Is Cotton Candy Vegan

You might have had lots of cotton candies in your childhood. Who hasn't? From the very young to the old, everyone loves cotton candy. They are also called spun sugar or candy floss.

Most of us are sure that it is pretty much just sugar, but is it? The problem is we can't be 100% sure that cotton candy is vegan. 

Cotton candy is found everywhere—at carnivals, fairs, circuses, and festivals around the US. It usually comes in a plastic bag or a stick with appealing colors and designs. But now that you have decided to go vegan, you may wonder, “Is cotton candy vegan?” 

We understand that your love for cotton candy hasn't changed. Cotton candy is generally vegan, as it's mainly from sugar, food color, and flavorings. 

As more people look for vegan foods and snacks, the demand for vegan confectionery is growing. In fact, veganism has been the trending diet for cotton candy, according to a source. 

This blog will explore the ingredients of cotton candy and address the question, “Is cotton candy vegan?” We’ll also learn if they are free from dairy and gluten

What Is Cotton Candy?

Cotton candy is a spun sugar confection that looks like cotton or clouds. It can also look like grandma’s hair or Santa’s beard! Also called candy floss or fairy floss, it is primarily composed of sugar, which is melted and spun at high speeds in a specially built-machine. 

Cotton candy is not a healthy snack. The USDA claims that cotton candy lacks any nutritional value; it is undeniably high in sugar and calories. Hence, it is bad for everyone, especially children.

Interestingly, scientists are using cotton candy machines to make artificial blood vessels. They discovered a technique for creating capillaries, which can be utilized to provide artificial organs with nutrients and oxygen. 

Origin of Cotton Candy

It was introduced in 1897 by a Dentist, Dr. William Morrison. He collaborated with candy manufacturer John C. Wharton to come up with a machine that cooked sugar in a spinning bowl that had several very small holes. 

Melted sugar poured through the holes in the bowl, which was hot and spinning, and turned into light strands. This sweet confection was dubbed “Fairy Floss.”

Today, the fairy floss machine has come a long way. A number of cost-effective and user-friendly cotton candy machines are available on the market for commercial and personal use. Yes, you can make it at home. 

Some even have high-tech features such as LED lights for an entertaining and fun experience and heat management that automatically modifies the voltage for ideal outcomes. 

Cotton Candy Ingredients

Cotton candy has changed throughout the years from the original light-as-air, sugary delight we recall from earlier years, so you should keep an eye out for it now. 

Let's discuss the main ingredients of cotton candy to find out why it’s unhealthy. 

  1. Sugar—Granulated sugar is the core ingredient of candy floss. It can be natural cane sugar or sugar made from bone char. 
  2. Artificial food color—Those vibrant colors are what make cotton candy mouth-watering, and for that, artificial food coloring is used. After, sugar is initially white in color. Some of the artificial colors used in making cotton candy are pink, green, blue, yellow, and orange. These food dyes are often added to the sugar before it's melted and spun. 
  3. Flavorings – There are various types of flavors available that are used for making cotton candy. Some of the common ones are vanilla, grape, cherry, strawberry, blue raspberry, and more. 

How is Cotton Candy made?

Cotton candy is manufactured by heating and liquifying sugar before centrifugally spinning it through tiny holes. Hence, it rapidly cools and solidifies into fine hair-like strands.  

As more and more strands are formed, they begin to stick together, forming a web-like structure that is collected on a cone or a stick. As a result, the liquid sugar does not crystallize and is instead molded into cotton candy.

Is Cotton Candy Vegan?

The short answer is yes, they are vegan, but there's more to it. 

Cotton candy is manufactured primarily from one ingredient: Sugar. As you are probably aware, refined cane sugar is derived from plants and is vegan in the sense that it is not an animal product.

However, the normal manufacturing procedure for refined sugar involves using animal bone char, which sounds just like burnt bones from dead animals. 

That complicates things since, even though there is no char in the final product, it is still an element of the production process and, hence, not ethically vegan. In the case of natural and organic sugar, it's not the same since bone char isn't used.

