25 Holiday Candies Ranked From Worst To Best
Everyone loves candy, and we're no different. So this week, Cracked is giving in to our sweet tooth and talking about all things candy.
With every big holiday comes an influx of holiday candies. It may be a traditional seasonal treat, a new flavor only available for a limited time, or sometimes it’s the same stuff they sell the rest of the year in festive shapes, ridiculous sizes, and different packaging. So, let’s see how they all stack up against each other!
We’ve compiled a list of 25 holiday themed candies and scored each on eleven different factors: taste, aftertaste, supply, demand, size, ingredients, texture, truth in advertising, whether they’re better frozen, their value as a gag gift, and how likely they are to make us gag. After crunching the numbers, we saw that some candies were getting way more credit than they deserve, so we dropped them down on the list accordingly. We’re just calling 'em like we see it.
Candy Corn And All Of Its Demon Offspring
It is estimated that 15,000 metric tons of candy corn are sold each year. However, the key word there is sold. You’d be hard pressed to find any figures on how much of that is actually consumed. With an unholy mix of nearly every form of sugar known to man, a coating made from bug secretions, and a texture that can best be described as “what if a crayon had a drug problem," candy corn has to have the most disproportionate supply to demand ratio of any product on the market today.
And yet, there it is every Halloween … and every other freaking holiday. Same shit, different color scheme. Occasionally, they’ll try to tweak the formula with different flavors to make them taste like chocolate, candy apples, or even (suppressing gag reflex) an entire Thanksgiving dinner. In a way, we should be thankful Brach’s keeps their attention focused on making these confectionary abominations. Otherwise, they might try to spread these poisons through the water supply like a Batman villain.
Name Brand Halloween Bucket Filler
Here’s a Halloween tradition no one ever really talks about. It’s mid-November, and you’ve been picking through the leftover Halloween candy for the past couple of weeks when you notice you’ve already eaten all of the good stuff. And all you’re left with are the Bit-O-Honeys and the Chik-O-Sticks … the Mary Janes and the Bazooka Joes … the other Tootsie Roll flavors. In that moment, your sweet tooth has a real come-to-Jesus moment. You ask yourself: Do I really need to regulate my blood sugar that badly?
The Unlabeled Dreck
Now, we come to the generics. The unmarked taffies wrapped in plain wax paper. The caramels that are impossible to free from the wrapper. The loose hard candies. Why is this one green and orange? What flavor is that supposed to indicate?
These are the candies that are mass-produced so cheaply and quickly that you can still see the undissolved sugar. There could be a razor blade hidden in each one but no one has ever eaten one to find out. If you left these candies in a mouse trap, the mice would flee to a nicer neighborhood. As far as flavor and texture are concerned, these candies are the absolute worst. However they get a slightly higher ranking because at least the companies that make them are shameful enough to not want to put their name on the label.
Cherry cordials are so ridiculously hard to stomach they had to subcontract most of the digestion on your behalf. They start by infusing maraschino cherries with an enzyme called invertase. Inside the chocolate shell, the invertase breaks down the sugar in the cherry into fructose and glucose, resulting in that distinct syrupy goo. So, not only are these treats so rich the sugar has no idea what to do with itself, but it’s essentially a cherry decaying inside a chocolate coffin. Geez, the emo lyrics practically write themselves.
Peeps are the ultimate proof that as much as humans have evolved as a species, we’re still a bunch of mindless savages. They come in a variety of bright fluorescent colors that, in nature, are meant to ward off predators. They’re almost exclusively sold in packs, which makes our primitive brains think this will be a successful hunt. But there’s something about Peeps that makes us want to experiment on them. We know we’re supposed to eat them, but first we want to figure out what they can endure.
So, we put them in the microwave and watch the carnage. We leave them out for a few days to see how stale they can get before they’re too stale. Let’s bake them into cookies, but make sure they’re all facing each other as they slowly roast to death. Then, we can feast.
Cheap Chocolate Samplers
It’s 6pm on Valentine’s Day, and you forgot … again. So, you stop off at Walgreens to see what they have left. To your surprise, they have an entire shelf of chocolate sampler boxes. We’re telling you for your own good: don’t buy them. There’s a reason there are so many of them left.
Deflated nougat. Bulletproof toffee coated in waxy chocolate. Weird flavor combinations like cranberry coconut praline that only appeal to one person on the planet, and they just so happen to work at that factory. Each of these candies will go right back in the box half eaten for someone else to “enjoy” while you narrowly avoid having to sleep on the couch. Hope it was worth it.
Cadbury Creme Eggs
We know it’s Easter and all the candies are going hard with the egg theme, but what the hell, Cadbury?!? They use the same digestive enzyme as cherry cordials, only they combine it with white and yellow fondant in order to create the illusion of actual raw egg inside their mediocre chocolate shell.
The result is a sickly sweet, heartburn-inducing napalm designed to wear down your body tissue from the inside so your pancreas can more safely eject from your abdomen.
Conversation hearts manage to combine three distinct levels of eye-rolling disappointment into one: The enamel-cracking texture of Necco Wafers, the groan-worthy lameness of reading someone’s vanity license plate, and the realization that the person you’re dating on Valentine’s Day is a massive goober. The only reason these are ranked so leniently on the list is because you can always re-gift them again next year without any loss in quality.
Here in the U.S., we have three holidays every year where our national pride reaches a fever pitch. The big one is obviously Independence Day on July 4th, and that’s when a lot of candy manufacturers will break out special versions of their regular candy decked out in red, white and blue packaging. Which is fine. However, it is the middle of summer, and the average outside temperature is a few degrees past the melting point of chocolate. So, best keep them in the freezer or else things could get really messy.
But then there are some companies that offer candies that are relabled with spangly artwork and customizable labels for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Veteran’s Day makes sense. Offering a candy bar to a service member is a sweet gesture. But Memorial Day? We’re supposed to be honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Maybe this isn’t the time or place to be breaking out the Hershey Miniatures.
Chocolate oranges are one of those candies that will occasionally pop up in your Christmas stocking or Easter basket, and they really only get points for truth in advertising. It’s orange flavored chocolate, in the shape of an orange, and it breaks apart into tiny orange slices. But the experience of actually eating one is like going through the five stages of grief.
Denial: Your brain can process the taste of chocolate and oranges, but never both at the same time. So the flavors hit you in alternating waves, causing you to question whether eating this was a good idea. Anger: You realize this was indeed a bad idea. Bargaining: You try to offer slices to those around you in a desperate attempt to get rid of it. Depression: Now your friends hate you. Finally, acceptance: Into the trash it goes.
Plastic Easter Egg Ballast
Every Easter, many parents face the same dilemma: they need to fill a lot of plastic eggs to make the Easter egg hunt a success, but they need to find a cheap solution to weighing those eggs down. Enter candies like Whoppers Robin Eggs, Double Bubble Eggs, egg shaped gummies in hard candy shells, etc.
To the untrained eye, these candies are nearly identical in size, shape and colors. And they all make sense when each egg is filled with only one brand. But kids love to empty all of their plastic eggs together to see the totality of their Easter haul. The problem is now they’re all mixed together. You can’t eat a handful at a time because you don’t know if you might be mixing bubble gum with chocolate, and eating tiny candies one at a time goes against all kid logic.
For decades, if you wanted to make sure a plastic Easter egg had the proper weight, jelly beans were your go-to. They were cheap, easily identifiable, and more importantly: we knew all of them tasted like shit. If you ever decided to eat them, you had no room to complain.
But then, Jelly Bellies came along and changed the game, making jelly beans that actually taste good. The problem now is that they got too ambitious and made too many flavors, and there’s just not enough room on each bean to identify them. An assorted bag is absolute chaos. Is this red one cherry or cinnamon? Is this one chocolate, or root beer? Watermelon or jalapeno? Now, you’re Googling each detail on the shell trying to identify what they are like a baggie of random pills you found in your teenager’s nightstand.
Ferrero Rochers are sorta like the Michael Bublé of candy: They put on a hell of a show around Christmastime, but the other eleven months out of the year it’s really hard to give a rat’s ass about them. But we do have to give Ferrero Rochers credit for three things: 1) giving the vastly underrated hazelnut its time to shine in the global candy market, 2) finally deciding to do something about its cocoa being harvested by child labor, and 3) being the only candy where you can ball up five empty wrappers inside a sixth one and it’ll have just the right shape and weight to prank some unsuspecting schlub at the office holiday party.
Starburst Merry Mix
This one deserves a special mention because if your favorite flavors of Starburst are cherry and strawberry, your prayers have been answered. Because those are the only two flavors in the bag! And if strawberry is your favorite, JACKPOT! Because they decided to wrap the strawberry ones in dark green wrappers for some reason, which means most people will see them in the candy bowl and skip over them thinking they might be some weird holiday mint flavor. In which case, more for you!
Hollow Chocolate Easter Bunnies
On nearly every hollow chocolate Easter bunny package, the word HOLLOW is in the smallest font the FDA will allow. The extra packaging may keep the bunny from getting crushed, but it also throws the weight off, so the kid thinks they’re getting a lot of chocolate. Either the bunny crumbles as you try to get it out of the box, or you get it out of the box intact and take that first big bite only to get a mouthful of air and trust issues with a hint of milk chocolate.
Solid Chocolate Easter Bunnies
While the hollow chocolate bunnies are most children’s first harsh lesson that the world isn’t always fair, the solid chocolate Easter bunnies teach us to be careful what we wish for. On one hand, it’s solid chocolate! On the other hand, it’s solid chocolate. Even for an adult, trying to chew any piece of chocolate thicker than a half an inch can prove to be a bit of a chore. It’s even harder for the key demographic for Easter candy: kids with no self-control who are in the process of losing their baby teeth.
