Sarah’s Molasses Brown Bread

Servings: 2 loaves serving(s)

Prep time: 2 hours

Total time: 3 hours

Cooking time: 1 hours

Take me to the recipe

This easy molasses brown bread recipe is ready in three hours (including rising time).  If you’re new to yeast bread, this is the best beginner recipe ever. 

Molasses Brown Bread, a sweet and chewy oatmeal brown bread richly flavoured with molasses

I’m one of the bloggers participating in The Canadian Food Experience Project, a national program that’s helping to identify (or at least add clarity to) a Canadian food identity. This month’s task is to write about a regional Canadian food.

So, I have a question for you…

If I was to put in front of you a plate of homemade cookies, a slice of homemade cake and a loaf of homemade molasses brown bread that’s just warm enough to melt the butter, which would you choose?

Molasses Brown Bread, a sweet and chewy oatmeal brown bread richly flavoured with molasses

Is there anything better than homemade bread? Is there anything more satisfying?

Growing up in Southern New Brunswick, and anchored by Irish and Acadian roots, homemade bread meant one thing to me: molasses brown bread. Sure there’s the classic Maritime Brown Bread that’s steamed but I grew up on the sweet and chewy oatmeal brown bread richly flavoured with molasses.

We’d eat it on Saturday night with baked beans, as would half of Atlantic Canada I suspect.

Molasses Brown Bread is still my all-time favourite bread – nothing can match it in flavour or texture.

This molasses brown bread recipe is an easy yeast bread to make, takes just one rising, and is very forgiving (unlike the Irish).

Molasses Brown Bread, a sweet and chewy oatmeal brown bread richly flavoured with molasses

This recipe came to me from one of our Facebook fans, Sarah Ingalls. It’s similar to my mom’s brown bread recipe only it has more molasses so is a little moister. Sarah called it Three-Hour Brown Bread, which is a pretty accurate description since it’s a cinch to mix up, rises to double in about 1 1/2 hours then goes straight in the oven. I added whole wheat flour to the original recipe and used butter instead of the shortening originally called for.

THis is a sticky dough.

Enjoy this bread alongside a bowl of Roasted Red Pepper Lentil Soup or Molasses Baked Beans. It’s great as a mid-morning snack too, no butter necessary since it’s sweet and moist.

Sarah’s Molasses Brown Bread Recipe

Makes two large loaves

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. yeast
  • 3/4 cup Crosby’s Fancy Molasses
  • 1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned, not instant)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (spooned in)*
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned in)

*Can use all-purpose in place of the whole wheat

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl dissolve sugar in the 1 cup of warm water and sprinkle over the yeast. Leave for 5-10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl mix molasses, rolled oats, butter and salt.
  3. Add the 1 cup boiling water, whisk, and then add the 1 cup cold water.
  4. Stir in yeast mixture.
  5. Add flour gradually and scrape dough onto a floured surface to knead in the final cup of flour.
  6. Cut dough in half and place in two large bread pans that have been well greased or lined with parchment paper.
  7. Cover each plan with a dishtowel and set in a warm place to rise until almost double in size (about 1 1/2 hours).
  8. Remove dishtowels and bake at 325 F for about an hour
  9. When ready, remove from oven and let cool about five minutes before removing from pans to cool.

What’s a distinctly Canadian food in your region? Do you have a favourite family recipe?

The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7 2013. As we (participants) share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.

Here’s my mom’s recipe for Molasses Brown Bread

oatmeal brown bread - Mom's

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92 thoughts on “Sarah’s Molasses Brown Bread

  1. Veronica says:

    Hi. Can I convert this recipe for brown bread to my breadmaker. Thanks.

    1. Hi Veronica, To convert this recipe for a bead machine you’ll need to cut it in half. There are also some particulars about dry-to-liquid ratios that are covered off in this info from Fleishman’s Yeast: http://www.breadworld.com/Fleischmanns_Converting_Traditional_Recipes_to_Bread_Machine.aspx
      Good luck

  2. Vivian Murphy says:

    I would choose the Molasses Brown Bread. Nothing better,no matter the time of day!

