What is Black Treacle and What is it Used For?

Traditional Yorkshire Parkin. Getty

Black treacle pops up everywhere in British food and cooking. The thick black syrup is used in many sweet goods, in toffee, cakes and puddings and even drinks. Treacle is also famous in the Harry Potter novels as it is one of Harry's favourite puddings and sweets. 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 flavour.

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 refining sugar, the uncrystallised syrup which remains is made into treacle. 

What are the Different Types of Treacle?

There are different types of treacle, Black is only one, Golden Syrup is a lighter-coloured type of treacle and often substituted with corn syrup in recipes where black treacle is not available. 

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 1881n when Abram Lyle built a sugar refinery on the banks of the Thames in East London.

From the very beginning,  the lighter coloured Golden Syrup was packaged and sold in the iconic metal tins still used today - though during WWI,  all metal was needed for the war effort and the tins were replaced by cardboard containers.

In 1922 Golden Syrup received the royal warrant which still appears on the tins today. 

In 1950, Black Treacle was launched by Tate and Lyle with the treacle sold in similar, yet still distinctive, tins to the Golden Syrup but with red instead of the green. 

Today, more than a million tins leave the East London factory and as well as home consumption, are exported across the globe to lovers of the sweet, sticky stuff and bakers.


Popular British Recipes Which Use Black Treacle and Golden Syrup

There are possibly too many recipes to mention here as treacle pops up everywhere. 

Recipe Using Black Treacle

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 favourite, Parkin is a dark, sticky cake associated with the night but a particular favourite cake throughout the winter in the UK.