What Are Sprinkles — And What Are They Made Of?

You know, other than pure happiness.

close up on a bunch of vanilla cupcakes topped with frosting and sprinkles
Photo: Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

Sprinkles are arguably one of the most *extra* ingredients out there. They exist purely for aesthetic purposes and don't add much in the way of flavor — but so what?! They're delightful.

I mean, who doesn't like sprinkles? People who hate puppies and sunshine, probably.

But, besides pure happiness and rainbows, what the heck are they made of? Let's investigate:

low angle looking at a large slice of funfetti cake on a plate

What Are Sprinkles?

Confectionery sprinkles are itty bitty pieces of candy that are used to decorate or add texture to desserts.

They're made of sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, shortening, food-grade wax, and artificial coloring and flavoring.

The ingredients form a thick, doughy paste that is pushed through an extruder with tiny holes to make very thin "noodles." Those noodles are broken into appropriately sized pieces and then sprayed with color and hardening glaze.

Are Sprinkles Gluten-Free?

It depends on what kind they are. Most varieties should be gluten-free, but there's always the possibility of cross-contamination at certain factories.

Betty Crocker Rainbow Sprinkles, the kind you're probably most familiar with, are considered gluten-free.

a low angle close up view of a plate full of pastel frosted sugar cookies topped with rainbow colored sprinkles.
Oana Ennis/Allrecipes

Sprinkles Uses

Sprinkles are used to top all sorts of desserts, including ice cream, cookies, cakes, and doughnuts. The only requirement is that the dessert has a somewhat sticky surface—like frosting—for the sprinkles to adhere to.

They're typically added right before serving as a decorative touch, but they are sometimes included in the baking process. For example, you mix sprinkles into the batter for confetti cake. As the cake bakes, the sprinkles dissolve and create colorful dots that look like confetti.

Sprinkles also have different uses around the world: In the Netherlands and Belgium, chocolate sprinkles are often used as a sandwich topping.

In Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, fairy bread (buttered white bread topped with rainbow-colored round sprinkles) is a fixture at childrens' parties.

Overhead on a colorful Funfetti Cake Batter Rice Krispie treats. Marshmallows and sprinkles are scattered on top and on the surface.
Meredith Food Studios

Recipes With Sprinkles

Make your day a little brighter with one of our favorite colorful, sprinkle-loaded recipes:

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