Delicious sliced warm and served with fresh butter, or used as sandwich bread the next day, this Sweet Molasses Brown Bread made with whole wheat, molasses and honey is one of our family favorites!

There is nothing like homemade bread coming fresh and hot out of the oven. Be sure not to miss our other bread recipes like Roasted Garlic & Rosemary No Knead Artisan BreadHomemade French Bread, and Easy Rosemary Focaccia Bread!

sliced brown molasses bread with oats on top

Sweet Molasses Brown Bread

Don't get me wrong, when I say "sweet", this isn't a super sweet bread like a breakfast bread or dessert roll or something. It's just a wonderful, mild sweetness from the molasses and a little honey. It's noticeable, but not overpowering.

If you have ever been to the Outback restaurant, this recipe is very close to their mini-loaves of brown bread that they bring out. The ones which we always devour instantly before pushing the cutting board that it was brought out on to the front of the booth and fixing our server with sad puppy dog eyes until he takes pity and brings us more.

A loaf of homemade brown bread sprinkled with oats, fresh from the oven.

We are the same way with these loaves of sweet molasses brown bread, which is why it's a good idea to shape it into 3 loaves that get baked on a baking sheet.

It usually means I have one loaf leftover for the freezer (this bread freezes beautifully), one loaf for sandwiches the next day, and one loaf for eating immediately while still warm!


How to Make Sweet Molasses Brown bread

  1. First, combine the water, yeast, molasses, cocoa powder, oil, and honey in a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment along with 2 cups of the whole wheat flour and mix until combined. There is no need to proof the yeast if using instant yeast. If you only have active dry yeast, just proof it first in the warm water.
  2. Add the remaining whole wheat and bread flour a cup at a time, until the dough starts to pull away from the bowl, then knead for 5-7 minutes using the dough hook attachment. You can knead by hand if you don't have a mixer with a dough hook, but it will take a bit longer to develop the gluten, more like 10-12 minutes of hand kneading.
  1. Let the dough rise for an hour or two before punching down and shaping into loaves, then placing the loaves on a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure they have room to rise and bake without touching.
  2. Let the shaped loaves rise again for 45-60 minutes, then slash with a sharp knife or bread lame just before baking.
  3. Bake the loaves at 375 degrees for 25 minutes until starting to brown, then brush them each with a melted butter and sprinkle with oats before baking the last 5-7 minutes, until cooked through and a nice brown on top.

Tips and Tricks for Making Homemade Brown Bread

  • Yes there is cocoa powder in these loaves, but no, they do not taste at all like chocolate. It's a small amount, but it add both color and depth of flavor to the bread without making it even remotely "chocolatey".
  • Use bread flour along with the whole wheat flour for the best texture.
  • If you want a more steakhouse experience by making mini-loaves or rolls, shape the dough into smaller mini loaves (I probably wouldn't go smaller than 9 mini-loves total) and bake for 18-22 minutes.
  • To freeze a loaf of the bread, let it cool completely, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. This sweet molasses brown bread freezes well. Just pull it out of the freezer and allow it to thaw on the counter overnight before slicing and serving.
Two loaves of copycat Outback brown bread on a baking sheet.

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Sweet Molasses Brown Bread

4.83 from 98 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 36 servings
Delicious sliced warm and served with fresh butter, or used as sandwich bread the next day, this sweet molasses brown bread made with whole wheat, molasses and honey is one of our family favorites!


  • 2 ½ cups warm water
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons instant yeast
  • cup molasses
  • 2 Tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3-4 cups bread flour
  • 3 Tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • Old-fashioned oats for sprinkling on top


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, yeast, molasses, cocoa powder, oil, honey, salt, and 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. Mix until combined.
  • With the mixer running, gradually add the rest of the flour starting with the whole wheat, then adding the bread flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (you may not need the last cup of flour). Knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough should be soft and slightly tacky.
  • Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl, then cover with a sheet of plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray, or cover with a light dish towel.  Let rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.
  • Punch down the dough and divide into two or three evenly-sized pieces (depending on how large you want your loaves).  Shape into tight oval loaves and place onto parchment-lined baking sheets, making sure they have space to rise without touching each other. Lightly cover with plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray or a light dish towel and let rise again until puffy and doubled in size (another 45-60 minutes).  Right before baking, you can use a very sharp razor, knife or bread-slashing lame to cut three slashes across the top of each loaf, if desired.  
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake the loaves for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and lightly brush with the melted butter, then sprinkle with the oats and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until browned and cooked through.  Cool before slicing.


