Are Marshmallows Really Vegan?

Ever since we were kids, these little tinkles with a soft and fluffy head were a delicacy to cherish on every camping excursion we planned. Yes we are talking about marshmallows! 

This is a low-calorie fat-free food, which is enjoyed all over the world. Furthermore, marshmallow is a demulcent herb, which allows it to act against inflammation and protect us against stomach irritation. But what if you are a vegan? Should you be eating marshmallows or setting them aside in the ‘gray zone’? 

Short answer? No you should not eat them, but there’s a catch (exception)…

Keep on reading to find out!

Are Marshmallows Vegan?

Strictly speaking, marshmallows fall into the non-vegan category. This is mainly due to the ingredients that go into the preparation of marshmallows. 

These are made using sugar and gelatin. 

Gelatin, out of the two, is a byproduct of animal ligaments, skin and tendons (mainly cows and pigs). These parts are boiled and then further converted into collagen. 

Needless to say, this is something that vegans should steer clear of. 

The presence of gelatin in any form indicates that the marshmallows are not ideal for consumption. But can this be worrisome from a diet point of view? No. Here’s why:

Since marshmallows are almost entirely made of processed sugar, they just contain calories and little to no trace of any beneficial compounds. Thus, it is safe to assume that they provide next to no health benefits. The only scenario you may miss them is if you like the taste, which to be frank, is indeed quite delectable. 

Nutritional Statistics 

What about the brands who market their marshmallows to be gluten and dairy-free? The only way you can correctly check if a marshmallow is vegan or not is by seeing the ‘list of ingredients’ on the packaging. 

Typically, you will see the following: 

  • Starch

This refers to a class of external sugar-based compounds which are extracted from corn starch and then converted into sugar and corn syrup. This kind of sweetener is never good in any kind of food because it increases the risk of diseases like heart attack, type 2 diabetes and cancer. 

  • Water

Since sugar cannot be added in its solid form, manufacturers often use water in order to get a syrup. This also helps with the soft outer texture. 

  • Tetrasodium 

This is a synthetic food additive which can cause eye irritation and skin problems if eaten in a large amount. 

  • Gelatin 

As stated above, this is the ingredient which is responsible for making mushroom non-vegan friendly and comes from animal collagen. 

  • Dextrose

Dextrose is also a kind of sweetening agent and is similar to starch, both in natural composition and effects. 

  • Pyrophosphate

Another FDA-approved additive which is safe to consume but lacks any health benefits. 

  • Artificial & natural flavoring agents

Natural agents include herbs, buds, roots, meat etc. whereas artificial sources are taken from anything which is not edible in its direct form. 

Aside from flavors, we also have colouring options such as red, blue, yellow etc. This is simply done to visually enhance the look of a marshmallow and has no nutritional benefit. 

Marshmallows At a Glance

Marshmallow consumption dates back all the way to 2000 B.C where it was prepared using the root of ‘mallow plant’, hence the name. Some even say that this candy originated in Egypt. 

It was only after the mid-1800s that gelatin began seeing its use in marshmallows, replacing sap. French confectioners started beating the sap of the mallow plant with sugar and egg whites followed by pouring it into molds, resulting in the marshmallow that we see today. 

Nowadays, we use a process called extrusion where most of them are forced through a long cylindrical tube to give them their signature shape. 

Fun fact: Americans alone consume about 90 million pounds of marshmallows every year. This is the same weight as 1286 gray whales put together! 

Vegan Marshmallow Options 

You might be saddened to learn that these sweet pillowy treats are not vegan. However, vegan marshmallows are here to pull you out of your misery. 

These are made by combining sugar and a non-gelatin gelling agent. Common choices for this include agar agar and carrageenan. Some of the best brands which offer vegan marshmallows are: 

  • Dandies 
  • Sarah’s Candy Factory 
  • Goodland Farms 
  • Trader Joe’s 

Vegan Marshmallow Recipe

Alternatively, you can also prepare vegan marshmallows right at your home! Here’s how: 

Ingredients 

  • Powdered sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Aquafaba
  • Vanilla
  • Cream of tartar
  • Agar agar
  • Salt
  • Vegan cane sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Flavours such as mint, maple, cake batter, raspberry, etc. 

Cooking Instructions 

  • Make a smooth batter using sugar and cornstarch. 
  • Take an 8×8 inch pan and apply oil on the bottom. 
  • Sprinkle some sugar mixture on the greased pan. 
  • Add your aquafaba and tartar to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Begin with a low setting and work your way up to a high one. 
  • Take some agar agar, corn syrup and cane sugar in a pan on medium flame. Keep whisking & boiling until you get a thick mixture. 
  • Take this off the flame and throw some vanilla and salt on top for flavor. 
  • Now put all the constituents in a mixer and run it on high speed for 6-8 minutes. 
  • Transfer it into a container and let it sit for 6-12 hours. Cut into desired shape and enjoy. 

Outro

Marshmallows are not vegan due to the presence of gelatin which is prepared using animal byproducts. Furthermore, due to the presence of artificial sweeteners, marshmallows are not very healthy either. 

However, if you still want to get vegan marshmallows, there are plenty of options you can look into.

Happy snacking! 

Brett White