Roast them, toast them, microwave them, or enjoy them as is in their perfect, fluffy squareness. Marshmallows are a treat that reminds us of almost every season and memory, whether it be roasting marshmallows to the perfect golden-brown by the campfire (or the crisp, caramelized goodness if you’re up for something intense) or topping off your cup of cocoa with some marshmallows for an added cozy factor. These soft, fluffy confections are circling back to their roots by, well, adding their own roots. (Spoiler: You’re also about to learn that marshmallow plants are indeed a thing.)

The history of marshmallows

The marshmallows you know and love today are usually made up of sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, water, and some air, but that wasn’t always how these fluffy treats were made. 

Marshmallows actually originated from Egypt, where Ancient Egyptians cultivated marshmallow plants (Athaea officinalis) and used them for their medicinal properties. Both the root and the leaves contain a gummy substance called mucilage, which the Egyptians mixed with water to create a thick gel for healing sore throats, calming irritated stomachs, and even soothing chapped skin. It turns out that the medical versatility of marshmallows in Ancient Egypt was akin to their versatility in desserts today.

Other than the medicinal properties of the mucilage, Egyptians harvested sap from the marshmallow plant to mix with honey and nuts to create a fancy treat that was reserved only for gods and royalty. Today, there’s been a full-circle moment happening with using marshmallow root to create the modern marshmallow instead of the tried-and-trusted assortment of syrups and sugars as the ingredients. You could even say that modern marshmallows are going back to their roots, quite literally.

How marshmallows can be made from plants

Instagram recipe creators and content creators have been sharing videos of incorporating marshmallow roots into their marshmallow recipes.

Mary Banducci, an herbalist and recipe creator, demonstrated how to create marshmallows by creating an infusion mixture with the marshmallow roots. 

She adds dried marshmallow root to one to water in a pan, brings it to a boil, and lets it simmer for seven minutes. The liquid from steeping the marshmallow roots turned a beautiful shade of golden amber, and the marshmallow roots get strained out afterwards. What's left is basically the magical liquid that’s the key to the whole marshmallow-made-of-marshmallow magic. It’s kind of a choose-your-own adventure from here on, but the marshmallow infusion gets mixed in a bowl along with a few tablespoons of gelatin, some honey, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. This mixture then gets whipped with an electric mixer into fluffy goodness, then set in the fridge until they become spongy, ready-to-eat marshmallows. 

Herbalist Carly Rose also showed how to create these marshmallow root marshmallows, and in her version,  vanilla bean or  extract is added last minute to the marshmallow batter mixture as it gets mixed. She recommends sprinkling the finished marshmallows on top of chamomile tea with raw milk.  

By swapping out the corn syrup and sugar for the marshmallow root infusion, you’re also ditching the refined sugar and possibly gaining some medicinal benefits from the marshmallows. According to Mount Sinai Medicine, marshmallow plants can soothe irritated throats and relieve a variety of digestive issues. You’re also doing away with two ingredients and trading for one, which is always a win in the cooking and baking world. With some marshmallow roots in your pantry, you’ll be capable of stepping up your sweet potato casserole, pavlova, fluffernutter sandwich game, and most importantly, also your rights to say that you crafted your own marshmallows from marshmallow plants themselves.