Gluten-free diets are on the rise, with many people cutting out gluten for medical reasons or as a lifestyle choice. For those avoiding gluten, candy and other sweets can seem off-limits. Fortunately, many popular candies are naturally gluten-free or have gluten-free versions available. This article explores common candies that are gluten-free, making it easier for you to indulge your sweet tooth while sticking to your diet.
Why is gluten-free important?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, eating gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine. This can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and fatigue. The only treatment for gluten-related disorders is strictly avoiding gluten in the diet. Even small amounts of cross-contamination can cause issues.
In addition, some people avoid gluten by choice. They find they feel better overall on a gluten-free diet, though they do not have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Reasons for this perceived improvement could include reduced inflammation or avoiding other compounds found in grains.
No matter the reason for following a gluten-free diet, having tasty treats and snacks you can enjoy is important. Luckily, many common candies are naturally gluten-free or have gluten-free versions available.
For chocolate lovers, there is good news. Pure chocolate bars without add-ins contain no gluten. Look for darker chocolates focused on cocoa solids rather than milk chocolate, as milk chocolate may have barley malt added. Fun size chocolate bars, like Snickers, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers and M&Ms, are also gluten-free in their plain versions. The same applies to brands like Dove chocolate.
Be careful with chocolate that contains cookies, wafers or rice crispies, as these ingredients could contain gluten or be cross-contaminated. Opt for plain chocolate bars or cups whenever possible. Also, check labels since chocolate brands can differ in ingredients. For specialty chocolate, some gluten-free brands to look for include Endangered Species, Alter Eco, Hu Kitchen and Enjoy Life.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Brands
- Endangered Species
- Alter Eco
- Hu Kitchen
- Enjoy Life
Great news for hard candy fans – most traditional hard candies are gluten-free! This includes classics like lollipops, suckers, jelly beans, gummy bears and sour candies. Look for brands that do not list wheat, barley or malt ingredients. Some gluten-free brands include Jolly Rancher, Tootsie Roll, Smarties, Dubble Bubble and Lifesavers. Licorice, candy canes and breath mints also tend to be gluten-free.
Be cautious with newer or artisanal hard candies, as some may contain glutenous ingredients or be at risk for cross-contamination. Old-fashioned styles tend to be safest. If in doubt, check labels carefully.
Gluten-Free Hard Candy Brands
- Jolly Rancher
- Tootsie Roll
- Dubble Bubble
Regular chewing gum is gluten-free, though some specialized gums may contain gluten. Stick with classic brands like Wrigley’s and Bazooka for the gluten-free options. Most chewing gum ingredients are quite simple: sugar, gum base and flavorings. Just watch out for gourmet gums with cookie pieces or gums based on wheat flour instead of gum base.
Gluten-Free Chewing Gum Brands
Marshmallows are a gluten-free candy treat that comes in many forms. Regular marshmallows, marshmallow cremes and marshmallow topping are all gluten-free. The main ingredients are sugar, corn syrup and gelatin. You can also enjoy Peeps, marshmallow pops, Rice Krispie treats, whoopie pies and other marshmallow candies. Opt for brands made in dedicated gluten-free facilities, like Campfire Marshmallows, to reduce cross-contamination risks.
Gluten-Free Marshmallow Brands
- Campfire Marshmallows
- Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows
The classic Easter candy, jelly beans are naturally gluten-free. Their ingredients tend to be simple: sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, flavors and colors. Enjoy jelly beans from brands like Jelly Belly, Starburst or Brach’s. Just watch out for more gourmet flavors that could potentially add gluten. And if you’re getting jelly beans in bulk bins, be wary of potential cross-contamination from scoops used for other items.
Gluten-Free Jelly Bean Brands
- Jelly Belly
Candies to Avoid
While many candies are gluten-free, there are some types that are more likely to contain gluten. Here are some to be cautious with:
- Candies with cookie or wafer ingredients – Examples include Kit Kats, Twix, Reese’s Crispy Crunchy. Opt for plain versions.
