We taste tested five different kinds of vegan gummy candy to find our favorites. Here are our gelatin-free candy picks!
Y'all, I love gummy candy. It's one of those sweet treats that I try not to keep around, because I will demolish some vegan gummies. What a delight it was to try so many at once to find our faves!
This week, Larisha and Andrew from Make it Dairy Free joined us to eat some vegan gummies and chat. It was a good time! Let's get into it.
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Why isn't all gummy candy vegan?
Unfortunately, a lot of companies use gelatin as the base for their gummies. Gelatin is a by-product of the meat industry. It's made from animal bones and ligaments.
Popular brands of gummies, like Haribo Gummy Bears and Black Forest Gummy Bears are gelatin-based. So are things like Nerds Rope and Nerds Clusters, which is why we didn't include those two in our vegan Nerds episode.
Gummy candy without gelatin
The good news is that it's not hard to make gummies without gelatin. Pectin and starches (like potato starch) are both common alternatives. There are also brands that use tapioca as the base.
We even sampled one brand that uses a mix of fiber and rice flour to achieve a gummy consistency that was shockingly spot-on.
The list below is not a complete collection of all the vegan gummies you can buy. Instead, we wanted to choose an array of options that are easy to find at regular grocery stores. In fact, we shopped for everything in this episode, except for the 365 Gummies, at Target.
The 365 Gummies are the Whole Foods store brand, and they are very affordable. I wanted to include these because Dave loves them!
365 Vegan Gummy Bears or Stars
Actually, I should say that Dave used to love these gummies, but after this taste test, he has reversed his decision.
We all agreed that the flavor on these were pretty good, but the texture was very unpleasant. They just absolutely coat your teeth when you eat them, like melted gum. It's truly awful.
They use a combination of tapioca and cornstarch in place of gelatin. It almost has the texture of a fruit snack, like the kind you might put in a kid's lunch box.
We also agreed that gummy candy should have a bit of a snap. When you bite in, you should get some resistance. Haribo Gummy Bears -- which are not vegan -- were what we agreed are the epitome of that texture. That's what we were chasing, texture-wise.
Biting into these, though, your teeth just sort of...sink in. I find it very unpleasant, and they don't even tempt me when they're in the house.
Sour Patch Kids
These vegan sour candies have been one of my faves since I was a teen, and they're still top tier as far as I'm concerned. We all agreed that these are a gold standard candy and our favorite of the bunch.
The texture is fantastic, and they hit a perfect balance of sweet-to-sour. No bag of Sour Patch Kids is safe when I am around!
These get their gummy texture from cornstarch instead of gelatin.
Jelly Belly Gummies
Jelly Belly recently released a gummy candy that says "vegan" right on the front of the package and is very easy to find!
These tapioca syrup and cornstarch-based gummies come in a variety pack of lemon, berry blue, berry cherry, orange, and green apple.
Y'all, these were a huge letdown. The texture was firmer than the 365 gummies, but they still stuck in your teeth way too much.
What really disappointed us, though, was the flavor. Jelly Belly Jellybeans aren't vegan, and we were all looking forward to experiencing some of those flavors from our childhoods again.
These gummies were just...bland! Some colors had a mild flavor, but some, like the green apple, tasted like nothing. What an strange, disappointing experience.
YumEarth Organic Gummy Fruits
Honestly, I was shocked at how much I liked these! I normally don't like banana-flavored candies, but I even liked the banana gummies in this mix.
I thought that the texture, which comes from pectin, was spot on and the flavors were great.
These are dangerous to have around and a top pick for me.
Dave, Larisha, and Andrew also liked the texture of these a lot! For them, the flavor experience was mixed. They weren't as into the banana as I was, but overall we agreed that these were top three materials.
Project 7 Gummy Bears
These pectin-based gummies are available pretty widely now and are lower in sugar than conventional gummies. They are stevia-sweetened, and that flavor does come through in the candy a bit.
Andrew and Larisha couldn't find the gummy bears, so they grabbed Project 7 Sour Worms instead, and they really liked them. I got the impression that the sour flavor on these was really good and masked the taste of the stevia.
These gummies had a great texture, and I think the sour worms are the way to go, if you don't like the taste of stevia.
These are lower in sugar than conventional gummies, which I think it why we all felt like these tasted "healthy," if that makes sense.
Dave likened it to beet juice, though I don't think they tasted like beets. Just like naturally sweetened and flavored candy, versus a super sugary conventional gummy candy.
Not all varieties of Smart Sweets are vegan, but they label the vegan ones with a little Plant Based badge on the front and back of the package. The non-vegan ones contain gelatin.
The vegan Smart Sweets use a combination of different fibers along with rice flour for their texture. They're also low sugar, sweetened with monk fruit.
We tried three varieties of these: Peach Rings, Sweet Fish, and Sour Buddies. Of the three, we liked the Sour Buddies the best and would eat those again.
The Peach Rings and Sweet Fish were total flops for us, mostly due to the flavor. The Sweet Fish just didn't hit that Swedish Fish spot for us. Andrew described their flavor as "flavored water that you can chew on," and that felt accurate, and their flavor was oddly sticky.
The flavor of the Peach Rings was too perfumey. This one was unanimously our least favorite of the eight gummies we tried.
That said, after recording, we let our kids try some of these, and the Peach Rings were a hit with our kid and their girls.
The best vegan gummy candy
So, which of these was the favorite? The Sour Patch Kids were the clear frontrunner, with the YumEarth Organic Gummies as a close second. We all liked the Project 7 gummies pretty well, too.
For all of us, those were our top three.
If sour candy is your thing, I'd go with Sour Patch Kids. They're a classic, and they just nail it in both the taste and texture departments.
For a sweet gummy, the YumEarth brand is a great choice! It's got that snap you associate with a classic gummy bear, and the flavors are fantastic.
Where to listen
Thank you so much for listening (or reading!). We record these episodes for you, and we'd love to hear from you.
Got a favorite vegan treat that you think we should cover on the podcast? Send your suggestions to [email protected]!
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