Saturday, February 13, 2016

Homemade marshmallows without corn syrup, easier than expected

January 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, kid projects and DIY, recipe

This is all you need to make marshmallows (vanilla not pictured).

This is all you need to make marshmallows (vanilla not pictured).

We picked up a container of handmade marshmallows from Whole Foods to make “gourmet” rice krispy treats to share with friends at a dinner playdate, and I noticed that the ingredients did not contain high fructose corn syrup unlike conventional packaged marshmallows.  These vanilla marshmallows were absolutely divine, fluffier and tastier than any that I have had, and I’m not really a marshmallow fan unless roasted for s’mores.  My kids and their friends gobbled up the leftover marshmallows for dessert.  Because the handmade ones are more expensive (at least twice more) than a plastic bag of marshmallows, the wheels in my head were turning.  I should learn to make my own, without corn syrup.

The search for recipes online began, and it is ridiculous how few recipes are out there for corn syrup free marshmallows.  The Whole Foods purchased marshmallows had glucose and dextrose as sweeteners, and I was unable to find a recipe with similar ingredients.  Instead, I found a recipe that uses agave nectar which has a lower glycemic index than many other sweeteners.  Interesting…

I gave it a whirl with the kids, test trying this recipe from Eco Child’s Play with a few tweaks, based on what I had in the kitchen.  Because making these confections requires making a syrup, my paranoid former science teacher self banished the kids out for a short walk around the neighborhood with their daddy during that step so there would not be any chance of the kids getting burned.

Gadgets: kitchen mixer, candy thermometer, mixing bowl, spatula, 11×13 baking pan, cookie sheet, sharp knife


  • 3 T of unflavored gelatin (1 box of 4 package Knox = 3T)
  • 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar (I’m sure regular sugar works just fine.)
  • 1 cup chilled filtered water
  • 1 cup agave nectar (I found a bottle of agave nectar on the sugar-free aisle at HEB, Central Market brand.  You may also substitute with maple syrup, or just use 2 cups of total sugar in the recipe instead of the agave syrup.) — Updated: I quit using the agave nectar just because I prefer the taste of the marshmallows made just with sugar.
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (I substituted with sea salt.)
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powder sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch – For kids with corn allergies, you may substitute with tapioca starch.
  • non-stick spray


1.  Chill whisk and mixing bowl.  (I stuck ours in the freezer because I didn’t know how cold everything needed to be.)

2.  Dissolve 3 T of gelatin (all 4 packets if using Knox) into 1/2 cup of chilled water.  (I had the kids measure this straight from the fridge water.)  Mix lightly, and set aside.  The gelatin will congeal into something that smells like a microbiology lab’s Petri dish, but don’t worry about it.


It won't just dissolve on its own without a couple of mixings with a spoon.

3.  In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup chilled water, agave nectar, sugar, and salt.  This is an easy step for kids to help.  Cover and boil for 3 minutes.  (The sugar didn’t come to a full rolling boil, but the edges started to boil after 3 minutes.)

what sugar solution looks like before boiling

what sugar solution looks like before boiling

4.  Uncover,  put in thermometer (making sure not to touch pan bottom), and allow sugar mixture to boil until it reaches 235-240 degrees F (soft ball stage).  — For a non-candy maker, I had no idea what a soft ball stage was so I kept expecting the solution to thicken and ball up which it never did.  The soft ball stage refers to dropping a small amount of the sugar solution into a cup of water, and the sugar hardens into a pliable sugar ball.  Who knew!  I also do not have a candy thermometer so I took a chance and used a forked meat thermometer, testing it every other minute.  I would not recommend this.

what sugar solution looks like in the

5.  Remove sugar syrup from heat as soon it reaches the soft ball stage temperature.

6.  Remove whisk and mixing bowl from the freezer, and add the congealed gelatin.

7.  Slowly pour in the hot sugar mixture to the mixing bowl, while whisking on low speed.  Increase to high speed once all of the sugar has been added to the gelatin.  — This step can be dangerous so be careful and keep the kids away.  Seriously if I could still find a pair of my safety goggles, I probably would have put it on, as doofy as it would have looked. :-)  I’m kind of klutzy.  I transferred the hot solution to a large glass measuring cup with a spout to make it safer to pour into the mixing bowl.