To further understand whether it is vegan or not, we need to take a closer look at its ingredients.

i). Refined sugars 

Refined sugar can be derived from either sugar or beetroots. In the US, both are used in the same amounts and have a similar texture and taste. However, the refining procedure is different. 

Cane sugar can be treated, filtered, and bleached with bone char, whereas beet sugar is filtered through a diffuser and blended with vegan-friendly chemicals to crystallize. This creates problems for vegans because it contains animal bone char. 

Bone char is nothing but a natural carbon derived from cattle. The sugar refining factory uses it as a decolorizing and de-ashing agent, which is how sugar gets its immaculate white color.

Here's the twist. High temperatures are required to produce bone char, a black, granular material that resembles charcoal. It also needs to be applied in large quantities because bone char cannot decolorize.

Luckily, not every company relies on it. They use modern alternatives such as activated carbon and ion-exchange resins, which function similarly to bone char.  

Similar to natural flavors, the term “sugar” is all by itself on a label. That’s why it’s impossible to know what kind of sugar is being used or what sort of refining process it underwent before ending up in your cotton candy. The safest way is to contact the manufacturer and ask your concern.

ii). Food flavors

Food flavors used in cotton candy could be natural or artificial. There's a huge difference between them, and vegans must take note of this. Natural flavors are derived from natural sources like honey, berries, trees, and even animals. 

For instance, a substance called castoreum, which is taken from the anal glands of beavers, can be used to improve the flavors of strawberries and raspberries as well as vanilla flavorings. On the flip side, artificial flavors are synthesized in a laboratory and are considered vegan. 

iii). Artificial colors 

Food colorings are used to give it vibrant colors. Since cochineal is made from insects, it is not regarded as a vegan food coloring. However, artificial colors made from petroleum can be consumed by vegans. 

Another problem with using artificial colors in cotton candy is that they're a byproduct of animal testing. Yes – that comes under animal exploitation! While most vegans are fine with eating products containing artificial colors, stricter vegans strongly disagree for genuine reasons. 

Since artificial colors might have serious health consequences, laboratories conduct regular tests to make sure that they are safe for eating. 

Is Cotton Candy Still Vegan If It's Contaminated With Other Ingredients? 

Not really. “May contain traces of…” or “made on shared equipment with…” animal products are phrases you may see on some ingredient lists. But, these are not warnings about the purposeful inclusion of an animal product; rather, they are for those who have severe sensitivities.

There is no guilt in choosing not to buy these products, but purchasing these cotton candies won't raise the market for non-vegan cotton candy.

Is Cotton Candy Dairy-Free?

As explained before, candy floss's ingredients are mainly sugar, artificial flavors, and food coloring. This means it is usually dairy-free and has no animal derivatives.

However, due to cross-contamination during manufacture, some varieties of cotton candy could have traces of dairy products like milk. 

Is Cotton Candy Gluten-Free? 

Many people with allergies, celiac disease, or intolerances wonder if they can eat cotton candy. Luckily, most cotton candies are gluten-free so you can eat them without worries. But again, check the label before consuming the product. 

Is Vegan Cotton Candy Healthy? 

A vegan diet is often linked with health benefits. In many circumstances, plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products are healthier in various ways. So, does vegan cotton candy fall under the same category? Unfortunately, the answer is “no.”

Vegan cotton candy is still exactly that: Cotton Candy. Just because the word vegan appears on the label does not imply that it is healthy. Other types of regular cotton candies are accidentally vegan, but they are still highly processed and sugary. 

On top of that, it doesn't have any fat, preservatives, or sodium. Only about 115 calories per serving. So it's pretty much unhealthy! 

Having said that, all cotton candy—vegan or not—has a high sugar content and should only be consumed in moderation. But don't let that stop your sweet tooth. It's okay to treat yourself to a small amount of candy occasionally. 

Is Cotton Candy Safe to Eat? – Side Effects

As you may know, cotton candy is pure sugar—and nothing else! So, it doesn't offer any health benefits. In fact, it can worsen your health by increasing sugar levels in your body. 

