Are Marshmallows Vegan? (Here’s Why They’re Not)

Are Marshmallows Vegan? (Here’s Why They’re Not)

Whether it’s on top of your hot chocolate, roasted over a campfire, or devoured straight out of a bag, marshmallows are a treat for many people, especially the young generation. Marshmallows date back to 2000 B.C when Egyptians made marshmallows by extracting sap from a mallow plant and mixed it with nuts and honey. They didn’t have the same shape or colors they have today.

In fact, marshmallows only developed a new form when the French took the sap from the marshmallow plants and combined it with egg whites and sugar. The mixture was done by hand and it took the form of the marshmallow we all recognize today. However, that has also changed, because marshmallows went from being reserved for people of high status to the general population, which forced manufacturers to adapt the recipe.

Are marshmallows vegan nowadays? No, they actually became less plant-based when candy makers replaced the sap taken from the marshmallow plant with gelatin, which enabled them to speed up the production process and reduce the labor cost from sap extraction. 

However, it would be dishonest of me to say that you’re not able to find vegan marshmallows for sale, as several brands have made an effort to remove animal-based ingredients. Also, if you’re interested, you can find a handful of vegan marshmallow recipes that you can replicate.

Below, we’re going to examine what makes gelatin non-vegan (for anyone new to veganism), and I’m also going to share with you vegan marshmallow alternatives, as well as recipes to make vegan marshmallows at home.

Why Marshmallows Aren’t Vegan

Modern marshmallows are a blend of corn syrup, starch, sugar, and water fused with gelatin.

When these ingredients are mixed, gelatin acts as a binding agent, giving marshmallows a fluffy, elastic, and squishy texture. Additionally, gelatin also allows marshmallows to have a long shelf life, a quality that is highly valuable for retailers, brands, and manufacturers.

According to Wikipedia, gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of domesticated animals.

Partial hydrolysis refers to the use of water to break down molecules, and gelatin is the yellowish, odorless, and nearly tasteless substance that remains after the prolonged boiling of skin, cartilage, and bones from animals. These are the leftovers from the meat industry, so you’ll have things like pork skin, horns, and cattle bones.

gelatin looks ugh

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’ll definitely want to avoid marshmallows, as well as other foods that may contain gelatin.

Marshmallows Also Contain Sugar

Not only is sugar unhealthy if you abuse it, but there’s also the possibility that it may not be vegan. I’m referring specifically to refined sugar or the one that is commonly used in baking. White, brown, and powdered sugar can all be classified as refined. 

Refined sugar can be derived from two sources: sugarcane and beets.

Even though they are similar in taste or texture, the refining process for these sources is different. But first, let me say that sugar derived from beets is ALWAYS vegan. Cane sugar, on the other hand, may not always be vegan and it’s important to know why that’s the case.

Why Cane Sugar May Not Be Vegan

I actually break this down in detail in this blog post, but let me give you the short story.

To make refined sugar from sugarcane, the sugarcane stalks are crushed to separate the juice from the pulp. The juice is then processed, filtered, and bleached with bone char, conferring sugar with its white color. 

What is bone char? As the name already suggests, it’s a carbon-like property made from bones.

According to PETA, bone char is made from the bones of cattle that come from Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. These bones are, apparently, sold to traders in Scotland, Egypt, and Brazil who then resell them to sugar suppliers in the United States. Surprising, huh? 

However, keep in mind that NOT ALL refined sugar has been filtered using bone char. It actually comes down to each sugar supplier, and fortunately, some use activated carbon or ion-exchange resins. 

Do Vegan Marshmallows Exist?

Americans, in particular, buy 90 million pounds of marshmallows each year, which is equivalent in weight to 1,286 grey whales. That’s a lot! But can you actually find a vegan version?

YES! Vegan marshmallows do exist, even though there aren’t that many brands.

Dandies Marshmallow Mini

dandies marshmallows

Perhaps the popular vegan-friendly marshmallow brand is Dandies. It’s a Chicago-based company that sells “all-natural marshmallows” made from carrageenan (or Irish moss), which is used as an alternative to gelatin.

Carrageenan is completely vegan and comes from the ocean’s soil in the form of red seaweed.

The other ingredients in these vegan marshmallows: Tapioca Syrup, Cane Sugar, Filtered Water, Tapioca Starch, Carrageenan, Soy Protein, Natural Vanilla Flavor.

Dandies confirm that their product is 100% vegan, so that also includes the Sugar they use.