    1. Hi Vivian, I’m with you and am happy that there is still a loaf of this bread on the counter at home. On this stormy day it will be great to have it with a big bowl of soup.

  3. Margaret Delgatty says:

    The bread, hands down! Have you developed a gluten-free version of this recipe yet?

    (And your Roasted Red Pepper Lentil Soup is very high on my list of things to try soon…)

    …md

    1. Hi Margaret, I wish I could figure out a GF version of this one since it’s such a delicious recipe. I suppose you could replace the flour with a GF flour blend. Also, one reader adds an egg to the dough, which might be great for a GF option, to help with texture.

  4. Lloyd Best says:

    Make this all the time I add one egg to the mixture. Everybody loves it

    1. Hi Lloyd, An egg, what a great idea! I think I’ll give it a try. Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. Mon says:

    I make brown bread with Crosby’s molasses, the difference with my recipe is as follows:
    I put rolled oats in my kneading Pan , add boiling water and let it sit until cool to the touch (the mixture is like porridge) then I continue with the remainder of my ingredients. It is delicious. This is my mother’s recipe dating back to the 30’s.

    1. Hi Monica, I like your idea of making a bit of a porridge with the rolled oats. I bet it makes the texture that much softer. The method is similar to my mom’s brown bread recipe.

    2. Hello I wonder if I could have your Mom’s recipe . She didn’t use yeast and always waited till porridge cooked to continue.ive lost her recipe. Thank you

  6. mona Ivany says:

    I made the molasses brown bread and home made beans today with fried bologna . they were great

    1. Hi Mona, Such a classic Maritime meal!

  7. Missy says:

    Hey Bridget, this is my first attempt at bread and I followed the recipe to a tee… But my dough was extremely sticky, even with the 61/2cups of flour. It’s currently rising, should the dough be that difficult to manage?

    1. Hi Missy,
      I hope that your bread turned out alright. Sometimes bread dough can be pretty soft and it is often affected by the weather. Were you happy with the bread? I think you’ll find that each time you make homemade bread you get a better feel for it. I have been making bread for years and almost always used more flour than the recipe called for. But now I’m better at kneading so use much less and my loaves are lighter.

  8. Janice salmon says:

    Joined this about a year ago. I really wanted a brown bread recipe….I moved from New Brunswick 17 years ago and the west coast people call whole wheat bread brown bread….what a shock when I ordered a sandwwich with brown bread and they offered me whole wheat. The west coast Canadians do not know what they are missing.

    1. Hi Janice, There’s nothing like a true brown bread, is there? Moist, a little chewy…Reminds me that I must pull out this recipe again.

    2. Erin says:

      Isn’t that the truth Janice ! I relocated west from NB 6 years ago and couldn’t fathom the fact that Nobody here ( from the west) seemed to know what true brown bread is! My husband was first to tell me that whole wheat bread was considered brown bread here and I couldn’t believe it until my first restaurant experience ordering brown bread. I have been looking for a simple brown bread machine recipe since so I can share the goodness with my colleagues in my morning meeting without the added work to make it !

    3. Lisa says:

      Boston Baked Beans and Brown Bread every Saturday night! Mother born and grew up in Boston but moved to Nova Scotia and married my Dad. There was a bakery in town that made the bread. I was heartbroken when I moved to BC years ago, to find out that brown bread here is whole wheat! They just don’t know what they’re missing! I’m gonna give this recipe a try! Thx

  9. Heather says:

    Made this bread and it turned out fabulously! I’d never made brown bread before but a friend had raved about his mother’s, so I gave it a try. He said it was better than his Mom’s!! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  10. Shirley says:

    I just made this bread, but I didn’t know how long I should knead it bc it didn’t say in the recipe!! So I used my own judgement and kneaded it for 10 mins!! It’s now rising, so I hope it turns out!!!! …. So HOW LONG should I knead it???

