Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays growing up. From an early age, my mum, a trained artist, would make us unique and creative costumes, and this tradition stayed with me over the years. In my teens and twenties, I created my own distinctive outfits for Halloween, and these days I love channeling my imagination into costumes for my daughter—when time and energy permits, of course.
I loved dressing up (and to be honest, I still do). And, I can’t lie, childhood-me also loved all that candy. It’s more than likely the real reason I loved Halloween so much.
Though I don’t regard the origins of All Hallows Eve as “scary,” today’s Halloween is an entire month focusing on all things terrifying: haunted houses, monsters, fake blood, and horror movies.
And, let’s not forget, the candy.
To me, a child with an entire pillowcase full of sugar and artificial colors is probably the scariest part of the holiday. As a kid, I’m sure I would have been over the moon with a candy haul as big as some trick-or-treaters go home with these days. But as a mother, I think much differently these days. I’m incredibly conscious of how detrimental that amount of sugar has on the human body, let alone a child’s.
But I still like to do what I can, when I can, to provide healthier alternatives for sweet treats for my loved ones (particularly, my daughter) every so often. These homemade gummy worms are a great example of a real-food treat, and when I tried them out on my daughter and her friends, they went nuts over them!
Made with nothing more than fruit juice and gelatin, these gummies are devoid of all the refined sugars and artificial colors found in most commercial candy, and are generally much lower in sugars. I dare say that, because of the gelatin, they can even be considered somewhat healthy. Gelatin provides beneficial amino acids, collagen, and protein. It also supports everything from muscle growth and healthy joints, skin, hair, and nails to optimal gut condition, digestion, and liver function.
All that said, these treats are simply perfect for any Halloween celebration! You can make them as fun and playful—or as creepy and realistic—as you’d like, depending on the liquid you use. Preparation, with few steps more than heating and pouring, is incredibly easy. Consider this a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen as well. My eight-year old could pump dozens of these out in less than ten minutes. It was a fun project for her, with delicious results.
We used silicone molds for our gummies, which are readily available in many stores or online. They work great, plus they come with nifty squeezable droppers to help fill the molds with ease. But if you can’t find molds, bendable straws will also work. (But think beyond the worm if you like—this recipe transfers easily into any sort of shape you desire.)
We made our gummies with unfiltered apple juice and grape juice, giving us deep pink and golden worms. We added a touch of cream for our third worm, which gave it an even more realistic effect. The color of your worms will be a direct reflection of the type of juice you use. Not that you’re limited to juice—you can use any liquid, in the same ratio, with great results. Herbal teas, dairy products, and smoothies all make great gummies. If you want bright colors, use a neutral-colored juice (like white grape) and add a touch of natural food color. You can even make multicolored worms by squeezing two liquids in the molds at the same time.
Homemade Gummy Worms
Makes approximately 2 dozen worms
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Hands on time: 10–20 minutes, depending on how many you make
1 cup fruit juice of choice, divided (or ¾ cup juice and ¼ cup cream)
3 tablespoons high quality, unflavored gelatin (I use Great Lakes)
Optional ingredients: natural food colors, added flavors (extracts, oils, etc.), liquid stevia (if your juice is less sweet, but be careful as a little goes a long way)
Special equipment: silicone gummy molds or bendable straws
- If using silicone molds, make sure they are clean and dry. (If using bendable straws, stuff them as tightly as possible in a tall glass, bendy side up.) Place silicone molds on baking sheets or any flat, stable surface that will fit in your fridge. (If using straws, place the tall glass on a plate.)
- Pour 3–4 tablespoons of the juice into a bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. Gently stir to bloom the gelatin. Pour remaining juice in a small pot and bring to a boil. Pour boiling juice over gelatin mixture, whisking well to dissolve all the gelatin.
- Using the squeeze droppers, if your molds came with them, fill each mold cavity with the hot liquid, tapping out any air bubbles. (Alternatively, use a small ladle to carefully fill the mold, or, if using, the straws.)
- Transfer filled molds (or glass with filled straws) to fridge and keep on flat surface until set, at least an hour or two (but a few hours or even overnight will set them even more firm). Once set, pop out of molds (or roll each straw on countertop or run briefly under warm running water to expel worm) and keep refrigerated for best results. (Because there are no stabilizing agents or waxes in these homemade gummies, they will start to melt if kept at room temperature too long.)
- Prepare more worms as needed for your gathering, experimenting with different flavors and colors, to suit your needs, using the ratio of 1 cup liquid to 3 tablespoons gelatin. Transfer prepared worms to a sealed container and keep in fridge for up to 1 week for best results.
Image from Briana Goodall.