by guest blogger Gillian Francella, multimedia journalist and newly converted vegan/vegetarian
‘Tis the season to be spooky. And nothing is more terrifying to a food lover like myself than the approaching holidays…as a new vegan. Pumpkin heads stuffed with candy are what make Halloween great; tables of Thanksgiving food are what unite families; and can you even have Christmas without a 12 days of sugar cookies? The answer is no, folks. Food is what makes or breaks our traditions, and vegans shouldn’t feel alienated because certain treats aren’t animal friendly.
What’s more, the Non-GMO Project has dubbed October non-GMO month, the project’s largest outreach campaign to make food consumers more aware of what’s actually in our favorite foods. For candy companies, there is a large push from non-GMO organizations to discontinue their use of genetically modified corn and soy, which would nix ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, glucose, and certain dyes, to name a few.
Luckily, there are a few great candies that deliver taste without toxins—some even taste better than the “real” thing!
Pop one of these fluffy cylinders on a stick and add eyes for a deliciously adorable treat, or toss a handful of minis in a cup of hot chocolate. Dandies are kosher, completely vegan, gluten free, and non-GMO verified. The classic vanilla flavor tastes even better than the mallows I remember eating as a kid—they’re gooey and sweet, but not quite as dense as traditional marshmallows. Plus, they don’t stick to your teeth in an eerie, uncomfortable way. You can find them in Giant, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and most health-food stores. If you come across the limited edition pumpkin flavor, I highly suggest grabbing a bag—they take s’mores to a whole other level of delicious for fall.
2. Thumbs Up
I reached out to the crew at Go Max Go when I was researching vegan candy, but I don’t think I was fully prepared for the box of bars they sent over for taste tests in the office—there were so many fantastic options! Thumbs Up, however, was clearly the crowd favorite. Some even ventured to say, “If you wanted to trick someone not vegan, this would be it.” The bar has the crispy, crunchy, peanut-buttery goodness of a Butterfinger, without any artificial ingredients, hydrogenated oils, or gluten. Plus, at only 160 calories, there’s even less guilt in indulging in the whole thing.
Admittedly I’m a sucker for coconut-flavored anything. But, even our office’s resident coconut haters had to confess the Mahalo bar was pretty damn delicious. A thick, fluffy pillow of coconut topped with three dry-roasted almonds and drizzled in a rice-milk chocolate coating, it sends your tastebuds on an island vacay. After chopping it up for our taste test, I froze half of the bar for later—it’s super delicious as a chopped topping for frozen bananas or atop a piece of peanut butter toast.
Peanut butter and milk chocolate are the definitive dream couple in Candyland. So, sure, there are a few dark chocolate peanut butter cups that may soothe your sweet tooth, but Cleo’s is the closest to the real deal. The rice-milk chocolate coating is smooth and creamy but totally vegan friendly, and the thick pocket of peanut butter balances out each cup to be the perfect ratio of salty-to-sweet goodness.
Craving caramel? Twilight bars are a dream come true. Totally gluten free, with no artificial ingredients, and vegan friendly—this treat was chewy and delicious without any overly sticky aftertastes. While it’s similar to a Milky Way, it’s not going to fool your non-vegans quite as easily. Instead of trying to mimic the milkiness of their non-vegan counterparts, Twilights have a lightness to them that gives them their own distinct flavor.
If your sweet tooth swoons for fruity flavors, Surf Sweets are right up your alley. These tasty gummy worms deliver a whopping dose of vitamin C, thanks to the fact they’re made with organic fruit juice and don’t contain any artificial ingredients or flavors. Surf Sweets are free of 10 of the most common allergens—nuts, dairy, and soy included! Plus, you can order a bulk box of snack-pack-size gummies from Amazon.com to hand out to trick-or-treaters.
Gillian Francella is a writer, editor, and newly converted vegan/vegetarian living in Philadelphia. Through trial and error, she works through various cookbooks to discover delicious dishes that test the limits of her tiny kitchen. She strives to make cruelty-free foods and tweak classic recipes from her childhood to be healthy, vegan treats, all while ballin’ out on a 20-something’s budget. Chances are, if she can make it, so can you!