    1. Hi Shirley, This is a “no knead” recipe meaning that you only have to knead until you have incorporated the flour. That said, kneading it for 10 minutes can only make it better!

  11. Ilene Flynn says:

    I use to work in a community care home and I would make this often using the left over porridge. The residents loved it.

    1. Hi Ilene, That’s a great idea to use leftover porridge in bread. Never heard of it before. Thanks for the tip.

      1. Evelyne Brien says:

        I would never throw away left over porridge. I learned to make bread I was 11. Being from a large family, nothing was thrown away. French toasts with stale bread. Soup with broth from boiled dinners hash with leftover root veggies and meat from boiled dinner with a slice of homemade bread and butter was my favourite supper as a young kid arriving home from school, that was a mille and a quarter from home, uphill both ways. We had no money but we were rich, because we had good food.

        1. Bridget Oland says:

          Hi Evelyn, That is such a beautiful sentiment – to be rich if you have good, wholesome food. I also love how you remind us that food was never wasted and how leftovers were always turned into something else delicious. Great lessons for today. Thanks for bringing us back to the beauty of the basics.

  12. Alla says:

    Hi Bridget
    It was my first time cooking with molasses! Really
    This bread was fantastic!
    I substitute oats and some of the regular flour in the recipe with rye flour, some semi boiled wheat kernels and sprouted wheat. Bread was medium dense with a hint of tang. Loved it!
    More recipes like this please.
    Alla

    1. Hi Alla, Thanks for all of the tips. I love the idea of rye flour and sprouted grains. I never thought the recipe could be so versatile.

  13. Bev Csthcart says:

    Hello. Is the yeast used in this recipe Fleisshmans Quick rise? Thank you.

    1. Hi Bev, The yeast in this recipe is regular dry yeast, not quick rise.

  14. Stella Chiasson says:

    Would the yeast used in this bread be Dry Active?

    1. Hi Stella, Yes, regular dry active yeast is what I use in this recipe.

  15. Denise says:

    If I want to make buns instead of loaves how long would I bake them? How many buns would the recipe make?

    1. Hi Denise, I would think that you could get 16-24 rolls out of this batch of bread. I’m not sure how long you would bake the buns…I’d start checking them at about 20-25 minutes.

  16. Sarah from Ontario says:

    Made this recipe and it turned out wonderfully. I’ve never made brown bread but a coworker told me about the Nova Scotia tradition so I decided to try it for a potluck. Every slice was gone. Like another reviewer, I found the dough too sticky too knead, so I added another half cup to cup of flour (being sparing, just enough) and I also didn’t read the comments first, so I kneaded it for about 10 minutes. Also I baked it at 350 for 45 minutes as I was under time pressure, and that worked OK. I’m curious why the baking temp is 325, as I’ve never seen a bread recipe baked that low… how will it change the resulting bread?

    1. Hi Sarah, It’s my understanding that softer crust breads generally bake at lower temperatures. If you want crusty bread you bake at a higher temperature.

  17. Bridgette says:

    Hi, what dairy free option could I use instead of butter? Coconut oil? Shortening? Also, any changes you might suggest if I wanted to use my kitchenaid mixer for this recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hi Bridgette, coconut oil is a great dairy free alternative! My suggestion would be to use the mixer on a low speed, and to knead by hand.

    2. Sarah says:

      I use my Kitchenaid all the time for this recipe. (I’m the contributer) but don’t double it, it won’t fit.

      1. Thanks Sarah, That would make it much easier for those who find the dough too sticky to work with.

    3. Sarah Ingalls says:

      I use my kitchenaid for this recipe. I have a 6qt and can almost make a double batch. I transfer to a larger bowl when the dough starts climbing up the hook . Waiting on some to finish baking right now.

