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The 110 Essential Candies for Candivores
The world of candy is immense with more than 10,000 choices at any given moment on the planet, how can a mere mortal experience it all? Well, having it all is overrated. I’ve compiled a list based on my lifetime of candy of just the essentials, candies that every candy lover should experience at least once. You know, for a good foundation in candy education.
These are not necessarily my favorite candies (some I don’t even like and others I haven’t tried) but they’ve stood the test of time.
If you’re game, repost this list with yours checked off and your thoughts. (Maybe even add your own.)
1. 70%+ Cacao Chocolate
High cacao content chocolate provides a rich experience of more chocolate flavors without so much sugar to get in the way. Best savored in small bites.
2. Aerated Chocolate: (Brand Names: Aero, Choc-o-Lite, Elite, Wispa)
The addition of air to chocolate is quite a revelation, it provides a different texture and though it’s sold as being a lower calorie alternative (as it’s lighter in weight for the same size bar) it’s still chocolate. Extra bonus for Flake bars.
Dense and curiously strong mints, they are the ultimate expression of flavor over delivery device.
4. American-Style Hard Toffee: With or without chocolate, with or without nuts.
As much an expression of butter as it is the toasted sugar notes. The way it cleaves probably demonstrates some sort of geological properties that I’m not familiar with so maybe it’s educational.
5. Anis de Flavigny
A demonstration of patience. At the center is a tiny fennel seed with the hard sugar coating built up layer by layer of weeks of tumbling.
6. Any Lolllipop Bigger than your Head
Usually the kind of candy you get after begging and pleading at the fair for hours. They’re nearly impossible to eat but gorgeous to look at as sugar art.
7. Atomic Fireballs: (Maker: Ferrara Pan, also Sconza)
A relative of Anis de Flavigny, these large ball bearings are all panned sugar with alternating layers of intense cinnamon.
8. Black Sugar Candy
Okinawa, Japan is famous for its dense and deep dark sugar which is the basis of Black Sugar Candy. Heralded for its medicinal properties, it’s also a simple pleasure for the complex flavors of the molasses-like candy.
9. British Toffee
A stiff caramel made with treacle (like molasses) for a rich and deep flavor and long-lasting chew.
10. C.Howard Violet Gum/Mints or Parma Violets
Just like it sounds, they’re violet flavored chalky candies. see more
11. Cadbury Creme Egg
Far too much fondant encased in a milk chocolate shell and once the size of a small chicken egg.
12. Candy Buttons on Paper
Dried dabs of colored sugar paste on paper. A triumph of looks over substance.
13. Candy Corn / Mellocremes
Lightly flavored and stiff fondant in crazy and charming seasonal shapes.
In order to appreciate chocolate it’s important to taste what it’s not. Not just any bean can be ground up and combined with saturated fats and poured into a bar form to create a tasty treat. It’s best to keep carob for a hearty hot beverage.
15. Cherry & Coconut: (Brand Names: Cherry Mash, Big Cherry, Twin Bing, Cherry Ripe (AU), Cherry Blossom (CDN))
A strange but enduring candy treat, a fondant center with a real cherry is covered in a mixture of chocolate (or mockolate) and coconut.
16. Chocolate Coins
For a long time I preferred this kind of money to the real thing. It hearkens back to the days when cacao was used as currency.
17. Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs
Bits of cocoa beans are coated in chocolate to provide an intense chocolate experience. Each piece can have a different flavor profile.
18. Chocolate Covered Cherry Cordial
An amazing demonstration of kitchen chemistry with the magic of adding invertase to a fondant ball with a cherry at the center. Quick dipping while the fondant is still firm means that after the chocolate has hardened the enzyme activates and the center becomes an oozy syrupy cordial.
19. Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit (Raisins, Orange Peel, Apricot, Ginger, Fig)
Dried fruit remains moist and flavorful when sealed in the protective and tasty coating of milk or dark chocolate.
20. Chocolate Covered Espresso Bean
The ultimate pick-me up: a little caffeine, a little fat, a little sugar.
21. Chocolate Covered Insects
Proof that anything is better covered in chocolate. Well, better than it was before, but still not necessarily something everyone wants to eat.
22. Chocolate from at least 5 different countries
I could say 5 different brands, but different cultures have different flavor preferences and since chocolate manufacturing went through so many different stages of development, different countries have different styles. (Of course there are always exceptions.)
23. Chocolate Fudge
I’m a fudge purist and pretty much prefer chocolate or peanut butter. I’m sure a good case can be made for Oreo Fudge and Raspberry Champagne Swirl. It’s a great candy to make at home and so many variations exist a list of 100 could be made of just those.
