I suspect that, for many of you reading this, baking for friends and loved ones is an enjoyable pastime. But as a regular giver of edible gifts, I was caught off-guard when I offered some crispy rice bars and a vegetarian friend kindly reminded me that the gelatin in marshmallows is animal-derived. Feeling a bit daft, I set the treats aside and made an immediate mental note to try my hand at a vegan version. And this is it! Now those s’mores and other marshmallow treats can be enjoyed by all with this vegan recipe.
Forget everything you know about the regular way to make marshmallows. For vegan marshmallows, each component must be considered anew. These luxurious marshmallows fall on the firmer side, so keep that in mind if you’re comparing those that come from the store.
Aquafaba and Agar-Agar: Key to Vegan Marshmallows
After many, many trial-and-error recipes, it seemed I’d hit a dead end. Nothing was quite right! Until I figured out a winning combo: aquafaba and agar-agar.
Egg whites and gelatin in standard marshmallows are what stabilizes the meringue. In our vegan recipe, we substitute with aquafaba as an egg white alternative and agar-agar as a stand-in for the animal-derived gelatin.
What Is Aquafaba?
Aquafaba, which translates to “bean water”, is just that! Bean water! The cooking liquid from chickpeas can be used as a replacement for egg whites in recipes to make the dish vegan.
I’ve tested both methods for aquafaba: using the liquid from homemade chickpeas (just make sure you’ve cooked them in plain water as opposed to a flavorful broth, unless you’re looking to make savory marshmallows), and by using the liquid from canned, store-bought chickpeas, and both will whip up into stiff whites, no problem. If you’re having trouble finding “chickpeas” in your grocery store, they might also be listed as garbanzo beans.
You can freeze leftover aquafaba. I measure mine out in ice cube trays, freeze, and then pop them into freezer storage containers for pre-measured projects.
Agar-Agar: A Vegan Gelatin
Agar agar is derived from algae, making it suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Agar-agar comes in powder, flakes, and bars. 1 teaspoon of agar-agar can be substituted for 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin granules with much the same effect when called for in a recipe. However, keep in mind that the strength of agar-agar is more powerful and whatever you are gelling will be firmer.
The powder also incorporates better into liquid compared to the other two. For this recipe I have only used the powdered form of agar-agar and would suggest you do too.
The Key to Cooking With Agar-Agar
Agar-agar doesn’t behave like gelatin—its presence in sugar syrup will disrupt chemical reactions necessary for creating a proper marshmallow texture after they’ve set. Only by adding the simmered agar-agar to the whipped aquafaba can you create a stable structure that will combine with the hot sugar syrup, and ultimately create a marshmallow base similar to store bought or animal-derived marshmallows.
It might seem like a hassle to dirty an extra pan, but believe me, it’s way less of a hassle than trying to clean congealed sugar syrup from your pan and mixing bowl.
Tips for Making Vegan Marshmallows
Stay calm, keep your eyes on the clock, and don’t leave your stove. Oh, and here are a few more tips and tricks for making vegan marshmallows.
- Have absolutely everything measured out and ready. Your sugar can reach 245°F rapidly or slowly depending on your stove, the weather, etc. (You don’t want to be stuck with a syrup ready to go, and the pan not dusted, or you’re missing the vanilla.)
- Your sugar syrup will bubble up as it cooks. To avoid a very sticky mess make sure your saucepan is large enough to accommodate those big bubbles.
- Do not bring the agar-agar to a rolling boil, as it will solidify it into a massive jelly. 3 minutes might not seem like a lot of time, but it’s enough to activate the agar-agar to make it set later, and it will still be in a state where it will pour easily into the whipped aquafaba.
- If you’re worried about an errant fruit fly getting into your marshmallow mixture while it’s setting up, keep it in someplace that is dry but closed, like a toaster oven, or the actual oven. Just make sure everyone in the house knows it’s there and doesn’t turn it on (I unplug our toaster oven so my husband doesn’t unknowingly turn it on to use it for toast early in the morning).
Amazing Marshmallow Variations
Marshmallows provide a blank canvas for flavors, and colors! Try a few of these combos after you’ve mastered the vanilla version.
- Peppermint: 2 teaspoons of pure peppermint extract, and optionally, a few drops of red food coloring added at the end of combining everything together, will give you a dessert made for holiday gifting.
- Coffee: 2 teaspoons of coffee extract. Extract, as opposed to brewed coffee, will give a more intense coffee flavor without adding too much liquid to the final product.
- Tie-dye: Swirl multiple colors into your marshmallows by adding a drop of food coloring, one at a time, and then mixing once around the bowl. Then move the bowl around the pan as you pour into your prepared tray to create a swirled color effect.
- You can even make mini marshmallows. Instead of an 8x8 pan, transfer the mixture to a lipped cookie sheet and spread evenly. Let set at least 4 hours and then, using a sharp knife, cut into small pieces. Roll into more powdered sugar mix and allow to continue to set up another hour before moving to an airtight container.