Trader Joe’s Mini Marshmallows

trader joe's marshmallows

Yet another popular choice for vegans, Trader Joe’s is both gelatin and gluten-free. Curiously, they use the same ingredients as Dandies in their confection, namely carrageenan.

Whether or not they use the same formula (in the same amounts), it’s something I don’t know, and I’m sure it’s information that brands are free to keep hidden to protect themselves from the competition.

Ananda’s Vanilla Marshmallows

ananda marshmallows

There are also UK-based vegan marshmallows, so if you have a hard time finding American-made vegan marshmallows online (or locally), Amanda’s Marshmallows are an option.

Ananda uses a different formula from the previous brands, which may change based on the flavor you choose. They have 5 different flavors available, which are: Vanilla, Caramel, Strawberry, Coconut, and Raspberry.

Here are the ingredients: British Sugar, Water, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Modified Starch (Sago), Rice Starch, Vegetable Glycerine, Agar, Emulsifiers E475, 471, Ascorbic Acid, Locust Bean Gum, Vanilla Extract, Cornflour, Icing Sugar, Tricalcium Phosphate, and Salt.

Make Vegan Marshmallows At Home

If you can’t find the aforementioned vegan marshmallows anywhere or you feel like they’re very expensive when compared to regular marshmallows, another alternative is to make them at home.

Here is a quick recipe that you can follow at home to create vegan marshmallows:

This clip belongs to the Youtube channel “A Vegan Visit”, which has also taken the liberty to share their recipe in a text-based format for anyone that prefers it.

The ingredients for this recipe are:

  • 100g aquafaba (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 130g cold water
  • 1 tsp agar powder
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 30g cornflour
  • Spray oil

Once you have every ingredient gathered, you then have 11 quick steps you must follow to complete the recipe. Frankly, you should follow the video, but here are the steps the author of the recipe has shared:

  1. Add the aquafaba and cream of tartar to the mixer, allowing it to whisk the mixture for 40 minutes on high-speed.
  2. Once the aquafaba mixture becomes firm, you keep your mixer on medium speed and add the vanilla extract (or paste).
  3. Set your mixer back to high-speed and whisk the aquafaba mixture for 10 more minutes. The aquafaba should be very firm at this point. If you can’t picture it, watch the video carefully.
  4. In a saucepan, add the cold water and agar powder. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes whilst stirring non-stop.
  5. Add the caster sugar, bring it to a boil and simmer, and continue stirring the mixture until the liquid reaches 115°C. You must not stop stirring, otherwise, the agar will set.
  6. Turn your mixer on to the lowest setting and pour your hot sugar and agar mixture in very slowly. It’s important to do it very slowly so that the aquafaba maintains its firmness.
  7. Once your sugar and agar mixture is fully in, turn it back up to high and mix it for another 10 minutes.
  8. Mix the icing sugar and cornflour in a bowl.  Spray a little oil onto your marshmallow dish of choice, line it with parchment paper, spray it again with a little more oil and then dust it with the cornflour and icing sugar mixture. This will prevent the marshmallow from sticking.
  9. At this point, you’ll have a glossy marshmallow mixture that you can pour onto a tray which you’ll set aside in a cool room for 6 hours.
  10. Save the leftover cornflour/icing sugar mixture as you’ll need it to dust the chopping board.
  11. Once your marshmallow mixture has set, turn it out carefully on to the chopping board, dust a sharp knife with more of your cornflour/icing mix, and cut your marshmallows into the desired size.

Seems somewhat complicated when you read it step-by-step, but if you watch the video, you’ll see that it’s actually very simple and easy to follow.

Thanks to recipes like this one, you can make your own marshmallows, which may help you save some money, especially if you’re someone that LOVES marshmallows.

Two More Recommendations For Your Vegan Journey

Allow me to make two quick recommendations that have helped me in my vegan journey by ensuring I’m always healthy and deficiency-free.

  1. The first recommendation is my favorite vegan multivitamin supplement. It was created with vegans in mind. It contains vitamins B12, D, and Omega 3. In other words, it contains nutrients that vegans are generally low in.
  2. The second recommendation is this amazing vegan starter kit that is actually a bundle with 9 e-books that will help you lead a healthy, vegan lifestyle without running into any dietary deficiencies. It has great advice, and it includes print-outs and checklists that will make the theory easy to implement. This is something I’ve included in my recommended products page as well.

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Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than three years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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