All you need to know about M&Ms ingredients and vegan alternatives
Sold in over 100 countries over the last 80 years, M&M’s are a popular candy for children and adults alike. If you are vegan and love candy it is likely that you have been searching terms such as “is x vegan” and “ the best vegan candy”.
One of the most popular terms to search when it comes to vegans and candy is “are M&M’s Vegetarian?” We take a look at the most frequently asked questions concerning vegan-friendly candy including M&Ms.
We also look into the best vegan M&M’s on the market so that you can get a sweet treat fix if you find that regular M&M’s are unsuitable for your diet.
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What do M&M’s Manufacturers say?
The quick answer to the question “are M&M’s Vegetarian?” Is, sadly, no.
When it comes to M&M’s being vegetarian, the answer gets a little confusing. M&M’s UK say (via a Twitter post in 2019): “M&M’s aren’t suitable for halal or vegetarian diets.”
While not being specific about what ingredients stop M&M’s being vegan or vegetarian they went on to state that “We use additives that come from animal products when we’re making M&M’s and traces of these can be found in the sweets.
They aren’t listed in the ingredients because they’re only present in such small amounts. For vegetarians or those who are making movements to become vegan this information is vague and needs clarity.
The confusion intensifies when we take a look at the different variations of M&M’s in different countries as the statements above are from M&M’s UK and the ingredients are slightly different in the US, so it is best to take a look at the actual ingredients listed on the packets of the candy in each country.
Here is the full list of ingredients in regular chocolate M&M’s :
Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Chocolate, Skim Milk, Cocoa Butter, Lactose, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Artificial Flavor), Sugar, Cornstarch, Less than 1% – Corn Syrup, Dextrin, Coloring (Includes Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 6, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Red 40 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Blue 2, Gum Acacia. Contains Milk and Soy. May Contain Peanuts.
There will be a variety of different ingredients for varieties of M&M’s including peanuts, coconut, crisps, mint and caramel. As far as it is understand there are no vegan-friendly versions of M&M’s developed so far.
You should check each individual packet to ensure that they are suitable for your diet, especially if you are new to veganism or vegetarianism and are finding your way. There are lots of vegan sites in which you can find which store-bought products are suitable for you to eat.
A Look at the Ingredients
There is a variance in the ingredients between UK and US M&M’s and, as M&M’s have said, not all minor ingredients are listed so there is a need for further investigation. When we delve deep into the ingredients we can see that there are differences in the animal-based products used in M&M’s.
In both the US and the UK, M&M’s contain milk fat, skim milk and lactose but in the UK they also contain carmine (used for color and derived from the cochineal in insects) and beeswax (used in the glazing).
In the US version of M&M’s red 40 food color is used and carnauba is used for the glazing. On these ingredients alone, US M&M’s are more vegetarian friendly although both are not vegan friendly.
One common animal-based product found in candy is rennet, an ingredient found in the stomachs or ruminant animals. Although there is no official confirmation that rennet is found in M&M’s it is believed my many vegetarians that it is, which means this is another reason why M&M’s are not vegan or vegetarian.
It is frustrating that M&M’s are not forthright with all of the information on their ingredients but many vegan forums and websites have investigated and believe rennet to be part of the ingredients list.
From what M&M’s UK say state in their ingredients lists and on social media, as shown above, it is certain that they are not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
They key ingredients that make M&M’s unsuitable for vegetarians is the carmine and the beeswax and, of course, for vegans the dairies the the key ingredient in it being a non-vegan product. In contrast, M&M’s US is much more vague as they list only skim milk, lactose, and milk fat as animal products, which most vegetarians but not vegans will consume.
While vegans will completely avoid M&M’s because of the dairy, vegetarians will generally not worry too much as traces of animal products are not confirmed and may, therefore, be not significant.
It is worth noting that there are no M&M’s flavors that would be considered vegan, including the dark chocolate options. To clarify M&Ms are not suitable for vegans due to the milk, butter, carmine and beeswax found in the ingredients list.
It is also important to note that they will not be suitable for people who have a lactose intolerance.
Alternatives to M&M’s for vegans ands vegetarians
While it may be disappointing that you cannot eat your favourite M&M’s candies if you have turned vegan or vegetarian, there are good alternatives on the market.
It does not appear that Mars are looking to develop vegan or vegetarian M&M’s at the moment so trying a different brand my help you get your sweet candy fix. We take a look at the best M&M’s alternatives that are vegan friendly and taste great.
Although it can be disheartening to learn that M&Ms aren’t vegan, there is no reason to feel discouraged. As promised, we have hunted down the tastiest vegan M&M options below.
And to make things even better, all three brands are readily available from Amazon and are free from harmful artificial colors. You may want to try a few different types of treats so that you can find the perfect alternative to M&M’s for you.
Some candy lovers will prefer me brand and others favour another.
There are some varieties of Unreal that aren’t suitable for vegans but many of them are vegan-friendly. Unreal make a lot of vegan chocolate products including candies just like M&M’s.
When we tried Unreal’s version of M&M’s we found them to be very impressive and just like the originals.
There are two versions of vegan Unreal ‘M&M’s’ including
- Dark Chocolate
- Dark Chocolate Crispy
If you are buying from Unreal and are looking for other vegan-friendly options they make dark chocolate almond cups and peanut butter cups with dark chocolate. You can find Unreal products in many whole food stores or vine your usual grocery store or online from Amazon.
If you cannot find Unreal or you are looking for another M&M’s alternative, Little Secret is another favourite brand of ours. These dark chocolate treats are naturally vegan and they make an M&M’s like candy called ‘Pieces Little Secrets’.
- Dark Chocolate
- Sea Salted Peanuts
- Sea Salted Almonds
- Peppermint Pieces (available during the holidays)
Again, these candies can be found in whole food stores and larger groceries as well as through Amazon.
No Whey is a popular vegan company that sell a range of vegan-friendly foods including candies.
Their products are completely dairy and egg-free as well as being free of popular allergens such as nuts and peanuts (unlike M&M’s and other M&M’s substitutes).
No Whey’s Vegan M&M’s like candies currently come in two varieties :
- Chocolate No No’s
- Peppermint No No’s
You may also find seasonal varieties of No Whey M&Ms, especially around the Christmas holidays.
You can buy these M&M’s like candies and other vegan candy such as peanut butter cups and vegan chocolates online through Amazon or via whole food and vegan stores for individual purchases or bulk purchases.
These dark chocolate vegan M&M’s style candies are made up of Colombian chlorate that is ethically sourced and contains no nasty chemicals. They are also palm oil free so they are perfect for people who want to be eco-friendly as well as being animal friendly.
They currently come in peanut flavor so are perfect for those looking for a vegan peanut M&M’s treat.
Whatever vegan alternative to M&M’s you choose you are sure to enjoy one of your favourite treats without the guilt of eating animal products.
Many of these products are more expensive that standard M&M’s but we think that they are worth the extra cost and taste a little richer so you will need fewer of them to feel satisfied.
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.