Halloween candy can strike joy, excitement or dread into the hearts of parents — depending on whether they love a sugar binge, are feeling nostalgic or are worried about a lack of self-control when faced with a child's pile of loot at midnight!
Vegan parents, though, have a whole other road to navigate when their child comes home with a sackful of treats: What can they or their little ones actually eat? What ingredients are off-limits, and what do they even mean? The same dilemma for any vegan, with or without kids, wanting to hand out candy that matches their ethics but reels at the multitude of choices in the supermarket candy aisle.
Ingredient cheat sheet
As far as ingredients go, vegans will want to keep a lookout for and avoid the following (though this list is not exhaustive): carmine color (from crushed cochineal insects), gelatin (sourced from the skin, connective tissue or bones of pigs or cows and found in most candy corn), beeswax, confectioner's glaze (sourced from bug secretions), milk, milk powder, milk fat, hydrolyzed milk protein, eggs, egg whites, lecithin (unless it specifies "soy"), lactose (sourced from dairy) and whey (sourced from dairy).
(White granulated sugar itself, it should be noted, is often not vegan, as the refining process can involve the use of bone char. If you are this strict, more power to you! But you will want to skip down to the "purposely vegan" section now.)
So, to help you plan a mode of attack, both at the store and in the wee hours back at home, Yahoo Life presents a guide to some (and by no means all) of the best options — whether accidentally vegan or fully on purpose.
Easily found, accidentally-vegan options
Airheads (Bars and Xtremes only) — This chewy, fruity, ’80s taffy classic is basically colored sugar and corn syrup. Perfect. (Just stay away from Bites, which contain beeswax and bug-sourced shellac, and Soft-Filled Bites, which contain gelatin.)
Charms Blow Pops — The beloved bubblegum-filled lollipops might be the perfect suckers.
Cracker Jacks —The old-school caramel-coated popcorn has molasses, not butter, to thank for its richness.
Dots — The primary-colored gumdrops get their chewiness from corn syrup, not gelatin!
Kathy Kaye Halloween Popcorn Balls — This cool candy alternative, available at Walmart, Walgreens and Amazon, are crunchy, salty-sweet treats made of popcorn, sugar, corn syrup and salt.
Now and Later — Sure, these fruity candy chews might break your teeth, but not your vegan diet!
Oreo Mini — Yes, Oreos are vegan. Which makes the snack packs, sold in boxes of 12 or 20, a delightful Halloween option.
Skittles — The little chewy rainbow-hued buttons are indeed plant-based.
Sour Patch Kids — Widely available and super sour thanks to fruit-sourced tartaric and citric acids, these little treats are soft thanks to invert sugar (syrup) and corn sugar, not gelatin.
Swedish Fish — You'll find no gelatin in the squishy fellas, just lots of sugar, oil and carnauba wax, which comes from the Brazilian carnauba palm.
Sweetarts — Go ahead and pop these babies that make you pucker.
Twizzlers — The original strawberry twists, plus so many more flavors, are vegan.
Utz Halloween pretzels — These fun little snack packs are easy to find at Target, Amazon, Walmart and more, with bat and pumpkin shapes that are mainly flour and vegetable oil.
Annie's Organic Fruit Snacks — These bunny-shaped gummies, made from real fruit, are widely available at Target, Amazon, Fresh Direct and more.
Wholesome Organic Delish Fish — An organic version of the squishy, fishy favorite, this one made with fair-trade and certified vegan sugar, available at Amazon.
YumEarth Halloween Candies — Allergy-friendly, vegan and organic, this combo pack of fruit chews, pops and gummies are available at Walgreens! All YumEarth candies are made with organic vegan sugar.
Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops — Available at Walmart and your favorite health-food store, these organic suckers are certified vegan, made without corn syrup, artificial dyes or flavors.
But what about chocolate?
Since the U.K. — not to mention Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, oddly enough — have beaten the U.S. in getting Nestle's new plant-based KitKat V, and since Hershey's miniatures (yep, all of them) and even Tootsie Rolls are just the start of what's off-limits for vegans, what's a chocoholic trick-or-treater to do? Behold this handful of answers, some more expensive and harder to find than others, but all completely satisfying.
Enjoy Life chocolate minis — Available in rice-milk chocolate, dark chocolate, rice-milk crunch, variety and special Halloween packs, this vegan and allergy-friendly brand turns it out when it comes to alternative miniatures. Available mostly at health-food stores, Whole Foods and online.
Free2b Bag o' Treats — Vegan and allergy-friendly mini sunflower-butter cups, found online or in the New York-New Jersey area.
Goldenberg's Peanut Chews (Original Dark) — This writer's all-time favorite Halloween candy option is a sleeper hit — not to mention a classic, founded in 1917, with the perfect blend of dark chocolate, caramel and peanuts, and the extra-special kick of molasses. Available at random supermarkets, old-fashioned candy stores and Amazon.
Justin's Mini Dark Peanut Butter Cups — The Reese's alternative is vegan and richly delicious — and available at Target and Whole Foods as well as your favorite health-food store.
Little Secrets Mini Crispy Wafers Dark Chocolate — The plant-based Twix! Comes in pricey but mouthwatering $24 12-packs, available at Whole Foods.
Unreal Dark Chocolate Peanut Gems — Pricey at $25 for a 12-pack and available at Whole Foods, these are the M&Ms-alternative of your vegan dreams.
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