Are Candy Canes Vegan?


Candy canes are just sugar, right?

Surely they’d be vegan?

The reality is that some candy canes are vegan, but most aren’t.

Why Candy Canes Often Aren’t Vegan

The basic ingredients for a candy cane are simple. Usually along the lines of:

  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup (aka sugar in a different form)
  • Peppermint
  • Artificial coloring

Occasionally flavors like butterscotch have dairy in them, and some candy canes are filled with non-vegan chocolate, but we’re talking about plain old red and white canes here.

I’ve seen a few with shellac or beeswax as well, but they aren’t common.

box of candy cane

The ones pictured above are Brach’s Bobs Candy Canes, the most popular ones on the U.S. Amazon store.

It’s full ingredient list is:

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Peppermint Oil, Red 40, Red 40 Lake

There are 2 things to point out there.

  1. Plain white “sugar” in the U.S. at least is often run through bone char (about half of it). There’s no way of knowing this, so it’s a personal decision. Most vegans are okay with consuming sugar like this, it’s just extremely difficult to avoid.
  2. Many artificial food colorings (like red 40) come from coal, but are tested on animals. This testing consists of cruel tests like rubbing it in animals’ eyes. Worst of all, the mice or rats (in most cases) are killed at the end. No ethical vegan is okay with animal testing that I know of.

The coloring ingredients are where a clear line is drawn. So no, most candy canes are not vegan, sorry to disappoint you.

In summary, the next time you see one of those candy canes around the office or a party during the holidays, it makes sense to decline it if you’re an ethical vegan.

About the author

Dale C.

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance writer. Trying to do my small part in making the world better by writing about the wonderful world of veganism.

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