Have you ever wondered what’s in your marshmallows?
You might be surprised to learn that the fluffy, sugary treats are made with gelatin – a protein derived from animal skin, ligaments, tendons, and bones.
But did you know that not all marshmallows are made with the same type of gelatin?
While most marshmallows use beef or pork gelatin, some kosher marshmallows are made with fish gelatin, specifically tilapia.
In this article, we’ll explore why tilapia is used in marshmallows and what other alternatives are available for those who prefer not to consume animal products.
So sit back, grab a bag of marshmallows (if you have one), and let’s dive in!
Why Would Marshmallows Contain Tilapia?
The use of tilapia in marshmallows may seem strange at first, but it actually serves a specific purpose. Kosher marshmallows, for example, must be made with a gelatin that is derived from a kosher animal. This means that beef or pork gelatin cannot be used.
Tilapia, on the other hand, is a type of fish that is considered kosher by Jewish dietary laws. Its gelatin can be used to make marshmallows that are suitable for those who follow kosher dietary restrictions.
But why choose tilapia specifically? It turns out that tilapia is a warm-water fish that produces a high-bloom gelatin. This means that the gelatin is strong and can hold up well in the marshmallow-making process.
Other types of fish gelatin, such as those derived from cold-water fish like cod or salmon, tend to have a lower bloom and may not work as well in marshmallow production.
What Is Gelatin And Why Is It Used In Marshmallows?
Gelatin is a key ingredient in marshmallows, as it provides the necessary structure and texture. It is a protein derived from animal skin, connective tissue, and bones, typically from cows or pigs. During the marshmallow-making process, gelatin serves as an aerator, stabilizing foams like albumen. When combined with water, it forms a thermally-reversible gel that can melt and reset due to its sensitivity to temperature. This is what gives marshmallows their “melt-in-your-mouth” sensation when consumed.
In terms of texture and mouthfeel, gelatin creates a tangled 3-D network of polymer chains that trap air in the marshmallow mixture and immobilize the water molecules in the network. This results in the well-known spongy structure of marshmallows. Without gelatin, marshmallows would lack their signature gooey, stretchy, elastic, puffy, and bouncy properties.
The temperature during preparation is crucial for the gelatin to set properly. If the marshmallow mixture is too warm, the gelatin will not set quickly enough, resulting in a misshapen marshmallow. Excessive heat can also degrade or break down the gelatin itself. Therefore, when making marshmallows at home or by artisan candy makers, the gelatin is added after the syrup has been heated and cooled down. In commercial operations, however, the gelatin is simply cooked with the sugar syrup.
While gelatin may have health benefits due to its high protein content and vital amino acids, it is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians as it is derived from animal products. However, vegan and vegetarian substitutes can mimic the properties of gelatin to create similar textures in marshmallows.
The Difference Between Beef/pork Gelatin And Fish Gelatin
While beef and pork gelatin are nearly identical in terms of their properties, there are some key differences between these types of gelatin and fish gelatin.
Firstly, fish gelatin has a much lower melting temperature than beef or pork gelatin, melting at 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that it is more suitable for use in products that require a softer texture, such as gummy candies or marshmallows.
Secondly, fish gelatin is more readily available as a kosher product, making it a common ingredient in kosher confections. While kosher beef and pork gelatin do exist, they are less commonly used due to the restrictions on their production and sourcing.
Finally, the type of fish used to produce the gelatin can also impact its properties. Tilapia, for example, produces a high-bloom gelatin that is strong and suitable for use in marshmallow production. Other types of fish gelatin, such as those derived from cold-water fish like cod or salmon, may not have the same strength and may not work as well in certain applications.
Why Tilapia Is Used In Kosher Marshmallows
Tilapia is used in kosher marshmallows because it is a type of fish that is considered kosher by Jewish dietary laws. Its gelatin can be used to make marshmallows that are suitable for those who follow kosher dietary restrictions. Additionally, tilapia produces a high-bloom gelatin, which means that the gelatin is strong and can hold up well in the marshmallow-making process. Other types of fish gelatin, such as those derived from cold-water fish like cod or salmon, tend to have a lower bloom and may not work as well in marshmallow production. By using tilapia-sourced gelatin, rather than more expensive gelatin made from halachically slaughtered cows, manufacturers can offer reasonably priced marshmallows that are safe for a kosher kitchen.
Other Alternatives To Animal-based Gelatin For Marshmallows
For those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, there are several alternatives to animal-based gelatin that can be used to make marshmallows. One popular option is agar agar, which is derived from seaweed and can be used as a thickening and gelling agent in recipes like jams, jellies, and vegan marshmallows. Agar agar is versatile and can be adjusted to create a thicker or looser consistency depending on the desired outcome.
Another alternative to animal-based gelatin is xanthan gum. This polysaccharide is commonly used as a thickening agent, emulsifier, and stabilizer in gluten-free baked goods. While it is chemically derived and made in a lab, it is considered safe for consumption and does not have any known long-lasting negative effects.
Cream of tartar, which is a byproduct of fermenting grapes for wine, can also be used as a stabilizer in marshmallow recipes. Tapioca starch, which comes from the roots of the cassava plant, can create a chewy consistency similar to tapioca pudding or boba tea.
Finally, aquafaba has gained popularity as a magical ingredient and egg substitute in vegan recipes. It is the liquid brine from chickpeas that have been cooked and can be easily obtained by opening a can of chickpeas and pouring out the liquid into a bowl. Aquafaba can be whipped like egg whites and used as a base for vegan marshmallows.
The Debate Over The Use Of Animal Products In Food And What It Means For Consumers.
The use of animal products in food has been a topic of debate among consumers for years. While some people are comfortable with consuming animal-derived ingredients, others are not. Vegetarians, for example, avoid eating animal products altogether, while some people follow kosher or halal dietary laws that restrict the types of animal products they can consume.
One of the most commonly used animal-derived ingredients in food is gelatin. Gelatin is a protein substance that is derived from collagen, which is found in animal skin, bones, and connective tissue. It is used as a thickening agent in many foods, including marshmallows, pudding, ice cream, and candy. However, gelatin is not suitable for vegetarians or vegans because it is derived from animals.
The use of tilapia gelatin in marshmallows highlights the fact that there are alternatives to traditional animal-derived ingredients. While some people may not be comfortable with consuming animal products, others may be more accepting of certain types of animal-derived ingredients. Ultimately, it is up to each individual consumer to decide what they are comfortable eating and what they are not. As more alternative ingredients become available, consumers will have more options to choose from when it comes to their dietary preferences.