Are Candy Canes Vegan? (Most Aren’t…)


candy cane heart

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. Some vegans are okay with consuming sugar like this, as it’s just extremely difficult to avoid. To the rest of us, this type of white sugar isn’t vegan.
  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. So while I think artificial colors are technically vegan, many vegans don’t consume them.

Which Candy Canes Are Vegan?

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, even if you’re okay with the artificial colors.

There’s a good chance that the sugar is not vegan.

If you’re really craving candy canes, either contact the manufacturer you’re interested in and ask about the sugar, or look for a brand with organic sugar (which can’t use bone char during the filtration process).

For example, Wholesome Organic’s candy canes are clearly vegan, and don’t have artificial colors either.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.