Junior Mints are a popular movie theatre candy that’s been a hit since 1949 when it was released alongside the movie it was named after, Junior Miss.
They’re one of the few mint-chocolate flavoured candies that I know of, and they’re loved by peppermint and chocolate enthusiasts worldwide.
If you’re reading this, though, you’re probably wondering, “Are Junior Mints vegan?”
Unfortunately, Junior Mints are not vegan-friendly candy. While they don’t contain “meat,” they do contain confectioner’s glaze, which is made with shellac.
Shellac is an excretion that’s obtained from exploited lac beetles. Junior Mints are also made with refined sugar, which most vegans tend to avoid for ethical reasons.
If you’re ready to learn more about Junior Mints and why they’re not vegan, then you’ve come to the right place! Below, I’ll give you a full breakdown of the ingredients and explain exactly which ones are problematic.
Do Junior Mints Contain Dairy?
Junior Mints are a relatively simple candy. The inside is a mix of peppermint oil, sugar, and starch. This gooey peppermint-flavoured filling is coated with a thick layer of semi-sweet chocolate.
Chocolate (especially semi-sweet chocolate and milk chocolate) can be very problematic for vegans, as they often contain dairy. For example, this is the reason why Reese’s aren’t vegan. Milk is one of the most commonly found non-vegan items in mainstream candy brands.
Unlike other popular chocolate candies, Junior Mints are 100% dairy-free. The semi-sweet chocolate that surrounds the sweet mint filling is made from a combination of sugar, cocoa, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and artificial vanilla flavouring.
So, if you’re lactose-intolerant, then this candy shouldn’t give you any lactose-related stomach problems. However, vegans should still avoid Junior Mints due to the other animal-derived additives present in the mint-chocolate candy.
Do Junior Mints Contain Gelatin?
Like milk chocolate, gelatin is another incredibly common non-vegan ingredient that’s used in a variety of different candies. This tasteless powder is the base of Jell-O and is often used in chewy candies like gummy bears and gummy worms.
It’s also used for gooey stuffing and is one of the main ingredients used to make Pop-Tarts filling.
While gelatin certainly seems innocent enough, it’s actually a by-product of pork and beef. To obtain it, slaughterhouse bones are boiled down into a thick broth, which releases fatty gelatin from the bones into the water. This fatty excretion is then isolated and processed into pure gelatin.
This means that gelatin is anything but vegan.
Looking at Junior Mints, it makes sense that there’d be at least some gelatin used to make the gooey mint filling.
However, this isn’t the case. Junior Mints are 100% gelatin-free. Instead, Junior Mints use soy lecithin as an emulsifier to create the signature gum-like texture. Soy lecithin is vegan-friendly and comes from processed soybeans.
Can Vegans Have Mints?
If you like Junior Mints, then it’s probably safe to assume that you enjoy peppermints and mints, in general. Given the news that Junior Mints aren’t vegan, you’re probably wondering, “Can vegans have mints?”
The good news is that most mints and mint candies are vegan-friendly! Mints are typically made from a few simple ingredients like sugar, corn syrup, and peppermint oil. Sometimes drying agents like starch or maltodextrin are also used to create hard or dry mints.
For example, one of the most common types of mints is candy canes, which have always been a Christmas favourite of mine!
As a general rule of thumb, mints are vegan. You’ll mainly want to be wary of mint-flavoured chocolates, which can often contain dairy or confectioner’s glaze.
What Are Junior Mints Made Of? Ingredients Listed
Some people love mint-flavoured chocolate, while others hate the combination. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of anything mint-chocolate. However, many of my friends feel the exact opposite!
Junior Mints were the first mint-flavoured chocolate candy released in the US. For this reason, they’ve all but held a monopoly on the small but dedicated mint-chocolate market.
Compared to some of the other popular candy on store shelves, Junior Mints are made with a relatively simple recipe. Here’s a quick look, so you can see for yourself:
I’ve highlighted “sugar” and “confectioner’s glaze,” as they’re the two primary non-vegan ingredients in Junior Mints. If you’re used to reading ingredients labels, then you’re probably well aware of why these two additives are non-vegan.
However, if you’re new to the vegan diet and you’re still learning about what goes into making processed food and candy, then you’ll benefit from a deeper explanation of why they’re non-vegan.
For those of you who are interested, here’s a full breakdown of each ingredient used in Junior Mints!
What Does “Egg & Milk May Be Present” Mean?
If you paid close attention to the ingredients list, then you may have noticed a small disclaimer stating that “Egg and milk may be present.” Considering that neither one of these items is listed on the actual ingredients list, this can be a bit confusing for some…
The main reason this statement is on the packaging is as a legal disclaimer. While neither eggs nor milk is used to make Junior Mints, they’re likely manufactured in a facility that also makes other candy.
There’s a good chance that these other candies contain milk and/or dairy.
