Are Candy Canes Gluten Free?

When you’re making holiday cookies and want to top them with crushed candy canes, you may wonder are candy canes gluten free? The answer is, typically, yes! So go ahead and enjoy them all season long. Learn more about candy canes below.

A photo of candy canes in a jar on a green and white background with text overlay that says "Are Candy Canes Gluten Free?".

What Are Candy Canes?

Chances are you’re familiar with this beloved holiday staple. Candy canes are cane-shaped sugary candies that can be found in large or small shapes. In their traditional form, they are red and white striped and flavored with peppermint. But, you can also find candy canes in other flavors and colors, including red and green striped.

Candy canes are widely available during the holiday season. They are most often associated with Christmas and Saint Nicholas Day (mainly celebrated in Europe). Many people like to hang candy canes on their Christmas trees for festive decoration and include them in all sorts of holiday sweets as garnish or in the dessert itself.

You can find candy canes in mini sizes or larger and wrapped in plastic wrap. Sometimes you can find them in straight stick shapes (they’ll taste the same as candy canes) but most often you’ll see them in the familiar straight shape with a curved top.

Pieces of Peppermint Mocha Chocolate Bark on a cutting board with a candy cane and coffee beans.

The History of Candy Canes

No one knows exactly how candy canes came into being, but one theory is that a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, in Cologne, Germany, asked a candy maker to prepare sugar sticks to keep kids quiet during the Christmas Eve service. They were made in a stick shape with a crooked top to represent shepherds who visited the baby Jesus.

In America, candy canes (or “stick candy”) show up in a record of a candy competition that took place during the 1837 exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association. And in 1844, a recipe for straight, white-and-colored striped peppermint candy sticks was published in “The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook, and Baker.” A patent for a candy cane-making machine was filed in the early 1920s by Chicago confectioners the Bunte Brothers. Until this time, candy canes were made by hand.

What Do They Taste Like?

Many candy canes are made with the traditional flavor of peppermint. However, you will sometimes find candy canes flavored with other fruit flavors, such as raspberry, cherry, apple, and more. Fruit-flavored candy canes are often colored to match the flavor while peppermint candy canes are red and white. So if you’re looking for peppermint-flavored candy canes, it’s a safe bet to pick up a box of red and white canes.

A small bowl of cheesecake dip with crushed candy canes on top.

Are Candy Canes Gluten Free?

Most candy canes are made from a combination of sugar, water, corn syrup, peppermint extract, and food coloring. These are all ingredients that are naturally gluten-free. So in theory, candy canes are gluten free.

However, you’ll want to make sure that cross-contamination is not an issue for the candy canes you buy if you are very sensitive to gluten. Unless a package of candy canes is labeled as gluten free, there may be the possibility that the factory where the candy canes were made also makes gluten-containing products.

When you start buying candy canes that are fruit-flavored, things get a little murky. While the ingredients themselves may not contain any gluten, the source of the added ingredients could come from a facility that processes gluten-containing products. In these cases, cross-contamination could be an issue.

Always read package labels carefully and look for “gluten free” or “certified gluten free.” If you see these words on a packaged food item, you can feel safe eating it on a gluten-free diet. You can learn more about how to read ingredient labels in this post.

What Brands of Candy Canes Are Gluten Free?

Here are a few brands of candy canes that are certified gluten free:

  • Spangler
  • Thrive Market
  • YumEarth
  • Hammond’s Candies
  • Just Candy
A green glass of peppermint hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a candy cane.

Recipes with Candy Canes

Looking for some recipes that use candy canes? Here are some of my favorites:

baked chocolate donut with peppermint icing and candy cane pieces on top on a red and white striped plate

Gluten Free Chocolate Peppermint Donuts

If you are looking for an easy and festive Christmas breakfast or dessert, these Gluten Free Chocolate Peppermint Donuts are sure to be a holiday delight! Baked chocolate donuts are dressed up for the season with a minty icing and bits of candy canes!
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Looking down at one of the mini no-bake chocolate peppermint cheesecakes with a spoon in it on a red napkin.

No-Bake Mini Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecakes

Easy to make Mini Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecakes are a dreamy little no-bake dessert that is perfect for the holidays. With rich chocolate flavor and a burst of peppermint from crushed candy canes, it's a festive treat you'll love to share with family and friends.
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A platter of cookies with a bowl of peppermint chocolate chip cheesecake dip in the middle.

Peppermint Cheesecake Dip

Add some sweet and festive fun to your holidays with Peppermint Cheesecake Dip. It has the tangy goodness of cream cheese with extra bursts of mini chocolate chips to make it extra irresistible. An easy recipe to whip up with only five ingredients, it's super fun to scoop up with your favorite Christmas cookies, graham crackers, pretzels, or fruit.
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four squares of peppermint fudge with layers of white and dark chocolate on a white plate

Peppermint Fudge

Get ready for some Peppermint Fudge that you are going to fall in love with for the holidays! It’s rich, creamy and so easy to make! How can you resist?
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Mocha Peppermint Bark pieces on a cutting board with a few coffee beans and a candy cane stick.

Peppermint Mocha Chocolate Bark

Your basic peppermint bark recipe gets a caffeinated kick. A jolt of espresso infuses that unmistakable favorite Starbucks flavor into Peppermint Mocha Chocolate Bark. It's an easy Christmas candy recipe that takes just five ingredients and a few minutes to prepare. Perfect to add to holiday treat platters or to give as a gift to the coffee lovers in your life!
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Four peppermint meringues on a white plare

Peppermint Meringue Cookies

Light and airy with a burst of fresh flavor, Peppermint Meringue Cookies are extra festive after a dip in chocolate and crushed candy canes. These peppermint kisses are naturally gluten free and just so pretty! This recipe is made without cream of tartar or raw egg whites by instead using meringue powder.
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