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 marshmallow 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.
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. (3)
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. (4)
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!
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.
They do, however, contain carrageenan, which has been under the spotlight of late. Personally, I’ve never experienced any issues with this ingredient, although the list of potential side effects does give me cause for concern. (7, 8)
Whether or not you should include carrageenan in your diet is for you to decide, but it’s probably wise to moderate your intake if you do give it the thumbs up.
If Dandies aren’t for you, there are lots more vegan marshmallow brands to choose from, such as:
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.
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.
About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
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- RHS | Althaea officinalis – marsh mallow | https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/1024/i-Althaea-officinalis-i/Details
- SouthFloridaReporter.com | 2000 BC, Ancient Egyptians Discover How To Make A Gooey Marshmallow | https://southfloridareporter.com/2000-bc-ancient-egyptians-discover-make-gooey-marshmallow/
- Jeff Wells | The Long, Sweet History of Marshmallows | https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/86346/long-sweet-history-marshmallows
- KraftHeinz | JET-PUFFED Mini Marshmallows Ingredients List | https://www.kraftheinz-foodservice.com/product/10600699001547/JETPUFFED-Mini-Marshmallows-10-oz-Bag-Pack-of-24?categoryid=0000070247
- Rhea Parsons | Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Agar-Agar | https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-agar-agar/
- James Han | What Is Carrageenan (E407) In Food? Types, Uses, Safety, Side Effects | https://foodadditives.net/thickeners/carrageenan/
- Kathleen Pointer, Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT | Should You Remove Carrageenan from Your Diet? |
- Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS | The Carrageenan Controversy | https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/healthy-eating/know-your-nutrients/the-carrageenan-controversy?page=1