Taffy, also known as chews by the Brits, is one of the most popular candies in the world. Chances are you’ve had it as a kid and probably can’t still get enough of it. But now, as a vegan, you’re paying more attention to what you consume and are probably wondering whether or not this delicious treat is vegan-friendly. First of all, congratulations on going vegan! Your food choices are saving the lives of many animals, the environment, and most importantly, improving your own health. Back to the saltwater taffy, this candy is made of several different ingredients that don’t obviously shout animal products. But like most sugar-based processed foods, there are a few concerns for vegans. Read on to find out how it’s made and make the decision for yourself.
Is salt water taffy vegan? There’s no cut and dried answer for this. The truth is it can be, depending on the brand and your definition of veganism. The traditional ingredients in this candy are non-vegan but there are commercial versions that don’t contain any blatantly labelled animal products, making them suitable for vegan consumers.
The transition to becoming vegan can be a bit challenging. We often feel restricted when we stop consuming animal products and by-products. A vegan diet mostly consists of whole plant-based foods; however, with the rise of vegan junk food, you don’t have to give up on your favourite delicious treats altogether. The first on that list is salt water taffy. Taffy is made by boiling several different ingredients to form a sticky mass, which is then pulled to become aerated. This article is going to take a more in-depth look at the vegan status of salt water taffy. That way, you can make an informed decision about whether it’s a suitable addition to your vegan diet or not.
Is Salt Water Taffy Vegan?
To help answer this question, let’s get into the ingredients used to make salt water taffy. Taffy recipes have been evolving and are now available in different variations. The classic recipe for salt water taffy calls for salt, water, sugar, flavourings, corn syrup, butter, cornstarch, glycerine, and food colour. Despite its name, this type of taffy doesn’t contain salt water. Supposedly, the name came about as a joke, but let me save you the history lesson for later.
I’ve talked about the traditional ingredients in this taffy, but there are also commercial versions that are suitable for vegans. Their recipes eliminate Trans fats, gluten, artificial colours, artificial flavours, nuts, soy, as well as dairy. These versions are not only good for vegans but also for those suffering from common allergies. The good thing about innovation is it makes room for everyone.
That being said, the ingredients used in salt water taffy may or may not be vegan, depending on several factors. For instance:
The potential issue with sugar
There’s a possibility that sugar is filtered with bone char, which is from the bones of cows, to make it as white as possible. Sugar filtered this way is clearly not vegan-friendly. Salt water taffy is a huge brand and the sugar used is most likely sourced from different places. This makes it nearly impossible to track what filtering materials were used to make one specific candy. It’s not safe to assume that it’s vegan-friendly, so ask the manufacturer.
The potential issue with artificial colours and flavours
Artificial colours are all synthetic ingredients made from fossil fuels. Since they don’t contain any animal products, you’d think they are vegan. Unfortunately, not! Due to safety concerns, they are routinely tested on animals. Mice, rats, and dogs have been fed high doses of these products to see how much can kill them or cause other side effects like tumour growth. Needless to say, this doesn’t sit well with vegans. The same applies to artificial flavours. Tracking their origins would be difficult given the many different brands out there.
The problem with palm oil
By the most common definition of veganism, which is not consuming animal products or by-products, palm oil is vegan-friendly. However, the growing palm has resulted in the death of many animals. The demand is so high that poorer countries are destroying forests and peatlands to create more plantations. Animal species like Sumatran tigers and orangutans are facing extinction due to this practice. Although some vegans will consume palm oil by the simple fact that it’s not an animal product, strict vegans will not support any product associated with animal cruelty.
That being said, veganism is all about reducing animal suffering whenever reasonably possible. It would take more land to grow alternatives like coconut or corn oil. Animals die when we clear land for that as well. So, animal deaths will still occur if companies switched to another type of oil. You have to ask yourself if avoiding palm oil is a reasonable way to reduce animal suffering. Well, it’s all up to you!
Is This Taffy Made With Salt Water?
If you’ve ever tested seawater before you probably know that this candy is sweet and doesn’t taste anything like seawater. So, what’s with the name?
