Are Marshmallows Dairy Free?

For newly lactose intolerant folks, you may be wondering if marshmallows are dairy free.

In this blog post, we’ll dig into that question; plus, we’ll discuss all the fun ways to eat marshmallows because who doesn’t need some fun in their lives?

First things first – are marshmallows dairy free?

Yes! We are thrilled to report that marshmallows are dairy free by nature. The basic recipe for a marshmallow is just sugar, water, and gelatin. Most marshmallows are even gluten free, but this can vary from company to company. So there’s no need to worry about finding a swap to make marshmallows fit into your life. Eat those fluffy little guys with reckless abandon.

Marshmallow History

Marshmallows have been enjoyed for thousands of years – dating all the way back to the ancient Egyptians in 2000 BC. Of course, back then they weren’t quite the same. To start, Egyptians would squeeze the sap out of the mallow plant which grew wild in marshes. This is where the name marshmallow comes from – get it? Then, they’d mix the sap with honey and nuts. Believe it or not, this was considered a special delicacy that was served only to royalty and the gods.

Candy makers in France began introducing another version of the marshmallow in the 1800s. They used the same mallow sap and whipped it into a fluffy candy mold. In the early 1900s, the marshmallow came to the United States. By the 1950s, the marshmallow was all the rage. At this time, they figured out how to manufacture marshmallows much more efficiently, which allowed for their boom in popularity. The rest is (delicious) history.

Marshmallow Fun Facts:

  • Over 50 percent of all the marshmallows sold each summer are eaten by being roasted over a fire.
  • Ligonier, Noble County, Indiana is the marshmallow capital of the world. Marshmallow production is one of the major industries in the area, and they have had a marshmallow festival every year since 1992.
  • Although marshmallows came from Egypt and France, today Americans are the number one consumer of marshmallows.
  • More than 90 million pounds of marshmallows are sold every year in America.
  • Peak seasons for marshmallow sales are October and December.
  • Even alligators love marshmallows. Though it’s unclear who first gave an alligator a marshmallow, they are commonly used to distract or bait alligators nowadays. It’s common knowledge in places like Florida, but elsewhere it sounds like a myth. It was popularized by a character on HBO’s True Blood.

The Best Dairy Free Marshmallow Recipes

Now that we know that marshmallows are dairy free by nature, plus a bunch of other random marshmallow facts, let’s get to the good stuff – eating them! We’ll break down the many marshmallow recipe categories and provide our favorite recipes.

Rice Krispie Treats: Crispy, yet gooey sugary goodness. What more could you want? These bars usually consist of marshmallows, butter, and puffed rice cereal. To make them dairy free, just swap out the butter for dairy free butter, and you’re good to go! If you want to get wild, try out these deluxe chocolate marshmallow bars from Taste of Home. Just make sure your chocolate chips and butter are dairy free. Yum!

S’mores: The beauty of the s’more is that it has various textures – the marshmallow is gooey inside and crispy outside. It melts the Hershey’s chocolate. Then, you hold all that together with two pieces of graham cracker. Even though they’re messy, they are one of the most popular desserts out there for summer and fall. Whether you’re team golden brown marshmallow or team burn the heck out of your marshmallow, we can all agree that smores are a delicacy. If you want to spice up the traditional smore, try using a peanut butter cup in place of the chocolate – we recommend Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups for a dairy free option. Alternatively, try swapping out traditional graham crackers with chocolate or cinnamon graham crackers.

Brownies and Bars: If you haven’t heard of Mississippi Mud brownies, run, do not walk, to your grocery store and make this right now. They are basically brownies, with a layer of marshmallows, then a layer of frosting on top. You can find a great dairy free recipe for them here. Of course, there are many bar-style desserts that involve marshmallows. We recommend these s’mores bars – just sub out the chocolate and butter for dairy free versions, and you can have a whole pan of s’mores that will last you for a week instead of a single sitting!

Marshmallow Salads: These “salads” are the kind of dish you always see at a family gathering. Also known as Ambrosia salad, depending on where you’re located, these salads are classic. It’s usually made with marshmallows, coconut, pineapple tidbits, mandarain orange segments, and sour cream. To make it dairy free, swap the sour cream for a dairy free alternative. Some people add different fruit, like maraschino cherries to the mix – you can really do whatever you want here! There are no rules when it comes to marshmallows.

Candied Yams: Another traditional dish you most often see around the holidays at family gatherings. Like the name sounds, this dish is predominantly made of yams, brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows. Depending on your family, this dish is either an important staple… or totally weird and gross. If you’re on the hunt for a recipe, this one from All Recipes has over 800 reviews and keeps things simple. To make it dairy free, just swap the butter for a dairy free butter. We like Country Crock’s plant butter or Miyoko’s Creamery butter. If you’re wondering if you can just make it with real butter and deal with the consequences, check out our blog post on butter. We dig into just how much lactose is actually in butter, so you can make an educated decision.

Jello: A final dish to add to your family get togethers. Jello marshmallow salads are a vintage dish that was all the rage back in the day, and you still see it sometimes today. They are typically easy to make, fruity, and brightly flavored. They’re similar to ambrosia salads, except instead of sour cream, the binder is jello. For example, this recipe from Daily Dish Recipes calls for cherry jello, crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, whipped cream, and marshmallows. Just swap the whip cream for a dairy free alternative, and you can eat as much of this jello marshmallow salad as you fancy!

Cereal: This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of Lucky Charms. Marshmallows in cereal? Whoever came up with this idea was a genius. What better way could there be to get kids excited to eat breakfast? Of course, it’s not the healthiest breakfast but it is definitely the most exciting, even as an adult. Nowadays, you can even buy a 21 ounce bag of the marshmallows on their own – no more choking down the boring cereal and saving the marshmallows for last.

Final Thoughts

If you’re lactose intolerant or dairy free, put marshmallows on your list of foods you can eat. No swaps needed – just enjoy them as they come. You’ll want to be careful of premade marshmallow desserts, since they often have butter in them. However, if it’s straight up marshmallows, Peeps, or Smores (with a dairy free chocolate bar) – you’re likely eating a dairy free dessert. With so many different recipes to try, the options are endless! What’s your favorite way to eat marshmallows? Leave us a comment below with your recommendations!

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