The Best Homemade Marshmallows, Sugar and Corn Syrup Free! (GFCF) Plus, the Great Outdoors

This past week you’ve seen new recipes posted, your comments appearing sooner or later – but, where’s Zoe? Normally she replies in a timely – almost immediate – manner to my comments, you’re saying. (Rest assured, folks, all your comments, questions, have been replied to and answered.)

We went camping! That’s right, my family and I were in the great outdoors last week (if you count today, Sunday, as the first day of the week), with no Internet connection! I made the appropriate arrangements to whip up some stuff ahead of time and schedule the posts so that, while we were away, Z’s Cup of Tea could continue running and, more or less, take care of itself till yours truly came back.

While camping, I took out my camera (yes! a new camera, from my dear grandma, thank you! I’ve secretly named the camera Cherry, after its burgundy red colour.) and just clicked away, resulting in hundreds of photos – most taken by me, but there were some by other family members. I took some food shots, too, but not many – it was a holiday after all, and I was more interested in eating the food this time than focusing a lense on it.

I also had fun using the portable propane stove, boiling water for tea and rice noodles (which we had with tomato sauce), and scrambling eggs with mushroom and green onions, and making cinnamon apples on our last day for breakfast.

We had a campfire, too, though in all the busyness – and despite preparing posts in advance for while I was away – I didn’t get to making marshmallows before we went, which I was a little disappointed about as I’d really been wanting to test them over the fire and also get a few cool photos of a homemade marshmallow being toasted, plus the possibilities of s’mores and all that marshmallow-y good stuff.

Depending on how long you’ve been hanging out here, you may remember reading my marshmallow disaster back in October of last year. I’ll confess that I steered clear of any more marshmallow-making because all the recipes I found for homemade marshmallows used corn syrup and I began figuring that there was something about the corn syrup or its properties that made honey an unsuitable substitute. I mean, even the Wikipedia article states that marshmallows, “in its modern form, typically consists of sugar or corn syrup, water, gelatin that has been softened in hot water, dextrose, and flavorings, whipped to a spongy consistency.” Often, though, marshmallows are often made with both sugar and corn syrup – most likely, commercial brands use high fructose corn syrup to boot.

The other thing, about making marshmallows at home, is that all the recipes I read and in videos that I watched, use a stand mixer. According to Elizabeth Falkner, it’s impossible to make marshmallows without a stand mixer – she has a vegan marshmallow recipe in her cookbook, Demolition Desserts – but I have to argue, how were marshmallows made before without kitchen gadgets and appliances? Surely by hand.

I was eager to give another go making marshmallows when I saw a recipe for homemade marshmallows that were corn syrup free. I had to try it! Instead of corn syrup, agave nectar is used. This recipe also used a stand mixer in preparation but I made it by hand, figuring that if I just mixed like crazy everything would be okay. I told myself that if I can whip egg whites by hand, I can whip up marshmallows by hand, too! See, I’m like that.

The instructions said it would take about 10 to 15 minutes to whip – it took me an estimated 15 to 30 minutes on the initial try! I’ve since made these marshmallows again and again; each time, both of my arms end up being exhausted (sometimes I start switching between the two) but to me it’s worth it. (An aside: while whipping, I found it helpful to play some loud, kind of fast, music – nothing with a slow tempo; the music had to match the speed I was going at.)

It seems agave nectar does have something over honey in terms of marshmallow-making. I made a half recipe (in case of the risk that it didn’t work out) and that’s what I’m posting, below. If you do have a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer with the whisk attachment, do use it unless you want to rise to the challenge to whip marshmallow by hand? (If so, do tell in the comments!)

If you’re following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) or don’t want to use agave syrup/not available in your area, try making these marshmallows sweetened with honey.

Homemade Marshmallows, Sugar and Corn Syrup Free
Adapted from Looks Good in Polka Dots

Believe it or not, without the refined sugar, these marshmallows are springier, lighter than air, and you can touch it without it sticking to you like mad and have gooey, sticky strings all over you like Deb of Smitten Kitchen (despite, in retrospect, making for humorous stories). Plus, after it’s done being whipped it’s almost instant marshmallow but one that’s spreadable, like marshmallow fluff.

My instructions are written for mixing the marshmallow by hand. I don’t have a stand mixer, but I’m pretty sure if I did have one at the time of this marshmallow venture, I wouldn’t have bothered to defy modern, conventional, stand mixer wisdom. It is my hope with this post that I’ll give hope to anyone out there who doesn’t have a stand mixer that you, too, can make marshmallows even if you don’t have a stand mixer. (I even made a video showing how.) For all those obsessive bowl scrapers, this marshmallow is easy to scrape – leaving nary a trace!

There is no need to grease the pan or rubber spatula because of the nature of this marshmallow, although you’re welcome still to dust the marshmallows afterward with cornstarch – or confectioner’s sugar if you’re not against it. If you don’t use agave syrup or are following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, check out these honey-sweetened marshmallows.

