Despite the name, jelly beans are not beans, and they don’t taste like jelly.
The most popular brand of jelly beans is called Jelly Belly and they create semi-soft candies, often fruit-flavored, which are available in a wide range of colors.
For a long time, Jelly Belly has flavored their jelly beans after common fruits like orange and apples, but more exotic flavors such as cantaloupe, peach, and watermelon are now available. Chocolate also being an option.
Are jelly beans vegan? Unfortunately, Jelly Belly’s Jelly Beans are not suitable for vegans because they are topped with ingredients such as confectioner’s glaze and beeswax, which are not vegan-friendly.
In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Jelly Beans.
How Are Jelly Beans Made?
The basic ingredients in jelly beans include sugar, corn syrup, and food starch, as well as minor amounts of lecithin, carnauba wax or beeswax, salt, and confectioner’s glaze.
Additionally, you also have ingredients that confer the beans with their unique character— natural and artificial flavors, as well as artificial colors that attribute flavor and color to beans.
The natural and artificial flavors can derive from a number of sources, including chocolate, peanuts, vanilla, oils, freeze-dried egg, milk, as well as fruit puree or juice, and fruit powders. Generally, fruit-based flavors will contain natural or artificial flavors derived from plant sources.
Manufacturing Jelly Beans
The process of manufacturing jelly beans has started in a lab where the right mix of ingredients eventually lead to the correct combination of flavors and colors. A particular flavor would be developed in test batches and tested over a certain period of time to determine its potential for success.
As soon as a particular ingredient mix (flavor + color) gained popularity, it was converted into a product.
Every jelly bean product starts with the syrup that forms the jelly bean center, which is created by dissolving the sugar and other ingredients in large boilers, cooking them to the proper temperature and consistency.
The natural flavors and artificial colors are added to the syrup, which is fed through pipes to the starch casting area— into a machine called mogul that creates the jelly bean mold by filling wooden trays with dry cornstarch and making the impression of the candy into it.
The trays pass through the mogul and the syrup mix is injected into the candy impressions and transported into a cooling room in which temperature and humidity are controlled and the syrup cools and sets up to form the gummy center of the jelly bean.
After setting, the soon-to-be jelly beans are placed back into the mogul where they are flipped over and get a steam bath and sugar shower to prevent the jelly bean centers from sticking together. Colored syrups and sugar are poured into the bean centers to create the shell of the candy.
The beans are essentially finished at this point, but look rather dull, so they’re further topped with confectioner’s glaze and beeswax for a more glossy appearance.
The beans are inspected for quality and sent to a printing machine where they are imprinted with the Jelly Bean name. The final step is to wrap and ship them.
Here is a video version of the manufacturing process at Jelly Belly:
Why Jelly Beans Are Not Vegan
While the hot liquid mixture created to make the jelly beans is a simple mixture of water, cornstarch, corn syrup, and often fruit flavors, they’re still not suitable for vegans.
Unfortunately, in the final stages of the manufacturing process, the jelly beans are topped with confectioners’ glaze and beeswax to give them a glossy appearance.
Confectioners’ glaze (or shellac) is made from the secretions of female lac bugs found in India— so because it is derived from insects, it cannot be vegan.
Beeswax, as you probably have guessed, is a waxy substance made by worker bees to construct hives and contain honey, which means it’s not compatible with veganism.
Vegan Alternatives To Jelly Beans
Even though the original jelly beans are not vegan, there are alternatives available, and they shouldn’t be any less inferior to the original product.
Jolly Ranch Jelly Beans
There aren’t many known brands of vegan Jelly Beans, but one that is well-known is Jolly Ranch. This brand, unlike the original Jelly Beans, does not rely on confectioners’ glaze and beeswax, which are non-vegan ingredients.
Here are the ingredients present in Jolly Ranch’s Jelly Beans:
- Sugar, Corn Syrup, Cornstarch, Sodium Lactate, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Natural Flavor, and Artificial Flavor, Gum Acacia, Limonene, Mineral Oil, Carnauba Wax, and Artificial Colors.
Let me point out that this brand uses sugar and artificial colors, which might not be regarded as being vegan according to some individuals. The reason being is that sugar (usually, cane sugar) can be refined with bone char, which are essentially cattle bones, and artificial colors are a byproduct of animal testing.
Also, although Sodium Lactate and Lactic Acid have suspicious-sounding names, they are, in the vast majority of cases, derived from plant-based sources.
Not many people are okay with the ingredients I’ve mentioned above, so I’ll leave it to your discretion.
Yum Earth Organic Jelly Beans
Yum Earth is a brand that creates vegan versions of popular candies, and as you can see above, they’ve created organic sour beans, which are not quite like Jelly Beans, but a good alternative nevertheless.
Here are the ingredients present in Yum Earth’s organic sour beans:
- Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Pectin, Organic Tapioca Starch, Organic Pear Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Natural Flavors, Ascorbic Acid, Acacia Gum, Saffron (color), Organic Carnauba Wax, Colors from Concentrate (Carrot, Blueberry), and Organic Colors from Concentrate (Carrot, Radish, Apple).
As you can see, all of the ingredients above are suitable for people with a vegan diet. There are no animal ingredients, nor there are ingredients that could be deemed questionable.
Feel free to also try this product if you’re badly missing Jelly Beans.
Are Jelly Beans Gluten-Free?
Yes, fortunately, jelly beans are gluten-free, so if you’re allergic to gluten or have gluten intolerance, you can certainly eat Jelly Beans without feeling repercussions.
In fact, Jelly Belly has this short statement on their website: “Jelly Belly jelly beans are free of gluten ingredients.”
That being said, you should still carefully read the labels on their products, particularly because Jelly Beans also make other products, including ones that contain gluten (for example, Chocolate Malt Balls, Chocolate Deluxe Mix, Seasonal Malt Balls, Licorice Bridge Mix, and Licorice Pastels).
Are Jelly Beans Low-Carb?
No, it’s impossible to consider jelly beans as being a low-carb product when its first ingredient is sugar, which is essentially a carbohydrate.
Carbohydrates are comprised of simple sugars or complex starches (healthier forms of carbohydrates, let’s say) like potatoes, rice, and others.
Here are the nutrients in 11g of Jelly Beans:
Jelly Beans are typically only comprised of carbohydrates (as per the image above).
Do Jelly Beans Go Bad?
Yes, jelly beans can go bad.
Under high temperatures, the texture and quality of jelly beans can deteriorate, and in many cases, the shape can also be affected by the high heat and humid conditions.
However, if you store your jelly beans properly in a cool and dry place, they should easily last a couple of months past the best by date on the packaging. As long as the jelly beans don’t show any signs of spoilage and aren’t too old (like three years past their date), chances are they’re still pretty okay to eat.
Unfortunately, the original jelly beans by Jelly Belly are not vegan— they contain ingredients like confectioner’s glaze and beeswax which are both non-vegan.
In addition, they also contain ingredients like refined sugar and artificial colors, which many vegans are on the fence about— for different reasons.
However, it’s still possible to find vegan alternatives. They’re not perfect, but as I’ve said above, it’s still better than not having a single alternative.
Hopefully, this blog post has helped you understand why jelly beans (the ones from Jelly Belly, at least) are not vegan, and as a result, it has helped arrive at a conclusion.