slowly pouring in sugar syrup into the mixing bowl with gelatin

slowly pouring in sugar syrup into the mixing bowl with gelatin

8.  Mix the syrup until it cools down, turns whitish, and thickens.  Add vanilla extract while whisking.  It’ll look almost like meringue or jarred marshmallow cream (about 10-15 minutes).

what marshmallow cream looked like at the end of 15 minutes whipping

what marshmallow cream looked like at the end of 15 minutes whipping

9.  While the marshmallow is whipping, spray a 11×13 pan with non-stick spray.  Mix together the corn starch and powdered sugar. Dust the pan lightly with it.

easy step for kids to do

easy step for kids to do

10.  When the sugar has whipped into creamy marshmallow, pour it into the spray pan.  I found that spraying a spatula with nonstick spray helped to scrape all the marshamllow out of the mixing bowl and into the pan.  Use the spatula to spread the marshmallow evenly, though I found that the spatula wasn’t all too necessary since I let my daughter pour out the marshmallow cream while I rotated the pan at the same time.

another easy step for a kid to do

another easy step for a kid to do

11.  Dust the marshmallow top lightly with the cornstarch and powdered sugar mixture.

what the marshmallows looked like, awaiting to set overnight

what the marshmallows looked like, awaiting to set overnight

12.  Cover, and leave overnight.  (The original recipe calls for overnight, but I noticed about 2 hours in, the marshmallow had solidified already.)

The whole cooking process took about 30-45 minutes to complete.  The marshmallows were absolutely fluffy and delicious.  We turned over the marshmallow sheet onto a lightly dusted cookie sheet, and I sprayed a heart cookie cutter with nonstick spray for my daughter to cut the marshmallow.  It was not at all a sticky mess to my surprise.  I cut the rest of the marshmallow into cubes and dusted the sides with powdered sugar-cornstarch mix.  Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

uncut marshmallow sheet, turned onto cookie sheet

uncut marshmallow sheet, turned onto cookie sheet



My kids had so much fun making these things, especially cutting the marshmallows into cute shapes.  They called the powdered sugar and cornstarch “snow.”  I plan to try this recipe, substituting Kahlua instead of vanilla and dipping the marshmallow cubes into chocolate to make gourmet marshmallows for my adult friends.  Hey, fancy marshmallows can be for mommies and daddies!


27 Responses to “Homemade marshmallows without corn syrup, easier than expected”
  1. I am sooo gonna make these for my kids valentines goodie bags.

  2. Julia says:

    I saw some recipes that also add cocoa powder for chocolate marshmallows.

    A friend of mine just gave me her version of the marshmallow recipe yesterday, which is just as easy to make.

    Homemade Marshmallows
    2 envelopes (2tbs) unflavored gelatin
    1 1/4 cups water
    2 cups sugar
    1/8 tsp salt
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    Soften gelatin in 3/4 cup of water and set aside. Place remaining 1/2 cup water and granulated sugar in medium saucepan. Cook until soft ball stage (240 degrees F). Remove syrup from heat, add softened gleatin and stir until almost cold. Add salt and flavoring. Beat until syrup is white and thick (8 minutes with an electric mixer). Pour to 1 inch thickness in two 8 inch square pans that have been greased and dusted with powdered sugar. Let set in cool place about and hour- do not place in refrigerator. Turn out on board that has been well dusted with powdered sugar and cut into cubes (or make cool shapes).

  3. putting them in valentine goodie bags is a great idea! Can you add food dye to the mix to tint them or would it ruin the texture?

  4. Sadia says:

    I make peppermint marshmallows every Christmas, but my recipe calls for corn syrup. Martha, I do use liquid food colouring. If I mix it in well, it doesn’t affect the texture, but if I put drops in and let the pouring action make streaks, there can be a little separation in the finished product.

    Thanks for sharing, Julia.

  5. Sheryl says:

    What a neat idea! I’ve never thought of making marshmallows myself. And I love that it wont have HFCS. I’ll definitely have to try this!

  6. I saw a version that had chocolate, cinnamon, and a pinch of chipotle powder. Marshmallows from scratch are so worth it!

  7. Julia says:

    That sounds divine, Suzanne. Do you happen to have a recipe for that?

