These Candy Cane Marshmallows are a perfect holiday treat! You can eat them on their own, serve them with hot chocolate, and even roast them over a fire. They're also a great addition to a holiday cookie box, and they ship well!
These marshmallows are flavored with peppermint extract and the red swirls make them feel even more like holiday candy canes. You can easily make this recipe with any color or type of food coloring!
Why you'll love this recipe
- These marshmallows are great to eat on their own, with a cup of hot chocolate, or to roast over a fire.
- The red food coloring gives these marshmallows their candy cane appearance, but you can use other colors as well if you like!
- Homemade marshmallows are a no-bake recipe so you don't even need the oven!
- There are easy substitutions to make these marshmallows without gelatin or corn syrup.
- Marshmallows store well at room temperature and can keep for up to several weeks! They're also great in a holiday cookie box or for shipping.
There are only a few key ingredients you'll need to make these Candy Cane Marshmallows.
- Cold water: The water that goes in the stand mixer must be cold in order for the gelatin to bloom correctly.
- Unflavored powdered gelatin: This is what helps the marshmallows set and become firm. I use Knox gelatin, but you can use any unflavored gelatin you prefer. There are substitutions listed in the section below.
- Granulated sugar: Hopefully this isn't a surprise, but this is a dessert recipe. So yes, there is quite a bit of sugar in marshmallows.
- Light corn syrup: Corn syrup prevents the crystalization of the sugar as it's melted. Substitutions are listed below.
- Peppermint extract: This is what gives the marshmallows their peppermint (or candy cane) flavor!
- Powdered sugar: I like to use powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar) to help keep the marshmallows from sticking to each other. You can also use cornstarch.
- Red food coloring: I used red food coloring to make these marshmallows feel like candy canes, but you can use any color or type of food coloring that you like!
See full recipe below for detailed directions.
Substitutions & Variations
This is a very adaptable recipe and below are a few easy substitutions and variations you can try.
- Homemade marshmallows without gelatin - If you'd like to make these marshmallows vegan, use agar agar in a 1:1 substitute for the gelatin.
- Homemade marshmallows without corn syrup - If you'd rather not use corn syrup, you can use agave nectar, honey or maple syrup in a 1:1 substitute for the corn syrup. Keep in mind, you will taste those agave nectar, maple syrup or honey flavors in the final marshmallow.
- Use different food coloring - You can use any color and any type of food coloring that you like. Or, you can leave the coloring out and simply flavor with the peppermint extract.
- Add crushed candy canes - If you want some additional candy cane flavor, you can crush candy canes and add them as a topping while the marshmallows are still cooling. You could also stir them into the marshmallow as you're making the food coloring streaks to distribute them more throughout the marshmallow.
I have not tested this recipe with other variations, but if you do, let us know how it turns out in the comments! I always love to hear how you're adapting these recipes and use those as ideas for future recipes as well!
How to make Candy Cane Marshmallows
There are only a few key steps to making these Candy Cane Marshmallows. Being precise with the temperatures and working quickly (before the marshmallows set) are the keys to success with this recipe!
Add ⅔ cup cold water to the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle with gelatin and let bloom.
In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and ⅔ cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil, swirling the pan occasionally.
Boil until the mixture reaches exactly 240°F on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
Slowly and carefully pour the melted sugar mixture into the gelatin mixture. Add the salt and peppermint extract. Increase the speed to high and whip until the mixture is stiff and white, about 10-12 minutes.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and use a spatula to help spread evenly.
Spread droplets of red food coloring across the surface of the marshmallows, then use a toothpick or skewer to swirl the food coloring throughout. Let the marshmallows set for at least 4 hours at room temperature or 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Turn the marshmallow out onto the work surface and use a sharp knife to cut into 16 (or more) pieces.
Roll each marshmallow in powdered sugar or cornstarch on each side to prevent sticking, then serve.
Expert Baking Tips
- Use cold water to bloom the gelatin.
- I highly recommend using a stand mixer and a candy thermometer for this recipe. You can make this with a hand-held mixer, but you will be mixing for a very long time. I don't recommend trying to make this without a candy thermometer.
- Bring the sugar mixture to exactly 240 degrees F. If you miss this by a few degrees in either direction, your marshmallows either won't firm up, or they'll be a rock-hard mess.
- Be careful when pouring the hot sugar mixture. Pour this carefully into the stand mixer, then slowly increase the speed to high. You don't want any splashes!
- Give the marshmallows enough time to whip. This will take 10-12 minutes. If you under-whip the marshmallows, they won't set up correctly.
- Swirl the food coloring into the marshmallows before they start to firm.
Common Marshmallow Challenges
Below are a few common marshmallow challenges and how to avoid them.
- Marshmallows are too soft: If your marshmallows are not setting up, there are a few possibilities:
- The sugar did not reach 240 degrees Fahrenheit. If your sugar was under that temperature, the marshmallows will not set correctly and will seem wet.
