Are M&Ms Vegan? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

If you are getting into the vegan lifestyle, you are probably double and triple-checking everything you eat right now. One of the biggest challenges many people face is confectionery, and knowing whether their favorite candies are safe for them to eat or not.

M&Ms are sadly not vegan, and this goes for all kinds of M&Ms, including peanut M&Ms, dark chocolate M&Ms, and Crispy M&Ms. If you are going vegan, you will have to give up these candies for good.

It’s frustrating when a product isn’t vegan, especially if it’s something you love. Let’s explore why vegans can’t eat M&Ms in more detail so you understand why this snack is so unsuitable for vegans.

Are M&Ms Suitable For Vegans?

m&ms

As mentioned above, M&Ms are disappointingly not suitable for vegans to eat, and they shouldn’t be included in any vegan-friendly foods, like birthday cake, for this reason. Unfortunately, it’s not even borderline ingredients like sugar that prevent M&Ms from being on the menu for vegans. Many of these candies contain:

  • Sugar
  • Chocolate
  • Skim Milk
  • Lactose
  • Cocoa butter
  • Salt
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Milk fat
  • Palm fat
  • Cornstarch
  • Natural flavors
  • Artificial flavors
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrin
  • Carnauba wax
  • Gum Acacia
  • Blue 1 Lake
  • Yellow 6
  • Yellow 5
  • Blue 1
  • Blue 2 Lake
  • Blue 2
  • Yellow 6 Lake
  • Red 40 Lake
  • Red 40

That’s quite an extensive list of ingredients, and unfortunately, several of them are not suitable for vegans. You will already have noticed the milk and milk derivatives, but if you are a vegan, you cannot eat the Red 40 or the sugar either. Palm fat may be questionable too. If you are in the UK, you will also find that your M&Ms contain beeswax and carmine, which are similarly unsuitable for vegans.

It is a pretty clear “no”. M&Ms are not vegan friendly and even if they were made without milk, you would need to watch out for other ingredients. Let’s take a look at those and why you need to be wary of them.

Milk And Milk Derivatives

Anyone who has done any research into veganism will be aware that the milk in M&Ms makes them unsuitable for consumption. Milk is taken directly from animals, and any product that is derived from milk similarly comes from those animals.

There is no question on this one, and no true vegans make exceptions when it comes to milk. If you want to be vegan, milk products are out. That may be frustrating, and what makes it more annoying is that even the dark chocolate M&Ms contain milk.

Although dark chocolate is often suitable for vegans, the dark chocolate M&Ms contain skim milk, milk fat, and lactose, taking them off the menu.

Red 40

Red 40 is one of the colors that many vegans are wary of because these colors are often tested on animals during the creation process. No animal product is directly involved in the manufacture of this colorant, but it is quite likely that animals suffered to bring it into existence.

How strict you are about your veganism may affect how you feel about ingredients like Red 40, but many vegans are uncomfortable with the idea of a color that has been tested on animals. This discomfort may be increased by the fact that colors are purely there for aesthetic reasons, so the suffering is particularly pointless.

If you don’t want to eat Red 40 or other similar colors, you will need to avoid M&Ms, because there is no sign of this color disappearing from the ingredients list at present.

Sugar

You may or may not be aware of the problems surrounding sugar, but in case you aren’t, we’ll explore them briefly here. Sugar is considered a borderline ingredient for many vegans because of the way that it is processed.

Sugar itself is derived from plants, so in theory, it should be suitable for vegans to consume. However, white sugar is frequently processed using bone char, and many white sugars are therefore unsuitable for vegans to eat. Indirectly, you could be supporting the meat industry, even with a product like sugar.

Not all sugar is processed with bone char, but it is frustratingly hard to tell the difference. Sometimes, you will be able to get this information by asking the product’s manufacturer about the source of the sugar they use, but in the case of M&M, there’s little point since you can’t eat the product for other reasons.

However, in case the recipe changes at some stage in the future, it is worth noting that the sugar is not listed as vegan friendly, and so may have been processed using bone char. Even if the milk products and the Red 40 are removed, you should be cautious about M&Ms.

Palm Fat

This one might puzzle you because palm fat is technically a vegan product. It is derived from palm trees, and it’s something that you will see in a huge range of products – including M&Ms – because it is a cheap source of fat and it has several useful properties.

However, many vegans make efforts to avoid palm fat, because there is an enormous amount of destruction associated with it. Vast swathes of forest are being cleared to provide space for palm plantations to meet the ever-growing need for palm fat, palm oil, and other palm products.

This is causing unprecedented habitat loss and animal deaths in the countries where palm is grown. For some vegans, this means that palm fat is not a vegan product, because it is directly contributing to the harming of animals.

This is very much a borderline product, and many vegans do eat palm fat. Some choose a middle ground and opt for palm fat that comes from verified sustainable sources only. However, there is nothing to suggest that the M&Ms palm fat is sustainable, and if you are a strict vegan, you might try to keep all unsustainable palm fat out of your diet.

