Homemade marshmallows are one of my favorite things to cook. You take ingredients that aren’t exciting on their own – corn syrup, sugar, gelatin – and turn them into something magical and completely different from what you start with.
Plus, they’re really pretty easy. I think they’re the easiest candy you can make from scratch.
I first made marshmallows in 2010 as my 344th recipe of my 365 recipe challenge. I’d never given a thought to making marshmallows before, but the year prior, a coworker’s husband had made marshmallows and shared them with us. They were amazing! I am generally not a marshmallow person, but homemade marshmallows are different. They’re soft. They’re creamy. They’re fluffy. They’re springy. They’re a delicious confection that is maligned by all bagged grocery store versions you come across. Homemade marshmallows are so superior to prepackaged ones that they’re practically a different food.
I originally tried two recipes when I started making marshmallows – Alton Brown’s, and King Arthur Flour’s. Alton Brown’s was fine, but he included cornstarch in the coating and that created too much of a crust. He also whipped them an incredibly long time. King Arthur Flour’s was less fussy and turned out much better, and is where I’ve adapted my recipe from.
In the 7 years since I made my first batch, I’ve made at least two batches of marshmallows a year to give to my friends and family as food gifts. Last year I made four! One batch is always chocolate chip marshmallows. The other is always this vanilla version. I love the vanilla ones for floating in hot chocolate, whereas the chocolate chip ones are perfect for eating. (Chocolate chips end up at the bottom of your hot chocolate mug if you use them for that.)
Each year, I wonder if I should fancy up my marshmallows. Should I try peppermint? Should I add food coloring (which would confuse people if I didn’t make them flavored)? Should I decorate them? Should I cut them into fun shapes? But I don’t. I like them too much as they are.
Ingredients for marshmallows are simple: sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and gelatin, plus a little water. People like to avoid corn syrup, but marshmallows are all-sugar treat anyway, so it doesn’t bother me. You could try honey, agave, or golden syrup instead, but they will likely add a different flavor, and I haven’t tried them. Gelatin: I’ve always used the powdery Knox brand in these, or a generic brand if I find it. I have tried a vegan, agar-agar based marshmallow recipe before; it did not turn out, dramatically. I also expect other thickeners will not work. One box of gelatin will be enough for one batch of marshmallows, with one packet of gelatin leftover. (If you find you love making marshmallows, you can order a giant, economical package of gelatin from Amazon (affiliate link), like I did; the dates on it should be good for a couple of years.)
Since marshmallows are a confection, you need a candy thermometer. I like mine (affiliate link) as it rests safely on the bottom of the pan without the bulb touching the bottom. You’ll need an electric mixer to whip them up; I’ve always used my stand mixer, but I expect that you can use a handheld one as well.
To make marshmallows, you boil sugar, corn syrup, and water until it reaches the soft ball stage of candy, around 240F. Pour into softened gelatin, and whip for a while with an electric mixer. Add vanilla, then spread into an oiled and powdered sugared-pan, and let rest for several hours or overnight to firm up. Cut and enjoy. I’ve used a pizza cutter in the past, but I used my bench cutter (affiliate link) to cut them relatively evenly this year.
I store marshmallows in tins lined with waxed paper. Homemade marshmallows last for at least a month. The powdered sugar on them may give them a little crust, but they’re still soft and delicious. Longer than a month, they will dry out, but they will still be pretty tasty in hot chocolate. Marshmallows will go bad if exposed to moisture or heat. They ship well enough; make sure they are dusted well with powdered sugar so they don’t stick to your packaging. I think they are my family’s favorite food that I send them.
Homemade marshmallows are so much better than prepackaged, store-bought ones. They are easy to make; you just need a little time. They will need at least 4 hours to cool and set up.
- 3 packets gelatin
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 1/2 cup sugar (divided)
- 1 cup corn syrup (312 grams)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- powdered sugar (about 1/2 cup), for dusting the pan and marshmallows
- mix-ins, if desired
Stir gelatin and 1/2 cup water together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or another large bowl if using a handheld electric mixer).
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water. Heat over medium to medium-high heat, stirring to combine. Bring mixture to a boil. When it boils, place a candy thermometer in it, and heat until it reaches 240F. (You can stir or not stir; it hasn't made a difference for me.) This step can take up to 30 minutes or longer; I mainly watch the pot after the syrup comes to a boil.
Turn stand mixer on low, and break up the softened and bloomed gelatin using the whisk attachment. With the mixer still running, pour in the syrup. Turn the mixer up to high and whisk for 7 minutes. The mixture will grow in volume and turn white and frothy.
While the mixer runs or while the candy boils, prepare your pan. Spray a 9x13-inch pan (I prefer glass for easy clean-up) with cooking spray. Dust completely with powdered sugar (at least an inch up the sides, where the marshmallow will be). Set aside.
After the mixture has been whisked for 7 minutes, it will be fluffy and white. Drizzle in the vanilla, very slowly, along the side of the bowl. (If you pour it in directly or too fast, it will spatter.) Mix for 30 seconds or a minute, until completely incorporated. If desired, add in other mix-ins now and mix for another 30 seconds.
Use a greased spatula to spread the marshmallows into the prepared pan. Smooth out the top as best as possible. Dust with powdered sugar. Cool until it's not letting off heat, then cover and let set for four hours or overnight (which is what I usually do).
Turn marshmallows out onto a cutting surface. I usually can peel them out once I loosen one edge from the pan with a knife or spatula. I place my marshmallows on 2 cutting boards lined with plastic wrap to minimize clean-up. Cut into cubes using a pizza cutter or bench scraper (which is my absolute favorite for this). Coat with a little more powdered sugar, particularly along the cut edges. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature.
A candy thermometer is essential for this recipe.
I've always made homemade marshmallows using a stand mixer. You should be able to use an electric handheld mixer, but you will have to mix for longer, and they may not be as fluffy.
For softer, creamier marshmallows, you can try to cut the gelatin back to 2 packets. However, I have not tried this.
Try dusting with powdered sugar blended with cinnamon or cocoa powder for a variation. You can add peppermint or other extracts, or crushed candy canes if desired.
(Post updated with new writing, photos, and recipe. Originally published December 29, 2010.)
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