Candy melts are generally dairy free, meaning they do not contain milk ingredients like milk fat, milk protein, lactose, etc. Most candy melts are made from sucrose, palm kernel or coconut oil, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavors and colors. However, some brands may contain small amounts of dairy ingredients, so it’s important to check the ingredient list. Vegan candy melts are also available if avoiding all animal products.
What are Candy Melts?
Candy melts, also known as confectionery wafers, chocolate wafers, candy wafers or simply wafers, are a candy product used primarily for candy making, baking and dessert decorating. They resemble chocolate in color and texture, but they are made from hydrogenated vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter.
Candy melts are available in a variety of colors and flavors, including chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, peppermint, etc. They melt easily at low temperatures, which allows them to be used for candy making techniques like dipping, enrobing, molding and more. When cooled, the melted candy hardens quickly while retaining a smooth, glossy finish.
Compared to real chocolate, candy melts have a shorter shelf life and lack the complex, rich flavors that come from cocoa beans. However, they offer some advantages for confectionery use:
– Candy melts are easy to work with and melt smoothly at low temperatures. Real chocolate requires tempering for a glossy finish.
– They allow for vibrant colors and flavors not possible with real chocolate.
– Candy melts are affordable, especially for large volume production.
– They are shelf stable at room temperature for 6-12 months. Chocolate requires cool storage.
– Candy melts are free from allergens like dairy, soy and nuts (depending on brand).
Main Ingredients in Candy Melts
Here are the primary ingredients found in most candy melts:
– Hydrogenated vegetable oil – This is the fat source that gives candy melts their smooth, creamy texture. Palm kernel and coconut oils are commonly used. The oils are hydrogenated to increase solid fat content and prevent rancidity at room temperature.
– Sugar – Granulated white sugar or corn syrup provide sweetness. Sugar also influences texture and helps control crystallization.
– Cocoa powder – In chocolate or chocolate-flavored varieties, cocoa powder provides color, flavor and nutrients like antioxidants. Non-alkalized cocoa is usually used.
– Emulsifier – Soy lecithin is a common emulsifier that helps evenly distribute fat and prevent separation. It also improves flow properties.
– Natural and artificial flavors – Candy melts are flavored with natural extracts like peppermint oil or artificial flavorings. Vanilla is commonly used in chocolate types.
– Food coloring – Vibrant dyes produce candy colors like red, green, blue, etc.
Some candy melts also include small amounts of milk ingredients, which can make them unsuitable for people with milk allergies or following dairy-free diets. Checking the ingredient label is the best way to identify any dairy content.
Are Candy Melts Dairy Free?
The primary ingredients in candy melts like vegetable oils, sugar, cocoa and emulsifiers are naturally dairy free. However, some mass-produced candy melt brands add dairy derivatives like milk fat, milk protein or lactose to improve texture and workability. So whether candy melts are dairy free or not depends on the specific product.
Here are some examples:
Dairy Free Candy Melts
– Wilton Candy Melts – Widely available brand that contains no dairy ingredients. Suitable for dairy free, lactose free, vegan and kosher diets.
– Make’n Mold Candy Wafers – Dairy free, gluten free and kosher parve.
– Barry’s Candy Wafers – No dairy. Includes mineral oil for smoother finish.
– Guittard Candy Wafers – Considered dairy free. Contains annatto for color.
– Candy Melts Candy Wafers – Labeled as dairy free and suitable for vegans.
Candy Melts with Dairy
– Merckens Candy Melts – Contains milkfat. Not dairy free or vegan.
– Ghirardelli Candy Making Wafers – Have milkfat and lactose.
– CK Products Candy Melts – May contain milkfat and whey powder. Check variety.
– Michaels Candiquik – Some flavors list milk derivatives in ingredients.
– Baker’s Secret Candy Wafers – Milkfat included. Not suitable for dairy free diets.
As you can see, brands range from entirely dairy free to containing milk fat, lactose or whey powder. The amount of dairy ingredients also varies. Always check the ingredient statement on the package to confirm if a product is compatible with your dietary needs.
Contacting the manufacturer directly may provide more clarity too, as formulations can change over time. Some brands also sell both dairy and non-dairy candy melt varieties.
Why Add Dairy to Candy Melts?
While candy melts can be made completely without dairy, some brands add small amounts of milk-derived ingredients for functional reasons:
Texture and Viscosity
Adding milk fat like butterfat creates a smoother, richer melt with a more viscous flow. This helps the melted candy coat evenly and solidify with a glossy finish.
Milk products like milk powder provide a creamy, buttery, caramelized flavor note. This gives the candy a more complex, dessert-like taste.
Powdered dairy ingredients help achieve a brighter white color. The proteins also contribute to a smooth surface sheen.
Milk proteins and milkfat enhance the pliability of the melted candy, making it easier to mold, pipe and manipulate without breaking or falling off.
However, these benefits are relatively small. Dairy free candy melts utilizing vegetable oils, lecithin and cocoa butter are able to provide very comparable performance in candy making. So avoiding dairy is certainly possible with candy melts.
Vegan and Allergy Friendly Candy Melts
Thankfully, there are dairy free, vegan and allergen free options for candy melts:
Vegan Candy Melts – Formulated without any animal products including milk, eggs, gelatin, etc. Brands like Make’n Mold are vegan.
Pareve Candy Melts – Pareve certification means the melts are free of dairy and meat ingredients, making them suitable for kosher diets.
