Every year growing up, I would run around my neighborhood with a plastic pumpkin-shaped basket and haul as much candy back home as humanly possible. (You probably did, too.) From Kit Kats to Sour Patch Kids, there wasn't a single type of candy I said no to—unless the "candy" someone was giving out was actually the much-dreaded apple slices or carrot sticks. Pure evil.
Nowadays, though, I'm much more thoughtful about where my food comes from, and I've realized lately that the majority of the candy that I eat contains a whole host of ingredients I hadn't really considered before, like artificial food dyes and animal-based proteins. If you follow a vegan diet, for instance, there are actually a number of Halloween candies containing ingredients that you'll likely want to avoid.
Non-Vegan Ingredients to Watch Out For
- Dairy: This includes milk, butter, ghee, cream, sour cream, all types of animal-based cheeses, yogurt, whey, casein, and all types of caseinate. For more sneaky ways dairy could show up on a label, check out this list.
- Eggs: It's easy enough to spot eggs, egg yolks, or egg whites on a label, but also keep an eye out for different types of egg proteins like albumin and lysozyme. Here's a handy list of all the different ways eggs might appear in the ingredients.
- Honey & Beeswax: Because honey is an animal-derived product, some do not consider it vegan-friendly. Same goes for beeswax. So those are two ingredients you may want to keep an eye out for when buying candy.
- Gelatin: There's no grey area here—gelatin isn't vegan. It's a type of protein made from tendons, ligaments, and bones (usually from pigs and cows) that's often used to thicken and solidify food products like jellos, yogurts, and gummy candies.
- Carmine Color: Made from powdered insect bodies (seriously), carmine color is bright red and also goes by the names K-carmine, cochineal extract, and Red 4.
- Confectioner's Glaze: Also known as shellac, confectioner's glaze is sometimes used to give candies a glossy coating, but it's also made from the "resinous excretions of certain insects," according to PETA.
- Natural & Artificial Food Colors: There are many natural and artificial food colors that don't technically contain animal products (and despite what the name suggests, there are many natural food colors that actually do). But—natural or artificial—most food colors have been tested on animals, and there are some vegans that don't consider products with these ingredients cruelty-free. It all comes down to a personal choice, and if you'd prefer to avoid food colors altogether, you may want to skip store-bought candy and go the homemade route.
Still, there are a good number of sweet treats that vegans can feel great about serving to the kids in their neighborhood (and nibbling on themselves).
Here are the best vegan-friendly Halloween candies, from classics that just so happen to be vegan to new brands that make it their mission to be cruelty-free.
As a quick note: It's important to remember that since brands occasionally change their ingredients over time, and ingredients can also vary depending on the manufacturing location of these products, you should always double-check the label before buying.
The original-flavor Skittles are vegan, so you can "taste the rainbow" without having to worry.
These classic gumdrop candies get their chewiness from modified food starch instead of gelatin, so they're considered free of animal byproducts.
It says it right on their website: "Smarties ingredients contain no animal products, making them a tasty and cruelty-free choice for anyone looking for delicious vegan candy."
Cracker Jacks make a delicious crunchy-sweet treat, and the small ingredients list is totally vegan-approved.
Oreos are one of those absurdly delicious treats that just so happen to be free of animal products and byproducts. (Yep, even the creme filling!)
A big pack of individually wrapped Jolly Ranchers is sure to go quickly on Halloween.
Hurray! Everyone's favorite twisty rope candy also gets the vegan seal of approval.
My favorite thing about getting Airheads in my Halloween bag was shaking them until they condensed to about half their size.
9. Pixy Stix
This sweet and tangy powder is a Halloween staple you can easily hand out throughout the night, thanks to the individual packaging.
These multi-flavored lollipops are perfect for Halloween, but they also make a kid-friendly addition to parties all year long.
You're pretty much guaranteed to be one of the coolest houses on the block if you hand out these packs of six foot long bubble gum tape.
These chocolate–coconut butter cups are almost like Reese's—except paleo and vegan-friendly.
Consider these chocolatey-crisp Snap! candy bars an equally sweet, vegan, and gluten-free alternative to Crunch bars.
Annie's is a major player in the packaged wholesome food space, and these vegan, gluten-free bunny fruit snacks (that also make a nice Halloween sweet) prove why.
These sea salt–sprinkled coconut-milk caramels are vegan and free of everything you may not want in your food: dairy, gluten, GMOs, and high-fructose corn syrup.