  18. Katie from NB says:

    I just cant wait to try this in the morning/
    Im so happy that I read all the updates on it all.
    I’ll add the egg and the 350 temp
    I just know it will be wonderful with baked beans
    thank you.

  19. Sher says:

    Hi Bridget,
    Your Moms recipe is the one I grew up with and still make to this day…I Noticed the remarks about it being a very sticky dough….Always found this to be true of brown bread… adding more flour I found will produce a drier loaf… I remember a tip I read in a book by Richard Bertinet…Use only flour called for when making bread… He has a video online where he demonstrates the slap and fold technique…His dough is very sticky and its amazing how following this method brings the dough together… I have been using that method ever since… Not only does it work but its fun, and as a side note great exercise LOL… One of the first times I tried this I made a beautiful fruited loaf.. first time I added raisins after first rise the second time I added them in the beginning … Raisins were flying all around the room… My two Labs were going crazy while I was running around hands covered in dough trying to scoop up the escapees before they could… Besides not being good for dogs the raisins I was using were ones I had left over that were soaked in rum for my yearly fruitcakes… they may have lost out on the flying fruit but I swear they were grinning ear to ear as they gobbled up the dropped mounds of dough…Needless to say they become very excited every time I am making bread and sit waiting in eager anticipation for what may come flying their way…

    1. Hi Sher, Thanks for the Richard Bertinet tip. I see he has a few videos on Youtube so I will check them out. Got a kick out of your story about your dogs!

    2. Carole Darroch says:

      CAN THIS BE MADE IN A STAND MIXER ? (KITCHEN AID)

      1. Lynn Purdy says:

        Carole, I am sure it will be fine to make this recipe in your mixer. Please give it a try.

  20. Gina Bisaillon says:

    Hi, recipe sounds good. Could you give the flour weights instead of the volume measurements please? Thank you.

    1. Hi Gina, 2 cups of whole wheat flour would be equal to 256 grams and the 4 and 1/2 cups of flour would be equal to 576 grams

  21. Amanda says:

    Hi Bridget, can you please add Pinterest pin widget to this page? I need it! Thank you, Amanda

  22. Richard says:

    Someone asked about converting this recipe for a bread machine. For a 2 lb loaf in our Sunbeam bread maker, I make the following modifications to your recipe and get excellent results:

    Cut all ingredient amounts in half, except for : 1. molasses (1/2 C), 2. butter – replace with 2 T olive oil, 3. flour – 1 C wheat and 3.5 C white flour. I use traditional fleischmans yeast. When mixing ingredients in steps 2, 3 (molasses, oats, oil, salt) add an extra 1/2 c cold water [you may need to experiment with that amount, depending upon your bread machine]. Add molasses mixture to yeast mixture, then pour into breadmaker pan. Add flour.

    Set breadmaker for sweet bread, 2 lb loaf. Walk away.

    1. Thank you for sharing. I get loads of requests for these adaptations so I’ll share your tips.

  23. lucy maclean says:

    Dear Bridget:
    Thank you for this recipie. I grew up on this bread, with Boston steamed brown and homemade baked beans. Saturday was not the same without this wonderful meal.

    1. lucy maclean says:

      Thank you for this bread recipie. It is soooo good.

      1. Hi Lucy, glad you enjoyed the bread!

    2. Fantastic to hear that you enjoy the bread, Lucy!

  24. Tim Bannister says:

    Hi. My wife and I live and work in rural Tanzania. She manages a children’s home and I manage a farm. We are from Fredericton originally. A friend and his son are visiting from Nova Scotia at the moment, and we decided to have baked beans and brown bread for supper tonight. The beans are cooking away, and the bread is rising.

    1. Kelsey Reid says:

      Hi Tim, it is wonderful to hear that molasses recipes have made their way to Tanzania. Enjoy the beans, bread and great company.

