WTF are Rainbow Sprinkles Really Made Of?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Oh, rainbow sprinkles. They’re the life of the (ice cream) party, they bring the fun to funfetti, and they (literally) add color to everything they touch. From desserts to energy bites to dip, they make basically everything taste better—and look better too.

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But have you ever stopped to think about what’s in the culinary pixie dust?

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While there are few things that are less of a dessert buzzkill than checking out nutrition facts before chowing down, it can be super eye-opening (and totally transform the way you treat that sweet tooth). In fact, that’s exactly what happened to us.

During one of our beloved ice cream Friday sessions—where the ishonest team bonds while consuming the creamy goodness—we stopped the sprinkle shower mid- pour to take a peek at the ingredients. We weren’t expecting a list brimming with fresh produce, but we weren’t expecting hard-to-decipher mystery items either.

(Warning: The following information is not safe for serious sprinkle lovers.)

What we found: sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, and a smattering of artificial colors, thickeners (like xanthan gum), and wax coating. Plus, a mere two tablespoons can have between 10 and 20 grams of sugars—the equivalent of drinking half a can of soda. And don’t fall for the health halo: Even organic and “healthy” varieties boast the same sugars and calorie counts. A bit disheartened (and looking for any excuse for eating more sprinkles), we wondered: Isn’t there any nutritional value to the beloved topping?

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Aside from the happiness rainbow sprinkles may bring (people who eat sprinkles don’t kill people—they just don’t), unfortunately the answer is no. But that doesn’t mean we’re banning them from our diets. We’ll never tell you not to #treatyoself!

Instead, in true ishonest form, we found healthier, homemade versions to try. Sure, eating packaged sprinkles is a-OK from time to time, but these recipes use ingredients you recognize—and taste pretty damn good too. Who knew you could make sprinkles from shredded coconut?! Here are our favorite stand-ins:

  • All-Natural Homemade Rainbow Sprinkles: These crunchy bits are as natural as it gets. With food dye made from spinach, beetroot, and other vibrant veggies and a few handfuls of shredded coconut, healthy rainbow sprinkles are all yours.
  • Sugar-Free Homemade Sprinkles: Protein powder in sprinkles? Don’t mind if we do. This batch uses egg white, whey protein, stevia, natural food colors, and gluccomannan (a plant-derived sugar) to create sweet little morsels that make the perfect protein shake topping.
  • Homemade Rainbow Sprinkles With Vodka: You read that right: sprinkles made with vodka. But you don’t have to be a boozehound to enjoy them. Made with confectioners sugar, a tiny bit of cornstarch, and flavored extracts, they taste great with or without liquor. Though boozy cake batter shots don’t sound half bad…

So there you have it. Sprinkles aren’t a superfood—sorry! They’re actually made of some pretty questionable stuff. But we’re all about having our cake and eating sprinkles too, so there’s no reason to despair. Just be mindful of the type you eat and how often you indulge!

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