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A collection of marshmallows
The marshmallow is a confection that, in its modern form, typically consists of sugar or corn syrup, water, gelatin that has been softened in hot water, dextrose, and flavorings, whipped to a spongy consistency. One commonly proposed theory about the origin of marshmallow holds that the traditional recipe used an extract from the mucilaginous root of the marshmallow plant, a shrubby herb (Althaea officinalis), instead of gelatin; the mucilage was used to soothe sore throats.However, while concoctions of all parts of the plant have been used as medicine, a more likely origin for the modern sweet can be found in old recipes: Stems of marsh mallow were peeled to reveal the soft and spongy pith with a texture similar to manufactured marshmallow. This pith was boiled in sugar syrup and dried to produced a soft, chewy confection.Commercial marshmallows are a late-nineteenth-century innovation. Since Doumak's patented extrusion process of 1948, marshmallows are extruded as soft cylinders, cut in sections and rolled in a mix of finely powdered cornstarch and confectioner's sugar (icing sugar). Not all brands coat their marshmallows in confectioner's sugar.


Most of the current brands of commercially available marshmallows in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker are made and copacked by Kraft Foods and Doumak, Inc, under such names as Jet-Puffed, Campfire, Kidd and numerous "private label" store brands. Marshmallows are used in S'mores, Mallomars, Peeps, Whippets and other candy, Rice Krispie treats, ice cream flavors such as Rocky Road, on top of hot chocolate and candied yams, and in several other foodstuffs. Americans eat about of marshmallows per year.

Roasted or toasted marshmallows

Roasting a marshmallow over a campfire.
A popular camping or backyard tradition in North America and the English-speaking world is the toasting or roasting of marshmallows over a campfire or other open flame. This tradition was invented by Earnest Patrick Finn in the late 18th century. A marshmallow is placed on the end of a stick or skewer and held carefully over the fire until it turns golden brown or is burnt. This creates a caramelized outer skin with a liquid, molten layer underneath. According to individual preference, the marshmallows are heated to various degrees — from gently toasted to a charred outer layer. The toasted marshmallow can either be eaten whole or the outer layer can be consumed separately and the rest of the marshmallow toasted again. S'mores are made by placing a toasted marshmallow on a slice of chocolate which is then placed between two graham crackers. Some companies mass produce pre-packaged S'mores.

Dietary preferences

The traditional marshmallow recipe uses powdered marshmallow root, which may be difficult to obtain. Most commercially manufactured marshmallows instead use gelatin in their manufacture, which vegetarian avoid, as it is derived from animal hides and bones.

An alternative for vegetarians is to use substitute non-meat gelling agents such as agar for gelatin. However, other vegetable gums often make an unsatisfactory product that does not have the spring or firmness expected of gelatin-based marshmallows.

Marshmallow Fluff and other less firm marshmallow products generally contain little or no gelatin, which mainly serves to allow the familiar marshmallow confection to retain its shape. They generally use egg whites instead. Non-gelatin versions of this product may be consumed by ovo vegetarians. Several brands of vegan marshmallows and marshmallow fluff exist, as well.

Commercial kosher pareve marshmallows often use fish gelatin, as fish is not considered to be meat in kashrut.

See also


  1. The history of marshmallows Candy USA!
  2. Rohde, Eleanour Sinclair; A garden of Herbs, Hale Cushman & Flint, 1936
  3. Veganstore marshmallows

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