Have you ever gone to pick up a particularly yummy-looking packet of candy, only to find out that they are not vegan friendly? At first glance, you may assume that the candy contains dairy.
When you find out that the candy is completely dairy-free, the confusion grows. Then, you read the all-too-familiar ingredient that prevents you from enjoying your old favorite desserts every time: gelatin.
What is gelatin? And, why is this popular ingredient not vegan friendly? Well, look no further; in this article, we will find out what gelatin is, what it is made from, and why it is not deemed acceptable for vegans to consume it. So, let’s get started.
What Is Gelatin?
Gelatin is best understood as the material that gives jelly its wobbling but firm consistency; it is the component that gives jelly and other gummy foods and candies their property.
Although it is not solely utilized for cooking, it is primarily recognized for producing jiggly delicacies, like Jell-O. This product is colorless, flavorless, and completely translucent until combined with flavor and color additives.
It is a fantastic resource of amino acids, which help maintain a positive outlook, as well as supporting bone health, advancing supple skin, and supporting appropriate muscle development.
Both the food and non-food industries use gelatin in a variety of processes. When gelatin is dissolved in heated water, it produces a sol, a liquid mixture, and when it starts to cool, it becomes a hydrocolloid, a water-based substance.
What Is Gelatin Made Of?
As you already are aware, gelatin is not a vegan product. This is because it is derived from the bones, ligaments, and tendons of animals. These body parts are boiled until the gelatin can be extracted, and then used.
Since gelatin is a byproduct of the meat industry, it cannot be considered vegan. It is taken from the dead bodies of animals, typically pigs.
Gelatin is often taken from the raw collagen found in pigskin… so, strangely, gelatin could be considered a form of pork, when taken from a pig. Many people have been unaware that gelatin is a meat product for many years.
Upon finding out, many individuals find it disgusting that the gummy bears they’ve been happily consuming for years are actually made from the slimy parts found on animal bones and tendons.
What Foods Contain Gelatin?
When most people think about gelatin, they think of jelly. Gelatin is the main ingredient in jelly, which is why the product has such a firm yet jiggly appearance and consistency.
Jelly sweets, such as gummy bears, also contain gelatin, which is why they are not considered vegan friendly. However, there are many other foods that contain gelatin; some of which you may be surprised at.
Here is a short list of some foods and drinks that often contain the product:
- Fruit juice
- Canned ham
So, for all those who get confused when they find out that their favorite bottle of wine is not vegan friendly, this is why. It likely contains gelatin, and that’s why it is not vegan!
Some of these products come in tins and cans, and you may have noticed that, when opening a tin of soup, it sometimes appears jelly-like and congealed. Yep… that consistency is caused by gelatin, which preserves the texture of the food.
Not all beers, wines, or anything else in that list, contain gelatin, but you may want to check the ingredients on each product the next time you purchase them.
It is surprising how many foods contain gelatin, especially if they are not visibly jiggly and wobbly to look at.
Vegan Gelatin Alternatives
We all know that there are vegan alternatives for gummy candies, marshmallows, and… well, just about everything in the world (see more about where to buy vegan marshmallows here). Therefore, it is clear that there are vegan gelatin alternatives, right?
That is correct. There are specific products that can be used in the place of gelatin to recreate that jelly-like consistency, and they are completely vegan friendly.
The most popular gelatin substitute for vegans is agar, or agar-agar, which is a white powder which is taken from a type of seaweed. It is completely natural, and does not contain any byproducts of the meat industry.
It acts very similarly to gelatin, creating that firm, wobbly texture that is needed for jelly, gummy sweets, and other desserts. Of course, unfortunately, agar-agar is nowhere near as effective as gelatin.
If you were to try a normal marshmallow, and a vegan marshmallow, you would likely be able to tell the difference between the two right away. However, as a vegan, certain sacrifices must be made, and this is one of them.
This is not to say that desserts made using agar-agar are not equally delicious; after all, as we stated before, gelatin is completely flavorless until mixed with additives. It is the texture that gives it away, as it is not quite as jelly-like as gelatin.
There are other kinds of vegan alternatives for gelatin, such as pectin and vegetable gums, but agar-agar is the most popular product used in vegan desserts and sweet treats when trying to recreate the texture of gelatin.
So, there we have it; gelatin is, in fact, a byproduct of the meat industry, being taken from boiled bones, tendons, and ligaments of animals.
Fortunately, there are plenty of vegan alternatives to gelatin, which will allow you to enjoy your favorite childhood treats, such as marshmallows and gummy bears.
However, you will need to keep an eye on the ingredients list of each of your favorite jelly candies to avoid consuming anything that isn’t vegan. We hope you found this article helpful.