Cotton candy is usually considered safe to eat. However, there are some health concerns that many people need to know before consuming too much of it. Here's what you should know: 

i) Sugar Content 

Cotton candy is basically full of sugar, so it's no surprise it's high in sugar. A single serving can contain up to 28 grams of sugar. This exceeds the recommended daily consumption for young people.

As you may be aware, eating too much sugar can result in dental issues, weight gain, diabetes, and other health issues. So be careful not to overeat and limit your intake. 

ii) Nutritional Value 

Generally, cotton candy has no nutritional value. Only sugar and high calories are clearly harmful to your health. Experts believe that repeated intake can cause nutritional deficiencies in children's diets. 

iii) Allergies and Sensitivities 

Cotton candies are mostly allergy-friendly. However, some people may be allergic to food colors or other artificial ingredients used in candy floss. So, if you've any type of food allergy, make sure to check the label before eating them. 

iv) Vegan and Halal Considerations

Cotton candy is technically halal and vegan-friendly. However, in rare cases, they may contain animal-derived products such as pork or have been prepared using non-halal procedures.

Cotton candy consumption may also result in a skin rash, gastrointestinal blockage, or breathing issues. So, while cotton candy could be a delight now and then, parents should not purchase it or give it to their kids in order to protect their health.

It should be noted that, despite the belief that anything made of sugar (with food coloring or other flavoring added) would be the worst thing ever, a typical serving size of cotton candy only requires about 30g of sugar, or about 9g less than a 12-oz can of Coke.

Alternatives to Cotton Candy

The best solution is to avoid cotton candy altogether, but if you still insist on eating it, opt for organic cotton candies. Here's how organic cotton candy differs from traditional one: 

  • Organic cotton is made from non-refined sugar, which is sugar that has not been refined and does not require bone char for filtering and bleaching;
  • Natural flavors and colorings are used, which are derived from actual plant-based food sources;
  • Moreover, it originates from artificial ingredients like pigments that may have undergone animal testing.

Final Reflections –

So, is cotton candy vegan? Not all cotton candy is vegan, but technically, most of them are. It all depends on how strict of a vegan you are. So, you may indulge in cravings without feeling guilty. 

Bone char is used in the production of refined sugar, and insects—more precisely, beetles—are used to create food dyes that are pink or red in color. If you are not a fan of refined sugar and animal-derived food dyes, this could be a risky area for you. 

Some vegans may not be super strict about refined sugar. Others may be, though. So, it comes down to personal preferences and the style of veganism you adopt.

It also depends on the method used to make the candy floss. As always, check the ingredient label before purchasing. But if your sweet tooth is asking for it, you can give it a shot! Keep it in moderation. 


1. Can vegans eat cotton candy?

Ans: Yes, vegans can eat organic cotton candy that is completely dairy-free and vegan. However, some traditional cotton candies may be non-vegan as the sugar used is made from bone char. 

2. What is cotton candy made of? 

Ans: Cotton candy is mainly made from granulated sugar, which is melted and spun at high speed. In addition, it contains food colors and flavorings. 

3. Does cotton candy have gelatin?

Ans: No, most cotton candies do not contain gelatin or animal-derived products. However, some manufacturers may include gelatin. So always check the ingredient label first. 

4. What cotton candy is 100% vegan? 

Ans: Choose natural and organic cotton candy, as they do not contain any artificial sugar, food color, or flavorings that could be non-vegan. Organic cotton candy is 100% vegan. 

5. Is Cotton Candy allergy-free?

Ans: Traditional cotton candies are mostly allergy-free. They don't contain any type of nuts. However, the artificial colors and flavors used by certain brands may cause allergic reactions in some people. 

6. What flavor is pink cotton candy? 

Ans: Pink cotton candy is made from the “Pink vanilla” flavor. This is the classic flavor most people prefer. 

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Oliver Nelson

Oliver Nelson is a New York based Health Specialist Writer who completed his graduation from Syracuse University back in 2015. His writings were published in the top Healthcare brands in the United States.

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