Chicken with Soy Sauce, Garlic and Molasses (Treacle)


I am not scared of twenty-ingredient Indian curries or similar laborious meals. I prepare them quite regularly, but most of the time I don’t have time or patience for long cooking sessions which require  my constant attention. Apart from totally improvised everyday dishes, I have a mental list of straightforward recipes I keep on going back to even when I’m very tired, in a hurry or simply feel lazy. No matter how exotic they seem, such dishes don’t require much attention or time and I manage to memorise them sometimes even before I prepare them. This is exactly the category into which falls this soy sauce and molasses chicken, a slightly modified version of Honey Soy Sauce Chicken posted by Nami from Just One Cookbook.

Sticky chicken pieces marinated in a simple soy sauce mixture looked both attractive and original and seemed so easy, I couldn’t resist testing Nami’s recipe hardly a few days after seeing it. I had different chicken cuts (Nami has used drumettes) and no honey, so I had to modify it slightly. Apart from using halved skinned chicken legs, I have replaced the honey with molasses (also called treacle) and added some garlic (sometimes I just cannot help it… I am a garlic addict). It was one of the most rewarding chicken dishes I have ever had and, most of all, one of the rare meals where I wouldn’t replace legs with my usually preferred chicken breasts. The taste and stickiness reminded me a bit of teriyaki glaze, but with a deeper flavour (probably thanks to dark molasses) and a garlicky kick. Thank you so much, Nami, for this terrific recipe. I will think of you every time I prepare it and something tells me I will do it very often…

If you prepare drumettes instead of legs, check Nami’s recipe here.

TIPS: The baking time depends on the chicken’s rearing conditions: the more the chicken walked, the more time the legs will stay in the oven, i.e. free-range and organic legs will require more time.

I have used molasses (also known as treacle) because I always have them in stock (you will not believe me but it’s mainly in case I suddenly long for my beloved Guinness Gingerbread), but you can substitute them with honey, originally used by Nami, or anything similar (such as a syrup).

Preparation: 45 – 60 minutes + min. several hours in the fridge (it’s best to leave the chicken to marinate overnight)

Ingredients (serves two):

2 chicken legs (skinned or not) cut in half


3 tablespoons molasses (also known as “treacle”) or honey

3 tablespoons soy sauce (you can use more if you have low-sodium soy sauce)

2 tablespoons sake


(2 medium garlic cloves)

ground pepper

If you want to skin the legs, do it before you cut them in half. (It’s very easy if you start separating the skin from the meat at the thicker end, helping yourself at first with a small sharp knife; then the skin can usually be torn away with your hand and occasionally cut off with your knife).

Cut the legs in two pieces and prick them all over with a fork.

Put the marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag or other thick plastic bag and mix them well.

Put the chicken pieces in the bag, close it and rub the meat making sure it’s well coated in the marinade.

Put the legs for several hours in the fridge (I left them overnight).

Heat the oven to 200°C.

Place the chicken pieces in a baking dish and bake them until they are tender (it will take 45 – 60 minutes; check it with a fork), basting them with the marinade twice during the baking process.

After 30 minutes check if the meat is not too dark. If it is well browned but not soft yet, cover it well with aluminium foil.

Baste with the marinade from the bottom of the baking dish and serve with a green salad.

40 Replies to “Chicken with Soy Sauce, Garlic and Molasses (Treacle)”

  1. Both of the versions sound delicious. I always have honey in my pantry, while molasses is rarely stocked, so that’s what I used when I made something similar a while back.

    1. Thank you so much, A_Boleyn. You are so quick with your comment! Thank you! (I have just seen your Mexican feast and the lovely flowers that won’t get out of my head).

      1. I just happened to be checking me mailbox just as the notification dropped. I saw your comment on my LJ. Thank you and you’re right, the flowers are very lovely.

  2. Yes, treacle is very good for sweet and spicey marinades . It adds more substance – a certain flavor, love it.

    1. Thank you so much, Kiki. I also love treacle. It’s the first time I use it with meat but not the last!

  3. I love the marinade ingredients for the chicken! Your chicken looks perfectly cooked and delicious. Great dish!

  4. Lovely recipe tho’ I would call this teriyaki also? There are so many variations thereof: now I DO use honey and heaps of garlic definitely and l/s soy+ tad of oyster or kecap . . . as I said everyone does their own thing and there must be a hundred delightful variants! Glad you also take the skin off!!

