Gelatin is a protein derived from the collagen in pig or cow bones and is often found in many candies. Candy manufacturers use gelatin as a thickening or stabilizing agent. And some popular candy brands containing gelatin include Altoids, gummy bears, Airheads bites, Starburst chews, and hi-chew candies. It’s also in soft caramels, licorice, and marshmallows
Because gelatin is a common ingredient in candies and packaged foods, finding vegan-friendly sweet treats can be tricky. It requires reading labels and ingredient lists. In this article, we share a comprehensive list of gelatin candies and how to identify vegan candy alternatives for when you’re craving a gelatin-free sugar fix.
Let’s dive in!
Complete List of Common Candies that Contain Gelatin
Gummy bears are sweet, fruit-flavored candies made from gelatin and shaped like bears. A German entrepreneur Hans Riegel invented gummy candies in the early 1920s when he started the Haribo candy company. Today, Haribo is one of the world’s top makers of gummy candies.
Riegel was inspired by the trained bears he had grown up watching at festivals around Europe. The first base ingredient Riegel used was gum, which led to the name gummy bears.
Today, the base ingredient of gummy candies is gelatin. That’s because edible gelatin gives gummy bears their chewy texture and long shelf life.
Candy corn manufacturers use gelatin to give the tri-colored treats their infamous texture. These treats aren’t vegan-friendly and should be avoided on a vegetarian diet.
Airheads Candy Bites
These tasty candies contain gelatin that comes from pork. Usually, gelatin is derived from gelatin from pork skin and cattle bones. It can also come from split cattle hides and various fish by-products.
Sticky Pig Candy Strips
This is a candied bacon lollipop that contains gelatin. It’s a simple candy strip of bacon coated with ginger and sugar. It fills your nutritional and is very tasty. Add on vodka for your alcohol needs, and you have the perfect breakfast.
This candy contains gelatin derived from beef. Starburst is juicy and chewy and is one of the most celebrated candy aisle confections. It comes in many flavors and has a devoted fan base, making it so much more than a sweet treat.
The original Starburst flavors are strawberry, orange, lemon, and lime. While those are the basic classics, Starburst has created many more juicy flavors over the years. The brand has gelatin-based candy varieties, including guava, kiwi, and banana candy. Other cleverly named Starbust candies containing gelatin are Optimus Lime and Disco Berry.
Gummy worms are everyone’s staple in terms of childhood memories, but have you ever thought about what exactly you’re eating?
Most gummy worms combine two or three flavors with different colors. Some of the most common combos include red and orange, red and white, and green and yellow.
The ingredient that gives gummy worms their chewiness is gelatin. Gelatin contains animal by-products, making gummy worms a non-vegan treat.
Other major ingredients include corn syrup, sugar, citric acid, and lactic acid.
These candies contain gelatin made from the dried bodies of female beetles. You’ll find blazing red candies in a huge variety of shades and flavors. Here are some of our favorite red candies out there.
These gelatin candies are perfect for a Spongebob-themed party! They also come with sesame seed buns and are individually wrapped.
Nerds are an American candy containing pork gelatin. They’re made by the Ferrara Candy Company and usually contain two flavors per box. Each flavor has a separate compartment and opening.
Nerd candies are sweet to eat and fun to share. And some can also be tangy to boot. If you’re looking for a crunchy, gummy, and yummy treat, Nerds are your best bet.
HI-CHEW gelatin candies contain a unique double-layer structure to recreate real fruits’ taste. When you eat real fruits, you feel freshness at the first bite. Then, you sense the sweetness or sourness of the fruit’s flesh in your mouth. Thanks to its double layer, you can only experience a real, fruity taste with HI-CHEW.
These peppermint candies contain pork gelatin. They’re perfect for big moments when you have to impress people with winning conversations. The last thing you’d want is your breath betraying you. So pop one of these precocious mint candies and be confident.
Why Can’t Vegans Eat Candies that Contain Gelatin?
Gelatin isn’t a vegan or vegetarian option. But why can’t vegans eat gelatin? Because it’s made from animal skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. Usually, that means cows or pigs, but most kosher gelatin contains fish parts.
To make gelatin, manufacturers cut-up animal parts into small pieces. Then, they use hot water to remove the fat and to cook the ground-up bones, skin, ligaments, and tendons.
The cooked meal sits in an alkali or acid bath for several days to release the collagen. Then, the tiny chunks of animal parts are boiled in superheated water. As the extra water evaporates, you’re left with solid chunks behind.
Those tiny chunks get ground down to create the gelatin powder. It’s a key ingredient used as a thickener for sweet treats, like gummy candy and marshmallows.
Vegan Alternatives to Gelatin Candies
Gelatin is a by-product of the meat and seafood industry. Vegans and vegetarians can’t buy these products because animals have to die to produce them.
Luckily, you don’t need animal bones to enjoy roasted marshmallows or make jello-like treats. Here are some vegan alternatives to gelatin candies.
These vegan sugary treats are easy to find at Sprouts and Whole Foods stores. You might also find them at your regular grocery store.
Trader Joe’s Marshmallows
TJ’s vegan marshmallows are seasonal, and it’s unclear when the season begins and ends. Snatch these vegan treats up when you see them because they’re your most budget-friendly marshmallows!
Yum Earth Organic Gummy Fruits
These gummy fruit treats use pectin as a thickening agent.
Jelly Belly Gummies
Jelly Belly labels these as vegan on the front! They contain tapioca syrup and potato starch instead of gelatin.
Sour Patch Kids
These vegan candies are some of our favorite gummy candies!
Project 7 Gummies
If you want to limit your sugar intake, these vegan gummies are vegan and low-sugar.
365 Gummy Bears and Stars
This whole foods brand makes a couple of vegan gummies like this one.
Annie’s Homegrown Candy
This candy has tapioca syrup and pectin instead of gelatin.