24. Chocolate Truffle
While I may rail against Mockolate, for some reason the addition of butter or cream to chocolate makes something wholly divine. Ganache is simple and pure and simply supports the inherent chocolate flavors. Truffles can be flavored, but everyone should try the classic.
25. Chupa Chups
Spain’s amazing lollipops. They’re dense and have no voids and come in an amazing array of flavors. The bonus is the plastic stick that doesn’t become a papery mush. Double bonus is that they come in grown up flavors like coffee.
26. Circus Peanuts
They’re shaped like peanuts but they’re banana flavored with the texture of a dense and grainy marshmallow. Love them or hate them, they persist.
27. Clear Sugar Hard Candy: (Styles: Barley Sugar Candy, Juntsuyu, Clear Toy Candy)
The pure taste of toasted sugar in solid and individually wrapped form. Some are so clear they appear like gems or optical glass. They’re poured carefully to avoid bubbles & voids for an extra smooth melt.
28. Coconut Bar: (Brand Names: Mounds, Almond Joy, Bounty)
Coconut and sugar make the center of all of these bars. There can be nuts, there can be milk or dark chocolate. They can be made at home or from a neighborhood candy shop. Dryer versions that aren’t coated with chocolate are also extremely popular all over the world.
29. Coffee Crisp
Canada’s best known candy bar, they’re a massive layered block of wafers and light coffee flavored cream covered in mockolate.
30. Coffee Hard Caramel (Brand Names: Coffee Rio, Coffee Nips)
A tacky toffee made with coffee, it’s like a super-dense and sweet latte you can put in your pocket.
31. Cotton Candy: (Also called Fairy Floss, Candy Floss, Pashmak, Fluffy Stuff)
Spun sugar. Nothing more to say than that.
32. Crisped Rice in Milk Chocolate: (Brand Names: Nestle Crunch, Hershey’s Krackel, World’s Finest)
An ideal combination of milk chocolate and crisped rice. Some mass-produced versions aren’t so ideal, so find your favorite.
33. Dragon’s Beard Candy
Similar to Cotton Candy in its strand texture, Dragon’s Beard is actually made like pulled noodles in a labor intensive process where strands of sugar are pulled and folded until they’re fine and silky.
34. Dulce de Leche: (Also known as Cajeta)
Slow caramelized milk and suguar, usually starting from a base of sweetened condnesed milk. Some use goats milk, which provides a different flavor profile. Some is a thick sauce texture, others become more solid like fudge.
35. Dulces de Calabasas: (Candied Squash or Pumpkin)
Similar to candied ginger or orange peel, squash or pumpkin chunks are slowly simmered with sugar and water until innundated. As it cools it crystalizes like fudge.
36. Durian Taffy or Hard Candy
Durian is a fruit of Southeast Asia with a soft custardy center that taste like a combination of boiled onions and melon.
37. Gianduia (Gianduja): (Brand Names: Caffarel, Ferrero (Nutella))
Roasted hazelnut paste is mixed with cocoa (or chocolate).
38. Ginger Chews
Mostly made in Indonesia, these soft little rods of ginger and sugar syrup come in a variety of flavors.
39. Goetze’s Caramel Creams (Bullseyes)
There is only one and it’s rather a strange candy at that. A hoop of caramel bulked up by wheat flour with a center of pure sugary cream. More like a soft cookie than a candy.
40. Green Tea Candy
There are plenty of varieties but nearly all provide a dense condensate of sweet green tea. Some use whole matcha powder, some use steeped green tea.
41. Gummi Bears
A stiff mixture of sugar syrup, a light flavor and a little gelatin. Gummi bears are made in starch molds come in a variety of flavors, intesities and textures. Other similar candies: gummi worms, non-pariel coated berries, rings, food shapes and fruit slices.
A block candy made from sesame paste and sugar, creating a crystalline texture. Usually served in chunks or blocks sometimes it’s made into bars or individual pieces and coated in chocolate. Variations include cocoa and pistachios.
43. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses
A never imitated chocolate flavor, the Hershey’s Kiss is individually wrapped and sharable and represents the egalitarianism of economically-produced chocolate for the masses.
44. Hot Tamales: (Brand Name: Just Born but generic cinnamon jelly beans will do.)
Intense cinnamon jelly rods.
45. Idaho Spud: (Brand Name: Idaho Candy Company)
A dense latexy marshmallow center is covered in mockolate and coconut flakes to simulate the shape of a real potato with eyes.
