There are a few nostalgic food memories that typically come up when we think about summer. There’s the scent of funnel cakes in the air at a carnival, sprinting after the sound of an ice cream truck while clutching money in your hand, racing against the sun’s hot rays to said ice cream, and toasting—sometimes charring—marshmallows over a fire. And although we might not be chasing down ice cream trucks in adulthood (but we might be tempted to if they start carrying dairy-free soft serve), we here at LIVEKINDLY are all about vegan marshmallows and making s’mores. And, this might come as a surprise, but many marshmallows aren’t vegan, nor are they even vegetarian. Here’s why.
How Are Vegan Marshmallows Made?
Most store-bought marshmallows contain three ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. The latter is used in a number of confections, including gummy bears and other chewy candies, due to a unique chemical composition that takes on an elastic, bouncy texture after being heated and cooled. Gelatin is made from animal collagen, which is obtained from connective tissues such as bones, tendons, and ligaments—usually from cows and pigs.
So, why is gelatin in marshmallows in the first place? According to Chemical and Engineering News, making these fluffy treats the conventional way starts with heating corn syrup, sugar and water. After that, gelatin is added, which gives the mixture a thick texture and then another “ingredient” is introduced: air. The mixture is whipped into a fluffy, foamy texture, doubling or even tripling the size. Flavor, typically vanilla, is added, and then the marshmallow “batter” goes through an extrusion machine, which involves pushing the mixture through a high-pressure, circular tube, giving it shape and structure.
But, thanks to food science, marshmallows can be gelatin-free. Instead, vegan marshmallows rely on a combination of soy protein and seaweed-derived carrageenan. When combined with soy protein, carrageenan forms a shape that gives vegan marshmallows a bouncy structure, although they tend to be softer than the gelatin-based versions.
The 6 Best Vegan Marshmallows for Summertime S’mores
Although vegan marshmallows used to be a rarity, there are several options to choose from these days— even Trader Joe’s marshmallows are free from animal ingredients. Here are our picks for the best vegan marshmallows for s’mores, snacking, making Rice Krispies Treats, and more. (Need some dairy-free chocolate recommendations? We’ve got you covered.)
Available online and at Walmart, Yummallo’s Vegan Marshmallows are just the right size for snacking, toasting over a fire, and making s’mores. They are gluten-free, peanut-free, and also sweetened without the use of corn syrup.
One of the most well-known vegan marshmallow brands, Dandies offers a variety of sizes and flavors, from mini marshmallows and the light and fluffy jumbo-sized kind to peppermint and pumpkin mini ‘mallows. They’re free from artificial flavors and colors, corn syrup, and are also kosher.
Made in a dedicated vegan, nut-free facility in Derbyshire, England, Anada’s handmade, gelatin-free marshmallows are for gourmets. Flavors include caramel, strawberry, raspberry, toasted coconut, and vanilla—some of which come in a mini version. For summer, grab a tub of the Totally Toastable Vanilla Marshmallows. The super-large size is perfect for toasting over a campfire.
As if we needed another reason to love TJ’s and all of its affordable vegan goodies, Trader Joe’s marshmallows are completely gelatin-free. They’re sweet, light, and airy, and also just the right size for toasting.
Don’t have a fire? The brand Mallow Puffs makes vegan marshmallows coated in Belgian chocolate that are perfect for snacking on with a square or two of honey-free graham crackers. Flavors include vanilla, raspberry, and salted caramel.
The Naked Marshmallow Company
These melt-in-your-mouth bites of pillowy marshmallowyness are perfect for snacking on. This UK-based company currently makes two flavors of vegan marshmallows: vanilla and strawberry.
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