Halloween, like goodness, happiness and truth, is largely canceled this year.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a little fun, right? Candy, the great equalizer, remains a comfort to all, even during the darkest timeline.
It’s in that spirit that I present to you the totally unassailable, airtight and indisputable L.A. Times Halloween Candy Power Rankings. For this piece I’m changing up the metric a bit: I’m judging by taste as well as what I’m calling Spirit of Halloween (SOH) — how much does the candy capture the je ne sais quoi of the season?
Happy Halloween, friends, and eat up!
1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Admittedly, a lot of this candy’s No. 1 ranking has to do with the classic yellow-and-orange wrapper. Combined with the crimped black paper nestling each individual cup, it’s the candy that truly exemplifies the holiday. The taste is good too — the grainy, slightly salty peanut butter in each cup comforts in a way normal peanut butter can’t.
2. Kit Kat
I don’t love Kit Kats as a rule and find them to be slightly above-average candy bars. But around the Halloween season, they’re infused with special powers, as with hot dogs at a baseball game. The chocolate tastes a little sweeter; the wafers are a little crispier. The best way to eat them, of course, is to peel each layer away with your teeth, one by one.
We all like Butterfingers, and I think a big part of that has do with the fact that there isn’t too much chocolate — these candy bars are primarily the flaky, peanut-brittle-like interior with just the thinnest of outer coatings.
Caramel, cookies and chocolate are an unbeatable combination any way you slice it. I also appreciate the fact that full-sized Twix are split into two bars, allowing you the self-delusion that you’re somehow not eating an entire candy bar.
5. Starbursts and Hi-Chew
When I was in high school, there was a girl I liked in calculus class, and every day I would buy a package of Starbursts and sit there in class and make her small paper boats, one by one during the course of 42 minutes. Sweet, huh? I also came very close to failing that class.
These and Skittles go into the extremely important “Chewy Fruity” category, but I stand by the excellence of Starbursts and Hi-Chew, the superior Japanese version of Starbursts, because 1) they don’t have the unnecessary candy shell; and 2) the flavors taste closer to the fruit that they purport to be.
M&M’s lost something for me when they eschewed the traditional fall colors and added the color blue, of all things. What was the point? The beautiful reds, yellows, greens and browns truly captured the changing of the seasons.
For the record, peanut M&Ms are the only kind worth eating — let’s be real, people.
I am a Whoppers apologist. Some people don’t like these waxy little balls, but how often, if ever, do you get to enjoy the flavor of malt?
Malt, or malted milk powder in this case, is itself a funny idea. It began when two Wisconsin-based Englishmen created what was intended to be a health supplement for babies in the late 1800s. Eventually, people caught on that it tasted super good in ice cream and different desserts.
Malted barley is what gives Whoppers, Ovaltine and malted milk balls their distinct flavor — a little toasty and nutty, giving depth and roundness to sweet flavors, particularly chocolate.
It’s tough to mess with a classic. The standard-bearer of candy bars always comes through during Halloween, and having one of these tossed into your bag never, ever disappoints. Snickers is the candy that introduced me to the word “nougat,” a funny-sounding word that apparently comes from nux, the Latin word for nut.
Peanuts, caramel and chocolate taste great together, and a Snickers is even better when it’s been in the freezer.
9. Tootsie Pops
It’s the eternal question: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Like many of life’s mysteries — Is light a wave or a particle? What existed before the universe? How did “Two and a Half Men” run for 12 seasons? — we’ll never know the complete truth.
Mr. Owl, of course, licked three times before biting the entire thing off and pronouncing the answer: Three.
Tootsie Rolls are one of the weaker Halloween candies but somehow Tootsie Pops are strong — the addition of a candy shell that lacerates your tongue apparently makes all the difference.
Taste the rainbow! In addition to a good tagline, Skittles have an interestingly murky origin story. Currently owned by Mars Wrigley, the fruity candy has been manufactured in the United States only since the 1980s. A cached page on the Mars website merely alludes to “a company in England” regarding the origin of Skittles — and I can’t find any concrete information as to who actually invented them, and when.
Weird, eh? If you’re the true inventor of Skittles and happen to read this piece, please send me an email!
11. Krackel, Hershey’s and Mr. Goodbar
I associate these almost entirely with Halloween — I’m not sure when or why you’d otherwise get your hands on a Krackel, which is so indistinguishable from a Crunch bar that I was forced to do a side-by-side taste test.
My findings: Both are fine, but Krackel is a little sweeter. The Crunch bar has a little more of that sour-milk taste I associate with mass-produced American chocolate.
12. Crunch Bar
A good, not great, candy bar that has one thing going for it: texture. The puffed rice doesn’t add an ear-shattering crunch so much as absolutely no noise whatsoever. As I’ve written previously, I do have an appreciation for the memes that have arisen from one particular d’80s commercial that are easily found with a YouTube search.