The oats are more for appearance and texture, but they do tend to fall off when slicing the bread.  I keep them anyway because I enjoy the look and texture they give to the loaves.
If desired, the dough could be shaped into 12-14 rolls or 6-8 mini-loaves instead of larger loaves, just decrease the baking time depending on the size you are shaping the bread.
Recipe only slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.


Calories: 110kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 140mg | Potassium: 100mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 30IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg
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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. I love the flavor molasses adds to baked goods and can't wait to try out this recipe! I just added it to my bread board on pinterest.

  2. 5 stars
    Oh my gosh I haven't been to outback in forever, but I DO know the bread! And I LOVE it. Pinning to my must make board!!!

  3. 5 stars
    I am so intimidated by bread making. Thanks for the step by step make me think I can do it;)

  4. 5 stars
    That sounds wonderful and I find your idea of sandwich bread the next day sweet but naive... Freshly baked bread never gets a second day in these parts, probably the reason I don't make it too often. I'm a glutton for bread fresh from the oven 😉

    1. Ha! Telling myself I need to save some for sandwiches is the only way to gain a modicum of restraint when it comes to freshly baked bread!

    1. I have not! I have a bread machine but rarely pull it out any more because I just like the process of making bread by hand with the kneading and mixing and shaping of the loaves. If you try it, please let me know what you think!

  5. 4 stars
    Salt is mentioned in Step 1 of the recipe at the bottom but no amount is listed. It isn't mentioned earlier in the article. Can you please clarify?

  6. 5 stars
    I just made this. I haven’t tried it yet because if it didn’t turn out right I did something wrong. The smell though I can comment on is amazing.

  7. 5 stars
    I made this recipe, I baked 2 loaves. This bread is so amazing, moist, just delicious. I froze one loaf and when thawed was just as good as freshly baked. This recipe is a keeper and now is in my recipe book.

  8. My husband doesn’t eat sugar so he found it too sweet. Do you think I could omit the molasses and cut honey down to 1/4 cup or less and it still taste good? I realize it wouldn’t be Molasses Bread, but am thinking the honey would give a touch of sweetness for me and enable him to eat it. Thanks.

    1. Yes, I think that would still work, although you are right that it wouldn't taste quite the same without the molasses and less honey. But still edible? Definitely.

    1. Yes, you can use regular unbleached flour, although bread flour really does improve the texture of most breads.

  9. Hi, i am about to make this bread. How long does it take to proof the yeast if im using active dry yeast?

  10. Can you bake them in loaf pans instead? I'm not sure if doing that would change the time to bake, and if so, how long...

    1. You sure could, but I haven't done it in a while and don't know how much it will affect the bake time. Sorry!

  11. My daughter and I made this bread yesterday and it was amazing! Have you baked this bread in a loaf pan? Just curious if it would make a taller loaf. My loaves kind of were short and wide after the last rise.

    1. I haven't but I've had a couple of questions about that recently. I may have to try it! I'm sure it would work.

  12. I don’t currently have whole wheat flour. Do you think this recipe would work with all-purpose instead of whole wheat?

    Thanks so much! Your bread is beautiful! 

    1. I have never personally made it in the bread machine, but I'm sure it would work. Did you check to make sure your yeast was still good? Because that would be my first guess if your bread didn't rise.

    1. I haven't tried it with gluten-free flour, sorry! I've used Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 GF flour in the past on cookies with good results, but I don't know how it would do with bread.

  13. Hi 🙂
    Very excited to try the recipe.  We adore this type of bread and I’m getting bread flour and whole wheat TOMORROW!  
    My question is do you think I can omit the oil or at the very least decrease it by half?  My family follows a low fat dietary plan to keep the weight off lol. 

    1. I wouldn't decrease the oil in this particular recipe as it is part of what gives the bread it's wonderful texture. Without it, I think the bread would be more dry and crumbly.

  14. Could I use a substitute for the honey? I don’t have any at home and I’m going to try and substitute all purpose flour as well. This looks amazing!!

    1. The best substitute for honey in baking is light corn syrup. The flavor won't be quite the same, but it should definitely work!

    1. I haven't tried with this particular recipe, but I think it would work fine. I've frozen other bread dough with good results in the past. Just use it within 2 months.

