Great news for vegans: the tradition of using gelatin in soft candies seems to be on the way out, and plenty of companies are switching to plant-based recipes to suit all diets. We’ve checked the ingredients twice and built a vegan candies list to help you get your fill of vegan sweets!
Sketchy Ingredients: Non-Vegan Candies and Snacks
How do you tell what candies are vegan?
Most ingredient lists have some names that will stand out to you as obviously animal-based, while others hide behind confusing terminology.
Here are the questionable ingredients you’ll most often find in a bag of hard candy, fruit chews, candy bars, and other foods that aren’t vegan.
- Dairy - Made from cow’s milk or milk by-products, and often found in chocolate products and listed as milkfat, casein, or whey.
- Gelatin - Many gummy candies contain gelatin, a by-product made from animal bones, tendons, and ligaments. Luckily, many manufacturers use other ingredients to give sweets that gummy chew.
- Shellac - Shellac is a glossy product often added to hard candies, made from the excretions of insects. Yuck. It may also be called confectioner’s glaze on an ingredient label.
- Carmine - This bright red food dye is a pigment made of crushed insect shells.
- Eggs - Chicken egg ingredients often make their way into certain sweets, especially chocolate bars.
19 Vegan Candies and Snack to Curb Your Sweet Tooth
These classic dark-red ropes are cherry-flavored, containing corn syrup and cornstarch in place of gelatin for that signature chew. The red dye in Twizzlers contains absolutely no carmine, so you’re in the clear to enjoy this tasty treat!
#2: UnReal Chocolate
Is dark chocolate vegan? You bet! One of our favorite chocolate brands makes dark chocolate coconut bars with three simple ingredients: coconut, cassava syrup, and dark chocolate.
#3: Pixy Stix
These thin, colorful sticks full of sour and sweet powder will make you pucker. Pixy Stix are sugar combined with added flavors and food dye – vegans can feel good indulging in this treat!
Cocomels are a little newer than some of the old classics on this list, but they’re trendy. Despite being labeled as caramels and having that signature, buttery flavor, they don’t contain any natural caramel at all. Instead, all of the flavors of their candy bars and vegan caramel candies have coconut milk.
These plant-based candies get their sweetness from coconut sugar, so you can feel good indulging.
These teeny tiny candy pieces come in all sorts of flavors, and every type is entirely vegan. You can even blend them into a creamy vegan milkshake.
These little hard candies are on the sour end of the spectrum and contain no animal-based products.
#6: Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups
Reese’s are fantastic, but they contain a load of dairy in the form of milkfat. Luckily, Justin’s has you covered – these uber-popular organic vegan peanut butter cups contain dark chocolate and no animal ingredients.
#7: Fun Dip
Is it fun? We think so! Dipping a bright pink stick into a packet of sugar is way more fun than it sounds. Though Fun Dip contains all-vegan ingredients, you’ll still want to be careful of one thing: a sore tongue!
Trick or treat! Though Smarties get a bad rap as the hard candy that nobody wants at Halloween, these sweet, somewhat chalky-textured candies are entirely vegan and have their own bit of nostalgic charm.
#9: Cracker Jacks, Original Recipe
This caramel-coated popcorn gets its signature flavor from molasses, a vegan sugar by-product that’s quite nutritious, as it contains several trace minerals. One downside: Cracker Jack bags no longer contain little toys.
#10: Sour Patch Kids
Sour Patch Kids are not for the faint of heart or those who like to keep their taste buds intact. These sour candies somehow manage to be addictingly delicious while they completely ravage your tongue, turning it into pulp for days. Sour Patch gummies contain mostly corn syrup, sugar, food coloring, and no animal ingredients.
#11: Fuzzy Peaches
These candies have that sugar-coated exterior that’s a little tart but nowhere on the level of the Sour Patch Kids. Their ingredients list is entirely plant-based, and they contain no gelatin, despite their fantastic chewiness.
#12: Swedish Berries
These red, sweet berry-shaped candies contain no gelatin or carmine. One of our favorite ways to eat Swedish Berries is in a sweet and salty combo with some salty movie theater popcorn.
#13: Swedish Fish
Though they’re shaped like a non-vegan food, Swedish Fish are vegan gummy candies that are free of animal products for the most part. They contain cornstarch and mineral oil instead of gelatin, but beware, as some Swedish Fish contains beeswax. Read your labels carefully here!
#14: Dum Dums
Dum Dums are an American candy classic – these lollipops have been around since 1924. Luckily, all flavors are vegan, including their “mystery flavor.”
#15: Hubba Bubba
Who didn’t love unwinding that bright pink bubble tape as a kid? Cramming as much of this pink, fruity gum into your mouth as you could was a badge of honor for most 90s kids. It turns out, Hubba Bubba gum is completely plant-based, so pull the old roll out!
#16: Blow Pops
Blow pops are two candies in one – both the hard outer candy coating and inner bubblegum are 100% friendly for a vegan diet.
#17: Jolly Ranchers
These hard candies were very sweet, with a bit of a sour punch. They were so hard and sticky that sometimes they’d break into pieces that jabbed your gums in all directions – it was totally worth it for that green apple flavor. Jolly Ranchers contain no animal products in their recipes.
Skittles weren’t vegan until more recently, containing both gelatin and red carmine dye. Luckily, Skittles changed their tune and their recipe, so plant-based dieters can taste the rainbow, too.
#19: Candy Canes
These classic mint-flavored canes are one of the ultimate vegan Christmas candies. Use them to decorate during the holiday season, then enjoy cleaning up the animal ingredient-free leftovers all January long.
Final Notes on Vegan Candy
Though we’ve included many of our favorite vegan classic candies on this list, it’s by no means exhaustive.
There are plenty of other vegan sweets to try, too – just flip over the bag to check the candy's ingredients list for any “known offenders” first!