How many times have you fallen for innocent-looking treats? Sure, it looks delicate and yes, innocent, but are marshmallows vegan? Could it be hiding some animal product?
Quick answer: Most marshmallows are NOT vegan.
If you’re not new to veganism, or if you have read my previous articles about jello and gummy bears, you’ll probably find a marshmallow’s squishiness suspicious. Well I say you should be, because most marshmallows contain animal products!
I bet you already made a guess what animal product it could be.
Now let’s unravel this squishy confection and see which marshmallows we vegans can have!
Animal Products in Marshmallows
Ever heard of the marshmallow plant? Well if you had a light bulb moment there for a minute, it’s for a good reason. The very first marshmallows are actually made from the sap of the mallow plant.
The name is too obvious anyway, right? The thing is, the use of the mallow plant as the main ingredient is a thing of the past.
When marshmallows became popular, manufacturers had to find ways to meet the growing demand fast. Extracting the sap of the marshmallow plant requires intensive labor, so manufacturers had to find an easier alternative. Something as sticky and chewy like the mallow sap.
Animal Products in Marshmallows
Yep… the easy solution is gelatin. The same animal product that makes a lot of gums and chewy candies non-vegan.
Gelatin, if you don’t know yet, is made by boiling the connective tissues of animals. Scraps from the meat industry, to be exact. So this usually includes bones, ligaments, and tendons from pigs and cows.
The sticky and jelly-like consistency of gelatin make it an ideal alternative because they are easy to find. They’re also cheap and easily available in large amounts.
But that’s not all.
Marshmallows also usually contain egg whites! I guess we know now why it’s also fluffy.
Egg whites usually serve as the light and fluffy base for marshmallows. Although its use is not as popular as before, there are still commercial brands that use it.
Aside from gelatin and egg whites, sugar is also a concern for us vegans. Marshmallows are primarily made of a mixture of sticky sugar. If you think about it, marshmallows are like half sugar, half air!
Moreover, sugar is also one of the most questionable ingredients for us vegans because of bone char filters. For more about vegan sugar, check my previous article about sugars here.
Vegan Alternatives for Animal Gelatin
Animal gelatin, as we know it, is more available and therefore easier to find. But the good news is, there are many vegan alternatives that are just as good, if not better. Here are some of the more popular vegan gelatin alternatives that are suitable for marshmallow production:
from the roots of the starchy cassava plant, tapioca is a gluten-free vegan alternative to gelatin that comes in either starch or flour form.
Perhaps the most popular vegan alternative, seaweeds are more common than the other alternatives. Carrageenan and agar-agar, which I’m sure you’ve heard of, are the most common types of seaweeds used to replace gelatin.
3. Guar gum
An alternative that can also be used in making gums, it comes from guar beans. It does not require heat to thicken, which makes it ideal for cold foods. Guar gum is also gluten-free.
Although it is primarily from arrowroot plants, it can also be extracted from the roots of different starchy tropical plants. It’s often seen as very similar to cornstarch although arrowroot is a more ideal gelatin substitute.
A polysaccharide that can be extracted from various peels of citrus fruits and berries. This is the most popular choice of thickener for fruit jams and jellies.
These vegan alternatives to animal gelatin are mostly versatile. However, each of them usually have a more ideal or specific use in the food industry. Vegan thickeners also take longer to melt and often requires lesser amount than animal gelatin.
Vegan Marshmallows Vs Non-Vegan Marshmallows
Vegan alternatives are usually healthier but that’s not always the case especially with confectionery.
Nutritionally speaking, both vegan and non-vegan marshmallows have the same amount of nutritional value per serving. This means both are sugary and should only be enjoyed occasionally as treats.
When it comes to taste, most consumers cannot tell the difference. But I guess unless you’re a connoisseur and have a keen taste, you might favor one over the other. Flavors will also make comparisons more difficult. And because taste is a matter of personal preference, I’d say you’d have to try for yourself.
In terms of physical qualities, vegan marshmallows are generally firmer and toast differently. Vegan marshmallows take longer to melt, which makes them great for toasting.
However, a longer melting time can be a bit of a problem when you’re trying to completely melt marshmallows. The perfect example is when you need to melt marshmallows for rice krispies.
If you have this problem, simply break up the vegan marshmallows into much smaller pieces. It would also help to stir more frequently as it melts to avoid clumps. An excellent shortcut? Just pop them in the microwave! I’d also recommend a ready to use melted marshmallow like Suzanne’s Ricemellow Creme.
1. Do marshmallows have gelatin in them?
Not all, but most commercial marshmallows contain gelatin.
