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Lyle's Black Treacle is sticky, sweet and useful in the kitchen

Updated on February 21, 2013

Black treacle has many uses

Black treacle used to be a common sight on the shelves of food shops and on the shopping list but although it isn't seen as often these days it still is a popular ingredient in many recipes. Lyle's Black Treacle in a red tin with a lion on the panel is a classic sweetener and flavouring for many sweet foods.

Black treacle, which is also known as dark treacle, is very different to golden syrup but both are products of the sugar manufacturing industry and are produced in the process of refining sugar. Black treacle is similar to blackstrap molasses but not as dark. Both black treacle and molasses have health-giving ingredients that refined sugars do not possess. They are a source of iron, calcium, magnesium and vitamins.

Treacle photo

Tin of Lyle's Black Treacle
Tin of Lyle's Black Treacle

Cooking with black treacle

Black treacle has the rich and slightly bitter flavour of caramel and is a very distinct flavouring that is very different to white sugar, brown sugar and golden syrup.

Black treacle is an important ingredient in Christmas puddings and in Christmas cakes. It adds both a dark colouring and a rich and sweet flavouring.

Black treacle can also be used in gingerbread, in mince pies, in flapjacks, cookies and, of course, in treacle tart. Black treacle can also be used to glaze and marinate cooked meats.

Black treacle can be added to sauces and casseroles. It can also be used as a sweetener in hot drinks. Personally I love it in black coffee to which it adds even further dark colouring and its own treacle flavour which blends so well with that of the coffee.

Black treacle makes really excellent toffee too and I can remember eating this as a boy. My mother used to make it and it never lasted long!

Black treacle is a wonderful ingredient for cooks to experiment with. It could easily be your secret ingredient in a recipe.

To make a Christmas Pudding

Treacling for moths

Black treacle has another use that is probably not so well known about as its use as a sweetener in recipes. Lepidopterists (people who study butterflies and moths) will know black treacle as a substance that used to be widely used to attract moth species at night.

It gave its name to the procedure of "treacling". To attract moths the person who wanted to study or collect them would use black treacle or molasses as the base for a sticky mixture that could be painted on walls, fences and tree trunks and then left a while to work its magic. 

Other ingredients such as rum and pear drops were added to individual recipes for treacling. 

The lepidopterist would return at a later point in the night armed with a torch to see what species had been lured by the sticky meal. Alcoholic spirits like rum and brandy were used to not only give out a stronger smell to the treacle but to render the insects easier to catch.

On a good night a patch of treacle might attract very many moths and would surprise the "treacler" with the variety of species that might turn up to dine on the sweet and sticky lure.

Copyright © 2010 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

Eating Black Treacle filmed


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    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting, RealHousewife!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I've never heard of this Bard but I've used blackstrap molasses plenty of times. I bet that would be good used as a marinade. I love learning about any cooking thing:) lol

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I am glad you found this information useful!

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      This is great. Never knew what treacle was (never bothered to find out), although I'd read references to it now and again. Now I know it's like molasses, which is like colour is to color. God bless the English languages. :)

      And btw, I accidentally spilled cantaloupe juice on the kitchen floor the other day and didn't mop it up appropriately. Guess I should be glad I have only ants there and not moths. Sweet and sticky lure indeed.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      9 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for your comments, Alicia and Steveo!

    • SteveoMc profile image


      9 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Never heard of the stuff, but have heard a lot about molasses. My grandpa even had a joke about molasses. I shouldn't repeat it here though. I have never seen it, but I think I will look at the specialty stores and see if it is there. Might be fun to play with it....maybe even put a little in cranberry sauce, a secret ingredient. Thanks.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      9 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks – I’ve never head of “treacling’ before. I haven’t eaten black treacle for a long while, but I do eat blackstrap molasses. It has a delicious, rich taste and the fact that it is contains a high level of minerals is a bonus. I love the taste of golden syrup too!

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      9 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Hi Steph! Thanks for your comments! Yes, it isn't seen on the shop shelves anywhere near as often these days but it is still available!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Fascinating! I can honestly say that I have never heard of black treacle, but I'm sure its delicious in recipes like gingerbread.


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