Marshmallows are one of those foods that’s seemingly so simple yet so easy to ruin.
Is there anything as lovely to enjoy in a cup of cocoa or baking recipe as a soft fluffy marshmallow – and anything as disappointing as a hardened one?
Marshmallows come by the bagful, big and small, ready to pop into your cup or the oven or right into your mouth – except when they’re hard. Once the marshmallows harden, these little cylindrical cubes of sugary goodness go from being delectable to detestable.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to resoften marshmallows and put the fluff back into their marshmallowy goodness.
When Good Marshmallows Go Bad
First, it’s worth recognizing how your marshmallows go bad in the first place.
Marshmallows are light and fluffy when they are in the bag, but the second that bag is opened and they are exposed to the air, the clock on them has begun to tick, and it’s going to tick fast. Exposure to the air can cause them to grow stale and hard.
As they grow stale, hard, and shriveled up, they lose moisture.
On the other hand, it’s worth checking whether your marshmallows are actually growing stale or if they’re simply a bit cold. If the latter is the case, it may just take a bit of warming up (as we’ll see below) for the marshmallows to soften and perk right up again.
Marshmallows that have started to go stale will also be a bit shriveled. The taste shouldn’t be too drastically different. If it is, there may be more wrong with the marshmallows than staleness and you should probably just toss them.
What’s more, marshmallows when they’re nice and fresh have a way of melting in your mouth, which is part of what makes them so nice to include in a pie or cocoa.
1 – Warm with Hot Water
Speaking of which, the water you warm up for your hot cocoa can double as a means of softening up your marshmallows again. This is one of the faster methods on this list, often taking just about a minute, so if you’re in a hurry and want to soften your marshmallows as quickly as possible, this may be a good option to consider.
Put the marshmallows in a Ziplock bag, make sure it is sealed completely, and place them in a cup of hot water for about a minute. Make sure that the bag is completely sealed – if hot water gets inside it won’t soften the marshmallows but simply melt them into goo.
The bag will obviously float, so you might need to use something such as a spoon or other utensil to help keep it down and, thus, hold the marshmallows beneath the waterline.
The buildup of moisture and heat outside the bag will seep into the bag, not enough to melt the marshmallows but just enough to start to soften them.
2 – Have Bread, Will Soften
If you have a bit more time to soften your marshmallows, moisture from bread might be useful.
Those who have packed sandwiches for lunch back in their school days know that when you stick a slice of bread in a Ziplock bag, it has a tendency to “fog it up.” That’s because the bread contains moisture, and while it doesn’t exude moisture at a fast rate, when trapped in a plastic bag even the tiny amount it gives off can cause this fogging effect.
However, it is precisely this fogging moisture that you want to use to soften your marshmallows once more.
Take a slice of soft bread and place it inside a Ziplock with your marshmallows. Leave them in the bag for a day or two, and voila.
3 – Use a Freezer or Dark Pantry
At first, you might think that this method is completely counterintuitive. After all, as mentioned above, cold can be one of the primary causes of marshmallows feeling hard rather than soft, so how will adding more cold, let alone freezing them, be able to help.
Well, for starters, you aren’t actually freezing these little puff balls. The real idea here is to keep them at a cool enough temperature that they remain fresh for a long period of time without them going bad.
A freezer or a dark pantry are good for this purpose.
In fact, this is a common tactic for keeping all kinds of foods fresh. Keeping heat and light away from the food is essential for keeping them fresher longer.
4 – Pop Them in the Microwave
This method probably doesn’t need much introduction. Simply put the marshmallows in the microwave for a few seconds and they’ll heat right up.
Of course, you don’t have to be an expert maker of S’mores to know that there’s a very fine line between warmed marshmallows and a charred mess. Remember, marshmallows tend to warm up very quickly, so leaving them in there too long will likely result in your marshmallows melting, burning, or both.
On the other hand, these may not be the worst things if you are indeed actually trying to whip up some homemade S’mores. Leaving them in a few extra seconds while atop a graham cracker can give you a melted S’more taste, though you’ll probably want to make sure you put a few rolls of paper towels beneath them so as to catch any gooey runoff.
If you want to combine this with the hot water method, simply place the cup of water to the side of the marshmallows and microwave them for about 10 seconds. The moisture from the cup of water combined with the heat will help to soften the marshmallows.
5 – Unstick Via Powdered Sugar
It isn’t just hard staleness that can plague marshmallows that are starting to grow old. They can also start to stick together, which can actually prove even more annoying.
After all, if your marshmallows are just “a little” stale, they should still be fine for use in hot cocoa or similar purposes. As mentioned above, the heat should soften them up more than enough to be edible and enjoyable.
However, hard stale marshmallows also have an annoying tendency to stick together and flake when pulled apart. This can make it hard to use them in cocoa, recipes, or anything else.
However, there’s an unexpected ally you can turn to for solving the problem of hard stale marshmallows sticking together, and that’s powdered sugar.
Sure, adding even more sugar to the mix might cause a dentist to faint even thinking about it, but doing so can cause the marshmallows to separate somewhat, allowing you to use them once more.
Simply place the marshmallows in a bag with the powdered sugar, shake it up a bit, and they should start to separate.
Marshmallows are a fantastic treat when they’re nice and fresh, but just because your batch has grown a bit stale doesn’t mean you have to throw them out. As demonstrated above, there are plenty of ways of reviving marshmallows and giving them a second life.
Whether you choose to warm them with hot water, take advantage of moisture from other sources, or shake them apart with powdered sugar, your revived marshmallows can be used in any number of tasty everyday recipes.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard.