As a long-time vegan, I’m always careful when it comes to food products that are chewy. Why? Because most of the times, they contain an animal product: GELATIN!
If you’re into candies, this is one thing to watch out for. Especially if they are chewy, or should I say, gummy. Are you thinking of gummy bears? That’s what I will be talking about today!
Do you want to continue enjoying these not-just-for-kids candies? Well you have to check out this list of vegan gummy bears! And find out what you need to avoid when you scan the labels!
What Are Gummy Bears Made Of?
This sweet, gummy treat just looks so innocent, doesn’t it? But do you know how it’s made and what goes into it? Here’s a quick breakdown.
Common Ingredients In Gummy Bears
Source: Animal connective tissues (skin or bones, usually from pigs or cows)
Use: Thickener, gelling agent
Ingredients: Food Colors
Vegan: Not Always
Source: Vegetables, fruits, or insect shells; some food colors also go through animal testing
Ingredients: Corn Syrup
Use: Sweetener and enhancer
Vegan: Not Always
Source: Sugar cane, but may be filtered with bone char
Vegan: Not Always
Source: Beeswax or carnauba (palm)
Use: Glazing agent/coating
Vegan: Yes (usually)
Ingredients: Citric acid
Source: Synthetic or mold fermentation
Use: Flavor or preservative
Most commercial candy brands may contain more ingredients that are usually synthetic. If you see any ingredients that you’re unsure of, you can always look it up. If you’re in doubt, just skip it and look for ones with simpler ingredients that are easier to figure out.
Vegan Alternatives For Gelatin
Since gummy candies are known to have gelatin, now you’re probably wondering:
Is there a vegan alternative?
Fortunately, yes! There are actually several alternatives you’ll see in the market today. You can also use them for your own DIYs at home!
Thickeners and gelling agents are made either of protein (gelatin) or polysaccharides (plants). Here are some of the most common vegan gelatins available in the market:
Pectin from apple or citrus fruit peels is perhaps the most popular vegan alternative to gelatin. They are made by boiling and dehydrating fruits and peels to create a soft gel.
In candies, you’ll often see it as an ingredient in jelly beans. Although they’re not exactly similar, pectin has properties that makes it suitable for use in gummy candies.
Gummy candies from pectin are softer, firmer, and more tender to bite, with a quick flavor release. It doesn’t stretch the way a gelatin would, but unlike it’s non-vegan counterpart, it won’t easily melt in heat.
Seaweeds are a great source of vegan gelatin, and agar-agar is just one of them! Agar is a thickening agent from red algae, which has a gelling property that’s actually higher than gelatin. It is also colorless, odorless, and flavorless, which makes it a versatile thickener.
Agar is also high in fiber, so it’s excessive consumption may have laxative effects. Similar to pectin, it also does not dissolve easily because of its higher melting point.
As a substitute to gelatin, you can use the same amount of agar powder as they have equal parts. But this of course depends on your recipe and how thick or firm you want the end result to be. Agar is firmer than gelatin, although not as creamy.
From Irish moss, carrageenan is another gelatin substitute from seaweed. It’s also flavorless but less rigid than gelatin, although their texture is more similar than other alternatives. It is softer and more elastic than agar. Carrageenan is also useful as an emulsifier and stabilizer in food processing.
Also known as glucomannan, konjac is an Asian root plant with medicinal properties. It is a highly dense and viscous fibrous plant that absorbs water ten times more than cornstarch. Although it’s not as common as pectin and agar, it’s useful both as a thickener and gelling agent.
Other Vegetable Gums
When you see “vegetable gum” in an ingredient list, it could be one or more of the many gums made from plants. There’s guar, xanthan, carob, cellulose, and many more. These vegetable gums have many uses in the food industry, and their properties slightly vary from each other.
Powder forms of these alternatives are the best options when it comes to making vegan gummy bears. Most recipes you can do at home would call for pectin or agar powder. However, you can always experiment with other alternatives (and different amounts) to see which ones will yield better results.
Vegan Gummy Bear Brands
These are all gelatin-free gummies! Now, most of the brands that carry these varieties are NOT all-vegan, so make sure to be careful and always check the label!
Annie’s offer a wide range of bunny gummy candies or “fruit snacks”, as the brand calls it. Although not all of them are vegan, you can easily filter their vegan products in their special diets page.
Their vegan fruit snacks are all organic and made from “real fruit and vegetable juices”, with 100% vitamin C. They’re also non-GMO, gluten-free, with no HFCS, and no artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
How about gummies without sugar? The Free From Fellows has made that possible! These gummy bears are gluten-free, and do not contain artificial colors and flavors.
However, it uses maltitol syrup as sweetener, so too much of it will be like taking a laxative! That said, these candies are NOT suitable for kids. But if you’re only a kid at heart, then you know what to do!
