Like most parents, I wear a lot of hats, and tonight I’ll don a pointy one to do duty as a Switch Witch. Wondering what exactly is a Switch Witch? Glad you asked.

On Halloween, a Switch Witch transforms conventional candy into candy suitable for children with food allergies, food intolerances, food-based religious observances or dietary practices that make traditional treats scary. Children still get the thrill of ringing doorbells and asking for candy, but without any digestive complaints.

For many years, we managed to avoid trick-or-treating by walking in the artsy West End Halloween Parade in Portland. It’s not an entirely candy-free affair, since many parade-watchers toss candy to children in the parade and there are houses where kids can trick-or-treat along the parade route. Even so, my vegan son, Alden, never came home with much of a candy haul after the parade, and the Switch Witch’s job was easy. Then, last year, we tried traditional trick-or-treating for the first time. With nothing to compare it to, Alden was thrilled that some people set up tables in front of their homes allowing kids to take what they want. We’re eager to see what this year’s trick-or-treat scene brings.

Whether the treats are socially distanced or not, I’m ready to perform my Switch Witch magic at the end of the night. In order to pull off this transformative trick, I’ve been stockpiling vegan Halloween candy for more than a month. The best places to find vegan, dye-free Halloween candy tend to be health food stores, but surprisingly I’ve occasionally found them at Target and Walgreens, too.

This year, the task of finding vegan candies was made more difficult by pandemic-related shortages, which have seen the vegan Halloween candy stocks in local health stores bought up almost as soon as they were placed on the shelves. Even so, I’ve been able to snag treats such as Giggles (similar to Skittles), YumEarth lollipops, Cocomels, Zbars, Unreal dark chocolate coconut bars and Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

Tonight, when Alden returns home with an overflowing treat bag, he’ll decide what to keep and what to trade. He usually starts by sorting the candy into piles, and the largest pile always contains cow’s milk chocolates, such as Hershey bars, Kit-Kats, Tootsie Rolls and Reese’s peanut butter cups. He trades these right away, since he’s allergic to cow’s milk and knows how miserable he feels when he eats it.

Vegan Kitchen columnist Avery Yale Kamila’s son with a pile of vegan candy that was magically transformed by the Switch Witch. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

The next pile proves more difficult to part with, even though it has shrunk considerably. This mound contains brightly colored packages of Skittles, Dum Dums, Sour Patch Kids, Twizzlers and Starbursts. When I remind him the Starbursts contain gelatin made from animal bones, tendons and skins, he happily trades them all for the similar (but gelatin and dye-fee) Chewie Fruities I have at the ready. But the other candies are technically vegan, despite my dislike of feeding children petroleum-based food dyes (which some medical studies link to behavior issues in children). I would prefer he swap all of these, as well. In the end, I can usually coax him into trading about half to two-thirds of these candies. I call that a win.

Last year, there was even a tiny pile of packaged dried fruit and vegan candies that fellow health food households gave to trick-or-treaters. I tip my pointy hat to them and wish more people would follow suit.

While my son will be wound up on sugar tonight, I’ll need to be sipping soy milk lattes to keep up. But once all the trades are made and the excitement is over, I’ll put away my Switch Witch hat for another year. In the meantime, the Switch Witch will be searching for the secret spell to transform green vegetables into something my little goblin will gobble up without moans or groans. That would be the ultimate Switch Witch magic trick.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

[email protected]
Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


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