2. Are Jet-Puffed marshmallows vegan?
Although they’re popularly known as dairy-free and gluten-free, Jet-Puffed marshmallows contain pork-based gelatin. So no, they’re NOT vegan.
3. Are marshmallows dairy-free?
It depends on the ingredients. Marshmallows that still use egg whites are of course not free from dairy. However, there are many dairy-free marshmallow brands now, just keep in mind that they’re not necessarily vegan.
4. Are Kraft marshmallows vegan?
Kraft’s marshmallows go by the brand name Jet-Puffed, which is the same one that contains gelatin from animals.
Vegan Marshmallow Brands
Now onto what we vegans can have! What brands of marshmallows are vegan? What grocery stores sell vegan marshmallows? Here are some of the best ones on the market right now!
These vegan gourmet marshmallows are handmade in small batches, and made with natural flavors. It’s also nut and gluten-free! If you love toasting marshmallows, this one is just perfect!
Owned by vegans, Dandies marshmallows only contain all-natural ingredients. No HFCS and corn syrup, plus it’s Kosher, gluten-free, and allergen-free! It’s also the first non-GMO marshmallow.
Freedom Mallows are gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, and non-GMO. Like most vegan brands, they also do not use artificial colors and flavors.
The only vegan marshmallow creme, this all-natural brand is also gluten-free, non-GMO, and organic. The brand prides itself for not using preservatives, refined sugars, and artificial flavors and colors.
TJ offers some of the best vegan food selection around, and they’re easily available! Their vegan marshmallows are free of GMOs, and are made without artificial flavors, nor artificial colors. They’re also Kosher-friendly!
These brands can be found in many leading supermarkets and major grocery stores. So just remember these brands and always check the label!
DIY Vegan Marshmallow
This vegan marshmallow recipe from The Hidden Veggies might remind you of Ananda’s homemade marshmallows. It will yield moist marshmallows that roast surprisingly well!
- 1/2 cup aquafaba (the liquid from chickpeas in cans)
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar (or lemon juice)
- 2 tbsp vanilla
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 tbsp agar agar powder (not flakes)
- 1 1/4 cup vegan white sugar (adjust to taste)
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar for dusting (or cornstarch)
- Mixing bowl
- 8×8 baking pan
- Small saucepan
- Electric mixer
Dust the baking pan with powdered sugar and set aside.
To make your aquafaba fluffy :
- Combine the aquafaba and cream of tartar in the mixing bowl and mix on high for 6 minutes or so until it’s very fluffy.
- Add the vanilla extract and mix for another 3 minutes or until it’s evenly white again with very stiff peaks.
To make the agar agar syrup:
- Combine agar agar and water in the saucepan. Boil the mixture for 3 minutes while stirring frequently.
- Add the white sugar and continue boiling for 3 more minutes while constantly stirring over medium heat. High heat might burn or caramelize the sugar so be careful. Turn the heat off once you get an even syrup.
- While beating the fluffy aquafaba in the mixer, gradually pour the agar agar syrup. Continue mixing on low speed for about 30 seconds. The fluffy mixture should look white and slightly shiny.
- Pour mixture into the dusted pan quickly but carefully before it sets. Make sure to pour the mixture into the pan evenly.
To Cool and dry the marshmallows:
- Before it sets completely, dust the marshmallows with some more powdered sugar. Let it cool for an hour or so.
- Once completely cool, cut the marshmallows into 1-inch squares then dust the sides with powdered sugar.
- Turn the oven to 150°F. Turn off once the temperature is reached, then place the marshmallow cubes inside for about an hour to dry.
- Before combining it with the agar-agar syrup, whip the fluffy aquafaba mixture for 9 minutes.
- Cook the agar agar syrup for at least 6 minutes to dissolve it completely.
- Try to get all of the agar agar syrup into the aquafaba! You can use a rubber spatula so you can scrape off the syrup down to the last drop.
- Make sure to pour the marshmallow mixture as immediately as possible into the pan. Do not wait for it to cool before transferring because it will set quickly.
- Once transferred, wait for at least an hour before you cut it.
- Make sure your oven is off before you put the marshmallows in. If it’s too hot, your marshmallows will only melt again.
- Using liquid sweeteners like syrup is fine but note that this will make your marshmallows softer and with more moisture.
Remember that you can always tweak recipes especially when it comes to flavors. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes as even the best recipes take a few experiments to be perfect!
Marshmallows usually contain egg whites and gelatin from animal products. The great news is vegan marshmallows are easily made and are now more available in the market. These vegan marshmallows use one or more plant-based gelatin which often includes tapioca and seaweeds.
Do you have favorite vegan marshmallow brands that are not on this list? Or would you love to share your very own vegan marshmallow recipe? Let me know in the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.