Our senior video producer, Guillermo Riveros, learned how to make homemade Peeps from chef Michelle Doll at NY Cake last year, and we’re bringing the lesson back into the spotlight just in time for Easter. It’s surprisingly easy (you can even get kids involved in the process), and these marshmallow chicks are delicious—even if you don’t normally like Peeps.
Not only do you know exactly what’s in these Easter treats (mostly gelatin, sugar, and water; zero preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup), you can make them in any color and flavor you want.
Scroll down for the recipe, plus a few notes on getting ready and making variations so you get exactly what you want in your Easter basket this year!
Before modern mechanical industrialization made it possible to churn out millions of Peeps per day, each marshmallow chick was piped by hand, so you’re reviving an old tradition here, really. Peep the video (sorry; had to) for a demonstration of how to pipe the classic marshmallow chick shape. It may take a couple tries to get the hang of it, but it’s not that difficult—unless your marshmallow is too runny when you start. If so, wait a minute or two before trying again, because it will start to set and hold its shape (but don’t wait too long or it will become too hard to pipe).
If you prefer bunny-shaped Peeps (or are hopeless at piping shapes), you can set the marshmallows in silicone molds that have been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, or even use cookie cutters as molds, in which case, the possibilities for your Peeps are practically endless.
Wilton Easter Bunny Shaped Silicone Mold, $4.99 at Target
Partial to bunnies? There's a mold for that.
5-Inch Bunny Cookie Cutter, $2.99 at NY Cake
Or go for more realistic rabbits.
Color and Flavor Variations
The basic homemade Peeps recipe below calls for a little vanilla for a classic marshmallow flavor, but you can swap it out for the extract of your choice. Take a cue from commercial Peeps, which come in flavors like Cotton Candy, Pancakes & Syrup, and Fruit Punch, or try banana or almond extract, or even rose water or orange blossom water for a refined floral treat. If you want your Peeps to be even brighter in color, you can also add a few drops of gel food coloring to the marshmallow mixture during the whipping process.
Even better, add a dry powder like matcha or freeze-dried fruit powder, which lend vibrant color without any additional moisture, plus extra flavor. Then roll your Peeps in coordinating sanding sugar for extra oomph—or keep them pretty and pastel, perfect for spring.
DIY Sanding Sugar
Half the fun of Peeps is the rainbow of shades they come in and that shimmery finish thanks to their colored sugar coating. When you make them at home, you can choose whatever hues you like best. Sanding sugar is available in tons of vibrant colors, but it can get expensive to buy depending on the store (and how many colors you want), so you can also make your own—way cheaper, and more fun. Just add 4-5 drops of gel food coloring to a cup or two of regular granulated sugar and blitz it in the food processor until the color is evenly distributed throughout.
Michelle recommends gel food coloring to cut down on the amount of liquid you’re adding, which can make the sugar clump. Spread it out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and dry it in a 250-degree oven for about 10 minutes. (This is also a great tip when it comes time for Christmas sugar cookie baking sessions and you’re low on red sugar or need that perfect shade of green for the trees…)
Yellow Sanding Sugar, $3.99 at NY Cake
For that classic Peeps look.
AmeriColor Gel Paste Food Coloring Student Kit, 12 for $25 on Amazon
Put store-bought Peeps to shame.
You’ll need a piping bag and a stand mixer to make these marshmallow Peeps.
KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer, $229 at Walmart
Perfect for all kinds of kitchen jobs.
Kootek Frosting Tools Set with Piping Tips and Bags, 42 pieces for $11.99 on Amazon
Pipe your Peeps (and lots else, from macarons to cake frosting).
A candy thermometer is also helpful, though you can always try the manual soft ball stage test if you have experience making candy (and are brave enough to dip your hands into molten sugar—and remember to numb them in ice water first).
CDN Candy Thermometer, $9.99 at NY Cake
For the classic Peeps look.
Commercial Peeps’ eyes are dotted on with carnauba wax, which is non-toxic, edible, and plant-based, but also shows up in things like car polish and isn’t technically digestible. For your homemade Peeps, you can simply use a toothpick or tiny paintbrush to dot a little black food coloring or even melted chocolate on for facial features. Or break out the edible markers.
Wilton FoodWriter Extra-Fine Tip Edible Color Markers, 5 for $8.14 on Amazon
Edible ink makes these markers suitable for writing on your food.
Now that you know what you need, here’s how to put it all together:
Homemade Marshmallow Peeps Recipe
What You Need to Make Homemade Peeps:
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or rose water or orange blossom water, etc.)
Steps to Making Homemade Peeps:
1. Set up your piping station. Liberally spread a layer of colored sugar on a baking sheet (multiple sheets if using different colors), or cover the sheet with a layer of 50/50 cornstarch and powdered sugar. Set aside until ready to pipe your Peeps.
2. Add 1/3 cup cold water to the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top to hydrate/bloom.
3. Meanwhile, add the sugar to a heavy-bottomed saucepan, gently add 1/4 cup of water, and stir with a finger or small spatula to saturate. If a lot of crystals attach to the side of the pot, brush them away with a wet pastry brush.
4. Heat the sugar to 235 degrees (use a candy thermometer to be sure it’s at the right temp). When the sugar reaches temperature, turn the stand mixer to medium and pour the melted sugar down the side of the stand mixer bowl (be careful to pour it down the side so it doesn’t hit the whisk and get splashed around the bowl).
5. Continue to whip the sugar-gelatin mixture for 5 minutes. Add a few drops of gel food coloring or powdered freeze-dried fruit or matcha powder during this process if you want to color the mixture. Add the vanilla or other flavored extract. Let whip until the mixture forms soft peaks.
6. Scoop the marshmallow mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or any tip you like) and pipe away on your prepared sheet pans. To pipe a Peep, hold the bag 1/2 inch away from the sugar on the baking sheet and pipe a 3-inch tube shape, allowing the mixture to build up a bit (i.e., get wider) at the end. At this wider end of the Peep, pipe back over the tube halfway to form the head and then pull up as you finish piping. Stop applying pressure to the piping bag and pull the vertical piped piece forward to form the beak. See the piping technique in action again if you’re a visual learner.
7. Pipe the next Peep right beside the other one. Sprinkle more sugar on top of the Peeps. Eyes can be added with some food coloring and a toothpick or with edible markers. Alternatively, the mixture can be piped into a silicone mold that’s been lightly sprayed with non-stick pan spray, or piped into a sprayed cookie cutter. Work quickly, as the mixture will be too thick to pipe within 10 minutes.
Essential Tools, Tips & Techniques for the Home Cook: A Professional Chef Reveals the Secrets to Better Cooking, $19.79 on Amazon
Get Michelle's book for more ingenious recipes and fantastic tips and tricks.
How to Store Homemade Marshmallows
When freshly made, these marshmallow Peeps are super soft and squishy, but if you, like Michelle, prefer them a little chewier, just let them sit out for a bit and they’ll form a delicately crunchy crust. Because these don’t have corn syrup like store-bought marshmallows, they will get hard in a day or two (still yummy, though). Keep them in an airtight container or baggie to keep them soft if you’re a fan of that pillowy texture.
What to Do with Peeps
You can enjoy your sweet marshmallow chicks as-is, of course, make them into Peeps s’mores or add them to your other favorite Peeps dessert, or maybe even brew some homemade Peeps beer with them. They make fantastic favors at an Easter brunch or dinner, too—even if the only guests are your usual quarantine companions.