Molasses vs. Honey as a Sweetener | Which to Use When?

Molasses is a bit healthier than honey, but both are natural products much healthier than granulated sugar. Both are fine sweeteners, and the choice of which to use is a matter of personal preference.

Honey has a more neutral taste and is best for most baking recipes as well as for making jam or jelly. However, in spicy treats like gingerbread, molasses is a great option. In drinks like tea and coffee, both have rather unusual flavors, and the choice depends on which you prefer taste-wise.

Let’s cover which one to use when in more detail.

Molasses and Honey Jars

Is Molasses Or Honey Healthier?

When comparing the nutritional values of molasses or honey, it soon becomes obvious that molasses wins the health competition.

This chart shows the basic nutritional value of each, and highlights the fact that honey is higher in calories, carbohydrates, and sugar, while molasses provides fiber and protein, making molasses the best choice of the two for a healthier sweetener.

1 tbsp. Honey1 tbsp. Molasses
Calories6460
Carbohydrates1714
Fat00
Fiber01
Protein01
Sugar1710

To help you in your search for a sweetener to replace sugar in your diet and in addition to the basic nutritional facts mentioned in our chart, here are a few more health-related facts about each one:

Honey

Although honey contains less nutritional value than molasses, it does contain antioxidants that aid the body in its fight against such health issues as cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders.

Honey is also known for its success as a cough suppressant for children. In fact, our family’s pediatrician many years ago always recommended a mixture of equal parts honey and lemon juice instead of cough syrup, and I continue to use that mixture for myself instead of commercial cough syrups.

However, there are some potential risks to using honey which include the following:

  • Children under the age of one should not be given honey because of potential dust particles in the honey that could carry the bacteria that cause botulism.
  • There is a potential for allergic reactions that result from bee pollen.

Molasses

In addition to the nutritional value of molasses mentioned in the chart listed above, molasses is a significant source of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and vitamin B6.

A tablespoon of molasses contains 20% of the recommended daily allowance of iron to help prevent anemia, and 10% of the recommended daily allowance for calcium to help prevent osteoporosis.

But, even though molasses is lower on the glycemic index than honey so that it will not cause blood sugar spikes, it can still elevate blood sugar and should be used in moderation by people with diabetes.

Is Molasses Or Honey Better For Baking?

Although molasses and honey are both very sweet and require a smaller amount than sugar, each has its own unique flavor.

Honey has a milder flavor and will not change the taste of your baking as dramatically as when using molasses. However, there are many different flavors associated with honey because the taste of honey depends on the type or types of flowers from which the bees have gathered their nectar.

Molasses, on the other hand, has a stronger, more distinctive taste and is better used to sweeten those highly spiced baked treats like gingerbread. And, the addition of molasses to add a little sweetness to barbecue sauce creates an amazing flavor. 

When substituting honey and molasses for each other as the sweetener in your baking, use the same amount (1:1) for each other. So, if your recipe calls for 1 cup of honey, then substitute 1 cup of molasses in its place.

However, if substituting honey or molasses for sugar, use 7/8ths of a cup for every cup of sugar called for in your recipe.

Substitution Rates:

  • Substitute honey and molasses for each other on a 1:1 basis.
  • Substitute honey or molasses for sugar by using 7/8ths of a cup for 1 cup of sugar.

Pro Tip: Because honey and molasses are 20% water, if substituting either of them in your baking when using a recipe that calls for sugar, remember that the total amount of the other liquids called for in the recipe should be reduced by ¼ cup for every 1 cup of honey or molasses used.

Of course, if the recipe already calls for honey or molasses, that adjustment to the recipe should have already been made, so use the amounts of all ingredients that the recipe has listed.

Is Molasses Or Honey Better To Sweeten Coffee And Tea?

Honey and molasses have always been used by many people to sweeten their coffee and tea. And not only do they eliminate the harmful effects of granulated sugar and artificial sweeteners, but they also provide a bonus by adding a very small amount of nutrients.

Because of the small amount of molasses or honey that is used to sweeten a cup of coffee or a glass of tea, however, the amount of nutritional value will be minimal. But, a little is better than nothing, right?

The primary reason that more people do not use these natural alternative sweeteners in their coffee, tea, and other beverages is because of the taste. There is a significant taste difference in a beverage that is sweetened with these natural sweeteners as opposed to the taste of sugar or artificial sweeteners.

