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You know the scene. You’re around a campfire with your friends and family on a starry night. The fire crackles bright against the dark sky, perhaps you’re all telling ghost stories and enjoying the smell of smoke in the air. Then somebody offers marshmallows – after all, what’s a campfire without roasting a marshmallow? But wait! You pause. Are marshmallows vegan?
That’s the question that we, at Happy Happy Vegan, are going to attempt to help you answer today! We’re going to talk about whether or not marshmallows are vegan (especially popular brands), what kinds of vegan marshmallows options exist, and where you can buy vegan marshmallows.
Spoiler alert – I’ll even let you know about my favorite vegan marshmallow. So let’s dive right in!
What are marshmallows anyway?
Before we even talk about whether or not marshmallows are vegan, let’s talk about what marshmallows actually are.
The name, marshmallow, comes from the traditional use of the mallow plant to create this tasty treat. The first recorded consumption of marshmallow was around 2000 BC by the Ancient Egyptians. Nobody really knows what this concoction looked or tasted like – only that the root of the mallow plant was used, and the resulting food was often mixed with fruit or nuts.
The marshmallow that is known and loved today first came into being in the 1800s, when French confection makers began whipping the sap of the mallow plant with egg whites and sugar and pouring it into molds. Eventually, to help the sugary concoction keep its shape, the traditional mallow sap was actually replaced with gelatin – and here is where the vegan community runs into a problem.
Today most marshmallows are made with some combination of corn starch, corn syrup, sugar, water, and gelatin, and made through a process called extrusion. During extrusion, the marshmallow mixture is pushed through long cylindrical tubes, which gives them shape and pushes air into them giving a light fluffy texture. The marshmallow cylinders are then cut to create the pillowy little snacks we are all familiar with.
Interested in learning more about how marshmallows are made? Watch the video below!
So are marshmallows vegan?
The answer here is no, most marshmallows are not vegan.
If you recall, the main difference between today’s marshmallows and the marshmallows first invented by French confectioners, is the addition of gelatin. Gelatin is a gelling agent which is derived from the collagen in animal skin and bones.
Anything that has gelatin in it is most assuredly not vegan. (For more on this ingredient, see my “Is Jello Vegan?” post)
What about Jet-Puffed marshmallows? Are Jet-Puffed marshmallows vegan?
This is a question that is often raised because Jet-Puffed marshmallows are advertised as being gluten-free and dairy-free. However, if we take a look at the Kraft website, the ingredients of these marshmallows are listed as being corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, dextrose, water, gelatin, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, natural and artificial flavor, blue 1.
The appearance of gelatin on this list means that no, despite being gluten free and dairy-free, jet puffed marshmallows are not vegan.
So, you love those sugary, pillowy, tasty treats, but you’re disappointed to find out that they aren’t, in fact, vegan. Don’t worry, because there are actually vegan marshmallow brands out there! Vegan marshmallows are usually made of some form of sugar plus a non-gelatin gelling agent. Popular options for this are agar agar or carrageenan, both derived from seaweed.
You can buy a lot of varieties of vegan marshmallows on Amazon! One of my personal favorite options is Dandies marshmallows. These awesome marshmallows are totally vegan and they also happen to be kosher and gluten free. They are soft and fluffy, and they melt just like regular marshmallows!
Check out the ingredients on Dandies marshmallows. They contain tapioca syrup, cane sugar, tapioca starch, filtered water, carrageenan, soy protein, and natural vanilla flavor. When you compare those ingredients, the choice seems obvious. Not only are Dandies marshmallows vegan, but they are also non-GMO verified, and they don’t have any of those corn syrup nasties like most gelatin-based marshmallows.
If Dandies aren’t for you, check out this list from Peta for more vegan marshmallow brands.
Of course, you could even go one step further and make your own vegan marshmallows! Check out this video from The Vegetarian Baker:
While they’re not exactly a health food, they’re far better for you than the regular store-bought marshmallows. Just remember you still need to treat them as a treat! 😉
Wrapping it up
So, we’ve covered a lot today. We talked about where marshmallows originated, how traditional gelatin-based marshmallows are made, whether or not most marshmallows are vegan (they aren’t!) and talked about a few vegan options.
If you want to read a more detailed history of marshmallows, you can check out this website. We also noted that you can buy plenty of vegan marshmallows on Amazon, including Dandies. These marshmallows come in vanilla, mini vanilla, pumpkin, and peppermint!
How do you feel about marshmallows, vegan or otherwise? Do you have a favorite brand? Have you ever tried making your own? Let us know in the comments below.