpowering; however, I’ve had best results when I use it in moderation and with other strong flavors that can stand up to it.

Blackstrap molasses can be used in recipes that call for regular molasses, but sometimes you’ll see that a recipe specifically states not to use blackstrap. This is because the recipe writer wants to make sure that the stronger flavor of blackstrap does not overpower the dish. In my opinion, blackstrap can be substituted for dark molasses on almost every occasion, though it’s wise to perhaps use a little less if you’re concerned about it being too much.

Molasses is a common ingredient in recipes for baked beans and gingerbread, but it can also be used as a sweetener in coffee, tea, cookies, cakes, or oatmeal. Try incorporating into savory items such as barbecue sauce or glazed chicken. Better yet, make this Spiced Banana-Oat Smoothie with Blackstrap Molasses. It’s naturally sweet, filling, and nutrient-dense!

Gingerbread Smoothie with Blackstrap Molasses

Cook's Notes: 

  • For a simple, nutritious variation try adding in 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree.
  • Soaking  the oatmeal isn't absolutely necessary, but I'm partial to the smooth texture that it imparts. In a pinch (and if you are able to digest grains easily), don't worry about the soaking and just add the ingredients straight into the blender.
  • Pumpkin pie spice is an excellent, versatile spice blend that I like to keep on hand through the fall and winter. In addition to adding it to pumpkin dishes and this smoothie, I often use it to add a little pizzazz to my morning oatmeal or Greek yogurt. It's available on the cheap at Trader Joe's, but here's a recipe to try if you want to make your own! Also, you might notice that this recipe calls for quite a bit; it gives it a great fall flavor and helps stand up to the strong flavor of the blackstrap molasses.

Do you do much cooking with molasses? If so, what are your favorite ways to use it?

**This post has been entered in Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #50, Real Food Wednesdays, Fresh Foods Link Up #16, Whole Foods Wednesday, and Allergy Free Wednesday.**

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19 Comments

  1. […] on a little-used ingredient has led to me now eating it nearly every day. Be sure to check out my post to find out what makes blackstrap molasses so […]

  2. Yum! We love black strap molasses over here. I add it to all sorts of things but we’ve found it most beneficial to give our kids a spoonful every day. It really helps them get enough iron and they love taking it!

  3. Thanks for the great and usful information on blackstrap molasses. It’s on my shopping list. Oh and all the ingredients for that smoothie. YUM! I found you on Fresh Foods Wednesday and glad that I did.

  4. I’ve used blackstrap molasses on and off for years, but do want to experiment with it a bit more in baking.
    I’d love it if you would consider sharing this on my blog’s new link up, Waste Not Want Not, a place for frugal, healthy living tips and recipes 🙂

    http://www.poorandglutenfree.blogspot.com/2012/10/waste-not-want-not-wednesday-2.html

  5. How long is it good for? I have an unopened jar of blackstrap molasses from a few years ago…

    • Hi Brittany! I’ve seen manufacturers state that blackstrap molasses is supposed to be used within six months of opening; however, I know I’ve had some around for much longer in the past with no ill effects. If it looks and smells normal, I personally would feel comfortable using it.

  6. I always add a teaspoon to my young son’s oatmeal (mine as well) I am going to try adding it to my coffee too now!

  7. That smoothie sounds delicious. I love black strap molasses, and that it has some really great things in it. It’s a great reminder that real food can still be yummy. 🙂

    I’d love it if you’d share this on my healthy living link-up: http://thankyourbody.com/thank-your-body-thursday-1/

  8. i love drizzling molasses on pancakes instead of maple syrup! yum!

  9. I’m sometimes afraid that adding blackstrap molasses to things will change the flavor in an undesirable way…I do like it, but not in everything. But you’ve given me some courage to keep trying! Can’t wait to try out the smoothie. 🙂

  10. My kids like a tablespoon in milk instead of chocolate or strawberry syrup. My 7 year old says it tastes like pumpkin milk.

  11. It’s interesting to learn how blackstrap molasses is made.

  12. […] Ingredient Spotlight: Blackstrap Molasses : Modern Alternative Kitchen […]

  13. […] MAK – Ingredient Spotlight: Blackstrap Molasses […]

  14. I use it in granola recipes to sub inexpensively for maple syrup. Pumpkin granola over homemade yogurt, yum!

  15. baked beans and gingerbread/snap cookies are two of my favorite foods ever – but how CREATIVE are you to put it in a smoothie?? very nice!

    thank you for sharing with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up! i look forward to seeing you again this week with more seasonal & fresh/real food blog posts 🙂 xo, kristy

  16. […] Breakfast: Spicy Banana Oat Smoothie […]

  17. I started taking a tbsp of black strap molasses every day because I read that it (i combination with some other things) might help with my joint pain so I wouldn’t have to take medication. So far, I’m very happy with the results…still have some pain from time to time but not even close to what I had before. I haven’t gotten to where I want to try it straight from the bottle so I just heat up about 2/3 a coffee cup full of milk and then mix the molasses into the warm milk and drink it that way. It kind of tastes like a latte. I really look forward to that drink every day!

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