dairy free ice cream sundae with vegan M&Ms

Vegan M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup & Snickers Alternatives

[toc]Whether it’s vegan candy for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, or just because, there are a number of brands which replicate the taste and texture of famous candy bars, without using milk or eggs.

Many are gluten free and forgo other common food allergens, too.

Are there any vegan M&Ms?

Nope. Mars. the confectionery company which makes M&M’s, uses skim milk, lactose, and milkfat. These are found in the Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate M&M’s flavors. Dairy ingredients are used in both their US and international versions.

There is vegan candy like M&Ms made by others; Unreal Dark Chocolate Crispy Quinoa Gems, No Whey Foods Choco No No’s, and Sunspire Sun Drops. None of these use dairy, eggs or other animal-derived ingredients.

Above is a photo of the Unreal brand sprinkled atop plant-based ice cream from Pressed Juicery here in Los Angeles.

You can’t buy dairy free peanut M&Ms but a couple vegan alternatives exist; Unreal Dark Chocolate Peanut Gems and Little Secrets Sea Salted Peanut.

These and other vegan chocolate candy made to imitate Butterfinger, Kit Kat, Snickers, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, and other famous brands are far from being superfoods.

Most are still loaded with sugar.

It may be in a better form, such as organic sugar or another that’s type that’s not cane or beet derived, but don’t fool yourself… the bottom line is that high amounts of any type will be unhealthy!

Still, everyone deserves a treat once in a while, right?

Especially at Halloween and other festivities, where forgoing sweets would be just plain wrong.

If you’re going to indulge or let your kids do so, the following options can be eaten by vegetarians, vegans, gluten free folks, and those with milk allergies. Not guilt-free, but perhaps with less guilt!

Reviews of the best vegan candy bars

1. Unreal Dark Chocolate Crispy Quinoa Gems for vegan M&Ms

vegan M&M's substitute by Unreal brand

The best dairy-free and food allergy friendly substitute for real M&Ms will be Dark Chocolate Crispy Quinoa Gems by Unreal Snacks.

A 1 oz serving of Unreal Gems, which equals 40 pieces, will be 160 calories.

On a per ounce basis, the calorie count is fairly comparable to real M&Ms except there’s less sugar; 15g versus 22g.

M&Ms use the artificial food colorings Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 6, and Red 40, among several others.

Unreal Gems use natural food coloring made from beets, carrots, hibiscus, annatto, turmeric, and red cabbage.

You won’t find PGPR in the M&Ms dairy free inspired snack.

PGPR stands for polyglycerol polyricinoleate. It’s an emulsifier made from glycerol and fatty acids

You can find Unreal at many locations of Whole Foods, Kroger, Market Basket, Wegmans, Fairway, Sprouts, and they’re available on Amazon.

They also have Milk Chocolate Gems but those are made with real milk.

2. Pea Not Butter for vegan Reese’s Pieces substitute

Reese’s Pieces are not vegan. As with M&Ms, they use dairy in their chocolate.

The brand Little Secrets makes a number of plant-based snacks but their peanut butter pieces contain milk, unfortunately.

Unreal makes cups that work, but not pieces.

dairy-free Reese's Pieces alternative from No Whey Chocolates

The best dairy free Reese’s pieces replacement will be No Whey Foods Chocolate Pea “not” Butter No No’s. They taste like peanut butter but they’re nut-free, since they’re made with roasted sunflower seeds. The sugar is vegan and no milk is used.

bowl of vegan halloween candy

As of Halloween 2019 we can no longer find it for sale – in-store or online. We are not sure if it’s discontinued or just a seasonal/limited time product.

Meanwhile, check out their vegan Reese’s peanut butter cup alternative, which is available on Amazon. We use them for Halloween candy, as shown above.

3. Justin’s for vegan peanut butter cups

Are Reese’s peanut butter cups vegan?

No. As with M&Ms, Reese’s uses dairy-based chocolate made with skim milk, milk fat, and lactose. This holds true for the regular, dark chocolate and mini cups, as well as their branded peanut butter spread and Easter egg candy.

Fortunately since Reese’s are so popular, there are plethora of products made to mimic them that are allergy-friendly and plant-based.

Justin's vegan organic peanut butter cups and mini cups

Justin’s vegan peanut butter cups are the best for a few reasons; they were first to market, taste great, 100% organic, and they’re sold almost everywhere. Dark Chocolate is their vegan flavor.

They nutrition label does say it “may” contain milk but they say that for legal reasons.

The FAQs on Justin’s website says they use shared equipment but it undergoes a sanitation process before making the dairy free PB cups. Furthermore, they say:

“…it is common practice for the chocolate industry to process cocoa beans on shared equipment with milk containing ingredients. So, while we are extremely careful, the chance of cross-contact exists even before we purchase the chocolate.”

In short, one can be reasonably confident that Justin’s peanut butter cups are suitable for vegans if they’re buying the Dark Chocolate flavor. Certainly the risk of cross contamination is less than that experienced in any typical restaurant.

