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How To Veganize Halloween 2021: A Guide To Navigating The Candy Aisle

It was Halloween of 2015 when I realized that I would never eat a KitKat again. Though this chocolate bar revelation seems minor in hindsight, as a newly vegan eighth grader, I acutely felt the loss of my favorite candy. When I’d decided to make the move to plant-based a few months prior, I hadn’t considered the social predicament that I’d find myself in come October. The realization that most of my preferred treats weren’t vegan soured my otherwise sweet experience of going trick-or-treating for the last time. 

For many of us, our annual Halloween candies are pure nostalgia. Something about the sensory experience of tearing the crinkly wrappers and biting into the familiar textures can truly catapult you back to the adrenaline rush of Halloween as a kid. Giving up that sensation can be a bit of a challenge when you’re new to veganism and already having to make lots of dietary adjustments. The good thing is, lots of classic candies are accidentally vegan, and there are tons of new vegan candies flooding the market each year. Going vegan obviously requires making some sacrifices, but have no fear — you don’t have to kiss all of your beloved Halloween candy goodbye. 

If chewy, fruity candies were your go-to growing up, then you’re in luck! Lots of treats in this sugary genre are actually vegan. You can indulge in Twizzlers, Sour Patch Kids, Airheads and even some types of Swedish Fish to your heart’s content. Every Halloween party you’re at is likely to have at least one of these options mixed into the candy bowl. I find it helpful to memorize this list in order to quickly distinguish between the candies that do and don’t have gelatin. For example, gummy bears, classic candy corn, Starbursts and gummy worms all contain gelatin derived from the protein in boiled animal skin, tendons and bones. When you’re craving some of these candies, make sure to check out the smaller brands YumEarth and HunnyBon for some amazing replacements. 

Beyond the chewy options, there are many other fruity candies that are safe for vegans to eat. Lots of lollipops, including Dum Dums and Blow Pops, are vegan and so are Smarties, Dots and Skittles. If you’re unsure of whether a different brand of fruity candy is vegan, one hack is to ask yourself if the candy is red. Lots of red foods (and even cosmetics products!) use animal-based dyes to get their bright colors, so be careful when reading ingredient lists. 

Finding vegan-friendly caramels and chocolates can be more of a struggle, but there are still plenty of dairy-free options if you know what you’re looking for. As a caramel lover, I can say that Cocomels are a must. They aren’t too expensive and come in the perfect little bites! When it comes to chocolate, great options include some of the dark varieties from Endangered Species and Alter Eco, and you also can’t go wrong with Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (I swear they’re better than Reese’s). The brands Unreal and Enjoy Life Foods also offer a host of vegan chocolate options. Unreal stocks plant-based alternatives to many of the old-school candies, with my favorites being their luxurious dark chocolate caramel peanut nougat bar and their not-so-subtle replacement for crispy M&Ms. Enjoy Life is unique in that they sell cute, festive-shaped vegan chocolates and milk chocolate bars made with rice milk (so they’re safe to bring to nut-free Halloween gatherings). Saving the best for last, my all-time favorite brand for vegan chocolate candies is the lesser-known company OCHO Organic Candy. OCHO makes delicious coconut-filled chocolate bars that put Mounds and Almond Joys to shame. They also sell peppermint, caramel and PB&J flavored candy bars that are equally as tasty. Though OCHO’s candies are on the pricier side (I wouldn’t give them out at my door), they’re a great option to keep in the kitchen for yourself to snack on during the Halloween season.

Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to not give up on a plant-based Halloween. If none of the vegan candies on the market appeal to you, you can also always experiment with making your own. Feel free to check out this Her Campus article on how to make Halloween-themed vegan nut butter cups or search up candy making tutorials on YouTube. Besides being an easy way to monitor the ingredients in your treats, DIYing your vegan candy is a super fun and creative activity that you can get friends, family and roommates involved in. To all of the newbie vegans out there, who are experiencing the Halloween stress that I did six years ago, just remember that you can totally celebrate the spooky season without the cruelty!

Kate is a San Francisco native and second-year English major at UCLA. When she's not writing articles for Her Campus at UCLA, she enjoys getting lost in a good book and experimenting with vegan recipes.
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