Jell-O and gummy bears might be the first foods that come to mind when you think of gelatin but this ingredient can be found directly in many other foods, and indirectly through food processing practices used in wine, beer and juice production.
Whether you are avoiding all animal forms of gelatin or just those from pork for ethical, religious or other reasons, knowing common, as well as uncommon sources, can be a little tricky.
Currently US labeling laws do not require manufacturers to cite the source of the gelatin, be it from bovine (cows) or porcine (pork).
Here are Ten Common Sources of Gelatin:
- Gelatin desserts like Jell-O
- Fruit Snacks and gummy candies
- Circus Peanuts
- Candy Corn
- Frosted Mini Wheats
- Meats–aspics, head cheese, glazed or canned hams
- Gravies, sauces
- Medications and supplements
- Beer, wine, juices
- What is Gelatin and Why Do Food Manufacturers Use it?
- Alternatives To Animal Sourced Gelatin
- Sweets and Gelatin and Alternative Options
- 1. Jell-O and Gelatin Dessert Alternatives
- 2. Marshmallow Alternatives
- 3. Circus Peanuts Alternatives
- 4. Candy Corn Alternatives
- 5. Fruit Snacks and Gummy Candy Alternatives
- 6. Sweetened Cereal Alternatives
- 7. Meats and Sources of Gelatin
- 8. Gravies and Sauces
- 9. Medications and Supplements
- 10. Beer, Wine and Juice Considerations
- Other Potential Sources of Hidden Gelatin
- We Thought You Would Like
- Important Note
What is Gelatin and Why Do Food Manufacturers Use it?
Gelatin is a tasteless, odorless food additive derived from collagen through the process of boiling of animal tissues, often from cows, pigs or fish.
Collagen supplements are the powdered version of gelatin.
Food manufacturers add gelatin to foods to provide texture, structure, mouth-feel or as a thickener in products like gelatin mixes, frozen desserts, dairy products like yogurts as well as candies.
There are vegetarian sources of gelatin like substances which are derived from seaweed. Look for ingredients such as agar, agar-agar and carrageenan.
Food Labeling Regulations
The Food and Drug Administration, as well as the European Union and Canadian governments, all mandate that nearly all foods must list all ingredients contained within a manufactured food product.
The exceptions to this include raw fruits and vegetables.
The challenge for those seeking to specifically porcine or bovine gelatin from pigs or cows respectively is that current laws do not require manufacturers to list the source of the gelatin.
Contacting the food manufacturer directly would provide you with the most current information as due to supply issues or cost ingredients, sourcing or recipe formulations may change.
Are There Any Health Benefits to Gelatin?
According to WebMD, both animal-derived and plant based sources of gelatin are commonly sought out as a supplement for the collagen.
Harvard School of Public Health outlines how collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is a major component of our bones, skin, muscle tendons and cartilage.
For generations people have sought out collagen and gelatin supplements with the hopes of strengthening their hair, nails and improving the elasticity of their skin akin to a fountain of youth.
Research is less clear on whether collagen or gelatin supplementation provides the intended benefits and to further complicate the research, much of research is done by companies that stand to benefit from product sales should there be a benefit.
Alternatives To Animal Sourced Gelatin
While goods like marshmallows, gummy candies and even Frosted Mini Wheats may not be staples in your diet, when you are avoiding animal based sources of gelatin, it’s good to know many companies provide comparable products made with vegetarian agar or carrageenan.
Websites like Vegetarian Resource Group often post blogs listing vegetarian or vegan friendly food manufacturing companies to aid in your search for a comparable product.
Sweets and Gelatin and Alternative Options
1. Jell-O and Gelatin Dessert Alternatives
J-E-L-L-O…I’m dating myself with this jingle from the Jell-O company which is what most of us associate with when it comes to gelatin desserts.
Fortunately if you are avoiding pork gelatin there are several options to choose from when making a vegan gelatin-like dessert.
Simply Delish Jel Dessert packages come in a variety of fruit flavors and all are made with carrageenan.
Bakol brand Jel Dessert’s are vegan and kosher are also available in a variety of fruit flavors as well as unflavored.
2. Marshmallow Alternatives
There are several marshmallow companies that offer vegan and vegetarian options.
Yummallo offers several uniquely flavored marshmallows but currently the only gelatin-free option is their vegan option so double check the label before purchasing.
Dandies is another vegan marshmallow manufacturer that produces regular and mini marshmallows in addition to flavored varieties including maple, pumpkin and peppermint.
Trader Joe’s which of course has numerous vegan and vegetarian offerings has their own line of gelatin free marshmallows!
Lots of options to try for your next smores campfire or rice treat recipes.
3. Circus Peanuts Alternatives
Circus peanuts, which if you are unfamiliar with these nostalgic treats, are not peanuts nor are they even made with peanuts.
These fluffy orange marshmallow candies likely fall into the love them or hate them category along with candy corn.
My dad loves them and while I’m not opposed to them, I’m not seeking them out either.
