Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vegan Candy Corn and Chocolate Candy Corn

Candy corn seems to be one of those polarizing things. You either love it, or you hate it. For me, it's always been the former. Until I eat too much of it and then I hate it- for a few hours, anyway. But no matter how much I may OD on candy corn in October, every year when Fall rolls around, I look forward to its return, right along with the falling leaves, crisp air, and cozy sweaters, of course. No matter which candy corn camp you're in, you have to admit, these little candies, with their uniquely sweet texture, are a Fall candy staple. So of course I needed to make vegan candy corn!

Candy corn must be the key to my heart. In high school, my boyfriend gave me bags of candy corn as gifts. In college, where my husband and I met, every now and then he used to leave candy corn scattered in my bed around my pillow....I'm not sure how or why that little tradition started, but I remember some nights I'd get in bed hoping to find candy corn (for the record, no, I didn't eat it right before bed!) He used to joke that a squirrel left the candy corn in my bed...

In any case, when I saw this post for homemade vegan candy corn, I knew I'd be making it at some point. Since I can almost never make just one flavor or option of something, I made a few different variations here: some maple, some with marshmallow extract, some chocolate with regular dough, some chocolate with more chocolate and a dash of cinnamon. Usually, those chocolate candy corns from the "Harvest Mix" bags are always the ones left over that I never want to eat, but my homemade chocolate candy corn variations were actually my favorite of the mix here. Mmmmmm sweet candy corn.

As you can imagine, this is a bit of a process. But, it was also kind of fun. Grab your parchment paper, a bunch of sugar, and a healthy dose of patience mixed with some Halloween spirit- because it's time to make candy corn!

Vegan Candy Corn and "Harvest Mix" Options
Recipe Adapted from Pursuit of Hippieness and the Urban Housewife (same recipe)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup agave or corn syrup
  • 5 Tbsp Earth Balance buttery spread
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup powdered soy milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 drops marshmallow extract (optional, but I think it adds to the "authentic" candy corn flavor. But use it sparingly, with an eyedropper. You can always add just 1 drop to 1/3 of the dough when it comes time to roll it, and see what you think). 
  • Food coloring- Wilson's food coloring drops and some others available online are vegan. I tried a few different options, including tumeric and beet juice, but those didn't work so well (the tumeric you would need to use a ton of to get the right color, and the beet juice alters the consistency too much by making the dough too wet). Paste food coloring might also work particularly well here, but I haven't tried it.
For the "Harvest Mix" / chocolate candy corn:
You will make 2 balls, one a darker chocolate made with melted chocolate, and the other a lighter chocolate made with cocoa powder and a dash of cinnamon (optional). 
  • ~2 Tbsp melted semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (amount will depend on how much of the batch you make chocolate. I used about 1-2 Tbsp for 1/4 of the batch.)
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder (edit amount as needed, this was for about 1/5 of the batch).
  • Dash of cinnamon for cocoa powder mix.
For Maple Candy Corn:
Substitute the vanilla extract for maple extract, OR you can make some of your batch maple flavored by adding a few drops of maple extract to one or two of your balls of dough. Another thing you can do is add little bit of maple syrup, but not too much, as it could alter the texture of the dough and you don't want that.

  • In a large saucepan, melt the sugar, syrup, vanilla extract, and butter on medium heat, stirring occasionally until it starts to bubble and boil. Lower heat a tad and continue simmering and stirring as needed for another 5 minutes. Be careful not to overheat the mix.
  • Meanwhile, sift together the powered sugar, powdered milk and salt in a bowl. After the 5 minutes is up heating the butter mix, remove from heat and mix in the powered sugar mix until well combined. Set aside for 20 minutes or so, or until cool to touch.
  • When cool enough, separate the dough into at least 3 balls- you will make more if you are making different flavor variations. (I made 6 or so balls for plenty of options and playing around with the dough.) Add desired coloring - red & yellow for orange, yellow the middle, and leave one plain for the white. Knead the coloring in until it is the appearance you're looking for.
  • If making chocolate versions, this is where you will add melted chocolate to the dough- for a quarter of the batch, you will use maybe 1-2 Tbsp melted chocolate, so adjust amount as needed, and add it slowly to make sure you aren't changing the texture of the dough too much. For the middle lighter chocolate color, add a dash of cinnamon and some cocoa powder- enough for a light shade of chocolate, and knead in to mix as for the others. This is also where you can play around with other extracts and flavors, adding sparingly, since flavor extracts can be pretty potent. Use an eyedropper and don't add more than one drop per fifth of the batch.
  • Roll 3 colors into long strips:

  • Cut into small triangles and shape as needed (to get that traditional look, cut small pieces and smoosh them a bit, rounding the sides).  
  • Store in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
  • Make thin strips, and cut the triangles small. Seriously, no-one wants to eat a candy corn the size of their head.
  • Have fun playing around with colors and flavors! Variety is fun :)
  • I recommend making these 1-2 days before you want to serve them, and definitely store in the fridge. Avoid leaving them out at room temperature for extended periods of time (see notes below).
  • See the Urban Housewife's site for more useful tips! (and to thank her for an awesome recipe!)

Other vegan candy corn options:
In case you were wondering, regular candy corn is not vegan because it contains gelatin, honey, and food coloring. But I just found out Pangea sells pre-made vegan candy corn; I don't know how these taste, but they might be worth a try! Also, I found a lemon-flavored vegan candy corn recipe, and it looks like CCK just posted a candy corn recipe. But the CCK recipe is made with a cashew butter base, so, not surprisingly- and as she notes- it doesn't really replicate the authentic candy corn taste, texture, and flavor. But, I do get the not loving candy corn thing- it's the kind of thing where if you eat just one too many, you kind of want to vomit from sugar overload ;-) After spending hours making these suckers, I think I have a new appreciation for candy corn moderation! :)

All in, this probably took me about 2 and a half hours to do. But, I did take some breaks- you don't have to make all of the candy corn at the same time, since you can just store the dough in the fridge and roll it out later if you want. Speaking of which, after you've made these sweet little suckers, I'll say it again- you really have to store them in the fridge. I left them out for a party for about 4 hours and was pretty disappointed when they turned back into a soft paste by the end of the night, all sticking together. I don't know if using corn syrup rather than agave would help with that, but be forewarned.

And, I'm going to be honest here- I don't think these taste exactly like regular candy corn. The flavor was a little different- which again, may have been from the agave, so next time I may try corn syrup. BUT- stored in the fridge or freezer, particularly for more than a day, the texture is just right, and I thought this homemade vegan candy corn tasted really close to the real deal.  

Sweet! I made my own candy corn. Pretty cool, right?!


  1. These are adorable, and I love the different flavour options you tried! Sounds like a fun Halloween project - I'm glad the effort you put in was worth it!

    1. Thanks! Despite the "no treats" policy at my husband's office, the leftovers are now marooned there. Hopefully I will get at least SOME back to enjoy! :)

  2. You are crazy girl! Say what, homemade vegan candy corn - you are amazing!

  3. I know this post is old but in the instructions it says marshmallow extract but in the photo it's maple extract. Can you clarify?

    1. I used both - different options. You can try with either for slightly different flavor :)


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