- The marshmallows need to whip longer. If they did not whip long enough, they will not set correctly.
- The marshmallows need to set longer. Let them sit overnight, if possible, to see if this helps them set up more firmly.
- Marshmallows are too hard: If your marshmallows turned into a rock-hard sugar mess, this is because the sugar mixture was heated to over 240 degrees Fahrenheit and unfortunately isn't recoverable.
- Marshmallows are too sweet: Firstly, be aware that this is a marshmallow recipe and they are going to be sweet. One option, though, is to coat the marshmallows in corn starch rather than powdered sugar. This will keep the marshmallows from sticking to each other without adding any additional sugar.
- The knife is sticking to the marshmallows: An easy fix! Spray your knife with cooking spray to easily cut the marshmallows. You can dab off any excess cooking spray on the marshmallows with a paper towel.
How to clean up after making marshmallows
Making marshmallows is going to be a bit messy. Melted sugar turns rock hard, and the whipped marshmallow has a tendency to somehow get on everything. Good news, though: remember that sugar dissolves in water. Don't spend time scrubbing your pans, spatulas or stand mixer bowl. Fill them with warm water, let them sit for 10-15 minutes, and the sugar will melt right out so you can easily wash them.
How to eat Candy Cane Marshmallows
There are many ways to eat Candy Cane Marshmallows; below are a few of my favorite options!
- Eat them plain: Once they've been rolled in powdered sugar (or cornstarch), they are finished and ready to eat! Enjoy them as a treat on their own!
- Roast them over a fire: These marshmallows roast well for s'mores. The marshmallows will be a bit softer than storebought, so you may have better success using a double-pronged roasting stick for some extra support.
- Floating in hot chocolate: These are great to add to a cup of hot chocolate or your other favorite warm dessert beverage.
- Add to a holiday cookie box: Add Candy Cane Marshmallows to a holiday cookie box for an extra treat! They also ship well if you are shipping holiday goodies!
I highly recommend using a stand mixer (I use a KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer) to make marshmallows. Yes, you can do this with a hand-held mixer, but it will be challenging and you will be mixing for a very long time.
You will also need a medium-sized saucepan (I use The Saucy from Great Jones). Use a pan that has some extra space so you can easily swirl the sugar and it has a bit of room to grow as it bubbles. You'll need a candy thermometer (this is not optional!), a few spatulas, and a 9x9-inch baking pan. If you don't have a 9x9-inch baking pan, an 8x8-inch baking pan also works well!
Room Temperature Storage: Store these Candy Cane Marshmallows in an airtight container at room temperature for up to several weeks. Use a piece of wax paper or parchment paper between layers to keep the marshmallows from sticking to each other.
You can also leave them out in the open (not in a closed container) at room temperature if you like your marshmallows a bit hard / dry. If you've ever left Peeps out on the countertop to let them harden, it's the same idea!
Use honey or agave nectar in a 1:1 substitute for corn syrup.
To make these marshmallows vegan, use agar agar in a 1:1 substitute for gelatin.
No. Homemade marshmallows should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Do not store them in the refrigerator.
I highly recommend using a stand mixer to make homemade marshmallows. It can be done with a hand-held mixer, but you will be mixing for a very long time and it will be harder to be successful.
I do not recommend trying to make marshmallows without a candy thermometer. Bringing the sugar mixture to the correct temperature is very important to this recipe being a success.
Candy Cane Marshmallows
- 1 ⅓ cups water divided
- 3 envelopes unflavored, powdered gelatin about 7 ½ teaspoons
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-2 teaspoons red food coloring
- ⅓ cup powdered sugar or cornstarch for rolling
- Grease a 9x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add ⅔ cup cold water. Sprinkle gelatin on top and let bloom.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup and ⅔ cup water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture reaches exactly 240°F on a candy thermometer, about 10-12 minutes. Immediately remove from heat.
- With the stand mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour the melted sugar mixture into the gelatin mixture. Add the peppermint extract and salt.
- Slowly (to avoid splashes) increase the speed to high and whip until the mixture is stiff and white, about 10-12 minutes. When you remove the whisk, stiff peaks should form that take a few seconds until they fall back into the marshmallow mixture. Working quickly, pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and use a spatula to help spread evenly.
- While the marshmallows are warm, add droplets of red food coloring to the top. Use a toothpick or skewer to swirl the food coloring throughout the marshmallows.
- Let the marshmallows sit and firm for at least 4 hours at room temperature or 2 hours in the refrigerator.
- Dust your work surface with powdered sugar or cornstarch. Use a butter knife to slice around the edges of the pan, then turn the marshmallow out onto the work surface. You may need to pry it out at a corner. Use a sharp knife to cut the marshmallow into (at least) 16 pieces. If needed, spray the knife with cooking spray to help prevent sticking. If there is excess cooking spray on your marshmallow, dab with a paper towel to remove.
- Roll each marshmallow in powdered sugar or cornstarch on each side to prevent sticking, then serve.