Molasses vs Sorghum

Molasses vs. Sorghum

Sorghum and molasses are frequently considered the same substance – a mistake that happens so often that they're regularly lumped into the single term sorghum molasses, which actually only includes sorghum and not molasses. While both are syrups, the two sweeteners come from very different sources.

Sorghum originates from an African grass family crop whose juice is now mechanically processed to create syrup. Molasses, on the other hand, originates from sugarcane or sugar beets that are put through the extraction process four times to yield the required amount of sugar. Molasses can be utilized in a number of industries, from baking and distilling to pharmaceuticals and animal feed, but sugarcane molasses is used in food-based applications while molasses derived from beets is reserved for other applications.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture1 has established standards and grades for different forms of sugar in relation to molasses. The scale includes U.S. Grade A (Fancy), U.S. Grade B (Choice), U.S. Grade C (Standard), and Substandard, which indicates product that failed to qualify for a U.S. Grade C rating. The sugarcane molasses factors taken into consideration when determining scores are: flavor; meeting the requirements for ash, Brix, sugar, and sulfites; color; and amount of defects.

Molasses vs. Sorghum Info

Sugarcane Molasses & the Sugar Association

To learn more about molasses, we spoke with Chris Hogan, vice president of communications for the Sugar Association, who offered additional information about how molasses differs from sorghum and the process behind its creation.

"They have different flavors and consistencies and are not typically used interchangeably in the kitchen," says Hogan. "Molasses comes in a variety of levels of sweetness, from the sweet and moderate flavor of confectionery/all-purpose molasses to the strong-flavored blackstrap molasses."

To create pure sugar (also known as sucrose), sugar taken from the plants is processed to remove impurities, molasses, and any remaining plant material.

"Once sugar beet and sugar cane plants are harvested by farmers, the sugar is simply removed from the plant, washed, crystallized, and dried," says Hogan. "Crystallization is the best purification process as all of the remaining non-sugars are separated out because they don't crystallize. Real sugar is one of the purest ingredients, and the same pure sucrose found naturally in the plant is what ends up in your pantry."

As for rising concerns regarding the health effects of sugar products, Hogan had this to say: "While molasses can contain trace amounts of iron, calcium, and phosphorous, the amount you would need to consume to benefit from these minerals would be in excess of what is considered moderation. The same is true for other sweeteners that contain trace amount of minerals."

Real sugar has several crucial functions in foods and beverages, and no single ingredient can take the place of sugar's function or flavor.

"[Sugar] has been used in recipes for generations, and it also plays an important role in how we enjoy food and celebrate together," says Hogan. "Production has remained steady over the past decade, and we expect that to continue. Like many other foods and ingredients, sugars have been the subject of numerous scientific studies, which help people deepen their understanding of the impact that food choices have on health."

Our society is becoming an increasingly health-focused one, with retail products, specialty foods, and even restaurant menus catering to patrons who wish to exclude sugar from their diets. However, Hogan recommends that sugar – like any other ingredient – is best enjoyed in moderation.

"The scientific evidence consistently shows that a healthy lifestyle based on moderation, a variety of food choices, and physical activity tends to lead to the best outcomes when compared with simply focusing on cutting out or adding one ingredient or another," says Hogan. "According to the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a healthy diet includes as much as 10 percent of calories from added sugars."

Moving forward, the Sugar Association is committed to making a difference by supporting scientific research and providing science-based information on sugar to consumers and health professionals.

"[We want] to increase their understanding of and confidence in the role that sugar plays in a nutritious, balanced, and enjoyable diet," says Hogan. "Most people don't know the simple facts about sugar, like the sweet truth that sugar comes from sugar beet and sugar cane plants grown on farms."

Hungry for more information? The Sugar Association's website offers downloadable educational resources2, or you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @MoreToSugar.


  1. Sugarcane Molasses Grades & Standards. USDA. Accessed may 2021.
  2. There's more to sugar. Discover more here. The Sugar Association. Accessed May 2021.