Vegan and plant-based lovers of fiery sweet treats may be wondering if the classic candy, Hot Tamales, are fully plant-based, therefore suitable for them to enjoy. Let’s find out…
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The links below may be affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy for more information.
Are Hot Tamales Vegan?
Currently, no. Not fully.
At present, none of the Hot Tamale flavors are suitable for vegans. That includes all the flavors: the original cinnamon flavor, tropical heat flavor, and the Fire & Ice Flavor.
The reason they do not fully qualify as vegan is because they contain a product called Shellac, and/or Confectioner’s Glaze, which are popular glazes that are common in candies. These glazes are actually animal-derived… and somewhat bizarre in origin.
Let’s look a bit closer at what goes into some of our favorite childhood candies…
What is Shellac & Confectioner’s Glaze?
Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug on trees in the forests of tropical countries, such as India and Thailand. The resin is then processed and turned into dry flakes and dissolved in alcohol to make liquid shellac, which is used as a brush-on colorant and food glaze, as well as wood finish.
While the resin is not directly extracted from the animal itself, therefore isn’t inherently cruel, it is still an animal product, and in this day and age, isn’t necessary as there are non-animal substitutes, such as FloZein (an all-natural coating alternative for shellac or synthetics) that work the same way as shellac.
Similar to Shellac, Confectioner’s Glaze (sometimes known as Resinous glaze) is an alcohol-based solution of various types of food-grade shellac.
It is derived from the raw material sticklac, which, like regular forms of Shellac, is a resin scraped from the branches of trees left from when the small insect, Kerria lacca (also known as Laccifer lacca), creates a hard, waterproof cocoon, which she then sheds out of.
When used in food and confections, it is also known as confectioner’s glaze, pure food glaze, natural glaze, or confectioner’s resin. It is also used by the pharmaceutical industry and when used on medicines, it is sometimes called pharmaceutical glaze.
Why are these Products Used?
Products such as shellac and confectioner’s glaze are commonly used in candies because of their preservative qualities that extend the shelf-life of many food items. It also provides a shiny, glossy, and robust coating for many classic candies.
What are Hot Tamales?
Hot Tamales are a popular soft, cinnamon-flavored, red American candy that dates back to 1950. Their name derives from the sometimes pungent (spicy-hot) flavor of tamales, a traditional Mesoamerican dish of the same name, made of masa or dough.
They were created by the famous Pennsylvania-based candy company, Just Born.
Types of Hot Tamales Available
- Fierce Cinnamon (original flavor)
- Tropical Heat (Containing the flavors Mango Tango, Limon Fever, and Pineapple Picante
- Cinnamon Apple
- 3 Alarm Hot Tamales (Containing the flavors “Hot, Hotter, and Hottest”; Each a different shade of color ranging from yellow, to deep red, to indicate spiciness)
- Fire And Ice (Containing 2 different colored candies of Hot Tamales, red for “Chewy Cinnamon” flavor and blue for “Cool Mint” flavor)
- Fire (Chewy Cinnamon flavor)
- Ice (Chewy Mint flavored Candies)
- Juniors (Smaller pieces)
- Licorice Bites
At present, none of these flavors are suitable for vegans.
Hot Tamales Ingredients
- Corn Syrup
- Modified Food Starch
- Contains less than 0.5% of the following: Artificial Flavors, Dextrin, Confectioners Glaze, Artificial Color, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Carnauba Wax, Sodium Citrate, Pectin, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Fumaric Acid, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 3, Blue 1
Hot Tamales Nutritional Value
- Serving Size: 20 pieces (38g)
- Amount Per Serving
- Calories from Fat 0.2
- Calories 143
- % Daily Value*
- Total Fat 0g 0%
- Saturated Fat 0g 0%
- Cholesterol 0mg 0%
- Sodium 19mg 1%
- Potassium 14mg 0%
- Total Carbohydrates 36g 12%
- Dietary Fiber 0.1g 0%
- Sugars 27g
- Protein 0g
- Vitamin A 0%
- Vitamin C 0%
- Calcium 0%
- Iron 0%
Vegan Alternatives to Hot Tamales
For those plant-based eaters who simply must get their fix of sugary, fiery, cinnamon-blasted goodness, do not despair! There are a few vegan alternatives available:
This chewy candy has the same cinnamon flavor as Hot Tamales, but thankfully does not contain confectioner’s glaze, which makes the candy a fantastic option for vegans.
This is another sweet that tastes like Hot Tamales but does not include any animal-based or questionable substances. It has natural and artificial flavors, corn syrup, sugar, and vegan-friendly food colorings. No nasties!
These also contain no shellac, confectioner’s glaze, or other non-vegan substances such as gelatine.
Candies that are Completely Vegan
The good news is there are plenty of vegan sweet treats on the market to satisfy that sweet tooth! – some of which include:
- Cracker Jacks, Original Recipe
- Hubba Bubba Chewing Gum
- Jolly Ranchers, All Standard Flavors
- Mamba Fruit Chews
- Sour Patch Kids
- Swedish Fish
- Wonka Fun Dip
- Bottle Caps
- Pixy Stix
- Blow Pop Lollipops
- Sweet Tarts
- Sugared Popcorn
- All ‘Vegan Candy’ products
- All ‘Candy Kittens’ products
- Charms Blow Pops
- Dum Dums
- Air Heads
- Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks
- Dandies Vegan Marshmallows
- Red Vines
- Sweet & Sara Marshmallows
…to name but a few!
Vegan and plant-based chocoholics are in luck too! The brands currently offer 100% vegan chocolate:
- Alter Eco (100% vegan)
- Equal Exchange (some products are vegan)
- Go Max Go Foods (100% vegan)
- Obsessive Confection Disorder (100% vegan)
- Sjaacks (some products are vegan)
Please note, as discussed in our ‘Is Sugar Vegan?’ article, not all types of sugar can be considered vegan. It is therefore the responsibility of the reader to make their own inquiries with the manufacturers of these suggested vegan friendly alternatives to determine whether the sugar used in these products are suitable for vegan consumption.
So, as we’ve found, Hot Tamales are unfortunately not fully suitable for vegans. However, there are several similar fiery cinnamon flavored items that do not contain any animal or animal-derived components.
We hope that in the near future, though, the creators of Hot Tamales will move away from using products such as shellac and Confectioner’s glaze and on to the perfectly viable plant-based alternatives that are readily available.
It is important to note, however, that just because something is labelled ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based’, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is healthy. All candies and sweet treats should be enjoyed in moderation due to the high calorie and sugar content in them.
If you’re ever in doubt as to what candies in the store are suitable for vegans, look out for the green certified ‘V’ sign that appears on all vegan products.