Are Hot Tamales Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

August 12, 2023

Identifying whether or not Hot Tamales are vegan is an intricate task. 

The confusion often arises from manufacturers shrouding the nature and source of their ingredients. 

This article endeavors to uncover the truth and support you in your compassionate vegan lifestyle.

Are Hot Tamales Vegan?

Hot Tamales, the top-selling cinnamon candy, are not vegan. The non-vegan status of this spicy candy is attributed to the presence of ingredients like confectioner’s glaze, which is derived from animal products.

Confectioner’s glaze, known in the candy industry for providing that glossy finish, is a non-vegan ingredient. It’s derived from the secretion of an insect known as the lac bug. 

In addition, the sugar used in Hot Tamales might be processed with bone char, a substance obtained from animal bones. Since the vast majority of manufacturers don’t disclose the sources or processing methods of the sugar they use in their products, it’s best to avoid sugar unless the sugar or product are labeled “organic,” “certified vegan,” or something to that effect. 

Are Hot Tamales Cruelty-Free?

Sadly, Hot Tamales cannot be considered cruelty-free. The confectioner’s glaze, being an animal by-product, contradicts the definition of cruelty-free products, which shouldn’t involve any harm to animals. Therefore, in the pursuit of a kinder world, it’s essential to scrutinize even a candy’s chewy texture and shiny appearance.

Furthermore, Hot Tamales contain a slew of food colorings, many of which are routinely tested on animals. No amount of animal testing can be reasonably considered “cruelty-free.”

What Are Hot Tamales Made Of?

Hot Tamales are a popular brand of cinnamon-flavored chewy candy. A product of Just Born, Inc., they are famed for their sweet, spicy taste and fiery red appearance. But have you ever wondered what goes into these spicy treats? Here’s a comprehensive list of ingredients you’ll find in a pack of Hot Tamales:

  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Modified food starch
  • Contains less than 0.5% of the following ingredients: artificial flavors, dextrin, confectioners glaze, artificial color, medium chain triglycerides, carnauba wax, fruit juice from concentrate (pear, orange, strawberry, cherry, lime, lemon), sodium citrate, pectin, citric acid, malic acid, fumaric acid, red #40, yellow #5 (tartrazine), yellow #6, red #3, blue #1


Sugar is a sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrate that comes from various plants, including sugarcane and sugar beets. In Hot Tamales, sugar contributes to the overall sweet taste of the candy. 

Refined sugar is generally considered vegan because it is derived from plants, although some sugar may be processed using bone char, which is an animal product, and this can complicate its vegan status.

Only sugar that is labeled “raw,” “organic,” or “unrefined” can be trusted by those following a strict vegan diet. 

Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is a sweet, viscous liquid made from cornstarch. It acts as a sweetener and texture enhancer, providing a smooth and glossy appearance to the candy. Corn syrup comes from corn, a widely grown grain, making it vegan friendly.

Modified Food Starch

Modified food starch is derived from a variety of plant sources, including corn, wheat, potato, and tapioca. It’s used as a thickening agent to provide a chewy texture to Hot Tamales. Modified food starch is generally vegan as it is plant-derived.

Artificial Flavors

Artificial flavors are chemically created flavors that mimic natural ones. They contribute to the distinctive spicy cinnamon taste in Hot Tamales. While most artificial flavors are synthesized from chemicals and are vegan, it’s not always clear, as some could potentially be derived from animal sources.


Dextrin is a type of carbohydrate produced from starch. It is often used as a thickening or binding agent in candies like Hot Tamales. Dextrin can come from a variety of starchy foods like corn, potato, arrowroot, wheat, rice, or tapioca and is usually considered vegan.

Confectioners Glaze

Confectioner’s glaze, also known as shellac, is a natural resin secreted by the female lac bug, found in India and Thailand. It’s used to give candies a shiny appearance. As it’s derived from insects, it is not vegan.

Medium Chain Triglycerides

Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of fat that’s most commonly derived from coconut oil or palm oil. In Hot Tamales, they’re likely used as a carrier for flavors. Because MCTs are generally sourced from plants, they’re considered vegan.

Carnauba Wax

Carnauba wax is a wax derived from the leaves of the Brazilian palm tree known as Copernicia Prunifera. It’s used to give candies a glossy finish and to prevent them from sticking together. Carnauba wax is plant derived and is therefore vegan.

Fruit Juice from Concentrate

This refers to juices from various fruits (pear, orange, strawberry, cherry, lime, lemon) that have been concentrated and added for flavoring. Fruit juices are obviously plant derived and are therefore vegan.

Sodium Citrate

Sodium citrate is a salt of citric acid that is used as an acidity regulator in foods. It is derived from citric acid which is often sourced from certain fruits and vegetables. Sodium citrate is vegan.


Pectin is a substance derived from certain fruits (like apples or citrus fruits) that is used as a gelling agent in candies. Pectin is plant based and is therefore vegan.

Citric Acid, Malic Acid, and Fumaric Acid

These are all organic acids used to provide a sour taste to candies. They are usually derived from certain fruits and vegetables (citric acid from citrus fruits, malic acid from apples), or produced synthetically. All these acids are considered vegan.

Artificial Colors

Artificial colors (Red #40, Yellow #5 (Tartrazine), Yellow #6, Red #3, Blue #1) are synthetic dyes used to provide the distinctive red color to Hot Tamales. Although they are synthetically made, some artificial colors have been associated with animal testing in their development, which is a concern for many vegans.

Vegan Alternatives to Hot Tamales

For the lovers of spicy, cinnamon-flavored treats, there are vegan-friendly candy alternatives available:

These options, free from ingredients like confectioner’s glaze and bone char, can satiate your craving for a spicy-hot treat without compromising your vegan values.


While Hot Tamales may be a favorite among spicy candy lovers, their vegan and cruelty-free status is marred by ingredients like confectioner’s glaze and potentially bone char-processed sugar. 

Thankfully, there are vegan-friendly brand alternatives that let you enjoy that fiery cinnamon flavor without having to worry about causing harm to our fellow earthlings. Choosing vegan candies is a sweet way to contribute to a kinder world.