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Just a few years ago, I would have laughed at the thought of making homemade marshmallows. “I don’t have time to make something like marshmallows! What’s the point when you can just buy a bag of marshmallows from the store?”
I take a different view now. I see the act of making homemade marshmallows as a special tradition, a joyful family memory, a way to slow down and celebrate good food with the people I love.
Marshmallows aren’t something we make on a regular basis, but when we do (mainly over the holidays), the kids find so much joy in both the process and the final result. They love watching the simple ingredients bubble up and form a sweet syrup that magically whips up into the fluffiest, sweetest marshmallow candies.
While the act of making something like marshmallows may seem unimportant and trivial, it’s part of the bigger legacy we pass down to our kids. A legacy that celebrates slowing down, creating something special with the people we love, and sharing in memorable and meaningful traditions.
I hope these marshmallows become a sweet tradition for your family, too. A tradition that celebrates the joy of making and savoring good food with the people you love.
What Ingredients Do You Need to Make Homemade Marshmallows?
Homemade marshmallows are fairly easy to make. For ingredients, you’ll need…
- water: the base of the marshmallows, along with the sweetener.
- gelatin: a tasteless and also incredibly nourishing animal product made from boiling the skin, cartilage, and bones of an animal (such as a cow). Now, this may sound disgusting to a culture that’s obsessed with boneless meat and has lost a connection to food sourcing, but the truth is… this is a way of using the whole animal. <–That’s what sustainable eating is all about. Don’t worry, your marshmallows won’t taste like a cow. The gelatin is essential, it’s the star ingredient to creating a marshmallow texture. Without this ingredient, you can’t make marshmallows. I recommend a grass-fed gelatin, like Vital Proteins brand.
- pure maple syrup: Most homemade marshmallow recipes call for light corn syrup. Since corn syrup is (usually) a genetically modified food product (meaning, it’s made from genetically modified corn), I choose to avoid it. Maple syrup, or a combo of 1/2 honey and 1/2 maple syrup, works wonderfully in place of the corn syrup.
- vanilla extract and salt: these ingredients add flavor to the marshmallows. Just a touch of saltiness to balance out the sweet and a touch of vanilla.
- arrowroot starch flour and powdered sugar: Once you make the marshmallow mixture (which resembles marshmallow fluff), you’ll need to pour the mixture into a pan to allow the fluff to rest and turn into set marshmallows. To avoid the marshmallows sticking to the pan (and parchment paper), a dusting of arrowroot starch (a corn starch alternative, you can also use corn starch) and powdered sugar needs to be sprinkled over the surface of the parchment paper.
Now, let’s talk about the special equipment needed to make marshmallows…
- candy thermometer: I’ve tried to make marshmallows without a candy thermometer in the past and while it can be done, it’s not the most accurate or reliable method. I highly recommend purchasing a candy thermometer. You can find one at Target, on Amazon, or just about any grocery store with a small cooking accessories section. You’ll need this tool to ensure the water and maple syrup mixture reach a temperature that produces the classic, fluffy marshmallow texture.
- hand mixer (or stand mixer): A hand mixer (or stand mixer) is needed to whip the gelatin and maple/water mixture into marshmallow fluff. This takes about 10 minutes, so using a whisk isn’t going to work in this recipe. Just a word of warning, a stand mixer can easily over-whip the mixture so keep a careful eye on the process. The whipping process requires your careful observation skills.
How Do You Make Homemade Marshmallows?
Now that you know what ingredients and tools you’ll need to make marshmallows, let’s talk about how to make homemade marshmallows…
1. Activate the gelatin: In a large bowl, dissolve the gelatin in water. Just set it aside for now. As the gelatin dissolves, it will resemble almost a gummy candy texture.
2. Heat the maple syrup and water: Warm the maple syrup, water, and salt in a saucepan. Insert the candy thermometer in the liquid and let the mixture cook until the thermometer reads 238F. This is considered the soft candy stage.
3. Whip the mixture into marshmallow fluff: Turn on your hand mixer (or stand mixer) and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly add the hot maple mixture to the gelatin. Once the maple mixture has been added, continue to beat the mixture on medium speed until you reach what resembles marshmallow fluff: a white, silky fluff with a smooth texture.
4. Prepare a baking pan: Line a baking pan with parchment paper and sprinkle the paper with an arrowroot and powdered sugar mixture. Pour the marshmallow fluff into the pan and use a spatula or one of those spatula spoon things to spread the fluff throughout the pan. Sprinkle more arrowroot and powdered sugar over the top and then let the marshmallows rest for several hours or, ideally, overnight. If you live in a humid climate (like me), you’ll definitely need more time for the marshmallows to set and dry.
