Just because you’ve adopted a keto lifestyle doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes still experience cravings for familiar sweets — like marshmallows. But if you’re hankering for s’mores or rice crispy treats, you may wonder: do marshmallows get the green light on keto?
The short answer is no, marshmallows aren’t keto-friendly. With their high level of processing and sugar content, they’re definitely not a model food for a low-carb, minimally processed eating plan like keto. But there’s good news for lovers of all things stretchy and gooey! By getting a little creative, you can DIY your own keto-friendly version of this classic treat — and we’ve also got a ready-made keto recommendation (the Mallow Munch bar) that delivers your favorite flavor without the added sugar or artificial ingredients.
Here’s the lowdown on why you should (usually) pass on marshmallows while on keto, plus handy tips on making low-carb marshmallows from scratch.
Marshmallows are chock-full of sugary and artificial ingredients. Most brands list their ingredients as corn syrup, sugar, dextrose, modified corn starch, gelatin, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, artificial flavor, and artificial color. In addition to this questionable ingredient list — or, rather, because of it — commercially prepared marshmallows are a highly processed food. On a keto diet, as with any healthy diet, it’s best to keep these types of high-sugar, processed foods to a bare minimum.
What You Need to Know About the Ingredients in Marshmallows
Here’s an item-by-item breakdown as to why each of the ingredients in regular marshmallows won’t help you stay in ketosis or support your health.
Corn syrup: As you probably know, corn syrup is a type of sugar, and sugar is, of course, made of 100% carbohydrate. Since keeping carbs low is necessary for staying in ketosis, corn syrup doesn’t make the cut on a classic keto diet. Additionally, corn syrup is an especially high-glycemic sweetener, meaning it can spike blood sugar quickly.
Sugar: Again, sugar in any form, but especially refined sugar, isn’t helpful for keeping you in ketosis.
Dextrose: The sugar parade continues! Dextrose is a simple form of sugar made from corn. Like corn syrup, it’s known for its ability to raise blood sugar quickly. In fact, dextrose is sometimes given intravenously to bring people’s blood sugar up rapidly. Clearly, this ingredient isn’t a great choice on keto.
Modified corn starch: Modified corn starch doesn’t always mean genetically modified. Rather, corn starch in marshmallows may have been modified chemically or enzymatically. However, even if the corn starch in marshmallows isn’t a GMO, corn products are typically a no-no on keto. Corn and its byproducts are almost universally high in carbs, and modified corn starch is ultra-processed.
Gelatin: Gelatin is the one ingredient in marshmallows that’s keto-friendly — but there’s not enough of it in the gooey confections to make much of an impact on your protein intake.
Tetrasodium pyrophosphate: Tetra-what? Not every ingredient with an unpronounceable name is a dietary bogeyman, but tetrasodium pyrophosphate definitely comes with some red flags. This artificial additive used to texturize and thicken foods is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, but has been associated with symptoms like nausea, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea[*][*]. While you may not experience these unpleasant issues after eating a few marshmallows, the addition of tetrasodium pyrophosphate is one more sign that marshmallows are extremely processed.
Artificial flavors and colors: Each brand of marshmallows has its own formulation of ingredients, most of which include some artificial flavors or colors. Blue 1 is the most common artificial color in marshmallows. Blue 1 is considered safer than Blue 2 or Blue 3, but still may cause allergic reactions in some people[*].
Marshmallow Nutrition Facts
For reference, here’s what you can expect regarding the marshmallows’ nutrition. The following is for one serving size (4 pieces or 30 grams) of marshmallows[*]:
- Calories: 100 kcal
- Protein: 1 g
- Carbs: 24 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Sugars: 18 g
- Sodium: 15 mg
By now, you can probably see why regular marshmallows aren’t a healthy addition to a keto eating plan (or any other nutritious diet). But never roasting another s’more or popping puffy white squares into your hot chocolate? That sounds like a serious bummer. If you want to keep carbs low, but still keep marshmallows on the menu, there’s hope! Check out the keto dessert options below.