46. Jelly Babies: (Brand Name: Basset’s but there are other generics.)
Little people shaped jelly candies from the United Kingdom. They carry a light dusting of corn starch to prevent sticking but also highlights the details of the molding. Each flavor/color is a different character shape.
47. Jelly Beans: (Bonus for Jelly Belly Buttered Popcorn)
A firm jelly ovoid is covered in a grainy candy shell. Usually the shell contains the flavoring but a modern trend has been to flavor both the center and the shell, started by Jelly Belly. Don’t miss the original pectin style either for the full effect.
48. Jolly Rancher Hard Candies: (Brand Name: Jolly Rancher from Hershey’s USA)
Smooth and intense hard candies in ground-breaking flavors such as Green Apple.
49. Jordan Almonds: (Also called Sugared Almonds or Confetti)
Fresh almonds covered in a thick candy shell. Often used as favors for weddings because of the symbolism of the bitter nut being coated in sugar. (As if that says something about marriage.)
50. Kinder Surprise or Kinder Egg: (Brand Name: Kinder - Germany)
A little capsule with a toy for you to assemble is encased in milky chocolate. see more
51. Kit Kats from at least 3 countries: (Brand Names: Nestle and Hershey’s in USA)
An interesting demonstration of how production varies from region to region, the UK KitKat tastes perceiveably different from those sold in Japan and those in the United States. Bonus for any of the limited edition varieties.
52. Lemonheads: (Brand Name: Ferrara Pan)
A tiny sweet lemon drop covered in an intensely sour layer then a sweet grainy shell. There are other fruity cousins such as Cherryhead, Orangehead and Applehead but they lost their appeal when they normalized the name. I loved Alexander the Grape. Grapehead, not so much.
53. Licorice Allsorts
Amazingly inventive shapes and colors made from colored coconut fondant and wheat/molasses licorice.
54. Licorice Pastels: (Varieties: Good & Plenty or Skoolkrijt)
Black licorice made with a wheat base and molasses then coated in a candy shell to keep it soft and add a crunch. Also pretty to look at.
An iconic hard candy they’re sharable and come in a vast array of flavors. WintOGreen will spark when you bite them.
56. M&Ms / Smarties
Candy coated chocolate lentils exist from a variety of companies all over the world so extra points if you’ve had more than three versions.
57. Malted Milk Balls
The classic malted milk center covered with a generous coating of real milk chocolate is the key here. Dark chocolate, peanut butter and all the fancy mint and cookie versons are all fine, but the classic original is the one to start with.
58. Maple Sugar Candy
Maple sugar is simply solidified maple syrup. It’s hard to find and expensive but worth it for sugar afficinados to try. There are two versions, the grainy crystallized kind and the clear hard candy version. The texture changes the aeration of the flavor notes, so go for both.
59. Marathon Bar or Curly Wurly
A braid of chewy caramel dipped in chocolate. Even if you never had the American version called Marathon you’ll understand why so many folks pine for this unique bar.
60. Mars Snickers: (Alternate versions come in Dark and Limited Edition varieties.)
A classic and dare I say wholesome candy bar with grand proportions of chocolate, fluffy nougat, caramel and peanuts. A meal in a bar.
61. Marshmallow: (Both factory made and artisan style)
A foamy and bouncy sugar fluff.
62. Marshmallow & Coconut Cup: (Brand Names: Sifer’s Valomilk, Adams-Brooks Cup O Gold, Boyer’s MalloCup)
A simple milk chocolate cup filled with marshmallow of varying consistencies depending on the brand. Also a classic: Rocky Road which features marshmallow chunks and nuts in chocolate.
63. Marshmallow Peeps
Grainy sugar coated marshmallows in themed shapes for various holidays. Can be eaten fresh or stale, frozen or flambe. That’s versatility.
Ground almonds and sugar is about as simple as candies come. The beauty is not only when it’s covered in chocolate but when it’s scuplted into a multitude of shapes.
A chewy mint that once had an anachronistic ad campaign. Also the basis for improvised carbonated fountains. The best part is that they’re actually tasty.
66. Mexican Mazapan
Peanuts are the base of this drier cousin to almond marzipan. Also related is halvah, made from sesame seeds.
Just because something’s on this list doesn’t make it good, just an essential thing to try in order to be well-rounded. True mockolate is any chocolate product that uses vegetable oil (usually hydrogenated tropical oils) in place of cocoa butter, but could also be one that uses only some oils in addition to cocoa butter. Its best use is for decorative items that aren’t meant to be eaten but would be prohibitively expensive if they were made out of good chocolate.
