Though black treacle might be unfamiliar to Americans, the ingredient pops up everywhere in British food and cooking. The thick black syrup, which is essentially the British counterpart to molasses, is used in sweets such as toffee, cakes, puddings, and even some drinks.
What Is Black Treacle?
Black treacle is a thick, dark, sugar syrup containing cane molasses to create a somewhat bitter flavor. It's made with the uncrystallized syrup that remains after sugar is refined. Though it's similar to pure molasses, black treacle isn't as bitter; however, blackstrap molasses is quite similar in flavor. Golden syrup is also a type of treacle, though it's light in color, sweeter, and often substituted with corn syrup in recipes.
Before the 17th century, treacle was used in medicine rather than as a sweetener. It was thought to be an antidote for poison and snakebites, among other ailments.
Substituting With Molasses
Molasses and treacle are similar products, though the flavor is slightly different. In the majority of cases, molasses and black treacle can be used interchangeably, particularly if you don't like the bitter taste that black treacle imparts. For a closer substitute, though, use blackstrap molasses as a substitute for black treacle. Its dark, bitter flavor will be closer in taste.
The History of Black Treacle
In Britain, the main producer of both black treacle and golden syrup is sugar refining company Tate and Lyle. The company dates back to the mid-1800s when Abram Lyle built a sugar refinery on the banks of the Thames river in East London. From the very beginning, the lighter-colored golden syrup was packaged and sold in iconic metal tins still used today. They featured golden lettering on top of a rich green background. In 1922, golden syrup received the Royal Warrant, a mark that shows that the company supplies a product to the royal family, and the mark still appears on the tins today.
It wasn't until 1950 that the black treacle product was launched by Tate and Lyle with the treacle sold in tins similar to golden syrup ones, only with a red background instead of green. Today, more than a million tins leave the East London factory a year and are exported across the globe.
Pop Culture Mentions
Treacle is often mentioned in the "Harry Potter" novels, as treacle tart is one of Harry's favorite puddings and sweets. However, older Disney fans might recall treacle tarts being used to lure children by the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Through pop culture, treacle was exposed to a worldwide audience, many who had never heard of the sweet sticky syrup.