    1. Thank you, Eha. As I have mentioned above, it has also made me think of teriyaki with a garlicky and treacly kick. At first I was unwilling to start skinning chicken legs, but after dozens of skinned legs it takes me maybe one minute per leg.

  5. Now that’s totally inventive and inspired Sissi, I love the deep, complex flavour of molasses too and a bonus is that because it’s so densely packed with rich flavour a little goes a long way. I would have also added garlic (back to my sweet and savoury obsession!). I’m also all over that you skinned the legs, so much healthier and with that wonderful marinade, the skin would not have added anything but mushy texture. I’m curious to the flavour that the sake adds, would lime juice be a good substitute?
    I think I may have to try this lovely recipe with chicken breasts, another obsession to use less fatty meats.
    Apparently molasses and honey have about the same glycemic index too which is also much healthier than processed sugars (affects the way you metabolize food and store fat). I’m no expert, but I know that these changes have significantly helped me.

    1. Thank you very much, Eva. I’m glad you like this simple dish. I have often used chicken breasts, adapting them to different chicken cuts recipes, but since I started to skin legs regularly, I really enjoy them much more in certain dishes (especially in curries and other simmered dishes: the bones make miracles!). Free-range and organic legs are also much cheaper than breasts and are often at reduced prices here. I think breasts would also be delicious, but I would advise brushing them with a bit of oil (or maybe even adding a bit of oil to the marinade?). I did that when I adapted Nami’s grilled wings with miso and garlic ( and it was a great idea.
      Thank you for the GI tip! I knew that honey was healthier, but had no idea about molasses (I use them so rarely… until now I think only in my Guinness Gingerbread, so I didn’t bother checking). As you might have noticed in my Asian stir-fries I usually use agave syrup (I think Kelly uses it too). It has apparently low GI and is much sweeter than honey or sugar or any syrup, so one can use less of it. Now I will be using molasses sometimes instead. Thank you!
      Sake is not sour, so lime is not a good idea (unless you want a sweet and sour result of course!). I have often read that people replace sake with dry sherry. Here it’s sold in small bottles, special for cooking. I think that here you could also use some dry white wine. I find sake very practical because it keeps for quite a long time after opening and I use it in most stir-fries (almost my daily fare).

  6. Oh how I love eating chicken and having the sauce stick to your fingers! That’s why it’s called finger licking good! I pinned Nami’s recipe and now I’ll pin yours because I love the idea of using molasses. I LOVE molasses! What a different and unique flavor I bet that it adds to the chicken. This looks SO GOOD!!!!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. I have used them because I didn’t have honey, but it was a great discovery for me too.

  7. This is exactly my type of meal Sissi. I love Asian flavors and I can picture and almost taste these delicious chicken legs! Being a working mother and wife I love easy, straightforward and tasty recipes especially during weekdays that time seems to fly!

    1. Thanks a lot, Katerina. This is perfect for weekdays, you are right. You can prepare the marinade in the morning, put the chicken into the frigde and bake it at night for the dinner.

  8. Thank you for your kind mentions Sissi! I think I have Molasses in my pantry but I’ll go check after I write here. I usually don’t know how to use it (unless recipe says so) and I am surprised to see it’s replaceable with honey! I now should check out your recipe. So happy I inspired you to make this chicken which now we can try with different version! Thanks so much again!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. You are so sweet… I will never thank you enough for this recipe (and for so many others!). I actually used molasses here in a savoury dish for the first time too! I have only used them in the Guinness Gingerbread, but have them constantly in stock (I love my Guinness Gingerbread and it requires only a small amount of molasses). I suppose they give less taste than honey (it also depends on the honey), but they were a nice replacement since I didn’t have any honey. Thank you once more for this wonderful recipe!