Well, koalas are bears too, right? These vegan gummies are gluten-free, nut-free, sulphite-free, and soy-free. Living up to its brand name, these candies from fruit gums are made with natural colors and flavors.
Okay, this is one of the few exceptions. Although they don’t make them in bear shapes, this brand’s soft candies are all vegan! Their fruit gummies are made from ginger and are not too sweet, and of course, no artificial colors and flavors too!
The sugar dusting in these all-natural and organic gummy bears make them extra sweet! They’re made with real fruit juice and like most vegan candies, do not contain artificial flavors and colors.
This brand carries a selection of vegan gummies. But instead of bears, they come in other animal shapes like alligators and dolphins. They also have regular fruit gummies and most of them are gluten-free, non-GMO, and all-natural.
Their gummy bears contain gelatin but they do have three vegan flavors. This candy brand uses stevia instead of sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners to be sugar-free. Their candies are also non-GMO, gluten-free, and allergen-free.
Fizzy prosecco flavor in gummies? Why not! That’s what makes these gummy bears unique! They’re also non-GMO, and made without any artificial colors and flavors.
This organic variety from Wholesome has no HFCS, no synthetic colors, and is non-GMO. It’s made with organic, fair-trade sugar, and is gluten-free and soy-free, with 100% Vitamin C per serving!
You can find more vegan gummies from Wholesome here.
Organic Gummy Cubs come in two flavors only but they are both all-natural, non-GMO, gluten-free, Kosher, and cruelty-free! They are made without preservatives, artificial flavors, and corn syrup. Each serving also gives you 100% vitamin C!
These gummy bears made with real fruit flavors are fat-free, nut-free, gluten-free, with no preservatives! Aside from Vitamin C, a serving will also give you 10% of vitamins A, D, and E!
1. Are there vegan gummy bears?
Yes of course, and there are many! Vegan gummy candies use vegetable gums like pectin instead of gelatin. However, that’s not the only animal product that may be lurking in gummy candies. If you want to make sure, go for the ones with a vegan logo on the label!
2. Are Haribo gummy bears vegan? Are any Haribo vegan?
No, there are no vegan gummy bears from Haribo. The brand takes pride in its gummy candies containing gelatin as a base, as you’ll see in their website.
3. Are Trolli gummy bears vegan?
No, Trolli’s classic gummy bears also contain gelatin.
Vegan Gummy Bear Recipes
Got time for some DIY? Here are two vegan gummy candy recipes you can try at home!
Homemade Gluten-Free And Vegan Gummy Bear
From One Green Planet
- 1 cup juice of each: orange juice, pineapple, raspberry, cherry, (or other fruit juices you prefer for flavor and color)
- 1 teaspoon agar-agar powder (do not use flakes as they don’t solidify enough)
- 1 tablespoon of sugar (or your sweetener of choice; adjust to taste)
- Boil the orange juice on a small saucepan for a few minutes.
- Dissolve the agar-agar powder in 1/4 cup cold water. Stir until it’s smooth and there are no more lumps.
- Pour mixture into the orange juice and continue boiling on high heat for about three minutes. Stir continuously to avoid lumps.
- Carefully pour the liquid into the gummy bear molds.
- Allow to cool down in room temperature. Wait at least 20 minutes before refrigerating. The gummy bears are ready after around 20 minutes of refrigeration.
Vegan Gummy Bear Recipe (Pectin-Based)
From Compulsive Baker
If you don’t have a mold for gummy bears, you can also use a baking tray. Just line it with parchment paper and use a cookie cutter. After cutting, just toss the candies in a bowl of sugar until the candies separate.
- 1 ¾ ounces pectin powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda (dissolve in ¾ cup water)
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup sugar, granulated
- 2 teaspoons lemon or orange extract
- 6 to 8 drops of yellow or orange food color (optional)
- Vegetable oil for coating the molds
- Superfine sugar for candy dusting/coating
- Brush a light coating of oil onto the molds or pan (on the lining) to avoid sticking, and set aside.
- Combine pectin with the baking soda and water mixture and boil in medium heat. Stir until smooth and thick, then remove from heat. Put a cover to keep it warm so it does not set.
- Mix the corn syrup with sugar in a saucepan and stir until it boils. Continue boiling until the temperature reaches 260⁰F (you can use a candy thermometer).
- Add the pectin and baking soda mixture and continue cooking for 1 minute. Pour the final mixture into the molds and let set until firm.
Remember that you can always customize these recipes, especially the flavors. They are DIYs, after all!
Gummy candies like gummy bears are traditionally made of gelatin from animal bones and skin. The good thing is, today, there are more vegan-friendly versions that use vegetable gums instead.
However, gelatin is not the only ingredient you should watch out for. To be on the safe side, stick to the brands and varieties that come with a vegan label!
What gelatin-free brands have you tried so far? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.