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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are a few brands of candy canes that are certified gluten free:
Looking for some recipes that use candy canes? Here are some of my favorites:
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