You may know these as the chews that have been around since forever, but anyone following a plant-based life will want to know, is saltwater taffy vegan? The answer is that it can be, but it generally isn’t.
We’re going to find out how it can be vegan, and see if there are any plant-based alternatives.
Salt Water Taffy Ingredients
Typically, corn syrup and dairy are used in the production of Salt Water Taffy, with some oils and flavorings added for good measure. Well, we can say that any traditional recipe of Saltwater Taffy is not going to be vegan. One of the first brands (San Francisco Saltwater Taffy) we stumbled across included the following ingredients:
CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, COCONUT OIL, SEA SALT, EGG WHITES, EVAPORATED MILK, COCOA, MALIC ACID, CITRIC ACID, SUNFLOWER LECITHIN, TITANIUM DIOXIDE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, ARTIFICIAL COLORS (INCLUDING FD&C BLUE 1, RED 3, RED 40, YELLOW 5, YELLOW 6).
So we will use this to answer some of the most common questions:
Does Salt Water Taffy Contain Dairy?
Yes it does, the above-mentioned recipe included evaporated milk, but it is not uncommon to find butter in some of the ingredient profiles of different brands.
This immediately makes Saltwater Taffy nonvegan. The treatment of dairy cows is cruel enough without the product themselves being animal-derived. They are pumped full of steroids and calves are taken from their mothers at a day old.
When it comes to butter, it is often used in homemade recipes of Salt Water Taffy, as well as some commercial products. It is added to pulled sugar but many will use margarine instead.
Does it Contain Eggs?
It can do, and the above recipe shows that egg whites are common.
Because egg whites do not contain animal cells, they are a controversial vegan ingredient. However, most will agree that because of the treatment of laying hens, they are off the menu for any vegan.
Most are kept in terrible conditions and only kept alive for their reproductive parts. Then, when their egg-laying numbers decrease with age, they are often destroyed because they are no longer profitable.
It does not contain Gelatin. This is one of the major concerns for any vegan, but thankfully most recipes do not contain gelatin. Yes, they are soft and chewy, but they don’t often use gelatin, a stabilizing agent in their recipe.
Because gelatin is made by the boiling of animal bones, ligaments, skin, and tendons, it is not vegan. An alarming number of candies contain gelatin, particularly chewy kinds like marshmallows and jelly beans.
This is another problematic ingredient for any vegan. Because many confectionery companies process their sugar with bone char to decolorize it. This process involves using the charred bones of cattle and pigs to make it a more desirable white.
It is difficult to tell which companies use this method, as they do not have to specify. Contacting the company directly can help, but many will say they source their sugar from different suppliers, so it is difficult to tell.
Artificial Flavors and Colors
They are both found in most traditional recipes, and there are certain ones to look out for. Artificial colors are often derived from non-animal-based sources, often made in a lab from petroleum. But the issue for any vegan is that they are often tested on animals.
The likes of Red 40 and Yellow 5 are some of the most common and have both been tested on mice and rats, making many artificial colors non-vegan.
Does it Contain Palm Oil?
This is another case of yes, but not always. It is a common ingredient in candies but due to the devastating impacting sourcing it has on the rainforest, it is often avoided by vegans.
Harvesting palm oil has displaced many species from their natural habitats including orangutans. TO put it into perspective, palm oil production is believed to be responsible for 8% of the world’s deforestation between 1990 and 2008.
Although it is bad, the land used to produce coconut oil (just one alternative as an example) is greater than that of palm oil. So, it is very much down to the person whether you believe avoiding palm oil is a way of reducing animal suffering.
How Is Salt Water Taffy Made?
The unique pulling process is what makes Taffy so different. Much like when making dough, taffy is stretched out then folded over itself repeatedly. This creates minute air bubbles that help it get its consistency.
It is this pulling process that makes them chewy, otherwise, they would be hard candy.
These sugar-free candies are labeled as vegan and are made of assorted flavors that still provide that satisfying chew. They are GMO-free, dairy-free, and are even anti-cavity. The ingredients list makes for pleasant, vegan-friendly viewing:
Maltitol Syrup, Xylitol, Citric Acid, Erythritol, Natural Flavors, Beetroot Juice, Annatto, Turmeric, Grape Juice Extract, and Stevia.
Pete’s So Traditional Saltwater Taffy
Cooked in small batches and a little firmer than your traditional taffy recipe, this brand has made another vegan option. The ingredients list contains organic palm oil, meaning it is not harvested cruelly. Here are the ingredients:
Sugar, Corn Syrup, Water, Natural Flavors and Coloring, Organic Palm Oil, Sunflower Oil, Citric Acid
Whilst it is good to see a variety of Saltwater Taffy recipes that do not contain gelatin, there is still plenty of dairies that make the traditional recipe non-vegan.
Thankfully, companies are making vegan alternatives so the conscious-minded can enjoy cruelty-free Saltwater Taffy.