What's the Difference Between Cane Syrup and Molasses?

By Elizabeth Streeter

Cane syrup and molasses aren't the same thing, but it is easy to confuse them. Both made from sugar, these liquid sweeteners have similar textures and similar uses. Cane syrup and molasses differ in many ways, and these differences mean you may need to use one or the other in the kitchen.

Honey dripping into wooden spoon
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Here's how to distinguish cane syrup from molasses.


Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar-making process. The syrupy residue is left behind after the sugar crystals are extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets during the boiling process. On the other hand, cane syrup is made from sugar cane juice. The juice is boiled down and evaporated to create cane syrup.


Molasses types vary based on which step of the sugar crystallization process the residue originated. Light molasses is what's left after the first boiling process, while dark molasses comes from the second boiling process. Blackstrap molasses, the residue left after the third boiling, is dark and bitter and not normally used for cooking. Cane syrup is an amber-colored liquid, available in light and dark varieties. To prevent crystallization, some cane syrup manufacturers add corn syrup to the product.


Molasses can be substituted with honey, dark corn syrup or maple syrup. Use 1 cup of any of these syrups in place of 1 cup of molasses. Alternatively, 1 1/4 cups of brown sugar can be substituted for 1 cup of molasses. Light corn syrup can be used in place of cane syrup using equal quantities. Another substitute for cane syrup is simmering simple syrup made from 1 1/4 cups granulated white sugar and 1/3 cup of water.


Store both cane syrup and molasses in unopened containers at room temperature and put them in the refrigerator once opened. Use these syrups within two years if unopened and within a year if opened. If crystals develop, microwave or heat the syrups over low heat.