Is cane syrup and molasses the same thing?

Cane syrup and molasses are often confused as being the same thing, but they are actually quite different. While both are made from sugar cane, the processes used to make each syrup result in distinct textures, flavors, and nutritional profiles.

What is Cane Syrup?

Cane syrup is made from the juice extracted from freshly cut sugar cane stalks. The stalks are crushed to extract the sugar juice, which is then boiled down into a syrup. Minimal processing is used, so the syrup retains a light, delicate flavor reminiscent of the raw sugarcane. The syrup has a thin, smooth texture and tends to be amber or light brown in color.

To make cane syrup, the extracted cane juice is usually boiled immediately after extraction. No clarifying agents or processes are used to filter impurities from the juice. As the juice boils down into syrup, minerals and vegetal elements concentrated in the cane juice remain, lending cane syrup its distinctive flavor.

Cane syrup is a traditional sweetener in many southern states where sugarcane grown. It offers a milder, more nuanced sweetness compared to molasses.

What is Molasses?

Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar refinement process. After sugarcane plants are harvested and crushed to extract the raw sugar juice, the juice is boiled to concentrate it into crude sugar that is then sent to sugar refineries.

At the refineries, the crude sugar goes through a process of clarification, filtration and separation via centrifugation. With each round of sugar crystallization, a dark, thick byproduct is produced. This is molasses.

Molasses has a very robust, bittersweet flavor and thick, viscous texture. It is typically black or very dark brown in color. The first round of molasses is called ‘light’ molasses, while the second is called ‘dark’ molasses. The third boiling produces ‘blackstrap’ molasses, which has the most concentrated, intense flavor.

Differences Between Cane Syrup and Molasses

While cane syrup and molasses both come from sugarcane, there are several key differences between the two sweeteners:


Cane syrup has a mild, delicate flavor described as sweet and grassy, imparting notes reminiscent of the sugar cane it came from. Molasses has a very robust, bittersweet flavor profile.


Cane syrup is light amber or brown in color. Molasses is extremely dark brown or black.


Cane syrup has a thin, syrupy texture. Molasses is very thick and viscous.


Cane syrup comes from the raw juice extracted from cane stalks, with no refining. Molasses is produced through repeatedly boiling and refining sugarcane juice into sugar.

Nutritional Profile

Since cane syrup goes through minimal processing, it retains more nutrition from the original sugarcane juice. This includes trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. Molasses contains a higher concentration of minerals, as the sugars are concentrated through processing. However, it does not contain vitamins.

Sugar Content

Cane syrup has a lower sucrose content than molasses. Molasses has a higher concentration of sugars due to going through repeated rounds of sugar extraction.


Due to their different flavor profiles, cane syrup and molasses are not interchangeable in recipes. Here are some of the main uses for each sweetener:

Cane Syrup Uses

  • Pancake syrup or topping for waffles, biscuits, cornbread, oatmeal
  • Sweetener for beverages like coffee, tea, lemonade
  • Drizzled over fried chicken or grilled pork chops
  • Ingredient in sweet sauces like barbecue sauce, honey mustard sauce
  • Used in baked goods like cookies, cakes, breads, muffins

Molasses Uses

  • Added to gingerbread, spice cakes, brownies, cookies
  • Used in barbecue sauces, stews, chili, baked beans
  • Brushed on meat before grilling or roasting
  • Added to marinades for meat
  • Used in glazes on meatloaf, ham


Cane syrup can be found in supermarkets in the southern United States, particularly in states along the Gulf of Mexico where sugarcane is grown locally. It may be stocked with pancake syrups or in the baking aisle.

Molasses is more widely available nationwide in the baking aisle of grocery stores. You can typically find regular, dark and blackstrap varieties.


Once opened, both cane syrup and molasses should be stored in a cool, dark place. The refrigerator is ideal, as the cold helps limit crystallization. Over time, cane syrup may start to separate with a layer of settled sediment at the bottom of the jar. This is natural, simply stir the sediment back into the syrup before using.

Both syrups will last for several months stored properly in the refrigerator. Look for any signs of mold growth before using.


Nutrient Cane Syrup Molasses
Calories 261 per 100g 240 per 100g
Carbs 64-70g per 100g 59g per 100g
Sugars Sucrose, glucose, fructose Sucrose, glucose, fructose
Calcium 79mg per 100g 125mg per 100g
Iron 0.7mg per 100g 2.5mg per 100g
Potassium 200mg per 100g 1400mg per 100g

As you can see, molasses contains more minerals than cane syrup, particularly iron, calcium, and potassium. However, cane syrup contains trace vitamins including vitamin C and some B vitamins.


Cane syrup tends to be more expensive than molasses. A 16oz jar of cane syrup costs $6 to $12, while a 16oz jar of molasses can cost $4 to $8.

This price difference reflects the more limited production of cane syrup, which comes from a small number of specialty producers in cane-growing regions. Molasses is produced commercially in larger volumes as a byproduct of the global sugar industry.

Taste Test

To get a true understanding of how cane syrup and molasses differ, a taste test is in order. Here’s a guide to tasting the two sweeteners:


Visually inspect each syrup. Cane syrup is lighter amber-brown, while molasses is extremely dark brown or black.


Smell each syrup. Cane syrup has a mild, sweet, vegetal aroma. Molasses has a very robust aroma with notes of bittersweetness, smoke, and minerals.


Observe the thickness and viscosity of each when you pour. Cane syrup is thin and pours smoothly. Molasses is extremely thick and more difficult to pour.


Taste each syrup on its own off a spoon. Cane syrup has a delicate sweetness with grassy, vegetal notes. Molasses provides an intense dark sweetness with bitterness and minerality.


Try using a small amount of each syrup in different applications to test their flavor. Add a teaspoon to a cup of tea or coffee. Drizzle a bit over pancakes or oatmeal. Mix a spoonful into cookie dough or cake batter.

Take note of how their distinct flavors come through in different ways.

In Conclusion

While cane syrup and molasses originate from the same source – sugar cane – they are produced using vastly different methods resulting in two unique products.

Cane syrup comes straight from the extracted juice of cane stalks, lending it a light, delicate sweetness. Molasses is derived from refining that juice into sugar, leaving behind an intense, robust syrup.

Their differences mean they function best in recipes calling for their specific qualities of flavor, texture, color and sweetness. Cane syrup brings a mild sweetness to baked goods and beverages, while molasses’ dark complexity is perfect for cookies, cakes and sauces.

Both syrups have their place in any well-stocked pantry, each providing their own touch of sweetness and rich flavor where recipes require.

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