Keto-friendly Mallow Munch Bars
When sugar cravings hit, you’ve only got three choices. You can white-knuckle it, give in to your sweet tooth, or treat yourself to a snack that’s appropriate for your keto lifestyle. Perfect Keto Mallow Munch Bars are great any time, but they’re a lifesaver when you’re running low on willpower.
These yummy gluten-free bars are a lot like rice crispy treats, except they’re appropriate for low-carb and keto diets. Instead of using rice and sugar (which unfortunately aren’t keto-friendly), we made these with dairy protein crisps and keto sweeteners, resulting in 9 grams of protein, 90 calories, and only 2 grams of net carbs per serving.
They’re available in Marshmallow, Chocolate, and Peanut Butter flavors. You can eat Mallow Munch bars straight from the package for easy keto snacking, drizzle them with nut butter, or even incorporate them into your own crunchy keto recipe ideas if you’re feeling creative!
How to Make Your Own Keto Homemade Marshmallows
We get it — not every situation calls for a rice crispy bar. Sometimes you may be craving a springy, fluffy marshmallow all by itself (or for use in recipes). If you want a top-notch keto-friendly marshmallow, the best strategy is to get in the kitchen and whip up your very own low-carb treat.
Most DIY keto marshmallow recipes are made with the help of a hand mixer or stand mixer and include a blend of gelatin, water, vanilla extract, and low-carb sweetener, a pinch of salt, and around a cup of water. As mentioned, the usual sweet suspects of corn syrup, sugar, and dextrose in commercially made marshmallows can all too easily undo your keto efforts. To create sweetness without the high carb count, keto marshmallows usually use xylitol, allulose, or erythritol. Instead of relying on artificial colors to create white-as-a-cloud color, these sweeteners are naturally white enough. As for thickening up your little pops of fluff, extra gelatin does the job in place of the artificial additive tetrasodium pyrophosphate. (And it adds a boost of protein, too!) By the time you’ve finished, you’ve got a gluten-free, dairy-free keto dessert just about anyone can enjoy. (They’re typically paleo, too!)
Though it may take longer prep time to craft your own keto version of marshmallows, once you do, you’ll have an indulgent treat that hits the spot without derailing your health goals.
How to Use Keto Marshmallows
Got your low-carb marshmallows all mixed up and ready to go? Since keto marshmallows use different ingredients than regular marshmallows, they don’t always have the perfect texture for roasting over an open fire — but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them in lots of other craveable ways. Try these serving suggestions:
- Drizzle with chocolate syrup or a low-carb fruit syrup
- Pop into a high-fat keto hot chocolate
- Press between gluten-free graham crackers and dark or sugar-free chocolate for keto s’mores
- Add to a trail mix of nuts and dark chocolate chips
- Sprinkle as a topping on keto brownies
- Serve with stevia-sweetened berries
Overconsuming marshmallows will kick you out of ketosis, but never fear — if a gooey white morsel or two sneaks in on your keto diet, it’s not the end of the world.
Staying in a fat-burning metabolic state is all about maintaining a balance of high fat and low carb intake, which may look a little different for everyone.
And this doesn’t mean you have to dial your carbohydrates down to zero. A few carbs are acceptable on keto and won’t hurt, again, as long as you don’t exceed your personal threshold and exit ketosis.
If you choose to eat marshmallows on keto, just keep portions to a minimum and keep your overall daily intake of carbs in mind. As you go about your day, you’ll opt out of a serving of fruit at lunch, for example, knowing you’d like a marshmallow treat that evening.
Like most other highly processed sweets, regular marshmallows don’t make the cut as a keto-friendly food. But you don’t necessarily have to banish these childhood-favorite treats from your menu entirely.
You can experiment with eating marshmallows in small amounts that won’t disrupt your metabolic state. Or better yet, try a tasty workaround like our Mallow Munch bar or making your own with a keto-friendly marshmallow recipe.