Online pictures of homemade marshmallows depict enormous fluffy squares that look incredibly delicious! I am drawn to these springy towers of sugar and I needed to find a way to make my own. I really needed to find a way to make homemade marshmallows without standard gelatin. We no longer eat pork & Knox gelatin is made with beef and pork by-products.
I first was convinced I could make a vegan marshmallow with agar powder as an easy 1:1 substitute for the gelatin. It takes more than agar to make a gelatin substitute! Agar only gets you part of the way…
With my failures, everything would seem fine until I was whipping the mixture in my KitchenAid. The clear liquid & bloomed agar would combine nicely and after 5 minutes the mixture would begin to fluff and turn a lighter shade. Then it would just sit there and rise no more. It also never solidified or dried down nicely. My failures do not even classify as marshmallow fluff; I did a lot of sticky dishes & threw out a lot of sticky mess.
I had a glimmer of hope when I found a recipe that added chickpea brine & xanthan gum ( I had success turning chickpea aquafaba into meringue.) If you are looking to make fully vegan marshmallows, you will want to use organic sugar & powdered sugar. Sugar can be filtered & bleached with bone char.
After 3-4 failed attempts at agar marshmallows, I hopped on Amazon and ordered xanthan gum & beef gelatin. I was convinced that gelatin was the key to success but I still wanted to make a proper marshmallow with agar. The ingredients arrived and once I had success, I decided to add a few flavors to the batches while I was at it. My basic marshmallow recipe is from Alton Brown. It is simple & easy to follow. And the Agar Marshmallows? They work with the addition of chickpea aquafaba & xanthan gum!
To make homemade marshmallows, you will need: 1-2 small saucepans, a candy thermometer, a stand mixer (with whisk attachment,) baking pans & non-stick spray!
The best part is that you only need hot water & dish soap to clean your dishes & equipment! Clean up was super easy with a little soaking.
- 3 Tbsp Beef Gelatin (or 3 Tbsp/packages Knox Gelatin)
- 1 cup cold water, divided
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup corn starch or potato starch
- Place the gelatin in the bowl of your stand mixer & add 1/2 cup cold water, set aside
- On the stove top, add the other 1/2 cup cold water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt to a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat, covered for 3-4 minutes. My burner was set to 7 (out of 10.) You cover the mixture so its steam can remove sugar build-up from the sides of the saucepan. Without this step, the sugar may crystallize on the sides, fall back into the mixture, and ruin everything.
- WITHOUT STIRRING, uncover and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Allow the mixture to heat to 240 degrees (F.) Turn down a tiny bit if it is going to boil over. (Every stove is different with its heat settings.) This takes 10-12 minutes for me. Once the temperature reaches 240, remove from heat.
- Turn the mixer on a low speed (with the whisk attachment) and slowly pour the sugar mixture down the side of the bowl into the gelatin (it will steam a bit.) After a minute, increase the speed to high. Whip the mixture for 14 minutes on high; while the mixer is still running add the vanilla extract and continue mixing one additional minute. **While the mixture is whipping, combine the cornstarch & powdered sugar in a bowl. Spray your pan lightly with non-stick spray and dust the pan with some of the mixture. Coat the bottom and sides of the pan.**
- After 15 minutes of mixing, transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Lightly coat a spatula with flavorless oil (peanut, grapeseed) to spread the sticky mixture. Lightly cover the top of the marshmallow mixture with some of the remaining cornstarch & powdered sugar (reserve the rest for later.)
- Allow the marshmallows 4 hours to set up, uncovered.
- Turn out the marshmallow onto a cutting board dusted with the cornstarch & powdered sugar and cut into squares with a pizza wheel or knife (dusted with the cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture.) You can also use cookie cutters to form shapes. Coat all sides of the marshmallow with dusting powder.
The marshmallows will keep in an airtight container for 3 weeks and can be frozen. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap & place in a freezer bag or sealed plastic container.