- Grain-based candies – Malted milk balls, crunchy rice snacks or chocolate-covered granola may have glutenous grains.
- Licorice – Some black licorice contains wheat flour. Check labels.
- Artisanal or gourmet candies – May use wheat/gluten as an ingredient or have higher cross-contamination risks.
- Imported candies – Unfamiliar ingredients and cross-contamination risks.
- Bulk bin candies – Scoops used in multiple bins increase contamination risk.
Making Sure Candy is Gluten-Free
When indulging your sweet tooth on a gluten-free diet, here are some tips to keep your candy truly gluten-free:
- Read ingredient lists carefully looking for wheat, barley, rye, malt or ambiguous ingredients like “natural flavors.”
- Look for gluten-free labeling on the candy packaging.
- Stick to well-known brands made in dedicated gluten-free facilities.
- Avoid bulk bin candies where scoops may be shared.
- Contact the manufacturer if you have any questions.
- Start with small portions to check for any reaction when trying a new brand.
Most Popular Gluten-Free Candy Choices
After considering all of the above candy types and tips, here is a summary of some of the most popular and widely available gluten-free candy choices:
|Candy Type||Gluten-Free Brand Examples|
|Chocolate bars & cups||Dove, Hershey’s Special Dark, Endangered Species|
|Gummy candy||Haribo, Black Forest, Albanese|
|Lollipops & suckers||Dum Dums, Tootsie Pops, Charms Blow Pops|
|Licorice||Twizzlers Pull ‘n’ Peel|
|Jelly beans||Jelly Belly, Starburst|
|Chewing gum||Orbit, Trident, Bazooka|
|Hard candy||Jolly Ranchers, Werther’s, Smarties|
|Marshmallows||Kraft Jet-Puffed, Campfire|
DIY Gluten-Free Candy
Looking to satisfy your sweet tooth while knowing exactly what’s in your candy? With these simple recipes, you can make gluten-free candy at home:
Easy Homemade Marshmallows
- 3 packets unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup ice cold water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Confectioners’ sugar for coating
- In a small bowl, combine the gelatin packets and 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to soften for 5 minutes.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, remaining 1/2 cup water and the salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Once boiling, remove from heat and slowly whisk in the bloomed gelatin until smooth. Add vanilla.
- Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the marshmallow mixture on high speed for 5-7 minutes until fluffy and doubled in volume.
- Grease an 8×8 pan with cooking spray and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Transfer marshmallow into pan using a spatula coated in confectioners’ sugar.
- Dust top with more confectioners’ sugar. Allow to set for at least 6 hours at room temperature.
- Once set, remove from pan and cut into squares. Dust cut marshmallows with extra confectioners’ sugar to prevent sticking.
3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Fudge
- 2 cups white chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang on two sides.
- Place white chocolate chips and peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth.
- Stir in sweetened condensed milk until fully incorporated.
- Pour fudge into prepared pan, smoothing the top. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
- Lift fudge out of pan using parchment edges. Cut into squares and enjoy.
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- Assorted food colors and flavors
- Lollipop sticks
- Grease a baking sheet and have lollipop sticks ready.
- In a small saucepan, stir together corn syrup, sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cook until reaching 300 F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove from heat and stir in food colors and flavors as desired.
- Carefully dip the lollipop sticks into the candy mixture, then place on prepared baking sheet to set.
- Allow lollipops to fully cool before removing from sheet. Wrap in plastic wrap to store.
Despite the limitations of a gluten-free diet, you can still enjoy plenty of delightful candy treats. Many popular candies are naturally gluten-free, from chocolate bars to gummies to marshmallows. Follow the tips above to find safe gluten-free options and check labels carefully. For peace of mind, look for brands manufactured in dedicated gluten-free facilities. With so many tasty options, you can still satisfy your sweet tooth cravings while sticking to your gluten-free lifestyle.