Sprinkles 101 – I’m taking you to sprinkle school today! We’ll learn what the different types of sprinkles are, how to use them, and more!
Welcome back to our Sweets And Thank You “Be A Better Baker” Series, where we share baking tips, tricks, and basics to help you brush up on your baking skills or learn some new ones.
Today is one of the happiest lessons–all about SPRINKLES!!!
Sprinkles add so much joy and personality to desserts, sweets, and treats like cupcakes, sugar cookies, cakes, truffles, cake pops, and more, and today we’re going to learn ALL about them.
In our Sprinkles 101 post, we’ll talk about what the different types of sprinkles are, how to use different kinds of sprinkles, and which ones are gluten-free. Let’s go!
What Are The Different Kinds Of Sprinkles?
There are LOTS of different types of sprinkles, but today, we’re highlighting some of the most common: jimmies, quins, nonpareils, dragées, sugar pearls, sanding sugar, coarse/sparkling sugar, and edible glitter.
- WHAT ARE JIMMIES SPRINKLES? One of the most popular types of sprinkles, Jimmies are the long, rectangular/cylindrical sprinkles many people think of when you picture sprinkles. They’re bright, colorful, and work well for a variety of uses…
- WHEN TO USE JIMMIES: Jimmies come in a rainbow of colors and can be used to finish goodies like cookies, cakes, and cupcakes, but are also great if you’re adding sprinkles to a batter or dough. Jimmies will not bleed their color much, which makes them perfect for recipes like funfetti cake, sprinkle cookies, or birthday cake-flavored treats. In other words, they’re great ON things (as decoration) and IN things (as they won’t bleed their color).
- ARE JIMMIES SPRINKLES GLUTEN-FREE? They absolutely can be! Check out our gluten-free sprinkles section below to shop gluten-free jimmies. We like Sweetapolita & Color Kitchen gluten-free jimmies best.
Try these in our gluten-free sprinkle sugar cookies! They can be dressed up for any holiday or occasion.
- WHAT ARE QUINS SPRINKLES? Quins (sometimes called sequins or confetti sprinkles) are softer shaped sprinkles, often sold in round or oval shapes. They can also come in shapes like stars, hearts, pumpkins, or Christmas trees at the holidays. They range in size from very small to quite large, and add a bright pop of color.
- WHEN TO USE QUIN SPRINKLES? Quins work great ON things, like cakes, cookies, cosmic brownies, and cupcakes, but they can also be uses IN baked goods, as their color doesn’t bleed as much. You can add quins to sprinkle cookie dough or funfetti/sprinkle cake batter. They’re great cupcake sprinkles! (Pillsbury uses quins in their Funfetti frosting & cake)
- ARE QUINS SPRINKLES GLUTEN-FREE? They can be! Sweetapolita sells gluten-free sprinkle mixes with quins. Several other brands don’t use gluten-ingredients, so they can work for gluten-intolerant diets. Check out our Gluten-Free Sprinkle section below for some of our favorite GF sprinkle shops!
- WHAT ARE NONPAREILS SPRINKLES? Non-pareils are the tiny ball-shaped sprinkles you see on frosted animal cookies. They’re very small, which makes them fun, if a bit messy.
- WHEN TO USE NONPAREILS? Nonpareils are a great garnish, sprinkled on top of decorated cookies, ice cream, or frosted cakes and cupcakes. They can also be used to coat cookie dough balls to create a sprinkle “crust” on baked cookies. One thing to keep in mind is…
- WHEN NOT TO USE THEM? Nonpareils aren’t great baked INTO things, like cakes, since the color tends to bleed quite a lot.
- ARE NONPAREILS SPRINKLES GLUTEN-FREE? More and more brands are carrying gluten-free nonpareils these days! Check out our Gluten-Free Sprinkles section below to shop gluten-free sprinkles. I like Color Kitchen brand a lot!
- WHAT ARE DRAGÉES SPRINKLES? Dragees are large, round ball-like sprinkles with a hard outer shell that look like small pearls. They’re quite large for sprinkles–much larger than nonpareils.
- WHEN TO USE THEM? Dragées are usually used in moderation for decoration only as they can be too difficult to bite (and can even crack teeth!).
- IMPORTANT TO KNOW: Some kinds of dragées, like metallic dragées, are not considered edible.
- ARE DRAGÉES SPRINKLES GLUTEN-FREE? It’s hard to find certified GF dragées, but many brands don’t contain gluten ingredients.
- WHAT ARE SUGAR PEARLS? These round “pearl” sprinkles are the slightly smaller version of dragées. Not everyone agrees about whether they’re edible. They’re still on the crunchy side and should be used sparingly, but they can add a really pretty effect!
- WHEN TO USE THEM? Since they’re so crunchy, sugar pearls work best used sparingly to decorate cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and more. They can also be mixed with other types of sprinkles to create a unique sprinkle mix.
- ARE SUGAR PEARLS GLUTEN-FREE? Most aren’t certified gluten-free, but many use no gluten ingredients. Wilton’s brand (pictured), for instance, contains no gluten ingredients, but is made on (cleaned) shared equipment, so if cross-contamination is a concern, they should be avoided by anyone with allergies or Celiac.
