Thousands of years ago, the ancient Egyptians created marshmallows. But they didn’t look like the soft, white sweet treats we’re familiar with today, because, instead of a mix of gelatin and sugar, they were made with nuts, honey, and sap from a plant called Althaea officinalis, which is known more widely by the name “the marsh mallow.” Today, of course, the popular candy still gets its name from this plant, which has been cultivated for food and medicine over the centuries, but it isn’t included in the recipe any longer.
Today, instead of mallow root sap, most marshmallows on the market contain gelatin, which comes from the skin, bones, and tendons of animals. But not all of them are made this way, and it is possible to buy vegan versions of the classic s’mores ingredient. Here are some of the tastiest vegan marshmallows on the market.
What are marshmallows?
Marshmallows are a type of soft foam-like candy usually made with a whipped mixture of sugar, corn syrup, water, and gelatin. According to the National Confectioners Association, to get the fluffy white cube shapes we associate with marshmallows, the mixture is piped through tubes before it is cut into equal-sized pieces. Marshmallows can vary in size, the smallest size is usually used for desserts or hot chocolate toppings, while the larger ones are ideal for making s’mores.
Are marshmallows vegan?
Most marshmallows on the market contain gelatin, which is often derived from the skin and bones of cows and pigs. It was added to the recipe to give the soft candy more of a stable form. Because gelatin comes from dead animals, marshmallows made with it are not vegan.
But, that said, it is possible to buy vegan marshmallows. To replace gelatin, most vegan brands use a seaweed-derived alternative, like carrageenan, a food additive extracted from red edible seaweed, or agar agar, which has a gelatin-like consistency and comes from red algae.
How to use vegan marshmallows
Vegan marshmallows can be used in the same way as regular marshmallows. For example, if you’re camping, you can pop them between graham crackers to make a s’more and roast them on an open fire. This way of eating marshmallows is still extremely popular across the US, but has been around for nearly a century and was first mentioned in the 1920s, in the Girl Scout Handbook.
But s’mores are far from the only way you can use vegan marshmallows. They make a great ice cream or hot chocolate topping, alongside dairy-free whipped cream. You can add them to rice crispy cakes, which are a favorite among kids and adults alike, or use them to make vegan rocky road. They also make a great milkshake ingredient (just toast them over an open flame first to get the right consistency), and if you’ve got a real sweet tooth, gooey vegan s’mores brownies are well worth a try.
But, of course, if you don’t feel like making anything with vegan marshmallows, that’s totally fine too, because they’re also just as delicious as a snack right out of the bag.
Vegan marshmallow brands
If you’ve got a craving for marshmallows, but don’t fancy animal skin and bones (which is, quite frankly, fair enough), then all of these brands offer totally vegan versions of the sweet treat. Happy snacking!
Yummallo is a leading marshmallow brand, and offers several different variations of the squishy candy. There’s Fruit Mix, Spaghetti Marshmallows, Unicorn Poop, and even Spicy & Sweet. But, unfortunately, as of yet, it hasn’t brought out any vegan versions of these options. However, as of last year, it does offer two types of standard vegan marshmallows (one regular size and one tiny), which are made with carrageen. Both are available at Walmart.
Get it here
If you’re looking for a bit more flavor than just the standard marshmallow, Dandies has your back. All of its options—which include vanilla, maple, pumpkin, and peppermint flavor—are vegan and also made with carrageen. Plus, they’re totally allergen-free, too. In the US, Dandies vegan marshmallows are stocked in several retailers, including Thrive Market, Whole Foods Market, and Wegmans.
Get it here
3 Freedom Mallows
After a decade of research, British brand Freedom Mallows launched in 2013 with a mission to share its vegan, allergen-free marshmallow recipe with the masses. Since then, its range has expanded to include Regular Vanilla Mallows, Mini Pink & White Vanilla Mallows, but also marshmallow-stuffed chocolate bars, and even hot chocolate and toasting kits. You can buy the brand’s products straight from its website, in UK retailers, or from Amazon.
Get it here
4 Trader Joe’s
With more than 560 stores across the US, Trader Joe’s is one of the nation’s most popular retailers. And luckily, if you’ve got a Trader Joe’s location near you, then you’ve also got gelatin-free marshmallows near you. That said, not all of the Trader Joe’s marshmallows are vegan (the Peanut Butter Cocoa variety, contains milk, for example), but most of them are, including the Peppermint Minis.
Get it here
5 Mallow Puffs
Belgian brand Mallow Puffs has taken vegan marshmallows to the next level, by dipping them in chocolate. And it’s not just any chocolate, it’s (of course) rich, dark, indulgent Belgian chocolate, which has also been certified by the Rainforest Alliance. There are three different flavors of Mallow Puffs, Vanilla, Raspberry, and Salted Caramel, as well as Mallow Puff chocolate bars, and all are ideal for movie night snacking.
Mallow Puffs are available in several Belgian and UK retailers, and US consumers can buy the brand’s products online, from stores like Worldwide Chocolate.
Get it here
How to make vegan marshmallows
While a handful of brands offer vegan marshmallows, the fact remains that gelatin marshmallows still dominate the market. But you don’t have to buy marshmallows at all. You can make your own from home, using only the ingredients that suit you. To get you started, here are three different vegan marshmallow recipes.
1 Vegan marshmallows with aquafaba
Aquafaba (chickpea water) is without a doubt one of the most popular ingredients used to make vegan marshmallows from home. It is an egg white alternative, and helps to give the marshmallows the right texture and consistency. Instead of gelatin, the recipe calls for agar powder, which you combine with sugar, cornstarch, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract. After you’ve finished, you’ll need to leave them to set for roughly two hours, and then pop them in the oven for another hour. The result: squishy, foamy, delicious vegan marshmallows to use however you please.
Get the recipe
2 Vegan marshmallows with pea protein
This recipe is ideal for creating perfect pillowy marshmallows, without spending several hours of your time to do so. The prep only takes around 20 minutes, and the setting time is only about one hour. Instead of aquafaba, this recipe calls for pea protein powder, which is mixed with xanthan gum (a vegan food additive), tapioca flour, sugar, and baking powder, as well as agar powder.
Get the recipe
3 Vegan marshmallows with agar powder and dairy-free butter
Like the above, this recipe relies on agar powder as a gelatin substitute. But it also calls for vegan butter, as well as the standard ingredients, like sugar and corn syrup. If you prefer a minty flavor, you can also add peppermint extract. The recipe itself is relatively quick and the result is squishy and delicious, but the setting time is at least 12 hours, plus another hour in the fridge (so don’t make these in a last-minute rush!)
Get the recipe
For more on what to do with vegan marshmallows, read:
Here at VegNews, we live and breathe the vegan lifestyle, and only recommend products we feel make our lives amazing. Occasionally, articles may include shopping links where we might earn a small commission. In no way does this effect the editorial integrity of VegNews.