Are Red Hots Vegan? (Here’s Everything You Need To Know)

Want to taste some Red Hots but don’t know if they’re vegan?

Unfortunately, Red Hots contain an ingredient called ‘confectioner’s glaze’, which is created using shellac, a substance secreted from the female lac bug. Therefore, Red Hots are not vegan. 

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Red Hots. 

What Are Red Hots?

Red Hots are round, small hot cinnamon-flavored hard candies created and trademarked by the Ferrara Pan Candy Company in the 1930s.

They’re not as ‘unhealthy’ as typical candies considering they’re fat-free and are very low in calories (60 calories per twenty pieces). 

Here is an interesting video showing how Red Hot’s can be made (using Victorian equipment):

Red Hots Ingredients

Red Hots contains the following ingredients:

  • Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Modified Food Starch (Corn)
  • Confectioner’s Glaze (Shellac)
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors
  • Acacia (Gum Arabic)
  • Annatto Extract
  • Red 40
  • Carnauba Wax
  • White Mineral Oil
  • and Sodium Citrate.

Even though it contains ingredients that are plant-based or synthetically made, there is one ingredient that is unsuitable for vegans, and two others that are controversial despite not deriving from animals. 

Confectioner’s Glaze

Confectioner’s glaze, also known as pharmaceutical glaze, is used by numerous candy companies to add a shiny, smooth finish to their products. 

It is made using shellac, which is the secretions leftover from the female lac bug. 

After feeding on the tree sap, the female lac bug secretes lac to protect her soon-to-hatch eggs, which later hardens to become shellac.

Confectioner’s glaze can be used to enhance many things, including the shine of apples, jelly beans, hard foods, and it can also be used as a spray to coat pills, polish fingernails, and varnish wood.

Because shellac comes from a bug, products containing it are not considered vegan. There are worries that shellac processes may lead to bugs incidentally getting dissolved into ethanol, a process that attempts to purify shellac as much as possible to remove potential impurities like “bugs”, cocoons, etc. 

Controversial Ingredients

Red Hots contain ingredients that do not come from an animal source, but despite that, some vegans will choose to avoid those ingredients for specific reasons.

Those ingredients are:

  • Refined sugar
  • Artificial flavors and colors.

Let me elaborate on why that is the case.


Sugar comes from plant-based sources like sugarcane and sugar beets. 

They’re both similar in taste and texture, but their refining processes differ. Beet sugar is extracted using a diffuser and mixed with non-animal additives to crystallize— so it’s vegan 

Cane sugar, on the other hand, is made by crushing sugarcane stalks to separate the pulp from the juice and then filtering the juice with bone char – which is an animal derivative. 


Unfortunately, as the name suggests, bone char is a charcoal-like powder that is made from animal bones, typically cattle bones.

The sugar industry uses bone char as a decolorizing filter, which is what gives refined sugar its white, pristine color — because it removes a lot of its impurities. 

However, one thing to keep in mind is that bone char is banned in different areas around the world, including the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand. Countries like the US and Canada still use it. 

For this reason, some vegans are wary about consuming products containing refined sugar, so they might opt for an alternative that uses organic, unrefined sugar. 

Artificial Flavors & Colors

Artificial colors are known for being tested on animals… thus not being cruelty-free. The same goes for artificial flavors, which are also lab-made, and might require testing. 

This is quite a controversial topic because, on one side, you’ll find people arguing that animal testing is a necessary practice to protect us from potential diseases/collateral effects. 

While on the other end, you have people arguing that it’s no longer necessary because it’s a cruel practice, and with the technology we have, using animals for testing should no longer be accepted. 

I’m not an expert on the subject, so I’ve found a video that expands on that subject, but to give you the short answer— while animal testing might be a necessary practice today, it won’t be for much longer thanks to technological innovation. 

If you’re vegan and want to avoid artificial colors and flavors, the best way to do so is by not consuming products with artificial additives, as there are now many products that opt for natural substitutes. 


Unfortunately, Red Hots are not vegan. They contain confectioner’s glaze which is made from shellac, a substance secreted by the female lac bug. 

Red Hots also contain ingredients that are deemed controversial within the vegan community, as they’re linked to animal cruelty. Not because they come from an animal, but because their manufacturing might involve animal cruelty. 

I was not able to find a vegan alternative to the Red Hots— but if you know of an alternative to these spicy, cinnamon-flavored candies, feel free to get in touch.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five 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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