Vegan Gelatin

Last Updated: February 2, 2023

Gelatin is a common ingredient in many foods, and many recipBelow we cover everything you need to know about gelatin, whetes call for it. So, if you’re vegan, you might wonder if gelatin is okay to consume. You may have heard that gelatin is animal-based, and if that’s the case, you might want to know if vegan gelatin exists. 

Below we cover everything you need to know about gelatin, whether or not it’s vegan, and what you can use in its place. 

Is Gelatin Vegan?

No, gelatin isn’t vegan. 


Traditionally, gelatin came from boiling the bones of large animals, like cows or pigs. Boiling extracted a rubbery substance called collagen that cooks used to create many common treat recipes. Things like marshmallows, cream pies, aspics, and, of course, Jell-O all rely on gelatin for their trademark jiggle and unique texture.  


Other less obvious items also rely on gelatin for thickness. For example, low-fat dairy products like yogurt, cottage cheese, and some ice creams use gelatin to obtain a fuller mouthfeel.  


Few home cooks or chefs are boiling animal bones to make gelatin today. Instead, manufacturers derive gelatin from by-products of the beef, pork, and leather industries. They use various curing procedures to derive gelatin from animal skins, bones, and tendons. 


Nothing about the process is vegan, which means that those following a vegan diet shouldn’t eat anything with Jell-O, marshmallows, or other gelatine-based substances. 

Is it Possible to Make Vegan Gelatin?

Unfortunately, you can’t extract collagen from an animal without killing them, so it’s not possible to make vegan gelatin. 


That said, several popular treats use vegan substitutes for gelatins. Mentos, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, and Twizzlers all have a gummy texture, but luckily, none of them rely on gelatin. Instead, they use other thickening ingredients that produce a gelatinous mouthfeel. 

Vegan Alternatives to Gelatin

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Many candy brands produce gummies without gelatin, so there have to be vegan gelatin alternatives available. 


In fact, there are three popular vegan alternatives to gelatin: Agar Agar, Carrageenan, and Vegan Jels. They are all relatively easy to find, and with a little know-how, you can easily substitute them in any gelatin-based recipe. 

Agar Agar

Agar agar is also known as Kanten, China Glass, or simply Agar. It’s a semi-translucent, white substance that comes from seaweed, specifically red algae, and it has a long history of use


Agar agar is the gelatinous substance that creates the traditional Japanese dessert, anmitsu. You’ll also find it in some fabrics where it acts as a filler. Beer brewers sometimes use it to clarify hazy products and scientists use it as a medium for growing microorganisms. 


On its own, agar is virtually tasteless and colorless, much like gelatin. Unlike gelatin, though, it’s completely vegan. It’s also much more stable with a higher melting point and firmer texture. That means it doesn’t need refrigeration to set the way gelatin-based products do. And agar agar desserts can sit out on a warm day without weeping. 


That said, agar doesn’t produce a very creamy product. So, while it works well in gummy desserts, it might not be the best substitute for gelatin in something like a cream pie. It also has a hard time setting acidic liquids. So if you’re creating a recipe that relies on something like lemon juice, you might need more Agar Agar than you initially thought. 


To use agar, you first need to dissolve it in the liquid for your recipe. Then, bring the liquid to a boil to set the agar. Turn the heat down on the liquid once it boils and allow it to simmer for about ten minutes or until the liquid begins to thicken. 


If you purchase the powder form of agar, you can use it as a 1:1 substitute for gelatin in most recipes. Powdered agar is readily available and comes in different colors and flavors, just like gelatin, making it easy to use as a vegan replacement. 


Carrageenan is also known as Irish moss and comes from a red seaweed native to the British Isles. There, people have been using carrageenan as a thickener and stabilizer for centuries. 


Like gelatin and agar, carrageenan is virtually tasteless and colorless. As a result, you’ll find it in all sorts of food products, from soy milk to vegan ice cream to certain deli meats! You may also find it in certain cosmetics and pharmaceutical coatings. 


Carrageenan gels foods just like agar agar, but the texture it produces is a little creamier. So, it does well in dairy or dairy-mimicking products like nut milks and yogurts. If you want to make a vegan cream pie or homemade vegan ice cream, carrageenan might be the best option. 


If you want to use carrageenan, start by seeking out the right type. Powdered kappa-carrageenan is best for most homemade culinary creations. 


To use it, disperse the powder in a cool liquid, either water or milk. You can either vigorously blend with a whisk or let a high-powered blender do the work of dispersion. Then, you’ll need to heat the liquid until the powder dissolves. Carrageenan dissolves at anything over 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so you shouldn’t need to boil it, but the liquid will need to be hot. 


Note that kappa-carrageenan doesn’t dissolve well in the presence of sugar, so make sure you dissolve it in either water or milk before adding any sugar to the recipe. One ounce of dried carrageenan will set one cup of liquid. 

The Carrageenan Controversy

Carrageenan is a great vegan substitute for gelatin, and you’ll find it in all sorts of vegan products. However, there are some health concerns about ingesting carrageenan. 


Some studies have shown that carrageenan is linked to gastrointestinal issues, including bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, and even some cancers. 


However, other research has shown that the evidence linking carrageenan to health issues is flawed. They say that the amount of carrageenan used in studies that show it to be harmful is beyond what anyone would actually consume. And they note that many of the studies looked at degraded carrageenan, which isn’t the same as food-grade carrageenan. 


Whether or not carrageenan is responsible for health issues remains controversial. If you suspect it may be causing you problems, the best thing you can do is remove it from your diet for a few weeks. If the issues you’re experiencing cease, maybe carrageenan isn’t the best vegan gelatin substitute for you.  

Vegan Jels

Veganism is a growing trend. So much so that the plant-based food sales grew three times faster than overall food sales in 2021. It’s no surprise then that many companies create products that cater to a vegan lifestyle, including vegan “gelatins” or vegan jels. 


Vegan gels are the easiest way to make a recipe that relies on gelatin vegan-friendly. Usually, you can use them the same way you would gelatin. They come in a variety of colors and flavors. And they’re readily available online or in health-focused grocery stores


Vegan jels match the texture of real gelatin very closely, and there are a number of brands to choose from. Bakol, Simply Delish, and Lieber’s all make vegan gels that are simple to use and easy to obtain. 


From frosted pop-tarts to Peeps candies, there are a surprising number of foods that rely on gelatin. Unfortunately, gelatin is far from vegan as it comes from animal collagen


However, vegans don’t have to give up delightful jelly-based treats and eats. There are all sorts of vegan gelatin substitutes they can rely on instead, like agar agar, vegan jels, and carrageenan.


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