Twizzlers are one of America's most popular licorice candy products. Licorice, so named for the root that gives the traditional black licorice its flavor, is commonly sold as black licorice or red licorice. Some might argue that Twizzlers bear little resemblance to actual licorice because it doesn't contain any licorice root or extract, though the non-licorice flavors may actually contribute to their popularity, especially with kids. Twizzlers come in a variety of flavors and shapes - Twists, Pull 'n' Peel, NIBS, Filled Twists, Bites in black, cherry, and even chocolate flavor.
But are Twizzlers Vegan?
Vegan foods are those that don't contain any animal products or byproducts. Candy, especially of the non-chocolate variety, may seem like an odd place for animal ingredients to hide, but byproducts are fairly common. The most commonly found animal ingredients in candy are:
- Gelatin - made from animal skin, bones, and tendons
- Carmine - made from beetles; sometimes used as a red dye
- Milk fat.
Twizzlers are tough and chewy, so one might suspect that they contain gelatin and therefore aren't vegan. Are Twizzlers gelatin based? Let's take a look at the ingredients!
- Corn syrup
- Wheat flour
- Palm oil
- Artificial flavor
- Citric acid
- Potassium sorbate
- Artificial color (red 40)
- Soy lecithin
*This list for the strawberry twists. Ingredients for other flavors can be found at Hershey website.
Good news for our Twizzlers lovers: Twizzlers do not contain gelatin! Twizzlers gelatin therefore isn't a concern for vegans.
The only potentially non-vegan ingredient on this list is glycerin, a byproduct of soap manufacture that commonly uses animal fat. Fortunately, Hershey describes their glycerin as "a food additive made from various vegetable oils." And while Twizzlers are red, their color does not come from carmine; in this case, the red color is red dye #40, which made without insects. In short, Twizzlers are vegan! You can chow down and still rock your Vegan for the Animals shirt with pride! This vegan-friendly ingredient list means Twizzlers are frequently included on lists of vegan junk food and guides to vegan Halloween candy.
That all said, Twizzlers may be vegan, but they still contain ingredients that are far from ideal for healthy eating or the environment. Nobody expects candy to be perfectly healthy, but there are a few other issues in play here. Twizzlers contain red dye #40 comes, which comes from petroleum distillates or coal tar, as well as palm oil which is driving deforestation and contributing to the destruction of animal habitats. Some people may also object to the corn syrup and preservatives. So all in all, may be worth your while to explore some other brands of licorice.
Vegan Twizzlers Alternatives
Other brands of licorice often have a much simpler ingredient list compared Twizzlers, and many are vegan. Homemade recipes often rely on gelatin or condensed milk for consistency, but most commercially available brands are vegan (don't forget to check the package before you buy). Here are a few vegan options to try:
Panda Licorice offers several flavors of vegan licorice. The Panda Licorice website offers the option to filter products to see only those that contain "no animal ingredients." Beware that the licorice creams aren't vegan, but the raspberry and original black licorice bites, and even the soft licorice bears, are vegan!
YumEarth proudly brands all of their candies as vegan (as well as gluten-free, kosher, no nuts, non-GMO and organic). They offer four flavors of licorice!
Newman's Own Organics Licorice claims to be, "the first licorice twist made with organic ingredients." These licorice twists come in all sorts of flavors beyond black and cherry (including some crazy stuff like sour mango), all vegan and organic.
So there you have it – Twizzlers are suitable for vegans. If you love Twizzlers or need a candy fix on the road, Twizzlers are definitely an option, but there are other options out there that are probably better for you and the environment. Try some other brands! Twizzlers lovers may rejoice for better quality licorice, and Twizzlers haters may find that licorice isn't so bad! Just be sure to check the double check the ingredient list before you buy.
What's your favorite licorice? Have you noticed a big difference between brands? Let us know in comments! Looking for a homemade spin on your favorite junk foods? Don't miss our pieces on Gushers and Oreos!