Unreal, Theo, and Cleo’s make plant-based peanut butter cups. Their drawback is they are harder to find than Justin’s. Cleo’s, No Whey, and Unreal are not USDA organic certified like Justin’s Dark Chocolate cups are.

You can buy Justin’s almost everywhere, from major retailers like Walmart and Target, to the small independent stores. You even see them at airports and some convenience stores. This 12-pack on Amazon is a good deal.

4. Free2b for dairy and nut free peanut butter cups

Free2B sunflower butter cups and mini cups

If you want a candy that tastes like Reese’s peanut butter cups but are not made with peanuts and are 100% vegan, then your best option will be Free2b Sun Cups. In addition to Dark, they’re available in Rice Chocolate. It tastes just like the milk chocolate used in Reese’s cups. They remind us of our childhood favorite candy, that we haven’t had in over a decade.

They’re free of the top 12 food allergens; peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, fish, shellfish, corn, sesame, coconuts, and mustard.

The sunflower butter they use, when combined with cocoa, is a great peanut-free flavor substitute for Reese’s.

Calling Free2B a healthy substitute for Reese’s may be stretching it, but they are healthier.

Free2B Rice Chocolate has 13g of sugar per 2 cups, while the Dark Chocolate has 12g. That’s almost 50% less sugar than Reese’s peanut butter cups which are 21g.

While not entirely organic, they are made with organic powdered sugar.

On Amazon here is the page for the Milk Chocolate and here are the Dark Chocolate.

5. Jokerz for vegan Snickers replacement

Named after the owner’s German Shepard-mix from a pound, Go Max Go Foods is a small vegan candy bar company that makes substitutes for Snickers, Kit Kat, Twix, Nestle Crunch, 3 Musketeers, Almond Joy, and Reese’s cups. Most are gluten free and with the exception of their PB cups, you won’t find brands making similar plant-based alternatives for most these popular classic candy bars.

vegan Snickers candy bar

Just like Snickers, Jokerz candy bar has a nougat base topped with caramel and peanuts. It’s enrobed in dairy free chocolate. With 280 calories and 22g of sugar per bar, it is a bit healthier than a real Snickers.

Snickers have been getting smaller over the years, going from 2.07 oz (58g) to 1.86 oz (48g) for the normal-sized bar. Snickers are 250 calories and have 27g of sugar.

The vegan Snickers alternative, Jokerz, has 280 calories for 2.12 oz (60g) bar. It’s a 14% bigger than Snickers, yet it has less sugar at 22g total.

Specialty grocers and food co-ops that cater to plant-based, gluten free, and other special diets will be your best bet at finding them for sale in-store. Check their website’s store locator. Surprisingly, Jokerz candy bars are not on Amazon at the time of this review.

6. Amy’s Dreamy for vegan 3 Musketeers & Milky Way

plant-based candy bar alternative for 3 Musketeers and Milky Way

If you want a dairy free Milky Way or 3 Musketeers, the natural food brand Amy’s makes a great alternative. They call the bar Dreamy Candy and it’s chocolate nougat covered in organic dark chocolate. It’s vegan, gluten free, and kosher.

A normal 3 Musketeers bar is 1.92 oz (54.4 g). It has 240 calories and 36g of sugar. Amy’s vegan bar is lower sugar at 19g. Granted it’s a smaller size at 1.31 oz (37g) but that’s still less sugar on a per calorie basis. Amy’s also beats Milky Way.

Since Amy’s Foods have major distribution throughout the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, and much of the world, they’re easier to find than Go Max Foods brand.

But just because a store sells Amy’s, that doesn’t mean they sell their candy bars. Most do not.

On Amazon you can get a 12-pack of the Dreamy bars to satisfy that Milky Way craving.

7. Thumbs Up bar for vegan Butterfinger substitute

Nestle’s Butterfinger bar is not vegan. It contains whey, nonfat milk, and lactic acid from cows.

They are gluten free but not nut free or soy free. Ground roasted peanuts is the 3rd ingredient on the Butterfinger nutrition facts label.

The first 2 ingredients listed are corn syrup and sugar. Those, along with the hydrogenated palm kernel oil, make Butterfinger one of the most unhealthy candy bars on the market.

A standard-sized bar is 1.9 oz (54g) and contains 250 calories and 24g of sugar.

Thumbs Up vegan Butterfinger candy bar alternative

Go Max Foods makes a vegan candy bar that tastes like Butterfinger. Branded as Thumbs Up, it’s 160 calories for a 1.31 oz (37g) bar. It’s made with vegan and non-GMO cane sugar, tapioca syrup, and dry roasted peanuts. The oils used are not hydrogenated.

With 19g it’s not a low sugar alternative to Butterfinger but there is less sugar overall, since the bar is smaller.

Not available on Amazon or most stores, your best bet is to order direct from Go Max Foods.