Did you know the marshmallows in Lucky Charms actually have a name? They’re called “marbits.” But unfortunately from a vegan perspective, the ingredients for these “marbits” are pretty similar to normal, gelatin-based marshmallows.
Lucky Charms are generally not considered vegan. They contain pork gelatin, which comes from boiled pig skin, bones, joints, and the like. They also contain sugar, artificial colors, natural flavor, and vitamin D3, which are gray-area ingredients that some vegans avoid.
Below, I’ll explore why each of these ingredients are controversial from a vegan perspective. I’ll also answer the question of whether there is a vegan alternative to Lucky Charms on the market, or how you can recreate this dish at home!
What Are Lucky Charms Made Of?
Let’s start by taking a look at the full ingredients list for Original Lucky Charms here in the U.S. Although gelatin is the main non-vegan ingredient, I’ve bolded in red all the ingredients that some vegans find problematic:
Lucky Charms Ingredients: “Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Oat Flour, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Starch, Dextrose, Salt, Gelatin, Trisodium Phosphate, Yellows 5 & 6, Red 40, Blue 1 and Other Color Added, Natural and Artificial Flavor. Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Zinc and Iron (mineral nutrients), Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate), A B Vitamin (niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (thiamin mononitrate), Vitamin A (palmitate), A B Vitamin (folic acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3.” (source)
So what’s the deal with each of these ingredients, from a vegan perspective?
- Gelatin: Not Vegan or Vegetarian. Gelatin is animal protein that comes from boiling skin, joints, ligaments, bones, and the like. In this case, the gelatin is part of the marshmallows. More on this below, but the quick summary is that it’s not vegan.
- Sugar: Gray Area. Non-organic cane sugar is often filtered with animal bone char to make it whiter. And you can’t tell just the label whether bone char was used. Therefore, some vegans avoid “sugar” as an ingredient. However, for me personally, I don’t worry about it.
- Vitamin D3: Gray Area. Vitamin D3 in cereal is typically from lanolin, which is a grease from sheep’s wool. So it is an animal ingredient. However, it’s used in very small quantities (it’s the last ingredient in Lucky Charms). So some vegans (like me) believe it is okay to eat it. Here’s a full explanation of how I see it.
- Artificial Colors: Gray Area. Artificial colors are made from petroleum using a synthetic process. So they’re not animal-derived. However, they are still tested on animals due to ongoing safety concerns. So a small percentage of vegans avoid them. I have separate posts on each of these colors in Lucky Charms: Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Blue 1.
- Natural Flavor: Gray Area. Natural flavor can come from plants or animals. In the case of Lucky Charms, it’s probably not animal-based, but we don’t know by reading the label.
So, as you can see, Lucky Charms are pretty firmly not vegan, especially due to the marshmallows containing gelatin.
What Are Lucky Charms Marshmallows Made Of?
There’s actually a name for the marshmallows in Lucky Charms: Marbits (bits of marshmallow). Anyway, Lucky Charms marshmallows (or, marbits) include the following ingredients: “sugar, modified cornstarch, corn syrup, dextrose, gelatin and calcium carbonate” (source).
Interestingly, Lucky Charms’ marshmallows differ from normal, puffy marshmallows because their recipe does not include water or a “whipping aid.” They also likely contain more cornstarch than puffy marshmallows—but the exact recipe is a secret. (source)
What Gelatin Is Used in Lucky Charms?
Lucky Charms contains pork gelatin. Most gelatin is either pork-derived or beef-derived, and General Mills confirms on their website that the gelatin in Lucky Charms is sourced from pork collagen.
Do Lucky Charms Contain Dairy?
Lucky Charms do not contain milk, lactose, or any other dairy product. There is not even an allergen warning on the package for “traces of milk” or “may contain milk”—so it should be safe even for people with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance.
Are Chocolate Lucky Charms Vegan?
Chocolate Lucky Charms are generally not considered vegan. They contain gelatin, which is not vegan or vegetarian. They also contain sugar, artificial colors, natural flavor, and vitamin D3, all of which are gray-area ingredients that some vegans avoid.
In short: Chocolate Lucky Charms has all the same problematic and controversial ingredients as Original Lucky Charms. Plus, there’s cocoa powder, which can potentially have ethical issues depending where it’s sourced from.
Chocolate Lucky Charms Ingredients: “Whole Grain Corn, Sugar, Corn Meal, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Canola and/or Rice Bran Oil, Dextrose, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Yellows 5 & 6, Red 40, Blue 1, and Other Color Added, Salt, Fructose, Gelatin, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Trisodium Phosphate, Corn Starch. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Zinc and Iron (mineral nutrients), Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate), A B Vitamin (niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), Vitamin B1 (thiamin mononitrate), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin A (palmitate), A B Vitamin (folic acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3.” (source)
Are Lucky Charms Honey Clovers Vegan?
Lucky Charms Honey Clovers are not vegan, as they contain gelatin, which is not vegan or vegetarian. They also contain honey, sugar, artificial colors, natural flavor, and vitamin D3, all of which are gray-area ingredients that many vegans avoid.
So, basically with Honey Clovers, you have all the same problematic ingredients as Original Lucky Charms, plus honey, which most vegans also try to avoid (although opinions on honey do vary).
Are There Vegan Lucky Charms?
I wasn’t able to find any ready-made vegan replacements for Lucky Charms cereal. However, here are a few options for how you can recreate this cereal in a vegan manner:
- Order a big bag of vegan cereal marshmallows from Sweet and Sara. Then you can add those to any cereal you like!
- Try one of these recipes for home-made vegan Lucky Charms:
More Vegan Guides to Cereal
I’ve been writing a bunch of guides about which popular breakfast cereals are vegan. Here are a few more that might interest you:
Two More Recommendations for Your Vegan Journey
1. This is the best vegan multivitamin I’ve found in 13 years of being vegan. It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans are actually low in. Read my full review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here (with 10% discount).
2. This is the best vegan starter kit I know of. It’s a bundle of 9 beautiful e-books that help you transition to a healthy plant-based diet—the right way. The advice is spot-on, and it has print-outs and checklists that make it easy to implement. Read my full review of Nutriciously here.