Homemade Marshmallows


Marshmallow History


The name marshmallow refers both to the sugary confection as well as to a plant. The 'mallow' plant (Althea Officinalis) is common in Europe. The leaves and roots are both edible but it is the mucilaginous substance from the root from which the early marshmallows were made. Today however the root is no longer used and has been replaced commercially with a gum arabic solution or at home with gelatin.

The earliest use of the mallow plant to make a confection dates back to the Egyptians. "The first marshmallows were made by boiling pieces of the marsh mallow root pulp with sugar until it thickened. After is had thickened, the mixture was strained and cooled. As far back as 2000BC, Egyptians combined the marsh mallow root with honey. The candy was reserved for gods and royalty."


The modern version most similar to what we see today was first made in France around 1850 and was called pate de guimauve.   Marshmallows were made with the mallow root sap, gelatin, egg whites, corn syrup and water.  The boiled mixture was placed in special molds coated in corn starch (to prevent sticking). This process was laborious so the manufacturing technique was changed in the 1900's with the invention of the "starch mogul system".

campfire marshmallows

image by don johnson - box of campfire brand marshmallows from the 1940's to 1950's.

The marshmallow became very popular in the U.S. from the 1930's  to the 1960's.  Early on they were a child's candy but later they were seen in cookbooks used for topping cocoa, dessert topping and even in salads.

In 1955 there were over 30 marshmallow manufactures in the U.S. Thanks to one Alex Doumak, marshmallow production change to an extrusion process which made for rapid, low cost production of the product still sold today.

campfire marshmallow ad
campfire marshmallow ad 1927 image by: loaps

Homemade Marshmallow Recipe

Recipe from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies by Maida Heatter (Random House) 
  • Vegetable shortening (Crisco recommended) for preparing the pan
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 3 tablespoons (3 envelopes) unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Confectioners sugar (for coating the marshmallows)
  1. Prepare a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan as follows. Invert the pan. Cut a piece of aluminum foil long enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Place the foil over the inverted pan and fold down the sides and corners just to shape. Remove the foil and turn the pan right side up. Place the foil in the pan and press it gently into place. With a pastry brush or crumpled wax paper coat the foil thoroughly but lightly with vegetable shortening. Set aside.
  2. Place 1/2 cup cold water in the large bowl of an electric mixer, Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water and set aside.
  3. Place the sugar, corn syrup, salt and the other 1/2 cup water in a heavy 1-1/2 quart or 2 quart saucepan over moderately low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Cover for 3 minutes to allow any sugar crystals on the sides of the saucepan to dissolve. Uncover, raise the heat to high, insert a candy thermometer, and let the syrup boil without stirring until the temperature reaches 240 degrees. Do not overcook. Remove from the heat.
  4. Beating constantly at medium speed, pour the syrup slowly into the gelatin mixture. After all the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high and beat for 15 minutes until the mixture is lukewarm, snowy white, and the consistency of whipped marshmallow, adding the vanilla a few minutes before the end of the beating. (During the beating, occasionally scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula. The marshmallow will thicken and become sticky -- if the mixture crawls up on the beaters as it thickens, carefully wipe it down with a rubber spatula.)
  5. Pour the slightly warm and thick marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and, with your forefinger, scrape all the mixture off the beaters. Smooth the top of the marshmallow.
  6. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours or longer if it is more convenient.
  7. Then sift or strain confectioners sugar generously onto a large cutting board to cover a surface larger then your pan. Invert the marshmallow over the sugared surface. Remove the pan and peel off the foil. Strain confectioners sugar generously over the top of the marshmallow.
  8. To cut into even 1 inch strips use a ruler and toothpicks to mark it every 1 inch.
  9. Prepare a long, heavy, sharp knife by brushing the blade lightly with vegetable shortening. Cutting down firmly with the full length of the blade, cut the marshmallow into 1 inch strips. (After cutting the first slice, just keep the blade sugared to keep it from sticking.)
  10. Dip the cut sides of each strip into confectioners sugar to coat them thoroughly -- you should have enough excess sugar on the board to do this.
  11. Now cut each strip into 1 inch squares. (You may place three strips together and cut through them all at once.) Roll the marshmallows in the sugar to coat the remaining sides. Shake off excess sugar.
  12. Store in a plastic box or any airtight container -- or plastic bag.

Yield: makes 1 pound, 10 ounces of marshmallows

Nutrition Information For Homemade Marshmallows

Serving Size
1 cup of miniature
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 40mg
Total Carbohydrate 41g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 29g
Protein 1g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Thomas Keller's Marshmallows

By the famous French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller (Artisan)

  • 3 envelopes of Knox gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
    2/3 cups corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar for dredging
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Soak for 10 minutes. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes. Add vanilla and incorporate into mixture. Scrape into a 9 x 9-inch pan lined with oiled plastic wrap and spread evenly. (Note: Lightly oil hands and spatula or bowl scraper). After pouring marshmallow mixture into the pan, take another piece of plastic wrap and press mixture into the pan.
  2. Let mixture sit for a few hours. Remove from pan, dredge the marshmallow slab with confectioners' sugar and cut into 12 equal pieces with scissors (the best tool for the job) or a chef's knife. Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners' sugar.


Marshmallow Peeps Recipe

homemade marshmallow peep

Martha Stewart offers a recipe for making your own

homemade marshmallow peeps


campfire marshmallow ad 



Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.