The VegNews Guide to Vegan Candy

Gummies, chocolate bars, marshmallows, lollipops … vegans love their candy just as much as everyone else. Luckily, there’s a plethora of animal-free, dairy-free candy to choose from—and you won’t find gelatin, confectioner’s glaze, dairy, or eggs in any of these sweet treats. Whether you’re looking for accidentally vegan versions of mainstream brands or specialty vegan novelties, VegNews unveils the ultimate list of vegan candy.

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Is candy vegan? 

Not all candy is vegan, but a lot of sweets are. And as more people choose to expel animal products from their diets, the market for vegan confectionery is growing. Right now, the industry is worth around $1.23 billion, says Grand View Research, but it’s expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 10 percent over the next six years or so. “There is significant scope for the growth of the global vegan confectionery market,” notes the business consulting firm. “As the concept of veganism is gaining prominence in countries such as the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, France, and Canada.”

“But why isn’t all candy vegan already?” We hear you ask. Well, there are a few animal ingredients that frequently sneak their way into chocolates, gummies, caramels, and more. One of these is dairy (usually listed as milk, milkfat, butterfat, and whey), and another is gelatin. The latter is made from the boiled tendons, ligaments, or skin of pigs and cows, and is often used in gummies to make them chewy.

Carmine, made from crushed cochineal beetles, is sometimes used as a red coloring in candy, and shellac, which comes from insect secretions, can sometimes be used as confectioner’s glaze.

The inclusion of these animal-derived ingredients, no matter how big or small, makes candy not vegan. Some sweets will display a “vegan” logo on the packaging, but there are also plenty of accidentally vegan candies out there (looking at you, Sour Patch Kids) so it’s good to read the label. (More on accidentally vegan candy and what this term means below.)

Is sugar vegan?

In addition to ingredients like dairy and gelatin, some vegans avoid anything that doesn’t come from a vegan company. This is because, in the US, refined white sugar is sometimes refined with bone char. The choice to consume these sugars is 100 percent yours to make—nobody will take away your vegan card for doing so. The finished sugar doesn’t actually contain bones, but it’s certainly a symptom of how pervasive the use of animal byproducts is in the food industry (see also: why do so many potato chips contain milk?!). Look for products made with organic sugar if you want to avoid sugar processed with bone char.

Is candy still vegan if there has been cross-contamination?

Some ingredient lists will say “may contain traces of …” or “made on shared equipment with …” animal products. But these warnings are for people with serious allergies, not the deliberate inclusion of an animal product. Purchasing these candies won’t up the demand for non-vegan candy—but there’s no shame if you choose to avoid these products.

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Is vegan candy healthy? 

Vegan food tends to come with a health halo. And in many cases, plant-based versions of meat and dairy products are healthier in some ways. So does the same apply to vegan candy? Sorry to say it, but the answer is no.

Vegan candy is still just that—candy. “Just because it has the term ‘vegan’ slapped on the label does not necessarily mean it is healthy,” explains Blair Persyn, MS, RDN, LDN, CNSC. “There are also many types of mainstream candies that are accidentally vegan but still ultra-processed and full of sugar. Any type of candy—whether vegan or not—will be high in sugar and should be enjoyed in moderation.” 

But don’t let that stop your sweet tooth. A little candy, as a treat, every now and then is fine. If you’re limiting your sugar intake, look for the brands SmartSweets (vegan-friendly) or Zolli Candy (100 percent vegan).

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Which candy is accidentally vegan? 

When a candy craving strikes, you’re in luck! You can find many accidentally vegan candies at convenience stores and gas stations, as well as lurking on the shelves at many of your favorite grocers. To put it simply, accidentally vegan candies are not vegan by purposeful intention, but rather because animal ingredients were not deemed necessary to create the candy by the manufacturer in the first place. But this is great news for vegans because it means you don’t have to worry about sneaky dairy or gelatin making their way into your nostalgic favorites. Here are some of the best accidentally vegan candy options on shelves right now.

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Which candy bars are vegan? 

Unfortunately, not all candy is accidentally vegan. Many favorite chocolate bars, for example, are made with milk chocolate. But don’t panic, you can still get your hands on treats like gooey caramel coated in chocolate, shortbread cookies paired with nutty nougat, chewy nuts rolled in sticky sweet coating, and dairy-free milk chocolate. The world of vegan candy bars is gourmet and nostalgic all in one. Find that vegan replacement for your old-school favorite below.

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Which gummies are vegan?

Instead of gelatin made from animal bones, many brands opt for plant-based alternatives like pectin (a soluble fruit-based fiber), agar agar (which comes from red algae), or carrageenan (made from red seaweed) to make their gummy sweets chewy and delicious. Important note: While not all of the below brands are 100 percent vegan, they offer several vegan options, so check the ingredients list before purchasing.

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Vegan chocolate

Cow’s milk is absolutely not necessary to make delicious chocolate. Many brands forgo milk altogether and offer dark chocolate options, while others are making milk chocolate using plant-based milk alternatives like oat, almond, or rice milk. 

The truth is, peanut butter cups, rich chocolate truffles, white chocolate goodness, and more are waiting in the realm of dairy-free vegan chocolate novelties. If you would rather bite into a gooey chocolate treat than a gummy or hard candy, you’re in luck! Try one of the below.

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Vegan caramels

Chewy, sweet, sticky candies are a favorite, but often they feature dairy in the recipe. That said, it’s not essential, as these delicious sweets below demonstrate. Whether you chop and bake into cookie dough, cover in chocolate, or enjoy in their simple, basic state, these melt-in-your-mouth treats are offered in vegan versions by the following companies. 

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Vegan chews

Just like gummies, you’ll sometimes find gelatin or carmine lurking in chewy sweets. (We’re looking at you, Starburst.) But this doesn’t mean that vegans have to miss out—far from it. You’ll find plenty of flavorful, chewy vegan candy alternatives on the market in tropical, sour, fruity, and citrusy flavors. Here are some of our favorites below. 

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Are lollipops vegan?

From mainstream brands that you can find at any convenience store to all-natural, low-sugar, fruit-sweetened varieties of suckers, there are plenty of vegan options to choose from when it comes to lollipops. (Just watch out for dairy, which you’ll find in some popular options, like Chupa Chup’s Strawberry and Cream flavor, for example.)

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Are marshmallows vegan?

There’s one culprit that makes marshmallows not vegan: gelatin. A clear, flavorless protein made from animal collagen, gelatin is used to create a bouncy marshmallow texture. But many brands have ditched the cruelty and launched gelatin-free vegan versions that taste even better. Instead, they’re using ingredients like carrageenan or agar agar to get the same familiar taste without the cruelty. For more on vegan marshmallows, find our guide here.

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Here at VegNews, we live and breathe the vegan lifestyle, and only recommend products we feel make our lives amazing. Occasionally, articles may include shopping links where we might earn a small commission. In no way does this effect the editorial integrity of VegNews.