Warm up this season with a mug of hot cocoa and naturally sweetened homemade marshmallows – no white sugar or corn syrup needed!
While I anticipated plenty of baking during the holidays I never thought I’d be making homemade marshmallows. For one, it honestly never occurred to me to make my own and two I haven’t had the best of luck making candies in the past. But when I was brainstorming recipe ideas for the holiday season, Bry insisted I make healthy homemade marshmallows – well, healthier marshmallows, after all you can’t make marshmallows without plenty of sugar.
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I often get asked about natural sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup, vs white sugar in terms of healthfulness. While both are sources of sugar, honey and maple syrup do contain extra nutrients not found in white sugar making them a more nutritious choice. Today we’ll focus on honey as that’s the sweeter of choice for these marshmallows. If you’re not looking for a nutrition lecture, go ahead and skip the next paragraph 😉
White sugar is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose – simple sugars that our bodies are very good at digesting quickly, resulting in a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. This isn’t necessarily bad all the time, but chronically elevated blood sugars can eventually lead to many chronic diseases, specifically cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Honey, on the other hand, contains less of these simple sugars (about 30% glucose and 40% fructose), the other 20% are more complex types of sugars including a starchy fiber called dextrin. As a result, it takes longer for your body to break down honey, so you don’t get the same blood sugar spike as you would with white sugar. Plus, natural honey contains antioxidants and has anti-bacterial properties. Okay, enough nutrition, on to the marshmallows!
As I mentioned above, I’ve never had good luck making candies before. For a couple years in a row, my mom and I attempted to make old-style fudge for Christmas, but it always ended up grainy or too hard. We started to get a bit better once my grandma passed on the responsibility of making a burnt sugar cake for Christmas (a family tradition), but there were still many years where it took multiple attempts to get the burnt sugar syrup just right.
These marshmallows though? I had to get it right in one shot as I used up all the honey in our house and all the gelatin powder. So to help my chances I bought a simple candy thermometer, which I highly recommend using for these.
Some tips before you go about making your own:
- Keep stirring the honey and water mixture! I made the mistake of stepping away to start cleaning up dishes and ended up with an overflowing, bubbling mess that took forever to clean off my stovetop. Just keep stirring.
- When you get to the whipping step, whip only until it looks like marshmallow cream otherwise it will start to form into dense marshmallows in your mixing bowl.
- Pour the cream as fast as you can into the prepared 9×13 pan, as it will quickly want to start forming marshmallows. While it will still taste fine, the look and texture will not be smooth and pretty.
- Avoid any moisture with storing these. That means no fridge and no lids. Instead I kept mine in a partially covered tupperware on the counter.
After making these, all that’s left is to warm up a mug of hot cocoa 🙂
So here’s a toast to enjoying homemade treats around the holidays!
Homemade Healthier Marshmallows
- Butter coconut oil, or parchment paper
- 3 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
- 1 cup water separated
- 1 cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- About 1/4 cup corn starch for dusting
- Grease 9x13 baking pan with butter or coconut oil; you can also use parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place gelatin powder and 1/2 cup water in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine then let sit.
- Place 1/2 cup water and 1 cup honey in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Stir constantly until candy thermometer reads 240 F.
- Quickly (and carefully) pour honey into mixing bowl and beat on high for 6-10 minutes or until fluffy and forms a stiff cream (will form gentle peaks). Around minute 6, add in vanilla extract.
- Once it forms a stiff cream you need to work fast so that the marshmallows don’t start to form in your bowl! Quickly pour cream into prepared pan and let sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 4 hours.
- Remove from pan and cut into desired shapes/sizes. Dust each marshmallow in corn starch to prevent them from sticking to one another.
- Store at room temperature in a bowl or open container for 3-5 days. It’s important not to put these in the fridge or cover as moisture will dissolve these guys. Enjoy!
Unless you plan on doing some serious candy-making, no need to buy a fancy thermometer. This is the one I use and it works great: