The Easy Gelatin Swap Vegans Should Know

If you're a vegan or vegetarian, there's really just one thing you need to know about gelatin: It's not plant-based. This can be surprising news to some of you, seeing as the ingredient is frequently found in foods like sweet and sour gummy candies, Jello, and marshmallows — items that most people typically don't attribute to meat or animals. But, according to Food Additives, gelatin is made from the skin, bone, and cartilage of pigs, cattle, and fish.

However, there's good news for all of you vegans, vegetarians, and anyone who doesn't consume gelatin for religious reasons: You don't have to give up candy, marshmallows, or even cheesecake, for that matter. That's because there's an easy gelatin swap that you can look for on the packaging of items at the store or use to make your own gelatin-like treats at home — and it all comes from an unexpected place: the ocean.

Carrageenan from sea moss

Found growing on the surfaces of rocks along the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, sea moss has structural components that make it similar to gelatin — the main one being the carbohydrate carrageenan (via The Spruce Eats). By boiling sea moss, producers are able to extract the cellulose from the plant. In this process, it actually begins to absorb water and form a gel-like consistency. The end product works fabulously as a plant-based thickening and emulsifying ingredient in a range of dishes — from desserts to salad dressings.

So, when preparing your vegan treats at home or shopping for them at the store, there's really just one ingredient you need to look for: carrageenan powder or gum. Despite being derived from seaweed, the powder is flavorless and it works wonderfully as a replacement for gelatin in any recipe. When baking with it, you should add it to your dry ingredients before you blend them with the liquid ones. So break out your pans and Jello molds because there's a whole world of vegan gelatin-like recipes for you to explore — Bakerpedia says that it can even be added to your homemade plant-based milk for preservation.