The Chemistry of Marshmallows


YouTube Video

Marshmallows are a sugar based food containing mainly gelatin, water, and sugar that has been beaten until spongy and constructed into small cubes.  I chose to study marshmallows because they are a much loved snack by all.  Their odd consistency, yet sweet flavor has always made me very curious as to how they are made.  I associate marshmallows with family and fun.  Whether we are camping or visiting my grandma, marshmallows always seem to come into the picture. They are very much a comfort food to me, and therefore the reason I chose to research them.

Composition of ...

  • corn syrup - HFCS

  • sugar - C12H22O11

  • dextrose - C8H12O6

  • corn starch - C27H48O20

  • water - H2O

  • gelatin - C15H11N2NaO2

  • tetrasodium pyrophosphate - Na4O7P2

  • artificial flavor - C8H8O3

  • blue 1 - C37H34N2Na2O9S3

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

  • Corn Syrup(HFCS)

Corn syrup is a thick syrup that is made from maize(corn) starch and is comprised of maltose and oligosaccharide.  It is created when corn starch gets processed by the enzyme glucose isomerase so that a high majority of its glucose is transformed into fructose.  Corn syrup consists of Hydrogen, Fluorine,Carbon, and Sulfur.  It is 53 percent glucose, 42 percent fructose, and 5 percent of another polysaccharide. This sweetener was first marketed in the early 1970’s in Iowa by the Clinton Corn Processing Company.

  • Sugar(C12H22O11)  

Sugar also known as sucrose is a sweet crystalline carbohydrate obtained mainly from sugarcane and sugar beets.  Sugar consists of one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose that have been chemically bonded together.  So, sucrose is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose.  It is a disaccharide which means that the sugars molecules consist of two monosaccharide residues.  Sugar is comprised of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen.   Sugar was first discovered in England by Western Europeans in 1099.

Chemistry's Role

Corn Syrup

Chemistry plays a role in making marshmallows because an enzyme called glucose isomerase is put into corn starch which causes a large amount of the starches glucose to combine and form fructose.  Corn syrup is naturally occurring but is extracted in a lab commercially by man.


The act of extracting the sugar from the beets and canes occurs in a lab by man.  Sugar is made naturally in most fruits though.  Sugar is a chemical compound.  The chemical formula for when  sugar is made is C6H12O6+C6H12O6=>C12H22O11+H2O. Which also means glucose + fructose => sucrose + water.  This formula shows how glucose and fructose attach to each other by way of a condensation reaction.  Diffusion is used in this process of making sugar.  Sugar is made by using sugarcane or sugar beets.  You start by shredding them up and squeezing them till its natural juices have been removed.  It is then boiled until thick.  This is when molasses crystals begin to settle on the top of the mixture.  These crystals are sent to a centrifuge that spins very fast in order to extract the molasses and leave the natural sugar. The sugar gets dried and then it is ready to eat.  Sugar is found naturally in lots of unprocessed foods such as, fruits, vegetables, and milk.  The sugar used in marshmallows is taken from sugar beets and sugarcane.

Additional Chemistry

A chemical reaction occurs when the collagen from gelatin comes in contact with water and hydrolysis occurs.  When this happens molecules inside of the collagen are forced to separate to create a bigger structure called a colloid.

Background Research

Marshmallows are a sugar based food that is mainly made of  gelatin, sugar, and water that have been whipped till spongy, and then formed into a small cubes.  A chemical reaction occurs when the collagen from gelatin comes in contact with water and hydrolysis occurs.  When this happens molecules inside of the collagen are forced to separate to create a bigger structure called a colloid.   This sweetener was first marketed by the Clinton Corn Processing Company of Iowa in the early 1970’s.  People actually used to create marshmallows using the root of a marshmallow plant because of its ability to swell when it came in contact with water.  Ancient Egyptians were the first to produce and eat marshmallows.


a lab showing how to make marshmallows(ingredients and steps)

tells the autonomy of marshmallows

shows the development of marshmallows

tells the ingredients of marshmallows

tells basic information about marshmallows


-how they are made

how to make marshmallows

ingredients of marshmallows and their chemical formulas

talks about the chemical reaction between water and gelatin

talks about the merang that marshmallows are made of

denaturation during the baking process

the science between making marshmallows

talks about the composition of the marshmellow

gives a list of the ingredients of marshmallows

gave the chemical formula of corn syrup

tells the percent of glucose, fructose, and other polysaccharides in corn syrup

tells the percent of glucose and fructose in sugar

gave the chemical formula of cornstarch

tells the content of sugar and how it is made

information about corn syrup

-how, what, when, and where

how to make corn syrup

what corn syrup is made of

gives the process of how sugar is made

showed how sugar is made in great detail

gave good facts about sugar and its actual chemical processes

gave the definition of disaccharides

gave information about the chemical formula of sugar as it is made

it explains the chemistry behind the making of sugar

About the Author

Terah Cronk is a Junior at Billings Senior High School.  She has played volleyball for the past 3 years.  Terah is active in Key Club, STEM Society, Interact Club, and Senior Advocates while keeping a 4.0 GPA.  After high school, she plans to attend Montana State University.