  25. Eva Schmidt says:

    Hey Bridget!
    I had my first brown bread in Halifax, Nova Scotia and I loved it from the first bite.
    Of course it was a family recipe, so I couldn’t have it. That’s why now that the cold season has started I was trying to find a good brown bread recipe online. The problem is though… I’m from Germany. And over here we don’t usual use cups for measurement. So I used a website to convert the cups to grams, which I think didn’t go very well… The dough seemed to be too liquid, so I added more flour. But then I thought maybe it’s supposed to be pretty runny… So it’s rising right now and I’ll check on the consistency again later. I really need to get measuring cups. :D But until then, could you maybe add all the cup measurements for flour, oats, molasses and water in grams/millilitres? That would be super helpful! (I found them for flour in a comment above.)
    I’m really curious how the brown bread will turn out since I’d love to be able to bring the Canadian feeling to our German household on a cold German fall day!
    Thank you in advance! Sending lots of love to Canada!

    1. Dear Eva, I wish that I knew of a website that could easily do the conversion for you. How did the bread work out in the end?

  26. Tim says:

    This is my new favourite bread recipe. I grew upon Crosby’s molasses, and can’t get it here. However, I can get other molasses! Fantastic recipe, though. Best brown bread I’ve ever tasted.

  27. Roger Dee says:

    I am the Lifestyle and Program Manager at a retirement Residence in Pickering Ontario with Maritime roots. My grandmother used to make the best bread ever. Actually when ever I go and order a meal at a restaurant and they ask do you want that on white or brown I always correct them because their brown bread is always whole wheat. I now make good ole East Coast Brown Bread for the residents here and with our bazaar this weekend I will be featuring it through our bake sale. YUMYUM!!!

    1. Hi Roger, I agree, there’s nothing like a true brown bread. I bet your residents love your bread. Lucky for them to have such a homemade treat.

  28. Susan Price says:

    I had problems with the amount of flour called for. I halved the recipe to make one loaf, but with 3.5 cups of flour – it was still liquid – no possible way to take out of the bowl to kneed. It took about 5 cups – but turned out okay.

  29. terri polski says:

    How would fast-acting instant yeast work in this recipe? It’s what I have on hand but can get regular if necessary. Am anxious to try this bread. Thank you.

    1. Hi Terri, I haven’t tested instant yeast in this particular recipe so can’t provide any guidance. It’s a wonderful recipe though so I hope that you get to try it.

  30. Nancy Boyce says:

    I just made this bread. It is delicious! It does not make 2 large loaves. 2 regular size loaves is what I got. It cooked in 40 minutes. The dough was really wet. I had to knead more flour into it. I have been making bread for 40 + years. I am glad I had the experience or the bread would have been heavy and burned. Other than my modifications it is very tasty.

    1. Hi Nancy, Glad that you enjoyed the bread. This is one of our most-tested recipes but I have heard from a couple of readers over the past few years that they found the dough quite wet. I have yet to figure out it it’s related to different types or rolled oats or whole wheat flour or has something to do with how the recipe is written.

  31. Tim Bannister says:

    I live in Tanzania, where molasses is very hard to come by and only occasionally available. But I’ve found that dark, unprocessed honey makes a good stand-in! I’ve made this recipe about a dozen times, and it takes me back to New Brunswick every time!! Thanks for the recipe!

  32. Elaina says:

    Hi, how do I just print the recipes and not all the info before and after the recipe? Thank you very much. Your recipes are awesome!

    1. Lynn Purdy says:

      Elaina, to print our recipes, there is a green ‘print’ icon at the top right hand corner of our recipes. Click the print button and then it is easy to delete any information that you don’t want, by just clicking on it. I hope this helped.

  33. jayne says:

    Tell me how you keep the tea towel from sticking while the bread rises?

    1. Lynn Purdy says:

      Jayne, Spray the top of your dough with Pam or brush it with a little butter/oil. This will keep it from sticking.

  34. jayne says:

    What are the measurement of a LARGE loaf pan? thanks :)

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Hi Jayne, A 9-inch loaf pan is perfect for this recipe. Enjoy.