According to the Spangler Candy company, the most well known manufacturer of circus peanuts, states that the original marshmallow treats were invented in the 1800’s and first produced by the Spangler Candy Company on March 12, 1941.
Interestingly enough the iconic orange colored peanut candy is actually banana flavored!
While other flavors including vanilla, lemon and cherry are made, by far the orange version is the most recognized.
Made from sugar, water, pectin, gelatin, corn syrup and other ingredients, these iconic candies are still sold today.
I was unable to find any vegan or comparable product and this is likely due to the fact that the gelatin containing products may have a cult following, they may not be in demand enough to warrant a non-gelatin version by others.
4. Candy Corn Alternatives
Love them or hate them, once a year candy corn is a staple in my house!
While many brands are made with gelatin, Jelly Belly does not list this as one of their ingredients opting for corn syrup and modified soy protein among other ingredients.
5. Fruit Snacks and Gummy Candy Alternatives
Kids and adults just crave chewy gummy fruit flavored fruit snacks and candy from time to time and avoiding pork gelatin doesn’t mean you need to give up these treats all together.
Brands like Annie’s make Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks are organic, gluten free and vegan/gelatin free opting to use ingredients like tapioca syrup solids and pectin to provide the gummy consistency gelatin typically provides.
With flavors such as berry, strawberry, raspberry, apple and pink lemonade you’re sure to find one you enjoy.
Trader Joes has a Swedish fish alternative called Scandinavian Swimmers Gummy Candy Fish that are gelatin-free and are made with tapioca starch and cornstarch.
Sweet Smarts Sweet Fish are also gelatin-free and lower in sugar using ingredients like allulose and monk fruit to provide chewiness and less sugar than traditional Swedish fish.
Surf Sweets Organic Fruity Bears would be a good one to try in lieu of traditional gummy bears.
Made with organic fruit juice, plant-based colors, non-GMO, Kosher-Parve, gluten free and no corn syrup—it’s almost like a health-food! I’m kidding, it’s not a health-food!
There is still plenty of sugar and no nutritional benefit but a great treat to enjoy while avoiding gelatin.
6. Sweetened Cereal Alternatives
There are fewer good options when looking for an alternative to Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats though Kashi cereals may be your closest option.
Kashi’s whole wheat biscuits come in four flavor options including berry bountiful, island vanilla, cinnamon harvest and plain autumn wheat.
7. Meats and Sources of Gelatin
Chances are if you are avoiding pork gelatin, many of the meat products that contain gelatin are also pork products such as canned ham or aspics.
As with some of the sugary sources of gelatin, preparing meat dishes from scratch at home allows you more control over the types of ingredients you want to include or avoid.
8. Gravies and Sauces
While some restaurants and commercially prepared gravies and sauces may contain gelatin, many are thickened with simple cornstarch or other vegetable based thickeners.
Read the labels on your favorite brands to confirm if gelatin of any kind is used.
9. Medications and Supplements
Obvious forms of gelatin within medications and supplements are found within those that use a soft gel capsule or within the coating or liquids.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to determine if alternatives are available for your prescription or supplement.
10. Beer, Wine and Juice Considerations
While beer, wine and juice do not have gelatin listed as an ingredient, they may be in contact with gelatin through the process of fining.
Fining is a process used by manufacturers to clarify, stabilize beverages, and improve flavor by removing tannins and other compounds.
According to decanter.com, one way to do this is utilizing gelatin to bind with molecules allowing them to be filtered out.
Some winemakers keep the natural flavor and richness of the wine marketing these as “natural wines”.
Additionally wines listed or marketed as vegan would not use gelatin. It’s best to reach out to your favorite beverage companies to inquire how they process their beer, wine or juice if you are looking to avoid gelatin in the processing stage.
In researching for this article some sites listed cheesecake as a possible source of hidden gelatin.
With any food product, the recipe or formulation of ingredients can change at any time so double check your labels.
Two of the more common cheesecakes, The Father’s Table and The Cheesecake Factory were gelatin-free.
While homemade gummy candies and fruit snacks may not be very feasible, homemade cheesecake requires only a few simple ingredients and a little patience.
Cream cheese, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and graham crackers are the foundation for a simple cheesecake that you can top with a variety of fruits and berries.
Cooking and baking from scratch allows for greater control over your ingredients when you are avoiding certain foods for health or other reasons.
We Thought You Would Like
Although various websites can point you in the right direction, or offer suggestions on foods to avoid or where to find gelatin-free alternatives, always confirm the list of ingredients provided on the actual product you are considering purchasing.
The ingredients listed on the package are those used at the time of manufacturing.
As manufacturers modify their recipes or formulations to improve taste or quality, or need to change suppliers or ingredients due to cost or supply issues, an item that used to contain porcine or bovine gelatin may change and until regulations require manufacturers to cite the source of the gelatin, vegan options may be your best choice.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nancy do it, no judgment here) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.