Depending on whom you ask, Halloween is about finding the best costumes, watching the scariest movies, or getting to indulge the weirdest parts of yourself. But the one aspect of the holiday that unites us all, no matter which parts of Halloween we gravitate toward — and even those repelled by its manic celebrations — is candy.
That’s kind of beautiful, really. But as any trick-or-treating kid will tell you at the end of the night, as they sort their bounty into piles, not all candy is created equal.
And so we decided to take our unifying enthusiasm for candy and rip it apart in the interest of deciding once and for all which of 27 types of common Halloween candy is the best — and the worst.
27) Tootsie anything
The best thing you can say about Tootsie Rolls is if you’re lucky, they only vaguely resemble feces.
Most of the time, chocolate Tootsie Rolls look like objects you’d find on the inside of a baboon cage. Perhaps Tootsie knows this but is nonetheless committed to selling its product in the signature “log” form. But it’s not like the flavor — a taffy that gave up its dreams — makes up for the visual implication.
Tootsie Pops are no better. By the time you get to the fabled center of a Tootsie Pop, your first inclination is to throw away what’s left of the sticky lollipop — but apparently that malformed chocolate in the center is your reward for making it through seven minutes of licking orange or lemon flavor (which are actually not bad). Pass.
26) Mike and Ike
Apparently, Mike and Ike believes itself to be “original fruit” candy. In reality, it’s the sugar grit left at the bottom of a drugstore candy dispenser distilled into gel cap form. If you experience a craving for Mike and Ikes, consider that you might just want jellybeans and seek out those instead.
Twizzlers: the perfect candy for someone who would like to feel the thrill of chewing on a candle.
24) Almond Joy
Almond Joy: the perfect candy for someone who can’t commit to the full coconut experience of Mounds.
Why would someone intentionally want to mar the goodness that is chocolate with the tiny atrocities known as raisins? Raisins were created during ancient times, when we didn’t have as many cooking options as we do today. There are better things to do to grapes than turn them into raisins. And there are better things to do to chocolate than coat raisins with it. Unfortunately, the lunatics at Nestlé believe this to be a great idea, and thus Raisinets endure.
Earlier this year, the hit Netflix series Stranger Things featured a character named Barb. Barb was allergic to fun. Barb got mad at her only friend because said friend wanted to get drunk and maybe have some sex. Barb’s own mother didn’t even notice that she was taken to a different dimension.
Mounds are the Barb of candies.
They are the candy you eat when you want to have a mediocre time. If you gave Mounds and its weird coconut guts to a potential suitor, you’d basically be asking them to join you for an unexceptional evening. And no one’s mother would really notice if Mounds were teleported to another dimension, because they are aggressively uninteresting.
Smarties call themselves “America's favorite candy roll,” which is a bit of a fudge. Not that many candies come in roll form. But there’s an odd charm to these discs, which are basically flavored, compressed sugar dust. Their greatest appeal is that they look like they came from another time and place — like something you’d eat while enjoying a performance from your local barbershop quartet.
20) Nestlé Crunch
Crunch bars are built on a promising foundation of chocolate and ambiguous wafer properties, which combine to make a bite that sounds immensely satisfying — and yet they somehow always taste stale. Life is short, and there are so many chocolate bar options in this world. Don’t waste your precious time on candy that tastes like disappointment.
19) Laffy Taffy
It defies logic that as humans discovered the great food bounty this world had to offer, we took hundreds of years of innovation, threw it in a vat, boiled the shit out of it, and created taffy, which looks and feels like the kind of dehydrated, food-adjacent protein paste we’ll be eating once the planet burns up all the actual food on its surface.
When it’s done right, taffy can be a delicious, chewy treat (more on that later), but that’s a rare occurrence for this genre of candy. It’s far easier for taffy to go horribly wrong, at which point it becomes a dental torture device disguised as a treat (a classic dentist strategy).
Laffy Taffy at least tries to shove bursts of acidic flavor into its musty gum, but any goodwill it earns with its cherry and green apple flavors is negated by the banana flavor. It sure doesn’t taste like banana, but it will leave your mouth ringing for hours with that oddly fuzzy feeling that comes from eating something too sour too fast. Maybe Willy Wonka — the fictional namesake for the Nestle sub-brand that produces Laffy Taffy — would’ve found that amusing, but then again, Willy Wonka’s kind of a jerk.
18) Hershey Miniatures
As a kid, I (Caroline) always wanted to go to Hershey Park, because I was a kid, and also because I thought it was an amusement park literally made of chocolate. But my mom always shot down my desire because she thinks Hershey chocolate has a gasoline aftertaste; now that I’m a grown woman, I can freely admit that my mom is correct.
Hershey chocolate is, by and large, not very good — which is a shame, because Hershey chocolate also dominates trick-or-treat buckets. The Miniatures collection in particular is the easiest grab bag of Halloween candy, the one you can upend into a bowl and make it look like you went to the trouble of finding tiny Krackels, Mr. Goodbars, and Hershey bars (in both the milk and “special dark” varieties).