Allergen Free Candy Melts – Many brands make their melts without major allergens like dairy, wheat, soy, nuts and gluten. Always check labels.
Non-GMO Candy Melts – Available from brands that avoid genetically modified ingredients.
Organic Candy Melts – Made using certified organic vegetable oils and non-GMO ingredients. Limited color options.
With labels clearly identifying any dairy content, it’s easy to find candy melts that align with your vegan, kosher or allergy-friendly dietary needs. The performance is similar to milk-containing melts.
Making Your Own Dairy Free Candy Melts
It’s also possible to make easy homemade candy melts using just a few simple dairy free ingredients:
– 1 1/2 cups coconut oil or vegan shortening
– 1 lb confectioner’s sugar
– 1/4 cup non-dairy milk like almond, soy or rice milk
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– Cocoa powder or melted dairy free chocolate for chocolate flavor
– Peanut butter, nuts, crushed cookies or vegan sprinkles
– Natural food coloring
1. Gather all ingredients and kitchen tools. You’ll need a microwave-safe bowl, spoon, candy molds or dipping items.
2. Chop the coconut oil into small pieces so it melts evenly. Add to a large microwave-safe bowl with the confectioner’s sugar, non-dairy milk and any mix-ins.
3. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring well after each until completely smooth. Avoid overheating.
4. Add coloring or extra flavorings if desired.
5. Use candy melts immediately for dipping, molding, drizzling, etc. Let cool completely to set.
The resulting dairy free candy melts have a rich, creamy melt perfect for all candy making projects. Adjust the recipe to create any flavor you crave.
Uses for Dairy Free Candy Melts
Dairy free candy melts open up endless possibilities for confectionery creativity without milk, butter or cream. Here are some fun ways to use them:
– Dip or enrobe caramel apples, pretzels, cookies, nuts, fruit, marshmallows
– Make lollipops by coating lollipop sticks
– Fill candy molds to make shaped suckers, chocolates, etc.
– Pipe into candy cups or cones as a filling
– Drizzle over ice cream, brownies, cupcakes for garnish
– Create candy clay by mixing with corn syrup to mold candy figures
Cake and Cookie Decorating
– Coat or stamp detailed shapes on cookies as decoration
– Pipe borders, writing or shapes on cakes and cupcakes
– Fill pastry bags to drizzle over desserts elegantly
– Make colorful modeling chocolate for candy sculptures
– Create edible glue to attach cookies, crackers, pretzels for gift baskets
– Make cake pops by dipping cake balls into melted candy
Snack Mix Ins
– Drizzle melted candy over popcorn, nuts or snack mixes
– Use to make confectionery fruit coatings like yogurt or chocolate
– Fill the bottoms of cupcake liners for candy cups
– Spoon into mini muffin tins and drop in small treats to set
With this huge range of usage options, dairy free candy melts are ideal for both professional candy making and home baking projects. Let your creativity guide you!
Storage and Handling
To get the best results and shelf life from dairy free candy melts, follow these storage tips:
– Keep unopened bags in a cool, dry place at temperatures below 72°F
– Heat and humidity can cause candy melts to seize up or develop bloom
– After opening, store in an airtight container to prevent moisture absorption
– If melts start to thicken in storage, briefly microwave 5-10 seconds to re-melt
– Leftover melted candy can be poured into molds or candy cups to harden for later use
– Re-melting more than 2-3 times can cause loss of glossy finish
– Properly stored, dairy free melts last 6-12 months past the production date
With proper storage and handling, dairy free candy melts will provide great versatility for all your candy projects over many months. Avoid temperature extremes and moisture to prevent premature thickening.
Troubleshooting Candy Melts
Candy melts are too thick, grainy or have seized up
– Check storage conditions – melted candy can thicken over time from heat/humidity exposure. Keep sealed in a cool area.
– When melting, avoid overheating or cooking which causes seizing. Melt slowly at low heat.
– Add a teaspoon of shortening or coconut oil while melting to thin and smooth out.
– For seized melts, adding a splash of vegetable oil and carefully re-warming may temporarily revive to a smooth melt. Results vary based on how badly seized.
Finished candy has poor gloss, streaks, blooming or chalky coating
– Allow melted candy to fully cool and set before assessing finish – it can look streaky while still warm.
– Too much movement while coating can disrupt the glossy finish. Allow dipped items to fully set.
– Humidity, moisture or condensation can impair the set. Let candy completely dry in a low humidity area.
– Overheating while melting or re-melting can burn the candy and dull the finish. Melt slowly at low heat.
– Make sure candy is fully melted and smooth, not starting to thicken or crystallize.
Candy melts won’t release cleanly from mold
– Make sure mold is completely clean and dry. Any trace of grease, residue or moisture can prevent releasing.
– Popping the mold in the fridge for 5-10 minutes can help contracted candy pull away from mold edges.
– Allow candy to fully set before removing from mold. Insufficient cooling can make it stick.
– Brush a very light coat of shortening or oil on mold cavities as release agent prior to pouring in candy.
– If melts stick excessively, the batch may be overheated. Burned candy residues can cling to molds.
Candy melts offer a versatile, dairy free alternative to real chocolate for candy making, baking and confectionery. While some mass-produced brands add milk ingredients, there are plenty of high quality options made without milkfat, casein or whey. Checking labels ensures your candy melts match your dietary needs. With proper storage and handling, dairy free candy melts provide smooth, vibrant melt for dipping, molding and drizzling to take your candy creations to the next level without milk, butter or cream.