Marshmallows tend to conjure up images of you and your family sitting around the campfire singing “Kumbaya,” don’t they? Just innocent, clean, animal cruelty-free fun — eating s’mores and belly-laughing never hurt anyone, right?
Well, not so fast. Technically, marshmallows aren’t vegetarian. They contain gelatin, which is an animal protein. So any green, outdoorsy types who consider themselves animal rights advocates but enjoy s’mores might want to think again.
On the other hand, marshmallows definitely fall into the grey area for many vegetarians —some diets eliminate all animal-based products, while others will allow dairy products and even eggs, so it’s ultimately up to the individual.
Generally though, marshmallows fall into the non-vegetarian category. Gelatin is made up of the ligaments, tendons, and skin of animals, predominantly pigs and cows, which are boiled to extract a protein called collagen. (Contrary to the urban legend, however, the mixture does not include horse hooves.) The resulting gelatinous substance is used to make yogurt, ice-cream, shampoos, facemasks, and gummy candies.
Still singing “Kumbaya”?
There is a silver lining that won’t crush your childhood dreams: There are vegetarian marshmallows available — just be sure to double-check the ingredients list. If you’re feeling adventurous, the other option is for you to make your own, using agar, which is often marketed as “gelatin” but it is vegan and made out of seaweed.