Other variations of marshmallows that I have tried:
- Cinnamon: Add 1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon to the marshmallow mixture while it is in the last minute of stirring in the mixer or add the cinnamon to the dusting powder (cornstarch & powdered sugar) at the end
- Strawberry: Add 3 Tablespoons of crushed freeze dried strawberries in the last minute of mixing or add to the dusting powder
- Lemon: Substitute the 1/2 cup of water that is added to the gelatin with lemon juice. Add lemon zest if desired. These are tart, so use less lemon juice for a sweeter taste. (1/4 cup water & 1/4 cup lemon juice with the gelatin)
- Chocolate Covered -Strawberry: Add 3 Tablespoons crushed freeze dried berries to the the mix and add 1-2 tsp cocoa powder to the dusting powder
- Mocha: Sub chilled coffee for the water in the recipe & add 2 Tbsp cocoa powder in the last minute of mixing. Add cocoa powder to the dusting powder. Coffee heats up more quickly than water so I recommend using a medium sized saucepan (instead of small) and heating the sugar mixture at a slightly lower setting. I set my burner to 5-6 (out of 10.) While beating in the KitchenAid, the mixture stiffened up more quickly and I only mixed for a total of 11 minutes instead of 15. These marshmallows are amazing. They taste like an Arby’s Jamocha Shake!
- Nutella Layer: When transferring mixture to the pan, add 1/2 the marshmallow with an oiled spatula (use flavorless oil like grapeseed or peanut,) spread a thin layer of Nutella, and top with the remaining marshmallow. I did not distribute an even layer of Nutella. I spread dollops of it on top of the marshmallow & swirled it on top with the spatula before covering with the rest of the mixture. You could also add the entire batch of marshmallow to the pan & then top with Nutella. I let the marshmallows dry overnight after attempting to cut them after 4 hours. The Nutella needs at least 12 hours to set nicely.
I added a layer of Nutella to a batch of Mocha marshmallows & then added Chocolate PB2 to the dusting powder. PB2 would most likely ball up & incorporate poorly into the mixture but it is great in the dusting powder! These marshmallows are exquisitely delicious albeit extremely rich. They are as good as they sound. If you are anything like me, then you will delight in coffee-chocolate flavored marshmallows with a ribbon of Nutella in the center, which are then rolled in chocolate-peanut butter powder. They are ridiculously good! They are a bit more messy.
I cut them after 4 hours with ease. It was just a little messy. When I cut them after letting them dry 16 hours the layers started to separate a little but less Nutella oozed out. When I waited to cut them, sharp kitchen scissors worked best.
- Color: Add food coloring in the last minute of mixing. I added 7 drops of yellow to the Lemon Marshmallow (& then turned it into Rice Krispie Treats.) This produced a pastel yellow.
- Gold Sparkle: Add Oasis Supply Pharaoh’s Gold Lustre Dust to the dusting powder or brush on by hand. It is most striking when brushed on.
To use fresh marshmallow in Rice Krispie Treats:
- As the marshmallow mixture is nearing the end of its stirring, melt 4 Tbsp (1/2 a stick) of butter in a large pot
- Once the marshmallow is finished stirring in the mixer, transfer it to the pot with the melted butter & combine
- Remove from heat and add 9-10 cups of Rice Krispies Cereal, 1 cup at a time
- Transfer mixture to a greased 9×13 pan (you can coat a spatula with flavorless oil & press with wax paper if necessary)
- Allow 2-3 hours to cool. Cut & serve or store in an airtight container.
I first followed the original recipe exactly. The big difference between gelatin and agar marshmallows is that this version has 3 mixtures that need to be combined instead of two. There are multiple processes going on at once during this recipe. Set yourself up for success by grouping & measuring your ingredients ahead of time. This makes the experience manageable. This recipe really works! After pouring it into a pan, I realized that I wanted to increase the amount of each ingredient used and I added Almond Flavor Oil.
The increased recipe REALLY worked! I will warn you that your stand mixer will be filled up pretty high. If this makes you uncomfortable, make the original recipe & place in an 8×8 pan. Use a 9×13 pan with the increased amounts and whip at a lower setting (6 out of 10) and gradually increase the speed. Adding the Almond Flavor Oil & Vanilla knocks it down a little. I just used a silicone spatula to pat the mixture down a little and they turned out perfect.
