Hot Tamales is one of the most popular candies. It is manufactured by Just Born and the end product is a chewy, cinnamon flavoured, oblong-shaped candy that is enjoyed by people of all ages. It is so popular that it was once rated the top-selling cinnamon candy.
This candy comes in many different flavours, thus offering a flavour-charged and mouth-refreshing taste for every consumer. You may have grown up enjoying this spicy hot treat but since turning vegan you’ve become more conscious of what you consume. If you are wondering what’s underneath this candy’s chewy texture, cinnamon flavour, and spicy scent, you have come to the right place for answers.
Are Hot Tamales vegan? The short is answer no, all flavours of HOT Tamales are currently considered non-vegan because they contain a non-vegan ingredient, which is confectioners glaze (shellac). There is, however, a small section of vegans who consider it vegan-friendly and we’ll see why later on. After all, there’s no common guide on veganism.
Many people associate a vegan diet to boring plant-based foods, but nothing could be further from the truth. With the increasing wave of vegan junk food, vegans can now indulge in their favourite foods without compromising their principles. One of these guilty pleasures is the vegan candies, and although Hot Tamales are not, there are so many vegan-friendly candies available on the market to satisfy your sweet tooth or even have for Halloween.
Today, we are going to learn more about Hot Tamales so you can make an informed decision about adding or not adding them to your vegan diet. Hot Tamales are not to be confused with the spicy Tamales found in the Mexican cuisine, although it’s the inspiration behind the candy’s name.
The Vegan Status of Hot Tamales
There are different levels of veganism with some abstaining from consuming the most obvious animal products and by-products like meat, eggs, milk, and the likes. Then, some stricter vegans take it a notch higher to abstain from any food product that contributes to any form of animal suffering –whether directly or indirectly.
Those who fall in the former category might consider having Hot Tamales as it doesn’t contain the most obvious non-vegan ingredients often used in candy making like egg albumin, gelatine, milk or other dairy products, and animal-derived colours.
Hot Tamales used to be made with gelatine, which is derived from collagen taken from animal body parts, but recently changed their recipe to exclude gelatine. A lot of chewy candies use a huge amount of aerators like albumin but Hot Tamales don’t contain any. Most candies also make use of Red 4 food colouring, which is derived from carminic acid that comes from beetles.
Though some vegans wouldn’t shy away from it, it’s one less non-vegan ingredient you have to worry about since Hot Tamales uses Red 3 and Red 40 food colourings that are derived from coal tar.
Why Hot Tamales Are Non-Vegan
Despite not containing the above animal products that are common in candies, Hot Tamales are still not 100% vegan as the manufacturers continue to include ingredients that wouldn’t be appropriate for vegans.
From the ingredients list, you will find confectioner’s glaze (the name often used for shellac by candy makers). Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug on trees. And while some might view this a natural process, exploiting the resources and labour of animals is cruel. It takes about 50,000-300,000 lac bugs to secrete just 1kg of shellac. Therefore, to produce this ingredient in large masses that would be enough for its required use in the food industry requires extreme exploitation and containment of the lac bugs.
As if that wasn’t enough, many bugs are gruesomely killed in the process of harvesting when the substance is scrapped from branches. Confectioner’s glaze is not only an animal-derived ingredient but also contributes to animal suffering, which is what veganism is against.
Secondly, Hot Tamales contain sugar, which in itself is vegan, but its production process raises eyebrows in the vegan world as it makes use of animal parts. Bone char, which is produced by charring animal bones, is often used to filter and bleach sugar to give it a pure white colour.
Although some sugar manufacturers now use vegan-friendly filtering agents in their production, it’s hard to trace where a huge company like Just Born sources all of its sugars from. In short, there’s no telling whether the sugar found in your Hot Tamales is 100% vegan.
Vegan-friendly candy isn’t actually that hard to come by. In fact, there are plenty of plant-based, vegan options available right within the candy aisle of your local grocery store. And, the best part is they don’t contain confectioner’s glaze. Some of the best vegan alternatives to Hot Tamales include:
Zachary cinnamon bear
This chewy candy gives you the same cinnamon taste as Hot Tamales but without confectioner’s glaze. In fact, the only wax used is carnauba with other ingredients, including corn syrup, modified food starch, sugar, mineral oil, natural and artificial flavours, as well as Red 40 food colouring.
Brach’s cinnamon imperials
This is another candy with the same cinnamon taste as Hot Tamales but without questionable ingredients. They contain corn syrup, natural and artificial flavours, sugar, and a number of vegan-friendly food colourings. From the ingredients list, there’s nothing that screams animal product or by-product, certainly no confectioner’s glaze.
If you are not into the spicy candy, some vegan ones with a sweeter taste include:
- Jolly Ranchers
- Swedish Fish
- Nerds, etc
Concerns in Otherwise Vegan Candy
While it’s true that the above candies are generally accepted in the vegan world, there are a few things that might make stricter vegans cast them away altogether.
For starters, some vegan candies are produced in the same factories that handle non-vegan products like dairy; plus, vegan flavours are also made in the same facilities as non-vegan flavours. The truth is cross-contamination and cross-contact is straight-up unavoidable despite the best efforts of the manufacturers. Some of the candies will never be certified as vegan due to this risk, leaving it up to you to decide if cross-contamination is an issue for you.
Sugar is a popular ingredient in vegan candies. And, while it’s derived from plants, it is usually processed using bone char to remove impunities and give it the pure white colour. This might not sit well with stricter vegans as bone char is produced by charring animal bones, thus contributing to animal exploitation.
Last, but not least, vegan candies contain artificial colours. Although these are synthetic ingredients made from fossil fuels, they are usually tested on animals to determine how safe they are for human consumption. The harmful use of animals in experiments is cruel and also often ineffective since animals don’t have the same anatomy as humans. And, such imprecise results from animal experiments not only wastes scarce research resources, but also exposes humans to unnecessary risks.
Are Hot Tamales Healthy?
Like other regular candies, vegan candy is not the healthiest food choice. Hot Tamales are packed full of sugar, which may raise blood sugar levels and even lead to diabetes if consumed in excess. High amounts of sugar also contribute to oral health issues like tooth decay and gum disease.
Secondly, Hot Tamales contain artificial food colours, including Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Blue 2 Lake. Did you know that Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 dyes contain Benzidine –a carcinogen permitted to be used on humans at low, safe levels? This means that consuming too many Hot Tamales regularly can increase the risk of cancer.
Aside from the risk that Benzidine presents, these artificial dyes have also been linked to other health concerns, including behavioural problems in children, hyperactivity disorders, allergic reactions, and severe hypersensitivity, just to name a few.
From this information, it’s safe to say that regular consumption of Hot Tamales is not good for your health. This doesn’t just apply to Hot Tamales alone, but all candies in general. So, whatever kind you are consuming, do it in moderation or better yet, start weaning yourself off it now before it’s too late.
But since we all crave something sweet now and then, perhaps you can make more healthy vegan cadies at home. There are several recipes online to help you achieve that, so check them out and get started!