Are Jelly Beans Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

July 15, 2023

Unraveling whether or not a product is vegan can be a challenging quest, often steeped in the murky waters of hidden ingredient sources and manufacturing processes. 

Adding to the difficulty, manufacturers often shroud the true nature of their ingredients in a veil of misleading labels and technical jargon. 

Fear not, dear reader, as this article aims to shed light on these mysteries and support you in your admirable vegan lifestyle.

Are Jelly Beans Vegan?

Most commercial jelly beans, including popular jelly bean brands like Jelly Belly and Starburst jelly beans, are unfortunately not vegan. These jelly beans use a few key ingredients that are not in line with a vegan diet.

The major culprits are natural and artificial flavors, confectioner’s glaze, and modified food starch. 

Natural and artificial flavors can be derived from animal sources, making most jelly beans non-vegan. Confectioner’s glaze, also known as shellac, is derived from a secretion of the lac bug, which again isn’t vegan friendly. Modified food starch can potentially be sourced from animal derivatives, further muddying the waters.

Are Jelly Beans Cruelty-Free?

In light of the aforementioned ingredients, it’s clear that jelly beans, particularly those from the Jelly Belly Candy Company, are not cruelty-free.

The production of confectioner’s glaze involves the use of lac bugs, meaning animals are exploited and harmed during the ingredient’s creation. Therefore, the typical jelly bean does not pass the cruelty-free test.

What Are Jelly Beans Made Of?

Jelly beans are squishy candy shells filled with sweet, flavorful insides. They come in various flavors like green apple and blue raspberry, among others. While each jelly bean brand might have a unique recipe, most jelly beans have a standard set of ingredients:

  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Modified food starch
  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • Confectioner’s glaze
  • Carnauba wax
  • Citric acid
  • Fruit purees and concentrates
  • Tapioca dextrin
  • Food coloring


Sugar is a sweetening agent derived from various plants like sugar cane and beet. Although inherently vegan, some sugar is processed using bone char, which is not vegan friendly.

Corn syrup

Corn syrup is derived from cornstarch and acts as a sweetener and texture enhancer in jelly beans. It is vegan because it is plant derived.

Modified food starch

Modified food starch, often derived from corn, potato, or wheat, is used to give jelly beans their distinctive chewy texture. Although usually vegan, it can occasionally be sourced from animal derivatives, making it potentially non-vegan. Manufacturers should learn to be less opaque about how they source their ingredients. 

Natural and artificial flavors

These are flavoring agents used to give jelly beans their distinct taste. However, they can be derived from both plant and animal sources. This ambiguity can potentially make jelly beans non-vegan.

Confectioner’s glaze (shellac)

This is a shiny coating used to give jelly beans their glossy appearance. It’s derived from the secretions of the lac bug, making it non-vegan and non-cruelty-free.

Carnauba wax

This plant-based wax is used to add shine to jelly beans. It’s derived from the leaves of the carnauba palm and is vegan friendly.

Citric acid

Citric acid is a natural preservative and flavor enhancer derived from citrus fruits. It’s vegan friendly.

Fruit purees and concentrates

These are used to provide natural flavors and are derived from various fruits. They are vegan friendly.

Tapioca dextrin

Derived from the root of the cassava plant, it is used as a thickening agent and is vegan friendly.

Food coloring

Food coloring is usually synthetic, so vegan, but it’s often tested on animals, and therefore not vegan and cruelty-free.

Vegan Alternatives to Jelly Beans

Fear not, there are still plenty of options available for the vegan candy lover. Here are some vegan-friendly alternatives:

  • YumEarth Organic Sour Beans: These are made with organic cane sugar and fruit juice.
  • Jelly Bean Factory Gourmet Beans: They offer a range of vegan friendly flavors.
  • Trader Joe’s jelly beans: They’re free of confectioner’s glaze and gelatin.


While the beloved jelly beans, especially commercial jelly beans like Jelly Belly beans and Starburst jelly beans, are not vegan or cruelty-free due to certain ingredients such as confectioner’s glaze and possibly non-vegan natural and artificial flavors, there’s no need to despair. 

There are vegan friendly and cruelty-free alternatives on the market that allow you to enjoy the sweet, fruity flavors of jelly beans without compromising your vegan lifestyle. Always remember to check the ingredients list to ensure your tasty treats align with your ethical choices.