There used to be this brand of vegan marshmallows which tasted amazing and were quite good, only problem being they used an ingredient (Emes Kosher Gel) which even though the manufacturer assured them was vegan, it was in fact not only not vegan, but in fact made from gelatin. So both the marshmallow company and Emes went out of business pretty fast once this was discovered. And it meant that all these vegans who thought they had found marshmallow paradise had been in fact eating animal, which doesn't go down too well with that kind, knowwhatimsayin.
For a while there were these things in Whole Foods called Vegan Sweets Marshmallows which really were vegan but were these pathetic little beige lumps which may have worked for rice krispie treats but would not have done for s'mores or hot cocoa. They are also no longer available.
I just watched a recent Good Eats where Alton makes marshmallows, and although there's an offhand reference to the use of gum arabic as a gelling agent, and a trip with his nutritional anthroplogist to a marsh where they show us marshmallow root, he makes marshmallows with gelatin, sugar, and corn syrup.
You can actually buy marshmallow root from herbal places, and I've seen reference to boiling the root, making a gel from it, and using that to make real marshmallows, but haven't found a recipe for it yet.
But luckily you can now get real vegan marshmallows from a place in Queens, and they had them at the local Whole Foods.
They're incredible, they're just like the good gourmet marshmallows except no gelatin (replaced with gum arabic, carageenan, and soy protein). They're a little denser than usual, but they are tasty and melt just like the real thing. I made marshmallow treats with them and they are so good.
Now only if they weren't $7 for a tiny tiny box. I'm still on my quest for homemade marshmallow--I may get some agar agar and try Alton's recipe with that instead of gelatin and see what happens. My only concern is that the woman who made the ones I bought apparently spent a year working on the recipe, and I'm sure she tried agar along the way somewhere. But maybe that and the marshmallow root extract. Hmmm....