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Can we make it obvious? Can we make it clear? Can marshmallows be F-R-I-E-N-D-S with gluten-free eaters?
Turns out, the answer may be about as complicated as your last relationship.
Which brands of marshmallows are gluten-free?
If you love a s’more but really don’t get on with gluten, fear not! You’ve got gluten-free marshmallow options like:
- Dandies Vegan Marshmallows (all flavors)
- Marshmallow Fluff
- Peeps (some flavors)
Other brands of marshmallows may as well be gluten-free. Just give that label a thorough once-over to make sure the product contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.
Marshmallows are sugary little pillows of loveliness. But a research review showed that to qualify as gluten-free, they must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten.
Gluten is a protein that comes from wheat. Some similar grains (like rye, barley, and crossbred grains) also contain small amounts of gluten.
Gluten-free labeling is strictly regulated by the FDA (and rightly so). This means some companies avoid using the label even if their products are unlikely to contain gluten.
People living with celiac disease or a high sensitivity to gluten should choose brands that are confident enough to label themselves as certified gluten-free.
Dandies, Doumak, and some flavors of Peeps are gluten-free. The classic brand Marshmallow Fluff is also safe for people who react to gluten.
You can always check other brands, including store brands, to see if they too use the certified gluten-free label before you drop your cash on marshmallows.
Allergen information is often readily available on the food manufacturer’s website. There may also be an option to contact a representative from the company if you have a specific concern.
When reviewing a food product’s ingredients list, watch out for some unsuspecting items like:
- brewer’s yeast
- brown rice syrup (which sometimes uses barley enzymes)
- malt (including malt syrup, malt extract, malted barley flour)
- wheat and wheat starch (unless the manufacturer has specifically processed them to be gluten-free in line with FDA standards)
Gluten cross-contamination is also possible during food processing. (Gosh dang you, gluten, you’re frickin’ everywhere!) Utensils like flour sifters, cutting boards, and shared containers offer opportunities for gluten to sneak into otherwise safe products like an inflammatory ninja.
The Celiac Disease Foundation says that wheat flour can even stay airborne and accidentally cross-contaminate foods that are in a shared space. While these issues are more likely to happen at a small bakery versus a large food processing plant, you may want to seek out specifically gluten-free brands.
Can I eat marshmallows on a dairy-free diet?
For many major marshmallow brands, like Kraft, yes!
Manufacturers often just use water, sweeteners, and flavorings. This means that if you don’t eat dairy, you can pop most mainstream marshmallows in your mouth.
As with gluten, be sure to check the nutrition label. Not all brands are the same.
Kraft JET-PUFFED Marshmallows don’t say anything about being gluten-free, although they don’t specifically contain wheat.
Many marshmallow-y munchies, like Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate and Lucky Charms Cereal, claim to be gluten-free. However, peeps who are highly sensitive to gluten might still react to ingredients processed in the same facility as other gluten-containing products.
Foods have a low threshold to pass for gluten-free certification. As a general rule, oats, barley, and rye might contain trace amounts of gluten. That’s why many people with gluten sensitivity avoid them altogether.
For instance, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies are not gluten-free because they contain malt. Since malt comes from barley, trace amounts of gluten may be snapping, crackling, and popping through the product.
Docs classify folks who avoid gluten for health reasons as either having celiac disease or having a non-celiac wheat sensitivity. People without celiac disease won’t test positive for it but might experience many of the same symptoms, such as:
- brain fog
- bone or joint pain
- abdominal pain
- weight loss
Removing gluten from the diet usually resolves these symptoms when a gluten sensitivity or intolerance is behind them. Keeping a food journal and meeting with a dietitian can help you figure out if gluten is grinding your gears.
Do I need to avoid gluten?
If you don’t have a gluten intolerance, there’s no need to shy away from it for other “health benefits.”
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that gluten is a perfectly nutritious ingredient for most people. As the protein component of wheat, it helps form the texture of several foods.
If you don’t eat gluten, you’ve probably picked up a couple of tricks in the kitchen. That’s because many processed foods potentially have gluten contamination. It can be tough to rely on packaged items.
Making marshmallows is a fun, fluffy, flavorsome project (try saying that with a mouthful of ’em). And by doing it yourself, you manage the ingredient amounts and types.
For homemade gluten-free marshmallows, you’ll need:
- arrowroot or tapioca starch
- cane sugar or maple syrup
- gelatin powder (unflavored)
- kosher salt
You can add freeze-dried strawberries, vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, or cocoa powder to flavor your marshmallows.
Just remember to check the label on every ingredient you buy to make sure they’re certified gluten-free.
Choking hazard warning
Marshmallows are a choking hazard for small children.
Speak with your kid’s pediatrician for advice on whether it’s safe for your bébé to eat marshmallows safely.
Marshmallows are primarily made with simple sugar and water. Some brands add coloring and gelatin. Others rely on tapioca and carrageenan to achieve that fluffiness.
(Sorry that the answer doesn’t include clouds or unicorn hair — we don’t make the rules.)
Some varieties of marshmallows may have vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or even pumpkin flavoring. Just like when you’re making caramel, the trick to producing the perfect marshmallow involves reaching the correct temperature for the right amount of time.
Sugar burns fast, so there’s an art (and science) to boiling marshmallows just long enough before whipping it for the desired texture. Once your mixture is all set, you’ll need to let it sit for at least 4 hours before slicing it into cubes.
Most marshmallow brands are naturally gluten-free — but it’s crucial to check nutrition labels and make sure.
Manufacturers don’t always formulate different flavors or variations of an otherwise gluten-free brand like the original. For those with a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, it’s never safe to assume.
When in doubt, you can always keep the gluten away indefinitely by making marshmallows at home. Whip up a batch of fun flavors as a personal science experiment (and a fluffed-up sense of achievement).
Just be sure that any kiddos are old enough to eat them safely before you share.