Vegan marshmallows are marshmallows made in accordance with the dietary restrictions adhered to by those living a vegan lifestyle. This type of lifestyle is similar to vegetarianism, but goes further than some vegetarian diets to preclude the ingestion of not only meat but also any foodstuffs that come from animals. Such restrictions mean that vegan foods do not contain eggs, butter, milk, or other ingredients produced by animals. Vegan marshmallows are, therefore, produced without such products and utilize other ingredients to replace them, typically through plant-based ingredients that replicate the gelatin found in standard marshmallows.
Sometimes also labeled as vegetarian marshmallows, vegan marshmallows are available from a number of different manufacturers and can be made in a home kitchen as well. The primary difference between vegan marshmallows and regular marshmallows is the use of gelatin, which is a major ingredient used to provide the texture in marshmallows. Gelatin is typically produced by extracting collagen from the byproducts of the meat and leather industries, often from animal bones and skins. This means that gelatin use violates the culinary restrictions of veganism, and may be considered to be too similar to eating meat for many vegetarians.
Vegan marshmallows are, therefore, made without using gelatin, and plant-based products that can provide similar texture are used instead. Some of the most common products used are seaweed-based gels such as carrageenan and agar-agar. The resulting marshmallows are considered vegan-friendly since no animals products are used in making them. Typical additional ingredients in vegan marshmallows include corn syrup, sugar, vanilla extract, and soy protein.
Since vegan marshmallows are made without using gelatin, they are also typically considered kosher as well. Other types of kosher marshmallows can be made that are not vegan, however, such as those that use gelatin from cows or fish, rather than more common porcine gelatin. Islamic food restrictions also typically prevent the eating of products that come from pigs, including gelatin, so these marshmallows may also be eaten by those following strict Islamic practices.
Vegan marshmallows still typically contain high amounts of sugar, however, so they are not necessarily a healthy or diet-conscious food. They are simply made without gelatin that comes from animal sources. There are some concerns over the products used to replace such gelatin, however, such as carrageenan. Some research has indicated that there may be some potential health risks involved with ingesting carrageenan in large quantities, especially for infants or small children.