68. Morinaga HiCHEW: (Maker: Morinaga)
A bouncy and latexy chew that’s unique. Morinaga of Japan isn’t complacent about being so popular either, in addition to more than a half a dozen regular flavors they issue limited edition flavors with alarming frequency.
69. Musk Sticks
Imagine long stiff ropes of Altoids, except instead of peppermint or cinnamon, imagine they’re flavored like musk. That’s Australia’s Musk Stick.
70. Necco Wafers: (Maker: Necco)
Crunchy wafers of sugar, soft and powdery, incredibly durable. It’s rare to find a packaged major brand of candy that has so many different flavors in one roll (a mix of spices and fruits).
71. Nik-L-Nips or Wax Lips: (Maker: Tootsie)
Food grade wax made into shapes that can be worn (wax lips, vampire teeth) and later chewed. Or filled with strange syrupy liquids like Nik-L-Nips.
72. Nougat & Nut Roll: (Brand Names: Hershey’s Payday or Pearson’s Nut Roll)
A plain nougat center with a light caramel coating rolled in fresh peanuts. One of the original meal replacement bars. Alternate versions are the Pecan Roll which is a bit more decadent and expensive featuring pecans and often a better quality nougat center. A rare non-chocolate candy bar.
73. Nougat de Montelimar or Torrone: (Brand Names: Arnaud Soubeyran, Nutpatch Nougats)
Fluffed sugar with egg whites and a dash of honey. With or without nuts or candied fruits. Different versions have different textures, and they vary widely with the amount of nuts.
74. Panela, Panocha, Piloncillo and/or Jaggery
Basically, it’s brown sugar. Delicious brown sugar. (Many grocery stores sell it in bulk bins in the vegetable section.)
75. Pate de Fruits (fruit pate)
It’s jam you can bite.
76. Peanut Butter Buckeyes
A regional favorite in the midwest US, a ball of peanut butter is most of the way into chocolate, leaving only a little top uncoated. The result looks like a buckeye (or chestnut).
77. Peanut Butter Crisp: (Brand Names: Butterfinger, 5th Avenue, Clark Bar, Chick-O-Stick, Zagnut)
Peanuts are combined sugar and sometimes molasses to create a honeycomb peanut crisp (often through a layering process). The result is similar to halvah but far more hearty and sugary. Most bars are covered in chocolate but some, like Zagnut or Chick-O-Stick are coated in toasted coconut.
78. Peanut Butter Molasses Chews: (Brand Name: Mary Janes, Peanut Butter Kisses, Abba Zaba)
Molasses taffy with a peanut butter filling. Mary Janes are the best known mass market version though there are dozens of salt water taffy shops that make a softer similar product.
79. Pecan Pralines: (New Orleans Style & Texas Chewy)
Boiled sugar and butter with pecans. The texture varies regionally from a caramelly texture in Texas to a smooth melt-in-your-mouth fudge in New Orleans to a sandy sugar in Charleston. The French tradition of praline was based simply on melted sugar usually mixed with nuts, which is also good.
80. Peppermint Pattie: (Brand Names: York, Pearson’s, Junior Mints, Dutch Mints, Holland Mints.)
A white fondant mixed with peppermint oil (sometimes using gelatin or egg whites as a binder) is then coated in chocolate (dark please). Sometimes additionally coated in a candy shell as in Dutch Mints.
81. Pez: (Maker: Pez)
A rectangular compressed dextrose tablet dispensed through the neck of a novelty plastic character.
82. Pixy Stix or Lik m Aid: (Brand Names: Wonka or Pucker Powder, Sandy Candy, Baby Bottle Pops)
Powdered dextrose candy with a tangy bite.
83. Pocket Coffee: (Maker: Ferrero)
Sweet real espresso inside a chocolate shell. Available seasonally from Italy there are some generics available as well.
84. Pocky: (Brand Name: Glico also Meiji Lucky Stick)
Bland biscuit sticks dipped in chocolate. Later versions are flavored and others have fillings.
85. Razzles: (Maker: Tootsie)
First it’s candy, then it’s gum. It’s never good in either form.
86. Red Licorice
A berry flavored wheat-based chew. Comes in many formats from ropes to twists to laces.
87. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: (Brand Name: Hershey’s)
A crumbly, salty and sweet peanut butter in a cup of sweet and milky milky chocolate. Iconic and ideally proportioned.
88. Ribbon Candy and/or Old Fashioned Candy Sticks
Hard candy formed into flat strips and furled up into ribbon-like stacks or twisted into rods. Pretty to look at and often in hard-to-find-otherwise flavors. Stores like Papa Bubble let you watch it being made in the traditional manner. (Also related, the Candy Cane.)