The agar marshmallows have an airy, creamy texture somewhere in between traditional gelatin marshmallows, a gelatin no-bake cheesecake or a firmer, lighter creme brulee. They aren’t exactly like gelatin marshmallows but they are uniquely fluffy & creamy at the same time. They are also easily customized with flavor.
Ingredients for Super Fluffy Agar Marshmallows:
- 1 cup cold water, divided
- 1 Tbsp Agar Powder
- 2 cups Sugar
- 1 cup Light Corn Syrup
- 1 cup Chickpea Aquafaba (the liquid from 1 can of chickpeas)
- 1 tsp Xanthan Gum
- 1 tsp Lemon Juice
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 cup Cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar (for dusting at the end)
- 4-6 drops LorAnn Almond Flavor Oil *optional*
- Place 1/2 cup cold water in a small saucepan with the Agar Powder. Set aside.
- In another small saucepan add the sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup cold water. Place over medium heat (I set my stove top to 7 out of 10) covered for 4 minutes.
- WITHOUT STIRRING, uncover, stick a candy thermometer to the side, and bring to a boil until the sugar mixture reaches 240 degrees (F.)
- In a stand mixer add the aquafaba, Xanthan Gum, and lemon juice. Beat 2 minutes on high. Add the vanilla and beat another 3-4 minutes until very stiff.
- On the stove top, bring the agar mixture to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Do not let the agar cool and set.
- Turn the mixer on low and add the sugar mixture to the bowl (aim in between the whisk & the side of the bowl.) Stir for 2 minutes.
- Add the agar mixture and beat (I started at speed level 6 on my KitchenAid) another 12 minutes. If the mixture rises too much, gently push down with a silicone spatula or reduce the speed temporarily (mine never spilled over the bowl.) In the last minute I added LorAnn Almond Flavor Oil (I would recommend only 3-4 drops) and the vanilla.
- Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray and dust with some of the cornstarch & powdered sugar
- Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan and dust the top with some of the cornstarch & powdered sugar (make more if needed)
- If following the original recipe, allow 24 hours to set. If using the increased recipe, allow 24 hours to set, flip onto a cutting board dusted with the cornstarch and powdered sugar, and allow an additional 24 hours to dry before cutting.
- Cut, roll in the cornstarch & powdered sugar mixture, and store in an air-tight container
I am SO pleased that this recipe works! I had strong hope once I thought about how well aquafaba turns into meringues and I think that heating the agar mixture for a bit helped a lot. All of the other recipes that used agar as a direct substitute for the gelatin in cold water were just tacky failures for me. The recipe needed the aquafaba, the agar powder and the xanthan gum.
Gelatin is multi-functional in marshmallow recipes. It is a gelling agent, an emulsifier, a stabilizer and a thickener. You can’t just sub in agar powder for a recipe to work. The agar powder is a gelling agent & it is a thickener. The xanthan gum is a thickener & a stabilizer. The chickpea aquafaba is an emulsifier that helps with foaming, binding, gelling and thickening. The recipe is super easy and it did the job.
These recipes truly work! The flavors and textures are different but they are both winners! The gelatin marshmallows taste like you would expect but they are lighter and springier than store bought marshmallows. The agar marshmallows are softer & have a heavier feel to them. The agar marshmallows absorb the cornstarch & powdered sugar so you will use more than with gelatin marshmallows. You can eat the agar marshmallows just like gelatin marshmallows but I think they are a beautiful, creamy dessert if you shape them with circular cookie cutters & top with a cooled fruit reduction. They are quite delicious.
There really are endless possibilities to the flavor combinations. I am confident you could add candy sprinkles in the last minute of mixing, add flavor oil, or substitute flavored liquids for the water. I don’t eat a ton of sweets but now I can add pork-free marshmallow to recipes & make it fresh myself. I am sending out a huge thank you to the writers of the original recipes & the creators who inspired them! [1, 2 ]