Well, salt water taffy originated from Atlantic City in New Jersey. Legend has it that a storm hit the city of Atlantic in the late ’80s. It flooded several businesses, including a candy shop owned by one David Bradley. After the storm, a young girl came in to buy a bag of candy and Bradley jokingly told her that all he had left was some salt water taffy. The name was catchy so it stuck. Another version was that the company named it that as a marketing ploy. Regardless of who came up with the name, it was picked up by several other vendors in Atlantic City and later borrowed by several candy makers in other coastal towns. Over 420 companies were manufacturing this seaside treat by 1920. Today, it’s a household name that’s sold in every corner of the world.
Although salt water taffy recipes vary from one manufacturer to another, there are a few common ingredients as mentioned above. As you can see, the list includes salt and water and not seawater. Despite the name or the ingredients used, the candy is not notably salty, neither is it watery.
What makes salt water taffy unique?
If you ever see this candy being made, you’ll be fascinated by the pulling process. This is a critical part of making taffy and probably what sets it apart from other candies. During production, taffy is stretched out and then folded back on itself, capturing tiny air bubbles between the two pieces. The pulling process is repeated until it reaches the right consistency. The air bubbles are what make taffy lighter, softer, and chewy. Without pulling, these candies would be very hard.
So, Should Vegans Consume Salt Water Taffy?
To help conclude this topic, let’s first define what veganism is. It’s a way of life that seeks to eliminate all forms of exploitation or cruelty towards animals as far as it’s possible and practicable. Note the words possible and practicable because 100% harm reduction is near impossible. Veganism isn’t something to over-think about, especially if you’re new to it.
It’s impossible to find 100% vegan junk food. That’s because there are a lot of questionable activities that go into making processed foods. As a rule of thumb, look out for any animal ingredients that are clearly labelled. If there aren’t any, you can consider it 99.9% vegan. Some vegans are okay with that but others go a step further to look at the food production process and ensure no animals were exploited in the process.
As mentioned before, salt water taffy is mostly considered vegan, but it all depends on where you stand on artificial colours, artificial flavours, and palm oil. You don’t have to overthink ingredients that aren’t obviously animal products, especially if it makes the whole concept of veganism too complicated for you. A more experienced vegan, on the other hand, might choose to give up questionable products like this altogether as a matter of principle. If you really want some, you can make salt water taffy at home, with more vegan-friendly ingredients, following the procedure outlined below.
Making Salt Water Taffy At Home
There are several recipes available online for making salt water taffy. Here’s a super easy one to get you started:
- Water – ½ cup (120ml)
- Salt – 1 teaspoon
- Sugar – 1 cup (200g)
- Corn syrup – 2/3 cup (145g)
- Cornstarch – 1 tablespoon
- Oil – 1 tablespoon
- Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
- Food colouring of your choice – 2 drops
Add the sugar to a medium-sized pot
Sift in the cornstarch and mix until well-combined
Add all the remaining ingredients, and then whisk to combine
Place the mixture over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to boil for 2-3 minutes and cook to 250°F (120°C). Remember that if you under-cook, you’ll have pretty sticky candy and if you overcook, it will be as solid as heck.
Pour the mixture into a greased heatproof dish to cool
Once the mixture is cool enough to touch, start the pulling process. Stretch it out about 12 inches or further and fold it back on itself. Repeat the process for 10-15 minute until the taffy turns to a bit of a lighter colour. While you can do this by hand, it will take a long time and it can be quite a workout. A machine, on the other hand, will do it to perfection in just minutes.
Once the taffy becomes harder to pull or you feel it’s perfect, roll it or stretch it into a thin amount on a greased surface. Slice it into bite-size chunks using oiled scissors. You can choose to wrap it or not.
It’s as simple as that! You can make salt water taffy in just about any flavour. There are hundreds of different flavours of this taffy but the most common ones are vanilla, banana, raspberry, maple, mint extracts, watermelon, or lemon. Homemade salt water taffy should be eaten within 7 days, but you can also freeze it for up to 6 months.
I hope this article covered everything you need to know about salt after taffy and managed to answer your question about adding it to your vegan diet.