89. Rock Candy or Konpeito
Large cloudy crystals of sugar, often colored.
90. Root Beer Barrels
Hard candy in the shape of a barrel flavored with root beer. Root beer is a more common flavor in the US with an aromatic origin as a combination of sassafrass root along with licorice, cinnamon, wintergreen, molasses and honey.
91. Salt Water Taffy
A seaside favorite it comes in a variety of formats, often rod shape or squat disks and in dozens of flavors. (Bonus if you saw it being pulled.)
92. Salted Caramel
Caramel with a liberal dash of salt.
93. Salted Licorice
Licorice with a strange infusion of ammonium salts - not for everyone .
94. Satellite Wafers (Flying Saucers)
Foamy corn starch disks have a pocket of powdery candy or little candy nuggets. Kind of like a tiny candy pita.
95. Single Origin Chocolate
Chocolate made from beans from a specific growing region and sometimes a single plantation. Instead of a blend to provide a consistent profile from year to year, these batches of chocolate are particular to the beans and growing conditions and sometimes the vintage. One of the only ways to truly taste the wide variety of flavor profiles that cacao is capable of producing.
96. Smooth & Melty Mints: (Maker: Guittard)
A white confection with peppermint flavoring and often pastel colored. Each little chip or disk is then given a base of nonpariels. Similar to Peppermint Bark.
97. Spice Gumdrops and/or Spearmint Leaves
Jelly candies in spice and floral flavors and coated in a granular sugar.
98. Sponge Candy: (Also known as Honeycomb, Seafoam, Cinder Toffee. Brand Names: Violet Crumble, Crunchie)
Aerated boiled sugar. Usually coated in chocolate to prevent it from getting tacky from humidity. (Well, the chocolate also tastes good.)
99. Starburst / Skittles
Intense tangy and fruit flavored taffy. Starburst are individually wrapped, Skittles are candy coated. Other variations are Laffy Taffy, Now & Laters and Mambas.
100. Swedish Fish
Jelly candy in the shape of a fish. Traditional version is red and is Swedish berry flavor. A mix of fruit flavors is also available.
101. SweeTarts or other sour Compressed Dextrose
Disks of firmly compacted dextrose and acid in fruity flavors. Also related: Bottle Caps, Runts and other novelty shaped tiny tart candies that are coated or uncoated.
102. Tamarind Candy
The pod has both sweet and sour notes and is used as a base for candies from both Mexico (usually combined with chili) and Southeast Asia.
103. Tootsie Pop
A chocolate taffy wad covered in sharp hard candy and put on a stick.
104. Turkish Delight
A simply jelly candy made with simple ingredients. Smooth and delicate it’s usually flavored with florals like rosewater and orange blossom but sometimes combined with aromatics like lemon or mint and combined with hazelnuts or pistachios.
105. U-No: (Maker: Annabelle’s)
A truffle-like fluffy center with ground almonds covered in chocolate. One of the highest caloric density mass-marketed candy bars on the market. (That means fatty folks.)
106. White Chocolate
A valid confectionery expression of milk, sugar and cocoa butter with the texture of chocolate. Wonderful in combination with so many other flavors like plain vanilla, lime, salt, chai spices or pistachios that it deserves to be appreciated (and maybe needs a new name that doesn’t make it sound like an unwanted stepchild).
107. White Rabbit: (Maker: Shanghai Guan Sheng Yuan Food, Ltd)
A milk-rich taffy from China. As a special treat it also has an edible rice paper inner wrapper. Also comes in other flavor varieties such as Red Bean and Green Tea.
108. Wine Gums
A British favorite these are similar to gummis in their dense chew. Flavored like wine though most really just taste like grape and currant with a yeasty note.
The only white coated mass-market candy bar. Zero is a ground almond chocolate nougat with a strip of caramel covered in a white confection. As a piece of fine chocolate with the right ingredients this would be stellar.
110. Zotz: (Maker: Zots)
Hard candies filled with fizzy sour powder. Similar: Napoleon Bonbon which has only a sour powder filling without the fizz.
Some quick answers to what I expect will be questions: Why 110? Well, I made a list and it ended up with 110 on it. I didn’t want to hack 9 or 10 off just to have a cool number. It’s the number I felt was appropriate to display the breadth of modern candy.
Why so many American candies? Yes, it has a North American bias as it’s based on my experience, your list will be different.
Why aren’t the really good candies on here? You mean the high end chocolatiers or items available from only one store? I wanted to include things that are accessible to most people, to make the list do-able.
What do you think is essential but left out? Or inconsequential yet included?