  35. M. Morrison says:

    I’m small town NS, I remember every Saturday coming home to the smell of home made brown bread and home made baked beans…a tradition my whole life growing up. I’m going to try your recipe and see if it can bring back those memories ! Nothing in this world goes better than Bread & Beans !!!

  36. grew up on mollasses bread and baked beans love the bread slathered in mollasses yum yum by the way I ordered my cook book aways back and never received it do you have any left for a far away military veterans wife thx

  37. Carole Darroch says:

    Can this bread be kneaded in a KITCHEN AID MIXER ? as I cannot knead bread by hand any more, thank you in advance.

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Hi Carole, Yes, you can use a dough hook attachment. Just take care not to knead it too much.

  38. bonnie borden says:

    do I have to use whole wheat flour..which I don’t have.Can I make brown bread using just white flour

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Hi Bonnie, Yes, using white flour in place of the whole wheat is just fine. You may not need the full amount of flour called for. Go by feel as you work in the final cup of flour.

  39. Colleen says:

    First time making this bread, it was very wet and sticky, even with extra flour. I think there is too much liquid in the recipe…. huge mess….

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Hi Colleen, Were you able to get the dough into the pans? (I find a dough scraper works well when the dough is sticky.) Using extra flour is no problem but try not to use more than an extra cup. I hope this won’t deter you from making bread again.

  40. Melanie Pinco says:

    Can I make this recipe in a cast iron pan?

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Hi Melanie, I’m sure there is a way to bake this bread in cast iron, I’m just don’t know what baking temperature adjustments you might need to make.

  41. Michelle Harwood says:

    Trying this now,I too found dough awfully sticky and I fear I may have added to much flour.also I kneaded it lol .but it’s on my stove rising now ,so I’m sure it will come out ok.I hope do ,I love homemade brown bread

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Hi Michelle, I hope your bread worked out well. Yes, the dough can be sticky so I sometimes add a bit of extra flour. It’s one of my favourite recipes.

  42. Barbara Freeman says:

    Hi! Well, we are Covid-19 housebound sooooooooooo,,,,,,,,,,,time to try something new. Although I do bake regularly, I have never baked bread! Your bread recipe is now in the oven so here’s hoping it’s edible! So, my question is the recipe states 2 Cups WW flour and 4 1/2 cups white flour spooned in the batter, do you add an additional cup of flour to knead? Or do you take the cup of flour out of the original 4 1/2 cups?????

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Hi Barbara, I hope that you enjoyed the bread. As for the flour, I try to leave about one cup of the 4 1/2 cups to knead in. I then might add up to one cup extra flour if necessary (if the dough is feeling way too sticky — seems to depend on the day). This is such a great recipe to start with. I hope you were pleased with the results.

  43. Barbara Freeman says:

    We love it……..but definitely had to add more flour……..I think the molasses must make it sticky. But once more flour was added, the dough cooperated much better! Of course it was my first venture in making bread! So…………..it could all have been me! Thanks for the reply!

  44. Scott says:

    This dough is sticky and very difficult to work with. I have not yet been able to have any success with this recipe despite making three separate attempts. The dough quickly forms an outer skin if you are not careful. Following the second rise, the loaves were all dried out and looked disgusting on the inside yet kept the consistency of sticky mud on the inside (yuck!). I tried to check under the worst of the three loaves but moving it at all simply made more of a mess. The dough behaves, feels, and responds drastically different than what I am accustomed to, including not rising at all during baking. This recipe is not fun at all. It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of concentration to ensure the dough doesn’t change into a sticky mess that is inedible (the bread looks and tastes terrible!) Try this recipe if you want, but I would move on to something less involved.

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Hi Scott, Just checking if your comments refer to a different recipe. This recipe only calls for one rise – which is a big part of its appeal. (Once the dough is mixed it goes directly into the bread pans for rising then straight into the oven.)

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