  8. Julia says:

    Just a quick update … I made grown-up marshmallows. While whisking, I added 1/4 cup of Kahlua, a dash of vanilla, and a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. The marshmallows turned out delicious.

  9. Jen says:

    Julia blessed me with some samples. These are divine!

  10. Cindy says:

    These turned out GREAT! I tried them with the agave first, but mine had a slightly “burnt” taste to them. The second time I used strictly sugar & they tasted fantastic. (perhaps agave doesn’t like to be heated as high as sugar?)

    Tip: once I dumped the pan out onto a powdered cutting board, I used a pizza cutter to cut them into marshmallow-size cubes! Worked like a charm!!

    Thanks for posting!

  11. Marie says:

    Just an FYI… for those with corn allergies, powdered sugar is out of the question since it is mostly corn starch.

  12. Andrea Rosen says:

    You can find some powdered sugars that are made with Tapioca Starch. I have found some at Ralphs and Albertsons. My son is allergic to corn and Marshmallows are his favorite. I look forward to making these soon for him.

  13. Natasha says:

    It says the marshmallows will last up to a week…does that mean after a week they go bad?

  14. Julia says:

    We found that the marshmallows didn’t feel as fluffy after a week. I think they were still edible, just not as mallow-y. :)

  15. crankycheryl says:

    I just added a smidgen of juice from blueberry jam and a couple teaspoons of blueberry liqueur to a grown-up batch. Very yum!

  16. Tina Jacobson says:

    I attempted to make these today but it was a disaster. Hardened sugar was everywhere, the marshmallow creme was too thick to pour into the pan. I think I will try a different method. I followed your instructions perfectly but my sugar started to cool too fast when I poured it into my glass bowl. I did find tapioca starch at our natural food store and Trader Joes carries Organic Powdered Sugar. I have a daughter that is allergic to all corn products and loves marshmallows.

  17. Julia says:

    Did you boil the sugar too long?

  18. Christin says:

    Have made these several times now, with great success! We made peppermint, plain, and orange (with extract and dried zest). Homemade marshmallows are wonderful for roasting, they don’t burst into flame like regular ones do. We freeze them to help them last longer, with good results. Thank you.

  19. Desarae says:

    Thanks so much for the detailed post! My husband recently developed a corn allergy and every time we go camping he can’t have smores!! I’m so excited to try this so he can have his favorite camping treat!

  20. Mark says:

    A few tips to those trying this recipe; for me, this method/ recipe did not yield “pourable” batter. Instead it was quite firm but easy enough to work out with a well-oiled spatula. This led to fantastic mallows. Also, when pouring from pot to glass measuring cup after soft ball temp is reached, prep your glass cup (or whatever pouring container you are using) by heating it up a bit on the stove top. If it is room temp when transferring the hot syrup, the container will drop the syrups temp too fast, making it harder to pour. Heating it up before hand seems to help that transfer a lot.

  21. Sarah says:

    Did you ever end up making the adult marshmallows? I’d love to hear how they turned out.

  22. Julia says:

    I did, and it turned out great. The dash of kahlua added flavor but didn’t change the consistency.

  23. Judy says:

    Caution: All corn syrup is not “High Fructose Corn Syrup”. In candy making, corn syrup has unique properties. Karo has corn syrup without High Fructose Corn Syrup, just check the label. It’s not as cloyingly sweet as the HFCS. Corn Syrup stabilizes the sugar from crystalizing.

    I’m a marshmallow freak and make them all the time. My favorite recipe has egg whites as well.
    They set up about 5 minutes after pouring them out.

  24. Eleora says:

    I love making marshmallows too. Since I don’t have a thermometer and I don’t know what is soft-ball stage, I kinda just follow my instinct. I took it off the stove after I see it boiling….lol…. And……surprisingly….it turns out well!! Haha.

  25. Clay Young says:

    You mention glucose and dextrose in your opening paragraph. These are alternate names for the same thing. One name came from the chemical industry and the other came from the food industry.

    You mention high fructose corn syrup like you want to avoid it. Did you know that agave syrup is a much higher concentration of fructose than you would find in high fructose corn syrup? 70% to 97% fructose vs 55%.

    BTW, regular table sugar is 50% fructose.


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