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Vegan jelly is jelly that does not contain any animal products, specifically gelatin. Used as a thickener and to give food a gel-like, wobbly texture, gelatin is an ingredient in many food products, including jelly and gummy candies and sweets, frozen desserts, puddings, marshmallows, and capsules for pills. The word jelly can also refer to clear, spreadable fruit preserves, which are usually a vegan food unless gelatin has been added.
A vegan diet does not include any foods that contain animal products, including foods such as meat, dairy, honey, or eggs. Eating vegan also means that vegan people need to read food ingredient labels for less obvious animal products, such as whey and casein, which are milk products. Vegans need to check ingredient lists for gelatin since it is an ingredient in a wide variety of foods, many of which can seem vegan since they do not contain meat, milk, or eggs.
Anything containing gelatin is not vegan or even vegetarian, since gelatin is made with animal body parts. The particular parts vary, but often include boiled bones, skin, tendons, and other connective tissues from pigs and cows. Some jellies that do not contain gelatin contain cochineal, also listed as carmine, which is made from crushed beetles. A jelly product containing this would not qualify as a vegan jelly either.
Vegan jelly can be based on a number of plant-based products. Agar-agar, which is derived from seaweed, is a flavorless substance that can be obtained in flaked, powdered, or block form, and it forms jelly when combined with water and cooked. Carrageen or Irish moss is a type of seaweed as well, and is also used in making vegan gelatin substitutes. Guar gum, carob bean gum, and some other products including synthetic substances can be used in vegan foods to achieve the thickening and texturizing effects of gelatin without using animal products.
There are vegan jelly options available for people who do not wish to consume animal products, although many of the most popular brands do not offer vegetarian options. Some of these options are available in regular grocery stores in snack pack format, but vegans should always read the label to check for gelatin. Many vegan jelly products, including powdered jelly dessert mix, are available for purchase online from specialty retailers or in health food stores. Some vegans and vegetarians make their own vegan jelly with agar-agar, carrageen, or other products to replace gelatin in home-cooked recipes.