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Food Ingredients

Periodic Graphics

Periodic Graphics: The chemistry of candy corn

Chemical educator and Compound Interest blogger Andy Brunning explores the colorful chemistry behind this classic Halloween candy

by Andy Brunning, special to C&EN
October 30, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 36


Candy corn is a type of candy called a mallow cream. Manufacturers make candy corn by combining fondant with frappé (a marshmallow-like ingredient), coloring agents, and flavors. Machines deposit the mixture in layers into a mold formed from impressions in cornstarch. The cornstarch removes moisture from the candies as they dry. Manufacturers then put the dried candy corn into a metal tumbling pan and coat it in shellac wax for a shiny appearance.

Candy corn's colors come from food dyes. These include the azo dyes tartrazine (yellow 5) and sunset yellow (yellow 6). Erythrosine (red no. 3) is another dye that candy corn manufacturers often use. Manufacturers have also created alternative candy corn, which is colored with turmeric and β-carotene instead of synthetic dyes.
Credit: Andy Brunning

To download a pdf of this article, visit

References used to create this graphic:

Bryk, Nancy E. V. “Candy Corn.” How Products Are Made. Accessed Oct. 18, 2023.

BytesizeScience. “Candy Corn Chemistry!” Oct. 26, 2011. YouTube video, 1:13.

Hartel, Richard W., and AnnaKate Hartel. Candy Bites: The Science of Sweets. New York: Copernicus, 2014. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-9383-9.

A collaboration between C&EN and Andy Brunning, author of the popular graphics blog Compound Interest

To see more of Brunning’s work, go to To see all of C&EN’s Periodic Graphics, visit



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