Eating Vegan: The Gelatin Problem

Reader Lisa had a great question about eating vegan:

I have a vegetarian friend and she told me she doesn’t eat jello or gummy bears because some gelatin is made from bone marrow. Is there a vegan friendly alternative?

Sounds a little bit gross, but it’s true. According to Fit Sugar, gelatin is “made by prolonged boiling of skin, cartilage and bones from animals.” You can sometimes find kosher gelatin, which is made from fish instead of cow and pig parts.

Of course, that means that gelatin is not even vegetarian, much less vegan, but don’t fret! You don’t have to give up marshmallows and gummy bears just yet. I’ve rounded up some plant-based replacements for gelatin products.

Before we get into this any further, let’s be honest here: sugary treats are not health food, whether they are vegan or not. That said, everyone likes to indulge from time to time, and if gummy candy is a roadblock keeping someone from trying a vegan diet, we’re happy to help!

It’s actually pretty simple to find vegan versions of most gelatin-containing snacks. Sweet-toothed vegans have done a lot of the legwork already and created some spot-on replacement products. Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe has a wide selection of chewy, vegan sweet treats. While I haven’t tried them all, I can tell you about the ones that I dug.

  • Vegan marshmallows from Sweet & Sara are incredible. I especially recommend the toasted coconut-covered variety, but they’re all decadent! The s’mores they make are amazing, too.
  • If you’re looking to make rice crispy treats or anything else that would use mini marshmallows, Dandies work really well.
  • Are you missing your Jello mold or wanting to make some sort of 70’s-style congealed salad? Natural Desserts makes a Flavored Dessert Gel that works great!
  • There are a number of brands that make vegan gummy bears. Go Bio makes a really good version, and they use organic ingredients, too!

Another great option for replacing gelatin is agar, which is derived from seaweed. You can find it in powder or flake form, and according to Cook’s Thesaurus, 3T of the flakes or 2t of the powder will thicken 2c of liquid. Here’s how they recommend using it:

To use agar, just soak it in the liquid for about 15 minutes, bring it to a gentle boil, then simmer while stirring until it’s completely dissolved. The liquid will gel as it cools. Acids weakens agar’s gelling power, so if you’re firming an acidic liquid, use more.

Do you have more questions about eating vegan? Send ’em on! I’d love to hear from you.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by rickyromero

5 thoughts on “Eating Vegan: The Gelatin Problem”

  1. Thanks — there’s some tempting stuff I haven’t tried yet… Giradelli chocolate chips are vegan too, I believe… Note to self: s’mores this weekend = mandatory!

    I remember being SO totally peeved about this, when I first found out (I’m embarrased to admit I was a 30-something adult, before I ever came across the relevant info) about what gelatin actually IS… I was like W.T.F.???!! Why was I not TOLD? and WHY must I specify that I do NOT wish to have boiled mammal bits in my m*****f****** CANDY?! Guess I was super-naive, but it just never occurred to me that I might need to check my damn GUMMY BEARS for boiled tendons! I mean really… what kind of sicko came up with THAT idea, for pete’s sake?!

    And then, right on the heels of the gelatin revelation — after being ovo-lacto veg for years — I learned about rennet in cheese… these two things were significant precursors to my ‘storming out’ of the ovo-lacto group altogether… Good grief! just amazes me the things folks think of to put animal junk in… with so many yummy stuff that DOESN’T have boiled hooves in it, why anyone aware of what gelatin IS would eat it anyway is beyond me. Blech!

  2. For people looking for a gelatin-free already made snack/desert there is always Cool-Cups.
    They have three great flavors and it fills that sweet tooth keeping you feeling light and your tummy happy. They are Dairy-free, Gluten- Free, Fat-free, No Artificial Colors or preserves, and best of all they are Vegan and Vegetarian!

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