My Recommendation: When trying to get used to these healthier sweeteners, try replacing only a small amount of your normal sweetener with honey or molasses and slowly working up to a total replacement so that the difference is only slight at any one time and you have a chance to adjust yourself to these taste differences.

But, ultimately, the decision of which to use in your beverages will come down to which taste, honey or molasses, you prefer. In fact, there are several additional options for coffee sweeteners for you to consider in this article.

Is Molasses Or Honey Better For Making Jelly/Jam?

As a jam and jelly maker, I have experimented extensively with alternative sweeteners in order to provide healthier options for people who eat my fruit products.

My Findings: While both honey and molasses produce similar results in the texture and consistency of the jams and jellies, honey is by far the better choice because the strong flavor of molasses overpowers, or at least can overpower, the often delicate taste of the fruits from which jams and jellies are made.

In addition to the flavor change, another issue with using honey or any of the sweeteners that are in liquid form to sweeten your jams and jellies, it is very difficult to get a “firm set” to your fruit products. The resulting jams and jellies will be soft set and even a little runny.

Keep in mind that using any of the alternative sweeteners to make your jams and jellies affects and shortens their shelf life.

After approximately 6 months, the unopened jars of jams and jellies made with alternative sweeteners will become discolored and may start separating causing liquid to be visible on the surface of the jelly. This does not mean that the fruit products are no longer good, but they may become somewhat visually unappetizing.

Substitution Rate: If substituting honey for sugar in your next batch of jam or jelly, use 7/8th cup of honey for each 1 cup of sugar called for in the recipe.

Jar of Dark honey
I prefer honey over molasses for almost any purpose

Can Molasses And Honey Be Substituted For Each Other?

In most dishes and baked goods, honey and molasses can be substituted for each other on a 1:1 basis, although the substitution will be obvious because of the unique taste of each of the natural sweeteners.

But, as mentioned above, molasses should not be used instead of honey for making jams and jellies because of the strong and overpowering flavor of molasses.

Having said that, when using honey or molasses in many dishes like candied yams and barbecue sauces, the substitution will be easy, and the results will be so similar that many will not notice the slight taste difference.

What Other Natural Sweeteners Similar To Molasses And Honey Can I Try?

Two additional natural sweeteners that are similar to molasses and honey come to mind. They are primarily similar because they are natural sweeteners that are in liquid form. They are agave nectar and maple syrup. Here is some basic information about each one.

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is extracted from the agave plant, which is a succulent grown in Mexico. And, while it is a natural sweetener, it does have a couple of disadvantages.

  1. It is higher in calories than sugar and adds 20 calories per teaspoon as compared to sugar’s 17 calories for the same amount.
  2. Agave is also high in fructose. In fact, it is higher in fructose than corn syrup.

While agave nectar does have these significant disadvantages, it is a natural sweetener similar to honey that also has a strong flavor which many people prefer over the taste of honey or molasses.

Agave Nectar on a Spoon

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is another natural sweetener that has a thinner consistency than either honey or molasses and, as a result, mixes better than the others with any beverage, hot or cold.

One disadvantage of using maple syrup as your primary sweetener is the higher price, although less of this sweetener is required because of its rich flavor, and, as a result, you would be able to use less, making your supply go further.

There are some artificially-flavored maple syrups that are on the market, but I would recommend that you avoid those and stay with the 100% maple syrup because those less expensive products contain artificial sweeteners and other chemicals that most folks seeking to find alternative sweeteners are trying to avoid.

Final Thoughts

Molasses and honey have both seen a rise in popularity as sweeteners during the last few years at a time when people, in general, are becoming more health-conscious and are trying to eliminate sugar from their diets.

I hope this article has helped you make a more informed decision on which to use in your recipes or drinks.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss The Best Chocolate Extract Substitute (And How to Make It).

Anne James

Anne James has a wealth of experience in a wide array of interests and is an expert in quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, mixing drinks (bartending), and making jelly. Anne has a professional canning business, has been featured in the local newspaper as well as on the Hershey website, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is. With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass. Amazingly, she doesn’t need to reference many resources due to her vast wealth of experience. She IS the source. Anne wants nothing more than to pass on her extensive knowledge to the next generations, whether that be family or anyone visiting her website, her YouTube channel, or survivalfreedom.com.

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