  15. This is THE BEST whole wheat bread. I make many types from scratch, and this is the most flavorful. I think it's the molasses and cocoa powder. I made 2 loaves, one on parchment paper and the other in a wider loaf pan mostly used for rustic breads. Both turned out perfectly. Amazing and fool proof recipe.

  16. I’ve made this and love the recipe. I only altered the finish with oats suggested below. Then just bake for the entire 30 minutes. 
    I make a honey oatmeal bread that I brush with egg white and then sprinkle with oats. Gives a nice finish and the oats tend to stay on much better.
    Thanks for a great recipe!

  17. 2nd time making these and the bread is awesome. I tried putting some butter under AND over the oats this time and they are holding better. Used APF this time and still great. The first time I accidentally used cake flour but it still turned out great. This is an awesome bread. 

  18. So good. Reminds me of my grandmothers molasses bread from Newfoundland. Shared with neighbours. During this virus situation, stay home, bake bread and share with neighbours.

  19. I've made this twice now, it was really good. My loaves were sort of wider and flatter than your picture though... anything I could do to help that?

    1. I would check your yeast to make sure it is fresh. Also, are you using bread flour or all-purpose flour? Then my next idea would be to knead the dough a little bit longer and see if that helps develop the gluten more so that the bread has a tighter structure so it rises up instead of out a bit more. I hope that helps! You could also always just make it in a loaf pan, too.

  20. I used a bread machine and the bread turned out perfectly!   My only thing I wish that I had done differently is to not cut the tops.  When I did that, the bread slightly deflated.  

    1. Cindy did the recipe as is fit in your bread maker or did you have to cut it in thirds? It appeared that recipe as is is to large for bread maker. What did you do.

  21. Thank you for the recipe! Beginner baker here. Easy to follow instructions. Turned out great! I didn't have an electric mix so I stirred and kneaded by hand.

  22. I do not have bread flour, but I have the white whole wheat flour and all purpose flour. If I use the all purpose, instead of bread flour In the recipe, could I add some vital wheat gluten to help? If so, how much would you add? Thank you!

    1. Absolutely! I would add a teaspoon or two of the vital wheat gluten for each cup or whole wheat or all-purpose flour as a substitute for bread flour.

  23. This Molasses Brown Bread become our go-to bread recipe during Covid. My husband asks for it all the time. Thanks for a great recipe!

  24. This bread is soooo good!!! I've made it at least 10 times since coming across this recipe. It is easy to make and freezes well. I always give away loaves to close friends and family and they rave about it. Right now I've got a tray of dough rising - first time trying it as a dozen rolls (have done 3, 4 and 6 loaves but generally do 4). You must try this recipe!

  25. Made this yesterday by hand (no stand mixer here), and it turned out wonderful. I used active yeast instead of instant and proofed it in part of the water called for in the recipe. I split the recipe in half, made 2 smaller loaves and baked for 20 minutes at 375. I thought I had totally screwed up the recipe measurements, but it turned out great. It took at least 2 hours to rise to double size (maybe because of active yeast instead of instant yeast). Thank you for this recipe. We will be making again.

  26. Is the texture of the dough supposed to be very sticky? I added the right amount of flour, and it pulled away from the bowl like it is supposed to, but it was just so sticky. After I cooked it, it has a sticky/gummy texture to it. The flavor was really good, though. I’m just wondering if it’s supposed to be like this, or I needed more flour? 

    1. If it is that sticky, then yes, you should add a little more flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, to get it to a workable texture. My guess is that maybe a cup of flour was miscounted or forgotten - I know that has happened to me a time or two!

    2. I’ve had this same exact problem! Always tastes great, but it’s too sticky to for me to form into any sort of loaf shape. 

  27. I love this recipe so much and have gifted it to Family and they love it too! My question is.... Can it be baked in the Dutch Oven? Either kept as one loaf or as two, I am so curious....?
    Thank you! So YUM! 😋 

  28. Hi. I really like this recipe and want to give it a try. I currently live in Saudi Arabia and molasses is hard to find. We do date molasses. Do you think that would work? I think date molasses will be sweeter. Any other substitutes for molasses? Also is there a chocolate flavour in this bread from the cocoa powder? Thanks for any help. 

    1. That's a good question, but I haven't tested the recipe that way yet. I think the loaf might be a bit more dense and you might need a little less flour, but yes, I think this would still work.

    1. You could make it without but it wouldn't have the same color or depth of flavor. It doesn't make the bread taste chocolatey.