We can argue about the relative merits of different Miniatures — Mr. Goodbars are either too packed with peanuts or not at all, while Krackels are snappier versions of Crunch bars — but at the end of the day, they’re all ensconced in that gasoline chocolate.
17) Candy corn
There are many disappointments when it comes to candy corn, which is, for some mystifying reason (its color perhaps), the quintessential candy of the fall season. But the most egregious is that it takes two things that are generally great — candy and corn — delivers a false promise, and then breaks that promise.
If candy corn tasted like some version of corn, you might be able to give it credit for effort and originality. (If you doubt corn’s ability to be a delicious dessert, give sweet corn ice cream a try.) If it tasted like any serviceable candy, it would get a pass. But the experience of eating candy corn is like chewing on a gummy bear that’s lived a hard life.
Autumn is a wonderful season. It deserves better.
On the surface, a Butterfinger has several components that should make it an undeniable treat: chocolate, peanut butter, a crisp interior, and a cherished place in Simpsons lore as Bart’s favorite candy.
But the only truly great thing about eating a Butterfinger is the first bite. Even if you know what’s in a Butterfinger, nothing can quite prepare you for that shock of peanut with hints of honeycomb.
After that, though, each bite makes it clearer that you’re not eating a chocolate bar so much as chocolate-covered chalk. Eating a Butterfinger is work, often leaving you digging around in your own mouth to extract pockets of sugar that have lodged themselves between your teeth. You’ve never been quite as aware of how many teeth you have until you’re trying to rid them of Butterfinger aftermath, which is an interesting side effect of eating candy, but not exactly a desirable one.
If you’ve ever craved the experience of chewing on Polly Pocket figurines, then you would probably enjoy Nerds — tiny, one-note globules of flavored sugar exhibiting a gravelly crunch. Nerds know they aren’t the best, which is why they come in two flavors per pack, a brilliant strategy to distract you from their open mediocrity.
If we were ranking all the different varieties of M&Ms, we’d have to contend with peanut M&Ms (good!), peanut butter M&Ms (great!), and mint (ehhh). But on Halloween, the plain variety rules, both because it’s the most obvious option for people who don’t feel like thinking that hard about Halloween candy, and because handing out peanuts in the age of spiking allergies could now be considered a biohazard.
M&Ms are, despite the best efforts of the brand’s creepy anthropomorphized spokescandies, a perfectly inoffensive candy option. Throwing tiny discs of chocolate into your mouth by the handful is half the point of Halloween, and on that front, they do their job just fine. Just … fine.
13) Sour Patch Kids
Sour Patch Kids are for adventurous types who aren’t satisfied with gummy bears or Starbursts and require a little extra tang but don’t want the extreme palate-blasting sourness of a Warhead. There’s nothing wrong with that (Sour Patch’s orange flavor is underrated), except for the fact that the lemon Sour Patch tastes like Pine Sol and you will always get more greens (at least 15) than you ever want (maybe 0-1).
12) 3 Musketeers
Knowing that the center of a 3 Musketeers bar is “whipped nougat” doesn’t quite alleviate the alien feeling of eating a 3 Musketeers bar. It’s like consuming what you always hoped astronaut ice cream would taste like, your teeth gnashing through spun-sugar air.
Though 3 Musketeers bars have been around since the 1930s, they’ll never quite be a classic, thanks to the fact that it takes approximately 90 seconds to forget you’ve eaten one. But they’re a solid snack — especially when frozen — and have earned their spot among the top Halloween treats through sheer weirdness.
11) Hershey Kisses
It’s no secret that the overly sweet, waxy chocolate Hershey uses in its bars and its Kisses is not great. (See No. 18 on this list.) But what sets Kisses apart from their rectangular cousins is their shape. Kisses turn the thin, waxy nibble you get from a bar into something to enjoy as you swirl it around in your mouth. It doesn’t fully make up for the meh chocolate, but it’s not bad.
10) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Let’s just admit it: Reese’s products are a chocolate delivery system for peanut butter. This can be a hazard for those less sold on peanut butter’s gluey mouthfeel, but if your enthusiasm for the classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter runs medium to high, you can’t do much better than Reese’s. Even half-melted — as they tend to be by the end of Halloween night — Reese’s provide a smooth way into a solid sugar rush.
Peanut-padded and dripping with caramel, Snickers is allergic to subtlety. Every bite of Snickers has crunch and goo and chocolate. Snickers are designed to not just satisfy your craving but bludgeon it into oblivion. It’s no surprise, then, that Snickers — which could take the place of a small lunch — uses the tagline “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”
But candy doesn’t always have to go big or go home. Candy should be a treat, not a meal. And with Snickers, even the fun-size variety feels more like you’re eating a protein bar than indulging. Do less, Snickers.
8) Gummy bears (Haribo)
It’s hard to explain the appeal of gummy bears, the fruit chews that make you feel like a god as you chomp on the heads of tiny cubs. Okay, scratch that, maybe it’s not so hard to explain.