Palm fat is far from the most critical ingredient when it comes to determining whether M&Ms are suitable for vegans, but it is still worth noting its presence in this candy so that you are aware of it and you can make informed choices.

Can Vegans Eat Any Of The M&Ms Variants?

There are quite a few kinds of M&Ms now, and you might be wondering if any of the different options are suitable for you. If you love peanut M&Ms, for example, you may be hoping that these are okay.

Unfortunately, pretty much all kinds of M&Ms currently contain milk and milk derivatives, Red 40, and sugar, or at least some of these. With these ingredients, they are not suitable for vegans.

Will M&M Be Vegan In The Future?

So far, the company that produces M&Ms, Mars, has not indicated that it has any plans to make M&Ms vegan in the future. This is disappointing, as there is nothing that should prevent these candies from being made vegan since they don’t rely on animal products for flavor, texture, or stability (the way that traditional Jell-O relies on gelatin, for example).

However, the company does not currently seem to be exploring this option, so there is no way of knowing whether M&Ms will be made vegan in the future. It seems likely, given current trends, that the company will eventually move in this direction, but there is no guarantee that it will.

The more pressure that vegans put on companies like Mars to produce vegan chocolate treats and candies, the faster change will occur. However, with many companies, it is an uphill battle. Because M&Ms contain so many problematic ingredients, it is likely to be quite a while before vegans can enjoy them – if ever.

What Can Vegans Eat Instead Of M&Ms?

There are plenty of products that are suitable for vegans that aren’t M&Ms but are similar in terms of appearance, taste, texture, etc. Lots are deliberate attempts to make a vegan-friendly M&M, and they have been amazingly successful!

If you are craving some M&Ms, therefore, you don’t need to feel disappointed and frustrated by the fact that you can’t eat them. Instead, check out some of the following brands.

Chocolate No No’s

chocolate no nos

These were created by No Whey! Foods and are designed to be a fantastic alternative to the M&M, without any animal products in sight. You will still enjoy the delicious candy coating, with the sweet, chocolatey interior, but without any milk in the product.

They are also bright colors, which makes them perfect if you are decorating a birthday cake or otherwise looking to use that classic M&M aesthetic without incorporating any animal products. You should give these a try if you find yourself missing M&Ms.

Unreal’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Gems

unreal chocolates

Of course, peanut M&Ms are a classic that so many people love, and if you are missing these because you have become vegan, it’s your lucky day! Unreal makes some fantastic Dark Chocolate Peanut Gems that are the perfect alternative to standard M&Ms.

They are vegan, gluten-free, Fairtrade, and non-GMO, and they contain no sugar or soy, so they are ideal for a whole range of dietary requirements. They still manage to taste great in spite of all those stipulations, and if you like dark chocolate, they are bound to be a win.

Little Secret’s Dark Chocolate Pieces

little secrets chocolate

If you aren’t too worried about the color of your M&Ms, just the taste, you might love the Little Secret’s Dark Chocolate Pieces. These only come in orange and purple, but that’s because the company has skipped out on all the nasty colors that are so unfriendly to the animals. Unless you really need the rainbow hues, these are a perfect alternative. 

Again, they are dark chocolate, which you would expect from a vegan product, but they are a perfect option if you are missing that satisfying crunch of shell, followed by the melty tastiness of chocolate. They are also a great way to support a small business, and they are a Fairtrade option that is good for the planet, as well as for you.

There is no palm fat in them either, so if that’s a sticking point for you, you can still enjoy these comfortably.

It is worth noting that if you are looking for certified vegan products, the Little Secret alternatives to M&Ms are not for you. There are no animal products in the ingredients list, but the company will only confirm that they are vegetarian and has not got them certified as vegan. 

You should therefore make a decision about whether this satisfies your requirements, or whether you would rather buy from a different company. Many vegans do eat these and enjoy them, but some would rather purchase only from certified vegan brands, and would therefore need to avoid these.

Peppermint No No’s

peppermint no nos

It won’t surprise you to learn that there’s an alternative for the mint M&Ms too. These are again made by No Whey! Foods and have the same delightful crunchy exterior, wrapped around smooth dark chocolate.

They are deliciously minty and come in green and white – as you might expect for a mint product. Soy-free, peanut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly, these are ideal for any dietary restrictions and will perfectly replace the minty M&Ms you might be craving.

They are also made using all-natural colors, so you don’t need to worry about any animal testing or hidden ingredients with obscure names. Furthermore, there is no palm oil in these, and they specify that the cane sugar used is vegan-friendly. That means they are a win on every count, and perfect for strict vegans to enjoy.

Conclusion

Unfortunately for their many fans out there, M&Ms are not a vegan product, as they contain multiple ingredients that make them unsuitable for vegans to eat. Milk, sugar, and certain colorings are all present in these candies. However, there are lots of M&M alternatives to try that offer a great experience without the guilt!