What Candy Can Vegans Eat? Avoid These Ingredients

Sweet, sour, chewy, chocolate, and beyond – candy options are endless! There are so many kinds of sweets and treats on the market. Finding vegan-friendly candy can be a challenge, so this article will help clarify what candy vegans can eat and which ingredients to avoid.

What Non-Vegan Ingredients Should I Avoid?

This ultimately depends on your definition of vegan. Some vegans will make exceptions for certain ingredients that are considered non-vegan for others. It is always important to read the ingredients list on your favorite candies because manufacturers can change the ingredients list at any time.

Ingredients that are not vegan include milk, milk products, eggs, honey, and beeswax. There are quite a few more non-vegan ingredients that may be trickier to identify.

Gelatin

Gelatin is made from animal bones and cartilage, neither of which are vegan friendly. This ingredient is mostly used in candies like gummy bears, marshmallows, and non-chocolate chews. Vegan-friendly substitutes for gelatin include pectin and agar.

Milk Chocolate

Candies containing milk chocolate are commonly made with cow’s milk. Some milk chocolates are starting to use plant-based milks instead, which may make them vegan. Most dark chocolates do not contain milk and may be considered a better vegan option.

Refined Cane Sugar

Refined cane sugar is made using bone char, which would be considered an animal byproduct and not vegan friendly. Some vegans make an exception for this ingredient to expand their options. Unrefined, raw, or organic cane sugars do not use this processing method and are vegan friendly.

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Shellac

Maybe you haven’t heard of shellac used in food, but it is made from the secretions of lac bugs. This ingredient is sometimes a key ingredient in confectioner’s glaze. It is also used as a coating on some fruits to expand shelf life.

Carmine

Otherwise known for its bright red food coloring, carmine is derived from a beetle and is not vegan. Vegan alternatives include plant derivatives like lycopene and anthocyanin.

Beyond the Ingredients

Beyond reading the ingredients list, check for a Certified Vegan Logo. This means that the item has been tested by a third party, Vegan Action. It ensures no animal products or by-products are included in the product and that there is no animal testing taking place, as well.

There are not a ton of vegan-friendly candies with the Certified Vegan Logo yet, but many specialty brands with vegan candies are Certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, and/or gluten-free.

Traditional Candy that is Vegan

Don’t worry, there are still plenty of PETA approved, “accidentally vegan”  traditional candies and gums out there. This condensed list may include items that contain trace amounts of animal-derived ingredients. As a rule of thumb, always read the ingredients list or contact the manufacturer.

  • Airheads Taffy
  • Big League Chew Bubble Gum
  • Brach’s Cinnamon Hard Candy, Mandarin Orange Slices & Root Beer Barrels
  • Charms Sweet Pops
  • Chick O Sticks
  • Cry Baby Candy
  • Dots
  • Dum Dums
  • Haribo Sour S’ghetti Gummi Candy
  • Hubba Bubba gum
  • Jujubes
  • Jujyfruits
  • Lindt Excellence Cocoa Bars
  • Mary Jane candy
  • Nabisco Ginger Snaps
  • Pure de-lite Coconut Bars
  • Smarties (U.S. only)
  • Sourpatch Kids
  • Super Bubble Bubble Gum

This list of vegan candy is lengthy, but a few of your favorites may be missing.

Are Tootsie Pops vegan?

No, Tootsie Pops contain milk ingredients and non-organic sugar. This applies to all types of Tootsie Pop products.

Is Laffy Taffy vegan?

Yes and no. The fun-size Laffy Taffy flavors and other products contain non-organic cane sugar but are otherwise vegan. The full-size Laffy Taffy contain egg and are not vegan.

Are Nerds vegan?

No. Their flavors contain carmine food coloring and non-organic cane sugar. The ingredients list also states that Nerds ‘may contain egg’.

Are Starburst vegan?

No. Starburst contain gelatin, which is not vegan friendly.

Are Skittles vegan?

Yes and no. Skittles contain non-organic cane sugar but are otherwise vegan friendly.

What about Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Twix, M&M’s, and other chocolate candies?

Definitely not. Popular chocolate-based candies most likely contain milk, milk ingredients, and/or egg.

Specialty Vegan Candy Brands

On the bright side, new brands have emerged into the vegan candy scene. While it may not be your childhood favorite, there are many vegan candies that are just as delicious and made with quality ingredients. Here are a few brands to try that have vegan options, among other dietary needs:

  • Endangered Species
  • Enjoy Life
  • Ginger People
  • Hu Chocolates
  • Nelly’s Organics
  • OCHO
  • Unreal
  • Wholesome Earth
  • Yum Earth

Healthy Vegan Candy Alternatives

At the end of the day, candy is still loaded with sugar and should be eaten in moderation. There are some vegan-friendly candy substitutes that can be considered as a healthier option to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Fruit Leather

A healthy alternative to fruit snacks, gummies, and fruit roll-ups, fruit leather is vegan and made with real fruit. Popular brands include Stretch Island, Good & Gather, and Trader Joe’s.

Protein Bites

There are many of these healthy, vegan bites, often referred to as protein bites, energy balls, protein balls, and so on. They are bite-size, sweet, and usually made with whole foods. Brands include The GFB, Bhu Foods, and Enjoy Life, or make your own!

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate may be bitter, but it is one of the healthiest sweets to choose from. It’s a source of minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, and zinc. Dark chocolate is also rich with plant flavonols, which are plant chemicals that can play a role in reducing heart disease and related conditions.

When choosing chocolate, the darker the better. Dark chocolate that is 70% or more will be the highest in these plant flavanols. Make sure to read the ingredients before selecting to make sure it’s vegan.

If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, don’t fret! There are plenty of vegan milk chocolate options that use plant-based milk and other vegan-friendly ingredients.

Conclusion

Candies that contain animal products and other ingredients like gelatin, refined cane sugar, shellac, and carmine are not vegan. There are many traditional and specialty vegan candies on the market. Vegan or not, candy should be eaten in moderation or replaced with a healthier, vegan snack option.

Read more about Are Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans Vegan?

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