Well, vegan candy that is almost guilt-free! We should just do without it, shouldn't we? But making the choice to become vegetarian or vegan doesn't mean you have to forego the sweet stuff. You do need to know what you are buying though. Below you will find a great selection of some of the best vegan candy and sweets around including vegan marshmallows, oatmeal cookies, peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread and vegan chocolate chips. In the meantime, here's some background on vegan candy and some of the key ingredients you need to be aware of.
New vegetarians and vegans are often taken aback to find that so many of their favourite candy, sweets and cookies are not actually vegetarian. Vegans of course need to watch out for common ingredients like butter and eggs but there are many other less obvious animal derived ingredients that are also frequently found in popular sweet treats. If you love cakes, it might be time to start baking. It really is the best way to ensure that you are eating the best quality, vegan ingredients. In the meantime, here are a few key ingredients to look out for on labels.
Gelatin or gelatine is derived from animal bones and skin and is probably the most prevalent non-vegetarian ingredient found in sweets and candy. Jelly beans, marshmallows and even chewy mints all tend to contain gelatine. Alternatives to gelatin do exist, most commonly seaweed-derived ingredients like carrageenan and agar agar. This means that thankfully many high quality vegetarian alternatives to your favourite sweet treats do exist. You will find that gelatin-free gummies are less hard and chewy than gelatin-based ones with a pleasant squidgy consistency. I particularly like Organic VegeBears. These are really yummy old style fruity gummy bears with a wonderfully soft texture.
Another ingredient to watch out for is carmine or cochineal, sometimes labelled as E120 in Europe. Derived from the cochineal beetle, it is commonly used as a red food colouring. For a long time, cochineal was less popular with food manufacturers and began to be replaced by synthetic ingredients. In recent years however, the growing demand from consumers for "natural" food colourings has meant that cochineal or carmine has become an extremely popular food additive, particularly in confectionary.
Bone char (charcoal) is used to remove colour during the processing of some refined sugars. This step is only used in the refinement of cane sugar. Beet sugar is vegan friendly. In the case of cane sugar, read the label or check with the manufacturer to verify that the sugar is suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Look for cane sugar which is labelled "vegan", "raw" or "unrefined". Sucanat and "evaporated cane juice" are excellent vegan choices.
Another ingredient that is commonly found in confectionary is stearic acid. Stearic acid is almost always made from animal fats and is often used with sugar to harden candies and sweets.
Essentially, if you want to buy vegan candy, you really need to read labels very carefully. For maximum reassurance, look for products from ethical, vegan or vegetarian companies whose product descriptions and policies on ingredients are clear. Apart from the peace of mind that the products are actually vegan, these are the companies I am happiest supporting.
Whole food stores are a good place to start when looking to buy vegan candy but there is a vast choice online too. Vegan Essentials stock an excellent selection. Amazon.com also have a huge range of veggie friendly sweets.
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