What Are Sprinkles Really Made Of?

There's just something about sprinkles that can make any dessert that much more enjoyable to eat. Whether it be in a Funfetti cake or on top of an ice cream sundae, sprinkles bring texture and visual appeal to many different treats. But despite being such a versatile and oftentimes beloved decoration, sprinkles don't actually contribute much flavor. The rainbow ones don't taste like anything other than sugar, while the chocolate ones only mildly taste like chocolate. The reason for this is simply that sprinkles contain little to no flavorings. 

Instead, according to a video from Food Insider, sprinkles are made up of powdered sugar mixed with water, shortening, liquid food coloring, and powdered food coloring. That's it. Any flavor that comes through, in the end, is from the natural taste of the sugar alone. Flavor extracts are just not an important part of the manufacturing process, given that sprinkles are all about the aesthetic. Food Insider shares that chocolate-flavored sprinkles weren't even invented until 1936, long after the original rainbow variety was first introduced in the late 18th century.

How are sprinkles made?

The ingredients that come together to make sprinkles are fairly basic, but that doesn't mean the production process is too. Healthline explains that before the sprinkles make their way into the containers you see at the grocery store, there's a lot that happens to make them. It all starts when the powdered sugar, binding agents, and food coloring are combined to form a thick mixture. This paste is then pushed through a special extruding machine, which produces thin strands of dough that are essentially extra-long sprinkles. The strands are transferred to a conveyor belt and then a tumbler, where they are broken down to a more appropriate size. 

Once cut, the sprinkles are sprayed with more food coloring as well as a protective sugar-based glaze (vegans beware — some companies use animal products to make this glaze, too). This coating is what gives sprinkles their shiny appearance and slight crunch. Finally, the sprinkles are packaged for retail distribution so they can ultimately be used in all kinds of desserts. If you're not such a fan of the process or are simply feeling ambitious in the kitchen, you can actually make your own sprinkles at home, too.