Vegans like candy just as much as the next person. It’s just that, unfortunately, many popular varieties are not vegan-friendly (curse you, milk chocolate!).
The good news: Skittles are vegan. Skittles do not contain animal-derived ingredients.
As a reminder, a vegan diet excludes any animal-derived products, such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and lesser-known ingredients like gelatin, carmine, and egg whites.
Here’s a look at exactly what Skittles are made of.
The ingredients in Skittles are what determines whether they’re vegan or not. As of 2021, the ingredients in original flavor Skittles are as follows:
- Sugar. Skittles are made of the conventional white sugar you’ll find in most candies. It comes from sugar cane stalks and is refined into smaller, whiter granules.
- Corn syrup. Also known as glucose syrup, it’s made from corn starch and is used for many things in Skittles. It softens, adds volume, improves taste, and prevents sugar crystallization.
- Hydrogenated palm kernel oil. This plant oil comes from the kernel of the oil palm plant Elaeis guineensis. In candy, it’s used to enhance flavor and texture.
- Citric acid. Citric acid is naturally found in citrus fruits, but for candy like Skittles, you’ll find the manufactured version. It’s used to increase acidity, improve flavor, and preserve ingredients.
- Tapioca dextrin. Derived from the yucca plant or cassava root, this starch extract is used as an adhesive candy coating and helps preserve flavor and color.
- Modified corn starch. This emulsifier and gelling agent is made from corn and is a big reason that Skittles are as gummy as they are.
- Natural and artificial flavors. Companies usually don’t disclose the details of these flavors, but considering what Skittles are, a good guess is that they are flavors from natural fruit sources or are artificially made to mimic fruit flavors.
- Colors. Ever wondered how Skittles are so bright? Skittles use Red 40 Lake, Red 40, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake, and titanium dioxide. These artificial colors are derived from raw materials obtained by petroleum.
- Sodium citrate. This is the sodium salt of citric acid. It’s used as a preservative and provides a tart flavor.
- Carnauba wax. This comes from the wax of the leaves of the palm plant Copernicia prunifera. It helps keep the outer coating shiny and prevents the candies from melting.
For the most part, other Skittles flavors, like Sour, Tropical, and Wild Berry, are made up of the same ingredients. The main differences are usually the natural and artificial flavorings and the colors, which might differ slightly.
A skittles PSA
It’s entirely possible that Skittles might someday come out with a special limited-edition flavor that uses animal-derived ingredients that aren’t found in their original flavors. If you want to eat one of these and you’re vegan, make sure to read the ingredients list carefully.
Skittles haven’t always been vegan. Until about 2010, Skittles were made with gelatin, which is derived from animal collagen, the protein found in connective tissues.
Gelatin is what gave the candies a chewy, gel-like texture. Because it’s found in animals, gelatin is not vegan. It has since been removed from the candies.
And up until 2015 in the United Kingdom, Skittles contained carmine, also called E120 or cochineal, which is a red coloring derived from the Dactylopius coccus beetle.
Even though Skittles are vegan-friendly, some may be concerned about a couple of ingredients. First up, refined cane sugar. This type of white sugar may be processed with animal bone char to remove impurities and give the sugar its white coloring.
Second, palm oil. Although palm oil isn’t derived from animals, cultivating palm oil has a significant impact on the environment and animal life.
A vegan diet is free of any animal-derived product. Vegans typically eat whole plant foods, but also vegan-friendly processed and packaged foods.
Skittles are vegan because they do not contain any animal-derived products. Original, Sour, Wild Berry, and Tropical Skittles are all vegan, but it’s possible that a new, limited-edition flavor could come out that isn’t.
Some vegans might take issue with two ingredients in Skittles: cane sugar, which might have been processed with bone char, and palm oil, which can have a negative impact on animals and the environment.