Chances are that if someone in your circle of close friends and family is vegan then you already know that they are. After all, people who abstain from foods that contain animal products tend to make it a habit of letting everybody and anybody know about this particular dietary habitude of theirs. However, in the case that you are not sure if someone on your gift basket list is vegan, it´s better to err on the side of caution and only include vegan goodies. Fortunately, as it turns out, a lot of tasty candies and sweets that are popular with just about everyone -vegans and non-vegans alike- are in fact vegan.
Here are some of the goodies that you can include in a vegan candy gift basket:
1) Dark Chocolate
Not all chocolate is milk chocolate. Truth be told, natural dark chocolate is completely plant based, and there are a lot of high quality chocolate bars that are easy to find, organic, and contain no eggs or dairy products. To understand that chocolate need not contain any milk, it helps to understand how chocolate is made. Here is the process in 8 steps:
1. Cacao trees grow in hot, tropical areas. Pods grow on these trees, and a mature pod is about the size of a large mango, and is a burnt orange color with a leathery outer texture.
2. These pods are split open, and inside there are beans (fatty seeds) embedded in a thick, gooey substance. These beans are placed in wooden bins where they´re covered with banana leaves and left to ferment.
3. Once the beans have fermented they are extracted then sun dried for a week.
4. The dried beans are sent to a factory where they are sifted and roasted.
5. The beans are cracked and split up into bitter tasting cacao nibs.
6. These nibs are ground up into a thick paste with a gritty texture called chocolate liquor.
7. Manufactures add sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla in order to sweeten the grainy and bitter chocolate liquor.
8. Lastly, the sweetened chocolate liquor is run through a series of steel rollers which smooth out the texture, removing the grainy bits and other inconsistencies. Soy lichen is added as a thickening agent. The velvety final product is then poured into molds where it dries.
Step 7 is the stage of the process where milk would be added, but again, this is not necessary. Dark chocolate need not be bitter either; natural vanilla can provide all the sweetness you need. Popular brands of dark, vegan chocolate that is also certifiably organic include Alter Eco, Kallari, Equal Exchange, Theo, and Newman´s.
A lot of gummy candies contain gelatin, which is made from boiling the tendons, ligaments, and skin of farm animals. Needless to say, anything which contains gelatin is not suitable for a vegan. However, Jujubes -an American classic- are vegan friendly.
Be sure to check the label though; imitation jujubes may contain gelatin, carmine (made from crushed insects), or sugar that has been refined with bone char. Real, vegan jujubes will typically be harder, and people tend to prefer to suck on them instead of chewing them.
3) Cracker Jack
Another American classic that happens to be vegan is “Cracker Jack” brand caramel coated popcorn and peanuts. If the person you are sending your gift basket to has a kid, “Cracker Jack” is a great choice because each bag comes with a toy.
4) No Oreos!
You may have heard that Oreo cookies are vegan friendly. However, this appears to be nothing more than a widely circulated myth. On its own website, Oreo claims that their product, although suitable for vegetarians, is not suitable for vegans as their production involves cross contact with milk.