Hershey’s Giant Kiss
Taking the solid chocolate conundrum to its most ridiculous extreme, we have the supersized Hershey’s Kisses. They’re available in two sizes: a 7 ounce model which is 44 times the size of a standard Kiss, and that’s downright merciful when you compare it to the 12 ounce XL. But it’s also Hershey’s chocolate. Obviously, this triumph of quantity over quality isn’t gonna be a flavor adventure from start to finish. Instead, these edible paperweights become less of a novelty treat and more like the candy equivalent of an escape room. If you want to see your way to the end of this, you better recruit some help.
There is an argument to be made that kosher chocolate is far superior, just by measure of quality control alone. Technically, any chocolate can be deemed kosher as long as each of the ingredients has been approved by a rabbi. And that approval process takes everything into account, including making sure the cocoa beans were free of bugs when it was cultivated. Anything short of that standard is considered a sin, and they’re answering to a much higher authority than the FDA and state health inspectors combined.
There’s something about Hanukkah gelt coins that just hits different than most chocolates. Maybe it’s because they’re typically given out on the fifth night of Hanukkah, and any chocolate will have a richer taste after eating a dinner of roast duck and potato latkes. Maybe it’s the slight metallic aftertaste from the foil wrappers. Or maybe they just taste sweeter because you won them in a particularly intense game of dreidel.
Novelty Flavor Candy Canes
For decades, candy canes only came in one flavor: peppermint. But in recent decades, there has been a huge surge in novelty flavors. On the plus side, many brands like Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Warheads, Starburst, Oreos, etc. have come out with candy cane versions of their famous flavors. On the down side, some rat bastard psychotics have unleashed a litany of unholy flavor abominations, such as pickle, bacon, gravy, clam, mac & cheese, shiitake mushroom, or even kale.
There needs to be a new law passed that says that every one of these tainted candy canes needs to come with a label on each one, with the flavor in bold letters and a warning that if you try to prank someone with them, they are legally allowed to punch you in the throat without any consequences. Because stirring your holiday hot chocolate with a red and white candy cane expecting something minty only to discover it was actually HAM FLAVORED is a betrayal no one should have to endure.
Traditional Candy Canes
That’s why you gotta give it up for the O.G. peppermint candy canes. Boring? You bet! But aside from the risk of cracking a molar, they have never let anyone down. They’ve also never truly impressed anyone either, but still … They’re the epitome of true neutral.
Reese’s Peanut Butter … Shapes
Credit where it's due, Reese’s really knocked it out of the park with the peanut butter/chocolate combo. And every big candy-giving holiday, Reese’s comes out with specialty shapes like hearts for Valentine’s Day, bunnies and eggs for Easter, ghosts and pumpkins for Halloween, or bells and trees for Christmas. The only problem is these new shapes don’t have the same chocolate to peanut butter ratio, and when the shapes get larger, they have to go with a harder chocolate to maintain the structural integrity. They’re still good … they’re just a little off.
M&Ms Holiday Flavors
Every year, from October through December, M&M’s breaks out their holiday flavors. Some are new, some are returning champions. Some of them, like white chocolate candy corn or pecan pie are unforgivable crimes against humanity, but a lot of them need to be available year-round. Why they still have pretzel M&M’s in their main roster and relegate absolute bangers like cocoa crisp and cookies & cream to the Halloween JV squad is beyond comprehension.
Holiday Mint M&Ms
But let’s not forget the flavor that got them started on the holiday flavor gimmick: The holiday mint M&M’s. These are the ones that really need to be available everywhere the rest of the year. The dark chocolate mint ones are, but it’s just not enough to fill the void between holiday seasons. It’s like trying to get over your ex by dating someone with the same name. Something about it doesn’t seem fair to either one of you.
Gourmet Chocolate Samplers
When we say gourmet chocolate samplers, we mean the ones you buy from a store that only sells chocolate and fine crystal for you to serve it on. This isn’t just any Valentine’s day chocolate, this is the kind of candy you only buy when you are serious about the relationship; the kind of chocolate that’s so extravagant that it even tastes like it’s being paid off in installments. With each bite you can tell that these chocolates were made by someone who attended an academy to learn this stuff … a remote academy on a mountaintop somewhere, with ancient recipes scribed on papyrus and a graduation ceremony that involves a blood sacrifice.
Miniature Candy Bars
This one’s a bit of a copout since you can get them anywhere year-round, but since fun size and bite size candy bars were originally only available for Halloween, we’re running with it. But over the past few decades, these mini candy bars have been welcomed at any holiday or special occasion where one’s religion doesn’t strictly forbid them.
There are two reasons these are the perfect holiday candy. The first is their size. You can eat a couple of them free of any guilt, or what the hell, eat a whole bunch of them and hide the evidence! The other reason is there are countless possibilities in mixing different kinds of candy together to find new and creative flavor combinations.
A bite size 3 Musketeers sandwiched between two Krackle miniatures? Nice! Wanna Beadazzle a Starburst with Skittles, or try to stick some M&M’s to the side of a fun size Kit Kat and make a little chocolate skateboard? Go for it! A York Peppermint Patty with a Reese’s Cup chaser? Ok, you’re nasty. You've now made something worse than candy corn.
Top image: Mars