Beyond the power rush, though, Haribo gummy bears are surprisingly durable snacks that can get you through hours of need. They rarely try to be anything other than what they are, meaning there’s no weak spot in their core group of flavors — though, of course, the “clear” variety, which oozes a sweet shock of pineapple flavor, is the star.
(Fun fact: The green Haribo bear is actually strawberry flavored; the red is raspberry. Tricky little bears, those Haribos.)
7) Jolly Ranchers
Not all Jolly Ranchers are created equal. The watermelon ones — which, like most fruit candies, have no resemblance to what watermelons actually taste like — are worth stealing from other children. (Your “altruistic” excuse: They’re a choking hazard.) Cherry is great, and lemon is surprisingly pretty good. The only problem with Jolly Ranchers is that all hard candies make you feel like an old person.
6) Cow Tales
Before you say it: We know Cow Tales are not a typical Halloween candy. The thing is, we don’t care. Despite everything about them implying otherwise — from the nose-wrinkle-inducing “cream center” to their disturbing name — Cow Tales are just that good, and discovering one in your Halloween candy bucket counts as a welcome surprise.
Those who are willing to overlook the apparent unseemliness of the Cow Tale will be rewarded with a truly delicious treat that dares to combine caramel with an ingredient other than chocolate. They’re rich, luxurious even, swirling caramel with vanilla cream in a way that makes you instinctively slow down your manic chomping to savor the bite.
And so we come to the most politically charged candy of 2016. Skittles are great if you’re selective about which flavors you consume. In that way, they’re the inverse of M&M’s, which are consistently fine no matter what color you get. With Skittles, the highs of the best flavors (orange!) are better than any M&M, but the bad flavors (grape!) are worth canceling Halloween to avoid. The real strategy with Skittles (and also Starburst) is to find a friend (or make a new one) who enjoys the flavors you dislike and sort the bag accordingly.
4) Milky Way
The weirdest thing about Milky Ways is that the Milky Ways served in America are actually sold as Mars Bars throughout the rest of the world. Meanwhile, what we know as Milky Ways are sold as 3 Musketeers.
For practical purposes, we’re judging the American version, which is actually quite elegant for a Halloween candy. The appeal lies in its creamy nougat center, topped with a slip of caramel. There’s a hint of fanciness and sophistication to Milky Way that you don’t quite get with Snickers, and goes far beyond what Hershey doles out.
If there’s a drawback to these beauties, it’s the texture, which is mildly boring, with no satisfying crunch or snap. Having one Milky Way feels like a treat. Having more than one sort of feels like a taunt.
A person who gives out Twix bars at Halloween is a person who cares.
Twix bars take three pillars of chocolate bar success — chocolate, a crunchy layer, caramel — and commit to each of them just enough to make the whole thing sing.
Crucially, Twix bars have more than enough chocolate to wrap all the way around the cookie bar; you’re never going to feel conned into eating a dry cookie underneath a stretched layer of chocolate. But Twix bars really up their game by not skimping out on the caramel, giving us a rich ribbon that oozes out with every bite.
The only thing Twix bars ever did wrong was try too hard to earn our love — more chocolate, more cookie, more caramel — but it’s hard to begrudge their show-choir-level enthusiasm when the results are this delicious.
The Starburst is a deceptively simple candy. It’s substantial enough that you could have just one or two and be happy, but airy enough that you could also inhale an entire sleeve and not even realize it. It’s the slightly softened version of taffy that really makes the form shine, the bite-size artificial sunshine that puts gum to shame.
Even if you’ve never felt the dumb glee of smashing all the flavors together in your mouth to make one big, chewy citrus treat, when it comes down to it, there’s no such thing as a bad Starburst flavor. When it comes to candy, that’s a pretty spectacular feat.
Starbursts don’t just deserve a high spot on our ranking; they also deserve your respect.
1) Kit Kat
Oh, hey, were you looking for a candy whose chocolatey goodness is matched only by its satisfying texture and crunch? Kit Kats are perfect. Sure, on paper, there’s nothing spectacular about chocolate-coated wafers; Kit Kats are simple candies, not nearly as gaudy as some of their peanut-peppered, caramel-oozing brethren.
But it’s a candy bar, not an homage to Liberace. With Kit Kats, you don’t run the risk of getting hung up on a flavor or a texture you might not like. Show us a person who doesn’t like chocolate-covered wafers, and we will show you a monster.
But what really puts Kit Kats at the top of the Halloween candy heap is this: It’s one of the rare candies that are superior in fun-size form — the most common size you will see during Halloween — as opposed to king-size. Fun-size is typically a misnomer, because small versions of candy aren’t usually very entertaining. Yet eating Kit Kats one or two at a time, the way they’re presented in fun-size portions, feels like how Kit Kats should be enjoyed. Though there isn’t an official study to prove this, Kit Kats just feel crisper and taste more delicious when they are of the fun variety.
Kits Kats on Halloween. Kits Kats tomorrow. Kit Kats forever.