I'm curious why there isn't a zero-calorie molasses substitute. The USDA nutrient database lists a bunch of minerals, but what is it that gives it the "taste" of molasses?


There is no single "molasses molecule". It's a complex flavor from a complex combination of chemicals. There is no "caramel molecule" either. It also contains several different types of sugar (mono- and disaccharides), which impart their own flavor and calories.

It will include residual sugars, all the types of molecules produced during caramelization, along with a wide varieties of proteins and miscellaneous not-sugar-things that are found in sugar cane juice. McGee lists a breakdown of 35% sucrose, 20% invert sugars, and 10% minerals (for blackstrap). There's also some water and other organic material, as that obviously does not add up to 100%.

  • So your answer is that the answer is too complex? :) I tried to find a published mass spectrum of cane molasses but all I could get was for some kind of boiled pine tree sap. I could understand if there's no economical way to make a zero-calorie substitute but I'm still curious to know what the chemicals are. You say that different kinds of sugars have different flavors. That's an interesting assertion that I'd like to test. What's the easiest way to get pure fructose, glucose, and sucrose? Jan 6 '12 at 5:51
  • Sucrose = table sugar. You can buy "corn sugar" intended for brewing, which has been refined into pure glucose. Fructose ... I'm not sure where you can get this in a refined state. Agave nectar is supposed to be 90% or so fructose, with some glucose. "High-fructose corn syrup" is only 50% or so fructose.
    – Bob
    Jan 9 '12 at 14:09

A Canadian study mentioned in CBC News revealed that calories from sugar are reduced during cooking or baking, more so with invert sugar than sucrose. Molasses is a cooked product already and additional cooking when used as a food ingredient will further reduce some of the calories. Charring molasses is going to be what you are looking for to distill the essence of its flavor, and then grinding the result into a powder. Remember the conservation of energy law. The charring process was used by the Imperial Sugar mill in Sugar Land Texas before it shut down, for good, and the charring aroma was a delight to experience. The charring process for animal fat, like when grilling steak, reveals the sweet flavor of glycogen stored in the tissues as well as the seamfat and backfat. Early man discovered this flavor enhancing process. So caramelizing, charring, or slightly burning sugars will reduce caloric content but not eliminate them. The resultant concentrate might be what you are looking for so that the dilution rate when added as an ingredient may work. Also, when people are fat adapted, a few carbs occasionally don't matter, good luck.


There's no zero-calorie substitute because Molasses is made directly from sugar cane. However, Blackstrap molasses has fewer calories than other versions as most of the sucrose is removed during processing.

As for the minerals, the sugar cane is not refined prior to processing for Molasses, therefore it retains many of its original minerals.

The taste comes from the repeated concentration of the juice from the sugar cane.

More info available on wikipedia.

  • Yes I learned all that before asking the question. I'm asking what is the chemical or at least more specific version of "concentration of the juice from the sugar cane" (minus the sugar). Why can't we extract ALL the sugar from the concentration and just be left with the flavor to which we can add a sugar substitute? Jan 5 '12 at 14:42
  • hrm... I can't seem to find any info about subsequent processings of blackstrap molasses to extract even more sucrose. I'll keep looking. I did find some chemical companies that sell artificial molasses flavor, though, which would likely be zero calorie. Obviously, though, they don't divulge the composition.
    – Jacob G
    Jan 5 '12 at 15:15
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    @MattChambers: Even Blackstrap has 50% sugar or more. The sugar is what makes it a syrup. If you took out all of the sugar then you'd basically have non-carbonated mineral water.
    – Aaronut
    Jan 5 '12 at 17:20
  • And if you added sucrolose to that water, wouldn't it approximate the taste of molasses? :) I think it would probably be a powder though. Jan 6 '12 at 1:48
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    @MattChambers: What I'm saying is that most of the flavour is sugar. I'm sure that there are some other elements but no, I seriously doubt adding sucralose or sorbitol or any other sweetener would approximate the taste. I'm sorry I can't verify that scientifically but, as Bob said, different sugars have different chemical compositions and therefore taste different. You might not notice it in small quantities but when you're tasting a 50% sugar solution, you will notice.
    – Aaronut
    Jan 9 '12 at 15:39

Maillard reaction research proves that much of the flavor is indeed a bunch of different molecules created from high heat, low water, combination of amino acids and sugars

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