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Surprisingly vegan candy that's perfect for Halloween

By Mary Daly
October 22, 2018, 1:40:24 PM EDT

tick or treat

For vegans, some treats are not so sweet. Candy often contains animal ingredients — sometimes unexpectedly so. And that can be a real bummer come trick-or-treating time. But fear not, vegans! If you’re looking to get that traditional Halloween sugar high, load up on the varieties of candy that are surprisingly vegan.

Hidden animal ingredients in candy


Some animal ingredients, such as milk or honey, are usually easy to spot in candy. But others are a little more tricky, especially if you’re not familiar with them by name. “There are thousands of technical and patented names for ingredient variations,” according to PETA. “Many ingredients known by one name can be of animal, vegetable, or synthetic origin.”

Here are just a few common candy ingredients derived from animals:

  • Carmine (also cochineal, carminic acid): This is red pigment that comes from crushed cochineal insects. According to PETA, “70,000 beetles must be killed to produce one pound of this red dye.”
  • Casein (also caseinate, sodium caseinate): This is a milk protein that’s often in snacks and baked goods.
  • Gelatin: This protein comes from boiling skin, tendons, ligaments or bones, typically from cows or pigs. Many gummy and marshmallow candies contain gelatin.
  • Glaze (also shellac, confectioner’s glaze, resinous glaze): This comes from a resinous excretion of insects. It’s often used to make sweets — including the Halloween hit candy corn — shiny.

The good news is you don’t necessarily have to memorize confusing ingredients if you can remember which candies are vegan-friendly. But do note that sometimes a product’s ingredient list may vary based on location, format (such as gummy versus hard candy) or other factors.

Although this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are some PETA-approved Halloween favorites that will fit into your vegan diet.

1. Airheads

You can stretch them, twist them and squish them. They’ll stain your tongue. And the mystery flavor will keep you guessing. Dentists might not love this chewy treat, but vegans will be happy to know Airheads don’t contain animal ingredients.

2. Annie’s Fruit Snacks

Let’s be honest: Most of us aren’t going to win any awards from nutritionists on Halloween. But if you want to go a slightly healthier route with your treats, reach for Annie’s Fruit Snacks. These gummies not only are vegan, but they’re also organic, made with fruit and vegetable juices and contain no artificial flavors or synthetic colors. That’s about as healthy as it gets on Halloween.

3. Blow Pops

You’ll probably find some lollipops in your Halloween candy haul, and odds are some will be Blow Pops. “The pops are the world’s most popular gum-filled lollipop,” the Tootsie Roll Industries website claims. If only the gum’s flavor lasted as long as the candy’s reign in the lollipop world.

4. Dots

Many gummy candies contain gelatin — a vegan no-no — but thankfully not Dots. This little gumdrop launched in the United States in 1945 and has been getting stuck in countless people’s teeth ever since.

5. Dum-Dums

Dum-Dums can trace their lollipop roots all the way back to 1924. Manufactured by the Akron Candy Co. in Ohio, the company’s manager figured Dum-Dums would be an easy name for kids to say. Deciding what the infamous mystery flavor tastes like, however, has always been a conundrum for kids and adults alike.

6. Jolly Ranchers

According to data from candy retailer, Jolly Ranchers are the No. 10 most popular Halloween candy in the United States. At first, it might be surprising that this petite hard candy made the top 10. But it’s easy to hand out to trick-or-treaters, and its flavors appeal to the masses — including vegans.

7. Nerds

Nerd alert! These crunchy little sugar clusters pack a dual flavor punch from their two-sided package. And it’s almost a little too easy to tip the entire box into your mouth.

8. Red Vines

Fun fact: Red Vines originally were named Raspberry Vines. And many people simply called the candy “red licorice,” given its similarities to black licorice. Whatever you call them, Red Vines have been making appearances at Halloween for decades.

9. Skittles

taste the rainbow

Skittles take the cake as the most popular Halloween candy in the United States, per the data. The candy first hit the market in 1979, and now more than 200 million Skittles are produced every day, according to Wrigley. People must really love to “taste the rainbow.”

10. Smarties

In the United States, they’re Smarties. In Canada, they’re Rockets. They’ll neither make you smarter nor a rocket. But they are vegan, gluten-free and allergen-free.

11. Sour Patch Kids

This candy might be sour, sweet and gone before Halloween is over. While they’re probably not so great for your teeth, they’re another vegan gummy snack that’s free from gelatin.

12. Swedish Fish

Swedish Fish first swam onto the scene in the 1950s when a Swedish company wanted to create a candy for the North American market. And the bright red fish quickly became a hit, especially among vegetarians and vegans.

13. SweeTarts

Introduced in the 1960s, SweeTarts have been a sweet-and-sour staple of Halloween ever since. Their original recipe mimicked Pixy Stix, but parents appreciated SweeTarts for creating much less mess.

14. Twizzlers

Good news, Team Twizzler! Red Vines aren’t the only vegan red rope candy. Tracing their roots all the way back to 1845, Twizzlers are the tried-and-true veterans of your Halloween candy collection.

15. Homemade vegan candy recipes

If your favorite candy didn’t make the vegan cut, don’t fret. There are many vegan recipes out there that mimic traditional candy.

Snickers fan? This vegan, gluten-free version from Loving It Vegan looks even better than the real deal. Or maybe peanut butter is more your thing. You only need four ingredients to make these vegan, gluten-free peanut butter cups from One Green Planet. And there’s no need to decide between the left and right Twix with this recipe from Vanillacrunnch. These faux-Twix bars are vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free.

So whatever sweets you’re craving this Halloween, there’s probably a scary good vegan version out there for you to sink your fangs into.

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