There may be some things more pleasurable than biting into a homemade marshmallow — one that is so fresh, it’s like nibbling on a cloud — but I can’t seem to think of any right now. Dunked in cocoa, gifted to a good friend, or secretly eaten too close to dinner, homemade marshmallows are a treat above all others.
Marshmallows are surprisingly easy to make at home — they're made of just gelatin and a hot sugar syrup, and you can make a batch in the stand mixer in about 20 minutes. I do definitely recommend a stand mixer for this one. The motors on most hand-held mixers just aren't strong enough and you risk burning it out as the sugar syrup firms up into thick, sticky marshmallow batter.
One step that may be unfamiliar to you in this recipe is the process of "blooming" the gelatin. This is nothing more than a fancy culinary term for "hydrating." By mixing the gelatin with some water (and in this case, vanilla), you're getting it ready to melt easily into the sugar syrup. At first, the gelatin will seem watery and may clump up. Keep whisking and it will gradually thicken to the consistency of apple sauce — when this happens, it's ready. (For vegan alternatives to gelatin, take a look at this post.)
This is also one recipe where I recommend using corn syrup. Sometimes it's just the right ingredient for the job, and when making marshmallows, it helps prevent the sugar syrup from crystalizing and it keeps the marshmallows fluffy and chewy. If you would prefer to avoid corn syrup, take a look at making your own sugar cane syrup to use instead.
Once you know this basic recipe, it’s easy to adapt it to whatever ingredients or flavors you’re in the mood for. You can add cocoa powder for chocolate marshmallows or use different extracts to change up the flavor. You can press chocolate chips or other candy pieces into the finished marshmallows, or coat them with anything from pumpkin pie spices to toasted coconut.
Ready to give marshmallows a try? Let's do it!
Use your spatula to push the marshmallow into the pan.
Fluffy Vanilla Marshmallows
Recipe gratefully adapted from Marshmallows by Eileen Talanian
Makes roughly 100 marshmallows, depending on size
What You Need
For the gelatin bloom:
3 tablespoons (typically 3 packets) unflavored gelatin powder (See Recipe Notes)
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
For the marshmallows:
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup sugar cane syrup or corn syrup
Pinch kosher salt
For the marshmallow coating:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
Bowls and measuring cups
Fork or small whisk
9x13 baking pan or other flat container
4-quart saucepan (slightly larger or smaller is ok)
Pastry brush (optional)
Candy thermometer, one that can clip to the side of the sauce pan
Stand mixer with a wire whisk attachment (See Recipe Note)
Clean kitchen towel
Stiff spatula or spoon (as opposed to a rubbery, flexible one)
Sharp knife or pizza wheel
Prepare pans and equipment: Spray the baking pan with cooking spray. Use a paper towel to wipe the pan and make sure there’s a thin film on every surface, corner, and side. Set it near your stand mixer, along with the kitchen towel and spatula. Fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
Bloom the gelatin: Measure the gelatin into the bowl of the stand mixer. Combine 1/2 cup cold water and vanilla in a measuring cup and pour this over the gelatin while whisking gently with a fork. Continue stirring until the gelatin reaches the consistency of apple sauce and there are no more large lumps. Set the bowl back in your standing mixer. (Alternatively, you can bloom the gelatin in a small cup and transfer it to the stand mixer.)
Combine the ingredients for the syrup: Pour 3/4 cup water into the 4-quart saucepan. Pour the sugar, corn syrup, and salt on top. Do not stir.
Bring the sugar syrup to a boil: Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring it to a full, rapid boil — all of the liquid should be boiling. As it is coming to a bowl, occasionally dip a pastry brush in water and brush down the sides of the pot. This prevents sugar crystals from falling into the liquid, which can cause the syrup to crystallize. If you don’t have a pastry brush, cover the pan for 2 minutes once the mixture is at a boil so the steam can wash the sides.
→ Do not stir the sugar once it has come to a boil or it may crystallize.
Boil the syrup to 247°F to 250°F: Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the sauce pan and continue boiling until the sugar mixture reaches 247°F to 250°F. Take the pan off the heat and remove the thermometer.
Whisk the hot syrup into the gelatin: Turn on your mixer to medium speed. Carefully pour the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin. The mixture may foam up — just go slowly and carefully.
Increase speed and continue beating: When all the syrup has been added, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and increase the speed to high (the cloth protects from splatters — the cloth can be removed after the marshmallows have started to thicken).
Beat marshmallows until thick and glossy: Whip for about 10 minutes. At first, the liquid will be very clear and frothy. Around 3 minutes, the liquid will start looking opaque, white, and creamy, and the bowl will be very warm to the touch. Around 5 minutes, the marshmallow will start to increase in volume. You'll see thin, sticky strands between the whisk and the side of the bowl; these strands will start to thicken into ropes over the next 5 minutes. The marshmallow may not change visually in the last few minutes, but continue beating for the full 10 minutes. When you finish beating and stop the mixer, it will resemble soft-serve vanilla ice cream.
Immediately transfer to the baking pan: With the mixer running on medium, slowly lift (or lower, depending on your model) the whisk out of the bowl so it spins off as much marshmallow as possible. Using your stiff spatula, scrape the marshmallow mixture into the pan. This stuff is very thick and sticky, so don’t worry about getting every last bit out of the bowl. Just get as much as you can.
Let the marshmallows set for 6 to 24 hours: Spray your hands lightly with cooking oil and smooth the top of the marshmallow to make it as even as possible. Let the mixture sit uncovered and at room temperature for 6 to 24 hours to set and "cure."
Prepare the marshmallow coating: Combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a bowl.
Remove the marshmallows from the pan: Sprinkle the top of the cured marshmallows with some of the powdered sugar mix and smooth it with your hand. Flip the block of marshmallows out onto your work surface. Use a spatula to pry them out of the pan if necessary. Sprinkle more powdered sugar mixture over the top of the marshmallow block.
Cut the marshmallows: Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the marshmallows into squares. It helps to dip your knife in water every few cuts. (You can also cut the marshmallows with cookie cutters.)
Coat each square with powdered sugar mix: Toss each square in the powdered sugar mix so all the sides are evenly coated.
Store the marshmallows: Marshmallows will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks. Leftover marshmallow coating can be stored in a sealed container indefinitely.
• For vegan alternatives to gelatin, take a look at this post: Gelling Without Gelatin: Vegetarian and Vegan Substitutes.
• A stand mixer is highly recommended for making marshmallows. The motors on hand-held mixers are often not powerful enough to fully whisk the marshmallow mixture and you risk burning the motor out.
This post and recipe have been updated. Originally published October 27, 2010.
(Images: Emma Christensen)