Sometimes it's challenging to find certain foods that contain vegan gelatin alternatives instead of traditional gelatin. Once you go vegan, you start to learn about hidden animal products in foods that you'd assume are safe for vegans. Gelatin is one of the main sources of hidden animal ingredients. It can be found in foods such as Jello, gummy candies, marshmallows, processed foods, some types of ice cream and more. But is there vegan gelatin? Read on to find out all of the vegan options.
What is Gelatin?
But what is gelatin and why isn't it vegan? According to Peta.org, "Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water. It is usually obtained from cows or pigs. Gelatin is used in shampoos, face masks, and other cosmetics; as a thickener for fruit gelatins and puddings (such as Jell-O); in candies, marshmallows, cakes, ice cream, and yogurts; on photographic film; and in vitamins as a coating and as capsules, and it is sometimes used to assist in “clearing” wines. Gelatin is not vegan." So unless you want to eat foods made of boiled animal parts, you need to avoid traditional gelatin.
Vegan Gelatin Substitutes
The good news is that there are vegan alternatives to gelatin that can be found in your local grocery store. The following are some of the best options.
Aga- Agar is derived from red algae which is a type of seaweed. This flavorless vegan substitute is used as both a stabilizing and gelling agent. It comes in several different forms including flakes, powder, strands and bars. It is often used in desserts and can be used in puddings, custards, vegan jelly, panna cotta and more.
Locust Bean Gum
Locust bean gum is mostly made up of fiber and comes from the carob tree. It is a natural thickening agent that can fit in with a vegan diet. It may have a very subtle chocolatey flavor but since it's used in such small quantities, it shouldn't affect the taste of your food.
Carrageenan is an extract from a red seaweed commonly known as Irish Moss. According to The Carrageenan Controversy from Scientific American, "This edible seaweed native to the British Isles, where it's been used in traditional cooking for hundreds of years. It's also widely used in the food industry, mostly as a thickener and gelling agent. You'll find it in ice cream, cottage cheese, non-dairy milks, jelly, pudding, and infant formula. Unlike gelatin, which is made from animal products, carrageenan is appropriate for vegans." However, it is also a controversial ingredient than many stay away from.
The article continued. "Some scientists have presented evidence that carrageenan is highly inflammatory and toxic to the digestive tract, and claim that it may be responsible for colitis, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis, and even colon cancer. Equally respected scientists have detailed the reasons that this evidence is flawed and misleading, concluding that there is no valid reason to ban its use." It is up to each person whether or not to consume carrageenan.
Guar gum is a type of vegetable gum that can be used as a stabilizer and a thickener. Only a very small amount of guar gum is needed to replace gelatin in recipes. It is commonly used to thicken up non-dairy milks and improve it's mouth-feel.
According to What Is Pectin by the Spruce Eats, "Pectin is a natural and commercially produced essential ingredient in preserves, like jellies and jams. Without pectin, jellies and jams won't gel. Pectin is a type of starch, called a heteropolysaccharide, that occurs naturally in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables and gives them structure. When combined with sugar and acid, it is what makes jams and jellies develop a semisolid texture when they cool. Some fruits, like apples and quince, and the rinds, seeds, and membranes of citrus are naturally very high in pectin. Commercial pectins are usually made from citrus rinds. It is sold as a dry powder and in liquid form."
Vegan Jello Brands
One of the main food products that contain gelatin is Jello. Luckily, there are several brands of vegan Jello that are made from plant-based gelatin alternatives.
- Bakol Jel Dessert - contains carrageenan
- Simply Delish Plant-Based Jel - contains carrageenan and plant-based soluble fiber
- Druids Grove Vegan Gelatin - contains carrageenan
Vegan Marshmallow Brands
Unfortunately, most kinds of marshmallows contain gelatin. But there are a few brands that are vegan including Trader Joe's and Dandies, my favorite marshmallow brand. They use carrageenan as a replacement for regular gelatin in these marshmallows.
Dandies Marshmallows Ingredients: Tapioca syrup, cane sugar, tapioca starch, filtered water, carrageenan, soy protein, natural vanilla flavor.
Vegan Gummy Candy
Although the majority of fruity, gummy candy contain gelatin, there are many kinds of chewy sweet treats that don't contain ingredients from animal sources. These include:
- Sour Patch Kids
- Laffy Taffy (fun-sized only)
- Sour Big Chewy Nerds
- Swedish Fish (some contain beeswax so check the list of ingredients)
Vegan Jello Recipe
Looking to make your own Jello without any gelatin? Check out Fruity Vegan Jello by Loving it Vegan details how to make both red and green vegan Jello. It only takes a few ingredients to make this tasty red Jello including:
- agar agar flakes
- red grape juice
What types of candies and sweets often contain gelatin?
Unfortunately, gelatin is a common ingredient in chewy candies and desserts. These include jelly beans, Starburst, traditional Jello, marshmallows, gummy bears and worms, candy corn and more.
Is regular Jello vegan?
No. Regular Jello contains gelatin which is made from boiled animal bones and skin.
While traditional gelatin is made from animal ingredients, there are plant-based alternatives. Agar-agar, carrageenan, locust bean gum, pectin and guar gum are all vegan options to gelatin. Home cooks can find these ingredients at grocery stores or online. Depending what you need gelatin for, there are great options out there.