Quantity depends on how big (or how small) you cut the squares

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tbsp. gelatin
1/2 cup ice cold water
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Method:

Chill a large mixing bowl and a balloon whisk (the bigger, the better, and hey, a ball whisk works, too) in the freezer for a few minutes. (You may also do it in the fridge, but doing it in the freezer is faster.)

Soften gelatin over half of the cold water (1/4 cup) in the chilled mixing bowl. Meanwhile, cook the water, agave nectar, and salt over medium heat, covered, for 3 minutes. Increase heat slightly to bring it to a gentle boil and cook until it reaches soft ball stage or registers 235 to 240ºF on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.

Pour the syrup slowly into the softened gelatin, whisking gently. When all the syrup is poured in, increase your speed and mix vigorously. It will start frothing and gradually continue to thicken and increase in volume. Keep on mixing until it’s very thick (see photos for reference), at a spreadable consistency similar to smooth, soft peak-stage meringue but thicker and bouncy. Add the vanilla extract and whip for about 1 minute longer.

Scrape the marshmallow into a pan using a rubber spatula (preferably flexible). Spread evenly. It starts setting almost immediately after whipping, so get it into the pan as quickly as possible or it will set in the mixing bowl and be difficult to spread evenly. Cover pan with plastic wrap and wait until fully set (if it’s a hot day, storing it in the fridge may help). Use a clean knife, preferably serrated, (no dusting required) to cut the marshmallow into squares. Enjoy!

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35 thoughts on “The Best Homemade Marshmallows, Sugar and Corn Syrup Free! (GFCF) Plus, the Great Outdoors

  1. Kim Maes

    Okay, you have GOT to have the most toned arms around! Between this and your angel food cake recipe, I can only imagine the arm work outs that you have gotten in lately!
    I have been wanting to try a marshmallow recipe for a while. Will have to make a go at this one, for sure. But, I have to warn you that I will most likely be using my stand mixer!!! ;0) LOL.
    Also, how wonderful that you were able to get away on a camping trip. Our family just loves to unplug and head out to camp at the lake! So glad you had a good time and thanks for sharing your pics!

    Reply
    1. Zoe | Z's Cup of Tea Post author

      Thanks, Kim! Feel free to use your stand mixer for these – I would, too, if I had one! I could have used the food processor but it’s a blade, not a paddle or whisk, so I wasn’t sure if it would be the same – thus, my crazy decision, haha.

      Reply
  2. It'sYourGrandma

    Auntie K was just showing me your latest and I am really enjoying it! Although you couldn’t pay me enough to beat anything by hand that long anymore. I can remember back in the dinosaurs doing it but I love my gadgets as you well know. I also really enjoyed the photos you and Cherry took ;) you are doing such a lovely job and I am really proud of you honey! XoXo Grandma I.

    Reply
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  4. Iris

    If I can make these work, you will be my hero! My mom has been wanting a gluten-free whoopee pie forever, but I didn’t know how to make them without marshmallows, and didn’t want to buy the regular sugar filled ones. This is on my to-do list now!

    Reply
  5. MissKittyInTheCity

    I was wondering if you ever thought about trying to put them in ice cube trays to make them thicker? More of a traditional look…do I sound like a conformist now or what? ;)

    Reply
    1. Zoe | Z's Cup of Tea Post author

      The thickness of the cut marshmallows was because it was a half recipe. If it was doubled, the marshmallows would probably look more traditional in terms of height. Also, the pan size that I’ve seen most specified is wider than the one I used for this batch. For such a small batch like this one, maybe next time I’ll use a smaller pan to get that traditional appearance. An ice cube tray could be a good idea, though I’m guessing more than one or two would be required!

      Reply
  6. gfe--gluten free easily

    Great job, Zoe! I bet they taste amazing. :-) I like mixing things by hand. Yes, it’s a workout, but there’s something therapeutic about it.

    Loved all your camping photos, too. We’re heading to our mtn property this weekend. I’ll share some similar pics soon. ;-)

    Shirley

    Reply
    1. Zoe | Z's Cup of Tea Post author

      Hi, Liz – yes, honey does work instead of the agave nectar; I tested the recipe, following the same instructions, although I only cooked the syrup to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. When made with honey, the marshmallow takes a bit longer to thicken and set. There is a definite honey flavour, but it isn’t strong or overpowering, if you’re concerned about that. The vanilla extract also helps cut through the honey flavour a bit and blends beautifully. I hope to do a proper post on these honey-sweetened marshmallows soon. I imagine that maple syrup would also work, although I haven’t had the opportunity yet to try. Hope this helps and all the best in your candy-making and other food endeavours! – Zoe

      Update: recipe for honey-sweetened marshmallows here

      Reply
  7. Iris

    I just made these and they worked perfectly! I was surprised because I have a tendency to screw up recipes, but your directions were simple and it made delicious marshmallow fluff for whoopie pies!