- WHAT IS SANDING SUGAR? Sanding sugar, sometimes called crystal sugar or decorating sugar, is a fairly fine-grained sugar that’s been dyed to look colorful. Sanding sugar, specifically, is usually a bit more fine grain than white sugar or decorating sugar, but they’re all in the same family. Other than glitter, this is the finest/smallest type of sprinkles.
- WHEN TO USE SANDING SUGAR? This kind of sugar sprinkles is best used as a finish–sprinkled or dusted on sweet treats like sugar cookies, king cake, or cupcakes. It adds a subtle texture and more delicate look.
- IS SANDING SUGAR GLUTEN-FREE? Most brands don’t contain gluten ingredients, as it’s usually just sugar and dye.
Sparkling Sugar or Coarse Sugar
- WHAT IS SPARKLING SUGAR? Much like the name suggests, this type of sprinkles is coarse-grained sugar that’s been dyed to look colorful and “sparkle” on baked goods. It’s the larger/coarser size of sanding sugar.
- WHEN TO USE THEM? Sparkling sugar is best used as a finish–on sugar cookies, king cake, or cupcakes, but it can hold its shape when baked, so you can also roll cookie dough in it for holidays.
- IS SPARKLING SUGAR GLUTEN-FREE? Most sparkling sugar brands contain no added gluten ingredients, and usually just consist of dye and sugar. Check your brand labels to be sure about cross-contamination risks!
- WHAT IS EDIBLE GLITTER? Edible glitter can come in shapes (like teeny tiny stars) or a fine glittery dust (often labeled luster dust). It can be sold loose for sprinkling, in jars for brushing or sprinkling, or in pump bottles for misting.
- WHEN TO USE EDIBLE GLITTER? Edible glitter is only used ON things as a finish–lightly dusted or misted onto cookies/cupcakes, or sprinkled on top of cakes, cupcakes, and cookies.
- WHEN NOT TO USE IT? Edible glitter and glitter sprinkles aren’t great baked INTO baked goods. They’ll dissolve or loose their shape and color.
- IS EDIBLE GLITTER GLUTEN-FREE? Many brands contain no gluten ingredients, but it’s tricky to find any certified gluten-free edible glitter. (If you know one, I’m all ears!)
FAQ + Tips & Tricks For Using Sprinkles
DO SPRINKLES HAVE FLAVOR? Most sprinkles are unflavored and simply add a pretty touch, soft crunch, and sweet taste to baked goods. There are some flavored sprinkles, like chocolate jimmies, candy sprinkles, or fruit flavors from specialty baking shops. Unless they’re labeled with a specific flavor, most are unflavored.
WHAT KIND OF SPRINKLES DO YOU USE FOR FUNFETTI CAKE OR BIRTHDAY CAKE? If you’re baking sprinkles into the cake for funfetti or birthday-cake flavored baked goods, you’ll want to use jimmies or quins for best results.
WHAT’S THE BEST KIND OF SPRINKLES FOR CAKE? If you’re baking sprinkles into the cake for funfetti or birthday-cake flavored baked goods, you’ll want to use jimmies or quins for best results. Quins and jimmies are the most common cake sprinkles since they hold their shape and color when baked.
HOW LONG DO SPRINKLES STAY FRESH? Sprinkles CAN and DO expire, but you’ll often have 1-2 years to use them, kind of like dry spices. Check with your manufacturer to be sure about expiration dates!
CAN YOU MAKE YOUR OWN SPRINKLES? Yes! You totally can, and it’s actually easier than you’d think! This tutorial from Hummingbird High is a great place to start.
WHAT ARE THE BEST DYE-FREE SPRINKLES? If you need to avoid dyes in your sprinkles, the naturally colored sprinkles are getting better than ever! Supernatural, and Color Kitchen are two of my favorite brands.
Where To Buy Gluten Free Sprinkles:
- Sweetapolita – Sweetapolita sells lots of different gluten-free sprinkles and sprinkle blends. They even have a filter so you can shop *just* gluten-free sprinkles, vegan sprinkles, etc. Get 10% off your order with this link!
- Color Kitchen – Another gluten-free sprinkles brand that skips artificial dyes. They have limited shapes, but the quality is great!
- Unpretentious Sprinkles. These are available on Amazon. Mostly jimmies, but they have Christmas sprinkles, single colors, and blends to choose from!
- SprinklePOP sells gluten-friendly sprinkles (which are ok for gluten-intolerance, but not for allergies or Celiac.
- Supernatural. These sprinkles come in fun shapes and don’t use artificial dyes. Head’s up: I have found they sometimes have an odd smell if they aren’t perfectly fresh.
- Wilton. Many of Wilton’s sprinkles (like their edible glitter and sugar pearls) contain no gluten-ingredients but are made on (cleaned) shared equipment. They can be suitable for gluten-intolerance, but not allergies or Celiac. You can buy from them on Amazon, at Michael’s, Target, Walmart, and grocery stores all over!
- A Great Surprise. These sprinkles come in big containers, so they’re a great option if you bake a LOT and want to buy bulk sprinkles!
- Chef’s Select. Another bigger container, but we love these!