Is Molasses Vegan?

Is Molasses Vegan?

Most people know that molasses is a thick sticky syrup and is used in the production of many foods including barbecue sauce and gingerbread. 

But is molasses vegan? Does it contain animal derived ingredients? Let’s take a look at molasses, where it comes from and how it is made. 

Where Does Molasses Come From?

Molasses is actually a byproduct of the sugar refining process. It is a thick syrup ranging in color from light golden brown to black.

This product has been used for many years as a food ingredient as well as in some questionable medical applications in times gone by. 

The color of the different types of molasses is dictated by the stage of the refining process at which the molasses is extracted. 

The lighter molasses color is produced by the first boil, the dark to medium molasses is produced by the second boil and the black thick molasses is the product of the third and final boil. 

As the molasses goes through the sugar refining process it gets less sweet and by the time the black molasses is produced it is quite bitter. 

How Is Molasses Made?

Molasses is made through the sugar cane and sugar beet refining process. 

The first stage is to remove the juice from the sugar cane pulp.

Once extracted the juice is boiled three separate times in order to crystallize the sugar. This makes it easier to separate the sugar from the liquid. 

The leftover liquid after this refining process is the molasses. At the first stage light molasses is leftover.

This is a sweet syrup that is a golden color and used in baking and cooking and is commonly called cane syrup.  It has the highest sugar content of all the types of molasses.

The second boil in the process makes the darker and less sweet molasses. It is about 60% sucrose. With a slightly stronger taste than cane syrup or light molasses it is used in making things like gingerbread.

Boiling the syrup a third time produces the thick, dark molasses which has a strong flavor and aroma.

It is black in color and has a more bitter taste than the other types of molasses. This molasses is commonly called blackstrap due to its color. 

Is Molasses Vegan?

Is Molasses Vegan?

As molasses comes from sugar cane or sometimes sugar beet it is reasonable to understand that most people would assume that molasses is vegan. 

But many people are unaware of some of the processes that occur in the refining of sugar and what is used for them. The most debated among vegans is bone char.

This is used to filter and bleach sugar before it is sold. 

This is the reason many vegans avoid sugar as an ingredient.

Due to the vague description on most packaging it is not possible to determine if the sugar in a food product has been subject to filtration by bone char and therefore not qualify as being vegan. 

To add to this confusion the bone char in sugar refining is applied after the molasses has been extracted.

So in essence, molasses never comes in contact with animal derived products and so may be considered vegan. 

Nevertheless, according to the Vegan Society’s definition of veganism animal exploitation is to be avoided as much as “possible and practicable.”

Therefore as molasses is produced through a process that involves animal exploitation, molasses cannot be considered vegan. 

On a positive note, the sugar industry is moving away from the use of bone char in its filtration process, so this will cease to be an issue. 

Types Of Molasses

There are 3 types of molasses which are directly produced by the sugar refining process.

Light 

Light molasses is what remains after the first boil of sugar cane liquid. It is the sweetest molasses as only a small amount of the sugar has been extracted at this point.

It is used as a syrup for deserts, pancakes or oatmeal. 

Medium/Dark 

The second stage of sugar refining gives us medium or dark molasses. It has a stronger and less sweet taste and is typically used in the making of gingerbread.  

Blackstrap

Blackstrap is the black byproduct remaining after the third boil of sugar cane. It is strong, bitter with a robust taste and aroma.

But it does contain nutrients such as iron and calcium among others.  

Final Thoughts

Molasses cannot be considered vegan if bone char has been used in the sugar refining process from which the molasses is derived. 

Brandon White
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