More Vegan Treats to Make
This recipe yields 25 large marshmallows or 50 medium marshmallows.
To make this a truly vegan marshmallow, don’t forget to check your sugar! Most commercial, non-organic sugars go through a filtration process that uses animal bone char. Any organic sugar does not use this process, but if you’re unsure, check the company’s website, as it will usually list whether it is vegan or not.
Avoid throwing leftover ingredients down the drain. As much as you can, get it in the garbage as the sticky syrup and the marshmallow mix can build up and cause clogs.
1/2 cup organic powdered sugar (see recipe note)
1/2 cup cornstarch (or arrowroot flour)
1/2 cup (120g) aquafaba, from 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1 1/4 cups (248g) organic granulated sugar (see recipe note)
3/4 cup (250g) light corn syrup
1 cup (240g) water, divided
2 teaspoons powdered agar-agar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract (yes, that’s 2 tablespoons)
Combine the powder sugar and cornstarch:
In a large bowl, using a whisk, gently combine powdered sugar and cornstarch.
Prep the pan:
Grease an 8x8-inch square baking pan with a small amount of oil and then lightly sift about half the powdered sugar and cornstarch mix all over the bottom and sides of the pan. Set aside. Reserve the remaining powdered sugar-cornstarch mix for dusting the cut marshmallows later on.
Whip the aquafaba:
Pour the aquafaba into the bowl of a stand mixer (or deep mixing bowl if using a hand mixer) fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin to whip the aquafaba on low until it looks foamy or frothy, about 20 seconds.
Then increase the speed to medium-high until stiff peaks are achieved, 10 to 12 minutes (it might take longer depending on temperature, age of aquafaba, and other factors in the kitchen). Once stiff peaks are reached (which means that your whipped aquafaba should stand straight up off the beater without flopping over), turn off the mixer.
Unlike egg whites, there’s no danger in overwhipping aquafaba, so don’t worry about leaving the mixer running too long.
Cook the syrup:
First measure out ingredients for syrup. In a medium saucepan add the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup of the water. Whisk together until it looks like wet sand.
Using a pastry brush dipped in water, gently sweep any sugar crystals back into the pan (this will help keep the syrup from crystalizing). Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, careful not to touch the bottom, and place over medium-high heat. Let the mixture come to a boil without stirring. You’ll want the syrup mixture to reach 285°F (soft crack), which may take around 10 minutes (this time can vary a lot—keep a close eye on the thermometer).
As soon as the syrup reaches 285°F, lower your heat as low as it will go and let the mixture sit on low until ready to use.
Cook the agar-agar mixture:
In a small saucepan, mix the agar-agar and the remaining 3/4 cup water. Turn the heat on medium-low until the mixture begins to simmer, whisking constantly. Cook until small bubbles form around the edges (watch the heat; if the agar-agar starts to boil, it will congeal).
Let it simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Remove it from the heat, whisking a final time.
Add the agar-agar into the whipped aquafaba:
Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the agar agar mixture into the whipped aquafaba until just combined, (a few small lumps are okay). You're doing this by hand so the agar mixture does not splash way up on the sides of the bowl the way it would if the mixer were running.
Add the hot syrup into the aquafaba and agar-agar mixture:
Return the bowl and the whip attachment to the mixer. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup (watch your hands!) into the bowl.
You may have to turn it on and off a few times if it expands too much. Once all the syrup is in the bowl, turn the mixer on high. It’s normal for the mixture to deflate at this point.
Mix on high until the bottom of the bowl is no longer hot to the touch and the mixture is glossy, about 10 minutes. Towards the end of the 10 minute mark, pour in the vanilla extract and continue to whip.
Two tablespoons of vanilla may seem like a lot, but it’s what gives these marshmallows their irresistible flavor.
Pour the marshmallows into the pan:
Pour the slightly cooled marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.
Allow the marshmallows to sit:
Allow the marshmallows to sit, uncovered, for 4 to 6 hours, depending on how thick your mixture is, and how dry the environment is. You can test for doneness by nudging the area between the pan and the marshmallow with a spatula or butter knife. If it moves without sticking to the pan, it’s dry.
Cut the marshmallows:
Sprinkle the top of the marshmallows with the reserved powdered sugar and cornstarch mix (if yours has clumped together, gently stir with a whisk to re-mix). Sift more of the powdered sugar-cornstarch mixture onto a cutting board, then turn the marshmallow from the pan onto the board. Cut to the desired size with a sharp knife, then toss the marshmallows in a bowl with more of the powdered sugar mix.
Serve and store:
Transfer to an airtight container and keep at room temperature up to 1 week.
Enjoyed the marshmallows as a sweet snack, use to top your hot chocolate, or make s'mores.
Did you love the recipe? Leave us some stars below!
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 47g||17%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 42g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|