  9. Sissi, thanks so much for the inspiration re: the use of molasses. My daughter and I always have a jar in the cupboard just for baking use; never really thought about adding it to make a nice and ‘sticky’ yummy chicken glaze with it. I make my own teriyaki sauce by concocting the same…soy sauce, ginger, either lime juice, or rice vinegar, but the sake sounds even better. In order to thicken and make the sauce stickier, I add brown sugar and cook the whole thing to a thick sticky sauce, but with the molasses, it will give it a deeper color and more distinct flavor…so thanks for your amazing idea and recipe! xo

    1. Thank you so much, Elisabeth. It’s just like me: I only used to bake with molasses, but now I’m glad to discover I can use them more often and in savoury dishes too. Sake is a good investment for teriyaki. I put sake in many Asian dishes and couldn’t live without it. It has become as necessary as salt.

  10. I think your intro was written for me ;-). Haha, you know how much I appreciate simplicity and when the result is this good and full-flavored, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything at all! It’s funny, I use molasses in baking (blackstrap) but I love seeing it in here in a poultry sauce – it makes so much sense too for flavor and that rich-colored result – so tasty looking Sissi! I have a feeling this might be my new shoyu chicken :).

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly, for the compliments. I’m glad you like this simple recipe. You know, actually in my first draft of this post I was saying that it will be a dilemma to choose between shoyu chicken and baked chicken because both are effortless and both are made with chicken legs and… both are irresistible. I hope you will try this one and that you will enjoy the result. This first experiment with molasses in a savoury dish was a good idea too. I must buy one day the very dark molasses you mention and then I think the result will be even more unusual.

  11. Hi Sissi, I love the idea of using treacle in the dish like this. I bet it must give a beautifully rich, complex flavour – and not overly sweet either. I have a bit of a problem with garlic and honey/treacle… I love the flavour in theory but it always creates a curious flavour together which makes me feel a little, I don’t know, “unwell”. The chicken looks wonderfully sticky and tasty though!

    Until I started my blog a few years ago, I had no idea it was called molasses. I’ve always known it as “black treacle”. Molasses, for me, is that sticky, chunky stuff which horses eat 😀

    1. Thanks a lot, Charles. As a huge garlic fan I often add garlic to dishes normally without it (like this one), but there are some recipes where I think it spoils everything, for example the French mustard vinaigrette (for me it’s either mustard or garlic, not both) or my sauce bolognese (many Italian dishes have this “garlic or onion” rule and I fully understand it). I was also surprised it is called molasses in the North America. I knew it was called this way in French, but assumed it’s treacle everywhere. “Treacle” sounds much better! Horses eat molasses???

  12. Sissi, I added molasses to our slow-cooked ribs tonight thanks to this post! I’m so happy I did because it added a whole new level of complexity to the flavor and gorgeous deep color (so delicious!). Thank you for the inspiration! :).

    1. Kelly, I’m so happy to learn that you liked this way to use molasses. Thank you so much for your kind message. Now you gave me the idea to use it with ribs 🙂

  13. Sissi this reminds me of the glazed chicken legs I have been making. Except there I used honey. I never appreciated honey in cooking, but my taste buds are changing. I always removed the skin from the drumsticks before serving and regretted it, because most of the glaze went with it. Sure the flavour was in the meat but its not the same thing. I am lazy and I don’t like skinning drumsticks, but I think I will follow your example and remove the skins before roasting chicken legs next time.

    1. Zsuzsa, I also rarely use honey in the kitchen (it has a very strong taste, but it depends on the plants where bees fed…). I don’t like skinning legs, but it takes one minute and I got used to it. I never skin wings though because the crunchy skin on wings is something I cannot resist. I don’t eat wings often alas. In general I get quicker and quicker with chicken carving, skinning etc. because I buy whole chickens more and more often to save money.

  14. I take your word for it that this is easy and delicious. I have a similar recipe, Tau Eu Kay. It uses soy and sugar, very similar to yours. Little effort, great result. But I rarely make it – its a mystery why.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies. Have you posted it? I am not surprised you like it… sweet and sticky chicken is so universally loved…

        1. Thank you for the link! I remember it now, but I would say that it’s rather similar to my Shoyu Chicken than this dish which is crunchy and much drier (it’s no simmered in liquid, only baked/grilled). I do both dishes regularly. They are both effortless and soooo good!

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