This means that there’s always the possibility of cross-contamination since the same equipment is often used. For certain individuals with a food allergy, this could be all it takes to cause an allergic reaction.
The goal of the disclaimer is to remove the burden of liability from Junior Mints.
1) Refined Sugar
Cane sugar is a simple sugar that’s made by evaporating the water from sugarcane juice. This leaves behind the dried cane sugar crystals. Since this process is natural and doesn’t involve animal exploitation, cane sugar is regarded as a vegan-friendly sweetener.
Unfortunately, Junior Mints aren’t made with vegan-friendly cane sugar.
Instead, the main ingredient in Junior Mints (and most candy, to be honest) is refined white sugar. This isn’t as vegan-friendly as many people think that it is. Although raw cane sugar is 100% vegan, white sugar goes through a refining process that’s not very vegan-friendly.
To turn the large brown-coloured cane sugar crystals into the smaller, more concentrated pure sugar crystals, the cane sugar must be filtered through a carbon filter that’s filled with animal bone char.
Bone char is a special type of charcoal that’s made from fire-roasted animal bones and is typically obtained from slaughterhouses.
This means that white sugar refineries directly support the meat industry by purchasing bone char. While none of the bone char makes its way into the final sugar product, the mere fact that it’s used in the first place is enough for many vegans to draw the line.
While some vegans still consume white sugar in moderation, most do their best to avoid it in favour of vegan cane sugar or another plant-based sweetener.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide what your opinion on the matter is, though. I’m just here to present you with the facts.
2) Semi-Sweet Chocolate
Junior Mints are a mint-chocolate candy. Other than the sugary, minty filling, the outer coating of the candy is made from pure semi-sweet chocolate. This is one of the most popular types of chocolate used in candy, in addition to milk chocolate.
While some semi-sweet chocolate contains dairy (often used to create smoother, creamier chocolate), Junior Mints uses dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate.
The chocolate used for Junior Mints contains sugar, chocolate (cocoa powder), cocoa butter (which comes from the cocoa plant), soy lecithin, and vanilla flavouring.
As we discussed above, the refined sugar used in the semi-sweet chocolate mix is a “gray area” ingredient. Cocoa and cocoa butter are, of course, all-natural and vegan-friendly, since they’re both derived from cocoa bean pods.
Soy lecithin is a naturally-derived additive that serves as both a mild preservative and an emulsifier, holding food products together and preventing them from separating. It’s basically a shelf stabilizer.
Vanillin is an artificial vanilla flavouring. It’s 100% vegan since it’s made in a lab.
Overall, the semi-sweet chocolate used in Junior Mints is somewhat vegan. While most of the ingredients are vegan-friendly, the refined sugar used to make semi-sweet chocolate can be problematic for some.
3) Corn Syrup
In addition to white sugar, corn syrup is used to create a sweet, syrupy, gooey filling. In fact, this is the main base of the mint-flavoured filling.
Corn syrup is a pure, plant-based sweetener that’s extracted from natural sugars found within sweet corn. No bone char or other animal by-products are used to refine it, so corn syrup is 100% vegan!
4) Confectioner’s Glaze
Confectioner’s glaze makes shiny candy shiny. It’s often used on glazed donuts, which are another non-vegan food.
The main ingredient in confectioners’ glaze is a shiny substance called shellac. Unfortunately, this additive comes from the liquid excretions of the female lac beetle. These beetles are grown by the millions and are exploited for their goo.
Not only is it just flat-out weird to eat bug goo with your candy but the industry is actually cruel and exploitative. For these reasons, vegans don’t consume shellac or confectioner’s glaze.
5) Modified Food Starch
Modified food starch is a heavily processed form of starch that’s typically derived from corn starch. This is used as a thickening agent and is what prevents the mint filling from turning into a pure liquid. The starch keeps it somewhat thick and gives it a gum-like consistency.
6) Peppermint Oil
Junior Mints are flavoured with all-natural peppermint essential oil. This oil is pressed from the leaves of peppermint and is incredibly potent, so not a lot needs to be used.
Invertase is an enzyme that’s often used to make a gooey or liquid filling for candy, chocolate, truffles, and the like. It breaks down some of the sugars, keeping them in a somewhat liquid form that’s easy to eat.
Invertase is vegan-friendly, though, so you shouldn’t worry too much if you see it used in other foods.
The Verdict – Are Junior Mints Vegan-Friendly?
If you’re a mint-chocolate fan, then I have some bad news for you – Junior Mints are NOT vegan. Not only are they made with refined white sugar (which is processed with bone char) but the candy also contains confectioner’s glaze and shellac, which come from beetles.
That being said, there are plenty of other great-tasting sweets that are safe (and ethical) for vegans to eat. For example, check out my list of the best vegan ice cream brands next! You might even find a mint-chocolate chip vegan ice cream…