For many of us, not much time and effort goes into reading the labels when we’re deciding on the perfect candy treat. But the animal products that go into some widely-available sweets may surprise you:
•Gelatin (made from animal bones and tendons)
•Carmine, used in some artificial color and confectioner’s glaze (made from beetles)
•Refined cane sugar (can be processed with charred bone fragments)
Fear not, my vegan friends! While it may seem that many potential Halloween candies are not cruelty-free, you would be surprised at the amount of candy in the aisles that is safe for vegans and vegetarians alike.
When you’re about to dig into whatever candy your sweet tooth desires, always double-check the label to ensure the tasty treat your heart craves is also in line with your food ethics. For example, you may want to avoid candy corn (contains gelatin), Junior Mints (contains carmine and gelatin) and almost anything made featuring marshmallows (contains gelatin).
Here are the best vegan candies you should dig into this Halloween (and well, forever).
1. Cracker Jack Original Caramel Coated Popcorn and Peanuts
If you’re like me and addicted to all things sweet and salty, then Cracker Jack is the snack for you. It offers that sticky-sweet taste reminiscent of popcorn balls, but doesn’t contain butter, as some caramel corn does. The only downfall to Cracker Jack boxes now: the prizes aren’t as good anymore.
These tangy and taffy-like strips of awesome were introduced in 1986. Coming in a variety of flavors including cherry, watermelon, green apple, strawberry and blue raspberry Airheads are sold in bars, mini-bites and lollipops (found in Mexico and Spain).
3. Jolly Ranchers
In childhood, I could not resist these, that hardest of hard candies, which tasted just like biting into a piece of fruit. Since my days as a youngun’, The Hershey Company (which now owns the brand) introduced Jolly Ranchers in sour, soft and gummy, sugar-free and bite size varieties. As is it stands, the original hard candies are totally vegan, using natural flavoring.
4. Hubba Bubba bubble gum
I remember as a kid unwrapping giant, bright pink pieces of Hubba Bubba. It was great for bubble-blowing contests and came in all sorts of different varieties: bubble tape, filled centers, plus the powder-filled Bubble Jug and candy tube Squeeze Pop. The great thing about Hubba Bubba was that in 2009, they began manufacturing a sugar-free version. Some chewing gum contains gelatin or animal-derived stearic acid, but Hubba Bubba doesn’t, so you’re in the clear.
Who doesn’t love Twizzlers? The best part about Twizzlers is that you can use them as a straw or, if you get Twizzlers rope, tie them in a knot. Twizzlers come in a variety of flavors (strawberry, black liquorice, cherry, chocolate and more) and shapes (filled twists, pull and peel, and bite-sized).
6. Gummies from Squish Candies
As you know, vegan gummy candies are hard to come by. Not anymore! Squish Candies a Montreal-based shop devoted to gourmet candy and specializing in gummies (particularly unique flavors like champagne, honey, blood orange and more). Their vegan gummies are gelatin-free and promise no animal product use. Best part: you can order all these candies online and they ship all throughout North America. (Note: not all of Squish’s candies are vegan, but it’s easy to figure out which by using the filter on the seach.)
7. Surfs Sweets Candy
Surf Sweets, founded in California, is a confectionary company dedicated to clean food choices. The company offers many vegan gummies, like Peach Rings, Gummy Worms, Sour Bears—all using no high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors. Plus they are entirely soy and gluten-free. They’re sold in shops throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as online.
Here in Canada we know Smarties as “Rockets.” Touted as “America’s favorite candy roll”, these chalky hard candies are a trick-or-treat classic. The calcium stearate (an anti-caking agent) that they use is vegetable derived.
9. JJ Sweet’s Cocomels
If you’re a fan of chocolate and caramel, then you’re going to love JJ Sweet’s Cocomels offerings. Using coconut milk, organic brown rice sugar, organic evaporated cane juice and xanthan gum, JJ Sweet’s Cocomels are an entirely certified gluten free, organic, non-GMO, kosher—and, of, course vegan—caramel company. Cocomels caramels and chocolate-covered caramels come in a in a wide range of flavors, including sea salt, vanilla and espresso. While you can buy Cocomels at many stores throughout North America, you can also order them online.
10. Swedish Fish
What’s not to love about Swedish Fish, the fish-shaped red chewy candy? Did you also know that they are vegan? Yes!
Praise to the candy gods! Skittles have been vegan for a while. Which means you can still taste the rainbow without feeling guilty. If you’re feeling sassy, try making a cocktail with Skittles-infused vodka.
12. Sweet Tarts
A staple on the Halloween scene, Sweet Tarts—which have always been like a bigger, firmer, more sour cousin to Smarties—come in a number of offerings including classic, chewy rope, chewy, and lollipops.
13. Sour Patch Kids
These yummy gummy candies are bound with corn starch, not gelatin, and will help you get your sugary sweet fix. They’re vegan-OK, but probably still condemned by your dentist.
14. Sweet and Sara marshmallow confections
For Sara Sohn, owner of Sweet and Sara, giving up marshmallows and marshmallow-based treats was the toughest part of going vegan. So rather than become frustrated, she started her company to create vegan, non-GMO, kosher and gluten-free treats—many of them featuring marshmallows. Some of Sweet and Sara’s marshmallowy good ness includes peanut butter s’mores, chocolate-covered lollipops, and even dried marshmallows for that old-time sugary cereal fix.
The popular lemon-flavored candy is tangy, sour and sugary. According to its manufacturer Ferrara Pan, traditional Lemonheads do not contain any animal byproducts and are safe and ready for Halloween.
Candy bucket photo courtesy of Surf Sweets