5. Cut and enjoy: Once the marshmallows are set, remove the parchment paper from the pan, and cut the block into individual marshmallows. Now, if you live in a humid climate, I’ve found it helpful to allow the cut marshmallows to rest at room temperature for another few hours to fully dry. If you don’t live in the tropics (and deal with humidity all year long), then you don’t need to heed this recommendation. The marshmallows are now ready to enjoy!
How to Store Homemade Marshmallows
Now that you have homemade marshmallows, here’s how I recommend storing them…
- Freezer: This is my favorite option! Store your homemade marshmallows in an air-tighter container or bag in the freezer for up to a 3 months. They won’t freeze, like an ice cube, so when you’re ready to enjoy a marshmallow, just pull one directly from the freezer and enjoy. No defrosting needed.
- Counter or Fridge: Store your homemade marshmallows for up to a couple of weeks on the counter (or fridge) in a cool, dry place. I recommend storing the marshmallows in a storage container in between parchment paper layers to keep the marshmallows from sticking to each other.
What Can You Do With Homemade Marshmallows?
You probably don’t need any help figuring out what to do with homemade marshmallows. Trust me, once you taste your first bite, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. But, just in case, here a few ideas for how to use homemade marshmallows…
- Hot Cocoa: Make homemade hot cocoa and top it off with homemade marshmallows. Try this easy recipe…
- Coffee: This is my adult, morning version of hot cocoa. Top your coffee off with this seasonal, fun treat.
- S’mores: Toast up your marshmallows and make s’mores. Just add graham crackers and chocolate.
- Eat Them Like a Cookie or Candy: This is my favorite way to enjoy homemade marshmallows. Add some marshmallows to a Christmas cookie platter for guests to enjoy, too.
Homemade Marshmallows Without Corn Syrup
There is nothing like a HOMEMADE marshmallow--soft, pillowy, and sweet. Make a batch to enjoy as a treat (like a cookie) or add to a cup of hot cocoa.
Dusting the Marshmallows:
Line a baking pan with parchment paper (optional), and sprinkle the parchment (or pan) with a layer of the arrowroot and powdered sugar mixture (or just arrowroot).
In a large bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over 1/2 cup of water. Don’t stir, just let it rest.
In a medium-size saucepan, stir the maple syrup, 1/2 cup of water, and salt. Add a candy thermometer to the edge of the pan. Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium heat. Heat the maple syrup mixture until it reaches 238F (around soft candy stage).
With a hand mixer on low speed, pour the maple mixture slowly into the gelatin. Add the vanilla extract. Increase the speed to medium/high and beat the mixture for about 10 minutes or until silky, smooth, white, and fluffy (should look like marshmallow fluff). It's really easy to over-beat the mixture when using a stand mixer, which is why I recommend using a hand mixer. If you're using a stand mixer, don't walk away from the mixture. Pay close attention to the change in texture. You might need to reduce the beating time for a stand mixer as well.
Once ready, the marshmallow mixture should be silky, smooth, fluffy, and white (see photos above). You can spoon a small amount on a plate to see if it maintains shape.
Add the marshmallow mixture to the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the marshmallows with more of the arrowroot and sugar mixture (or just arrowroot) to evenly coat the top. Spread the mixture evenly over the marshmallows with your hands or spatula, if needed.
Let the marshmallows rest overnight or up to 24 hours (particularly for a very humid climate). It’s best to let the marshmallows rest uncovered so they can dry out. I’ve been successful with just a few hours of resting time when the humidity is low. You can test for readiness by cutting a small piece. The individual piece should be dry. If you cut the marshmallows too early (they still need more drying time), keep the cut marshmallows in the baking pan until fully dry.
Store the marshmallows in an air-tight container or bag. I’ve found they are best stored in the freezer (a cool, dry place). They won’t freeze to a solid due to the gelatin, so they’re always ready to enjoy. The marshmallows should keep in the freezer for up to 3 months, or on the counter (or fridge) for a couple of weeks.
*Arrowroot Starch and Powdered Sugar: If you want super sweet marshmallows, go with the powdered sugar and arrowroot mixture. At this point, I just use arrowroot flour starch and skip the powdered sugar. I find the marshmallows are plenty sweet with just the maple syrup. If you don't want to use arrowroot, or can't find it, use organic cornstarch.
I know, a candy thermometer is a speciality tool, and you'll probably never use this tool again (if you're like me). Well, except to make more marshmallows. This thermometer is very important. Without one, it's difficult to know when the maple syrup mixture has reached the correct temperature.
Homemade marshmallows melt much faster than store-bought marshmallows. We have made s'mores with these marshmallows, but they can be finicky and melt quickly over a very hot flame. It's best to toast them for a short period of time over low heat. They will also slowly melt in a hot drink. These are also delicious to eat as a candy treat.