What is Black Treacle?

Learn All About Harry Potter's Favorite Dessert

Traditional Yorkshire Parkin. Getty

While the name doesn't sound the most appetizing, the ingredient black treacle pops up everywhere in British food and cooking. The thick black syrup is used in many sweets, like toffee, cakes, puddings and even some drinks. Treacle is also famous in the Harry Potter novels as it is one of Harry's favorite puddings and sweets. Older Disney fans might recall treacle tarts being used to lure children by the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Through the novels and the films, treacle was exposed to a worldwide audience, many who had never heard of the sweet sticky syrup.

What is Black Treacle?

Black treacle is an extremely thick, dark, sugar syrup containing cane molasses to create a special somewhat bitter flavor. Black treacle, however, is less bitter than pure molasses so when used as a substitute should be used sparingly. You can read more about molasses here.

How is Treacle Made

After sugar is refined, the uncrystallized syrup which remains is made into treacle.

What are the Different Types of Treacle?

Golden Syrup is the most common type of treacle. It is a lighter colored type of treacle and often substituted with corn syrup in recipes where black treacle is not available. It's sweeter than Black Treacle which has a darker color and slightly bitter flavor.

The History of Golden Syrup and Black Treacle

In Britain, the main producer of black treacle (and golden syrup) is sugar refining company, Tate and Lyle.

The company dates back to 1881 when Abram Lyle built a sugar refinery on the banks of the Thames in East London. In 1922 golden syrup received the royal warrant which still appears on the tins today.

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. Though during WWI, all the metal in England was needed for the war effort, and the tins were replaced by cardboard containers. What a mess that must have been!

In 1950, 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 to lovers of the sweet, sticky stuff and bakers alike.

Popular British Recipes Which Use Black Treacle and Golden Syrup

Bonfire Toffee Recipe - the distinctive dark, slightly bitter, mirror-like toffee is famous for being served on November 5th known as Guy Fawkes Night in the UK.

Sticky Toffee Pudding - the ultimate pudding for the sweet-toothed depends heavily on the use of black treacle for its distinctive taste.

Yorkshire Parkin Recipe- another bonfire night favorite, Parkin is a dark, sticky cake associated with the night but a particular favorite cake throughout the winter in the UK.