For those of us who stick to vegan diets but love gummies and sours, life can be tough. Sometimes it seems like gelatin is in everything! Lucky for us, though, there are some alternative ingredients for stiffening up those yummy, chewy candies we love so much. One of the most common alternatives for use in vegan candy is pectin.
Is Pectin Vegan?
If you’ve never heard of it and are Googling “is pectin vegan,” worry no more. Yes, pectin is vegan! Best known for thickening up jellies and jams, it can also replace gelatin in soft, chewy gummy candies and jelly candies.
Not only is pectin a natural ingredient free from animal products, but it’s also relatively simple to make at home, so it’s great for vegans, zero-wasters, and DIYers alike.
Scroll down to learn everything you need to know about this vegan-friendly candy ingredient.
What is Pectin?
Pectin is a naturally-occurring starch used as a vegan thickening agent in jellies, jams, and candy. Also known as heteropolysaccharide, it’s the chemical that gives fruits and veggies their structure. That’s why it’s so great at helping jams and gummy candies firm up and hold their shapes. When heteropolysaccharide is combined with acid and sugar and cooked at high temperatures, it forms a gel we call pectin.
Pectin is used in pretty much the same ways gelatin is used: as a thickener and sometimes a fat substitute. While it may not be a kitchen staple except for serious bakers and candy-makers, commercial pectin is widely available in powdered, liquid, and high-methoxyl form. You can also make homemade pectin from high-pectin fruits, like:
- Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit
- Stone fruits like peaches and apricots
Pectin is also found in high amounts in vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and peas.
If you’re looking to experiment with your own pectin-making skills, a good rule of thumb is that the more structured the fruit or veggie, the more pectin there is. Softer fruits (like berries) and very ripe fruits will have lower pectin contents.
Medicinal Uses of Pectin
Pectin isn’t just useful as a vegan thickener. There is also some evidence that it has health benefits, too.
Some people have had success reducing LDL (sometimes called “bad” cholesterol) with pectin supplements. Others have found possible connections between pectin and the reduction or slowing of cancer. It has even been used to treat digestive problems in children, though the FDA banned over-the-counter pectin treatments for this purpose in 2003.
Experts warn that pectin supplements can conflict with certain cancer treatments and other drugs, so you should always talk with your doctor before taking them.
Make Your Own Pectin
Some health-conscious jam and candy lovers argue that commercial types of pectin aren’t always the best choice since they can be made from genetically-modified crops like corn or contain GMO ingredients such as dextrose. Others note that commercial pectins can require large amounts of sugar to work properly – though we can’t complain about that one bit!
Whether you want more control over your diet or you’re just a DIYer at heart and would like to experiment with jelly or candy making from scratch, making your own pectin is actually pretty simple with the right ingredients.
What You’ll Need:
- Fruit with a high pectin content (tart apples work best)
- Lemon juice and/or citric acid
How to Make Homemade Pectin
- Wash your fruit, but don’t peel it.
- Together with the water and lemon juice, boil the fruit for 30 to 45 minutes, or until it reduces by almost 50%. There are some great recipes with guidelines for ratios, but know that the pectin in your batch can also vary by the pectin content of your fruit and the ripeness of your fruit.
- Strain your mixture through cheesecloth, or something with small holes.
- Boil again for about 20 minutes.
- Let cool, then seal the mixture in sanitized containers for refrigeration or freezing.
Live Sweetly with Candy Club
If you’re like us, all this talk of fruit, jams and jellies, and gummy candies has you dreaming of all the vegan candy you can eat. Whether you want to try your hand at your own recipe or check out what we have in store for gummy-lovers everywhere, Candy Club is here to satisfy your sweet tooth however you need.