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White marshmallows.
Main ingredients
VariationsFood coloring
Cookbook:Marshmallow  Marshmallow
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For other uses, see Marshmallow (disambiguation).
White marshmallows.
Main ingredients
VariationsFood coloring
Cookbook:Marshmallow  Marshmallow

Marshmallow is a sugar candy that, in its modern form, typically consists of sugar, whipped to a spongy consistency, molded into small cylindrical pieces, and coated with corn starch. Some marshmallow recipes call for eggs. This confection is the modern version of a medicinal confection made from Althaea officinalis, the marshmallow plant.[1]

Production history[edit]

Marshmallow probably came first into being as a medicinal substance, since the mucilaginous extracts come from the root of the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis, which were used as a remedy for sore throats. Concoctions of other parts of the marshmallow plant had medical purposes as well.[2] The root has been used since Egyptian antiquity in a honey-sweetened confection useful in the treatment of sore throat.[1] The later French version of the recipe, called pâte de guimauve (or "guimauve" for short), included an egg white meringue and was often flavored with rose water.

The use of marshmallow to make a sweet dates back to ancient Egypt, where the recipe called for extracting sap from the plant and mixing it with nuts and honey. Another pre-modern recipe uses the pith of the marshmallow plant, rather than the sap. The stem was peeled back to reveal the soft and spongy pith, which was boiled in sugar syrup and dried to produce a soft, chewy confection.[2] The marshmallow plant's sap was also used by Gladiators in Ancient Rome. The sap was rubbed on the body in preparation for the Gladiator fight. Confectioners in early 19th century France made the innovation of whipping up the marshmallow sap and sweetening it, to make a confection similar to modern marshmallow. The confection was made locally, however, by the owners of small sweet shops. They would extract the sap from the mallow plant's root, and whip it themselves. The candy was very popular, but its manufacture was labour-intensive. In the late 19th century, French manufacturers thought of using egg whites or gelatin, combined with modified corn starch, to create the chewy base. This avoided the labour-intensive extraction process, but it did require industrial methods to combine the gelatin and corn starch in the right way.[2][3]

Another milestone in the development of the modern marshmallow was the extrusion process by the American Alex Doumak in 1948. This invention allowed marshmallows to be manufactured in a fully automated way. The method produced the cylindrical shape that is now associated with marshmallows. The process involves running the ingredients through tubes and then extruding the finished product as a soft cylinder, which is then cut into sections and rolled in a mixture of finely powdered cornstarch and confectioner's sugar.[3]

Marshmallows, like most sweets, are sweetened with sucrose. They are currently prepared by the aeration of mixtures of sucrose and proteins to a final density of about 0.5 g/ml. The proteins, and gelatin or egg albumin, prevent the collapse of the air-filled cells.[4]


Most of the current brands of commercially available marshmallows in the United States are made and copacked by Kraft Foods and Doumak, Inc, under such names as Jet-Puffed, Campfire, Kidd and numerous "private label" store brands. Marshmallows are used in S'mores, Mallomars, MoonPies and other chocolate-coated treats, Peeps, Whippets and other sweets, Rice Krispies treats, ice cream flavors such as Rocky Road, as a topping for hot chocolate, candied yams, and in several other foodstuffs.

Marshmallows are manufactured in the United Kingdom by, amongst others, Haribo, Barrett, Princess, and numerous 'non-brand' companies including shops and supermarkets. There has been a recent resurgence[when?] in gourmet marshmallows which are made of mostly natural ingredients such as vanilla pods, real chocolate and fresh fruit instead of flavourings.

Marshmallows are popular in Asia, particularly in the previous colonies of Britain.

Toasted marshmallows[edit]

A marshmallow that has been toasted over an open flame.
Toasting a marshmallow.

A popular camping or backyard tradition in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia is the roasting or toasting of marshmallows over a campfire or other open flame.[5] A marshmallow is placed on the end of a stick or skewer and held carefully over the fire. This creates a caramelized outer skin with a liquid, molten layer underneath. According to individual preference, the marshmallows are heated to various degrees—from gently toasted to a charred outer layer. Often, the latter is achieved by igniting the marshmallow. The toasted marshmallow can either be eaten whole or the outer layer can be removed and consumed separately and the rest of the marshmallow toasted again.

S'mores are made by placing a toasted marshmallow on a slab of chocolate which is placed between two graham crackers. These can then be squeezed together to cause the chocolate to start to melt.[6]

Dietary preferences[edit]

Marshmallow bunnies in an Easter basket

The traditional marshmallow recipe uses powdered marshmallow root, which may be difficult to obtain. Most commercially manufactured marshmallows instead use gelatin in their manufacture, which vegetarians and vegans avoid, as it is derived from animal hides and bones. Marshmallows are also generally considered not to be kosher or halal unless their gelatin is derived from kosher or halal animals, or the marshmallows are vegetarian. An alternative for vegetarians is to use substitute non-meat gelling agents such as agar for gelatin.

Marshmallow creme and other less firm marshmallow products generally contain little or no gelatin, which mainly serves to allow the familiar marshmallow confection to retain its shape. They generally use egg whites instead. Non-gelatin versions of this product may be consumed by ovo vegetarians. Several brands of vegan marshmallows and marshmallow fluff exist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Petkewich, Rachel (2006). "What's that stuff? Marshmallow". Chemical & Engineering News 84 (16): 41. doi:10.1021/cen-v084n011.p041. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  2. ^ a b c Rohde, Eleanour Sinclair (1936). A Garden of Herbs (in English). Hale Cushman & Flint. 
  3. ^ a b The history of marshmallows Candy USA!
  4. ^ Terry Richardson, Geert Andersen, "Confectionery" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2005 Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a07 411
  5. ^ History of Campfire Marshmallows
  6. ^ Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

External links[edit]