    Reply
    1. Zoe | Z's Cup of Tea Post author

      Iris, I’m so glad to hear that these worked out for you! Thanks for the feedback on my recipe-writing skills, too – always appreciated. :) Since mentioning them, I’m hoping to make whoopie pies soon as well. When I do, I’ll share them here! – Zoe

      Reply
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  12. Stacy

    WOW! I just found you site via GFE blog and I have got to say AMAZING! We have been contimplating trying the SCD diet for a while now and think that we are ready to take the plunge, so your site will come in handy for us! Just one question for you, what/who was that music you used for your video? My little ones and I loved it! Sounded like maybe jazz? We’d love to add that CD to our listening library!

    Reply
    1. Zoe Post author

      Hi Stacy and welcome! Thank you. :) To answer your music question, I’m not sure who the artist is since I used one of the available music clips in (I think) Mac’s iMovie or Flip camera editing software; I don’t remember if I filmed that video with my point and shoot or Flip camera. I’m sorry that I can’t give you a more thorough answer at this time.

      Reply
  13. Karen

    I am so so excited that I found this recipe! It looks fantastic and would really help me feel good and my kids not be so left out on camping trips with the extended family. One question…do you think that using agar flakes instead of the gelatin would work?

    Reply
    1. Zoe Post author

      Hi Karen, so glad to hear that. :) I don’t have much experience with agar agar, powdered or in flakes, but I think it would work instead of the gelatin. Good luck!

      Reply
  14. Misty

    Hi Zoe-

    I’m excited to try your marshmallow recipe, but I want to make them a few weeks ahead of our camping trip. Do you have any idea how long they will store for?

    Thanks,

    Misty

    Reply
    1. Zoe Post author

      Hi Misty, I’ve stored the marshmallows for about two weeks before, storing in the fridge for good measure, although I think they could store for even longer than that. Good luck and happy camping! :)

      Reply
  15. Amanda Hakola

    Thank you so much, I’m so happy to still get to make our annual rice crispy treats with my 3 year old Zion, who now has allergies to corn, sugar, wheat, soy and dairy to name the least. I’ll be following your food blog obsessively ;) Happy Holidays! Momma Amanda

    Reply
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  17. saj

    I have been searching for a recipe which doesn’t require a stand mixer and found yours :)..Will be trying this out soon. I had a question, will there be a difference if i add sugar instead of agave nectar. Dont have a liking towards honey. :P

    Reply
    1. Zoe Post author

      Hi saj, sure! Just make a simple syrup (there are hundreds of recipes for it online; here’s one) to substitute the agave or honey, making sure to use twice the amount of the honey/agave called for since honey and agave are sweeter than sugar. (1/2 cup honey or agave equals 1 cup sugar, for example.) Good luck and happy marshmallow making! :)

      Reply
  18. Dawn

    I made these. They did have a nice consistency, though they had an aftertaste of agave. With a hand-mixer, it only took about 4 minutes for the mixture to thicken (I kept going to 10, but they didn’t change).I let them harden in the fridge (seemed too sticky out) then made them into Rice Krispy Treats- what a disaster. Did this actually work (not just in theory) for anyone? I followed the recipe (except had to omit vanilla) and maybe the temperature was too high (it came to a boil), but still formed into marshmallows. I melted them, along with Soy-Free Earth Balance and added Gluten-Free Rice Krispies. The cereal just got all soggy and nasty. I tried refridgerating, but that didn’t help. In an attempt to make use of these expensive ingredients, I stuck them in the oven. They got crispy on top, but remained soggy underneath. I was really hoping for a new gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free treat, but… oh well.

    Reply
    1. Zoe Post author

      Hi Dawn, in regards to the agave aftertaste, using the vanilla extract to rounds it off. This also occurs with the honey-sweetened marshmallows.

      I’m sorry to hear that the rice krispies did not work out for you. I have not tried making rice krispies and I currently don’t have a recipe for them here, although I thought that making them would be fairly straightforward. When I try and if they work, I’ll definitely post them.

      Reply
  19. tealstardust

    I have made traditional marshmallows with corn syrup and sugar for a few years now. I love them but love even more that agave works just as well. I have used a stand mixer, a hand mixer, and whipped my marshmallows by hand. Let me tell you…STAND mixing is easiest!!!!! There is a bug difference in the three Using the recipe I know. The difference is that the slower you mix the less fluffy they tend to be. hand mixing they are pretty flat. hand machine mixing they tend to puff up a bit more, and stand mixing they tend to be the fluffiest of all.

    Reply
    1. Zoe Post author

      Thank you! I suspected that a hand mixer or stand mixer would make a much fluffier marshmallow than one made by hand. Instructions for doing it manually is also great for anyone who wants to make marshmallows but may not own a mixer – and are willing to use a bit of elbow grease. (All the homemade marshmallow recipes (with sugar/corn syrup) I have seen practically swear by using a stand mixer and that it’s impossible to make them without one.) These ones are much flatter because of the pan I used to set the marshmallow in as well. These honey-sweetened marshmallows (same recipe as this one, but with honey instead of agave) here are bigger.

      Reply

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