13. SweeTarts, Smarties, Bottle Caps
SweeTarts, Smarties and Bottle Caps, or flavored chalk, as you may know them, I happen to find delicious. Then again, I also have been known to break out a bottle of flavored Tums when I’m feeling peckish. Whether you like them or not, it’s hard to deny their association with Halloween: You rarely see these candies in the wild otherwise.
14. Laffy Taffy and Airheads
Were it not for Laffy Taffy, how else would I know that the best time to see the dentist is at tooth-thirty? Or that the reason Florida hotels are so nice is because of all the amanatees? I love the dumb dad jokes on the wrappers, but they’re not all that makes this particular kind of smooth, extruded fruit candy great. The grainy chew of Airheads and the airy stretchiness of Laffy Taffy provide nothing if not a respite from the chocolate-and-caramel bacchanal that marks most Halloweens.
15. Baby Ruth
A very good candy bar but, as I’ve previously stated, the nuts in a Baby Ruth could use a little salt. Remember the old saying, “salty plus sweet, can’t be beat!” [Editor’s note: That’s not a saying at all and is completely made up. A better version of this candy bar is the PayDay — an extremely salty nut-covered nougat log that puts Baby Ruth to shame.]
16. Raisinets and Junior Mints
These aren’t the same, but I’m grouping them together because they fall into the category of “movie candy,” or stuff you might get at the local AMC (remember movie theaters?). Both are solid candy choices, especially Raisinets — how many industrial candies can you think of that contain actual fruit?
17. Tootsie Rolls
Taste-wise, these are near the bottom. But as far as Halloween spirit is concerned, they’re way up at the top. So here lie Tootsie Rolls, in the middle of my rankings. According to the product’s website, when Leo Hirshfield began producing the vaguely chocolatey chewy candies in 1896, he always included some of the previous day’s batch, creating a kind of mother dough or mole madre.
I’m not sure how this could work practically today, given that the company claims to make 64 million Tootsie Rolls every day, but it’s certainly something to think about.
18. Pop Rocks
You heard the rumor about the kid who ate Pop Rocks and drank soda at the same time, causing his stomach to explode, right? Fortunately, this turned out to be false (although the FDA did create a hotline to assuage the concerns of parents). But like many urban legends and things your parents post on Facebook, it plants a tiny seed of misinformation in your mind.
These gassified candies that pop in your mouth like supersonic Rice Krispies are, of course, extremely fun to eat.
19. Heath Bar
Toffee is toffee, i.e., good, but it’s tough to get excited about a Heath Bar, a candy bar made for dads and Joe Pera. It’s a product whose sole purpose was to be crumbled up and put into ice cream.
20. Milky Way
Milky Way is a great name for a candy bar, but other than being one of the Big Five (Snickers, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger), it’s not really anything to write home about. A nutless Snickers, basically.
21. Sour Patch Kids
These probably should be ranked higher — they taste great — but to me, they don’t particularly evoke Halloween. Sour Patch Kids are maybe good for a screening of “Halloween” at the Cinemark but not really the holiday itself.
22. Rolo and Milk Duds
Rolos are slightly better than Milk Duds, but both fall into the “Too Much Caramel” genus of candy. This is particularly true of Milk Duds, which are essentially the Everlasting Gobstopper of caramel.
23. Candy corn
I’m not going to come in hot and try to tell you that candy corn is good — it isn’t. But it does have its place when the leaves change and the weather turns brisk (I grew up in the Midwest, if this notion is puzzling). And really, candy corn isn’t much different from a lot of frosting and fondant you’d find on a generic grocery store cake.
Candy corn is interesting in that it is a distinctly Halloween candy but it’s not typically given out during trick-or-treating. If you’re buying candy corn, it’s because you belong to the sliver of the population that actually … likes eating candy corn. Hold your heads up high.
What is going on with Halloween Twizzlers? I maintain that of all Halloween confections, Twizzlers are the only candy where the small, fun-sized version tastes noticeably, significantly different from the regular version.
They’re honestly like two completely different products. I love original strawberry Twizzlers and their beef-jerky-like toughness The smaller Halloween Twizzlers are softer, moister and almost Red Vine-like — and we all know that Red Vines are vastly inferior.
What’s the story here? Can we get the Food and Drug Administration or the Justice Department to look into this?
25. 3 Musketeers
I just don’t like 3 Musketeers bars. They’re airy, whipped nonsense redeemed only slightly by a reference to French swashbuckling.
26. Those red-and-white mints
Yes, I’ve gotten these before during trick-or-treating. I can hear you and my 7-year-old self asking, Who would do this? And why? Maybe the person owned a restaurant. Maybe they forgot to buy Halloween candy that year and just scraped together whatever was in the back of the panty. All I know is that for a little kid, there was nothing sadder than getting a few generic red-and-white mints when you were expecting something way, way better.
If I’m not being clear: Mints are an abomination at Halloween. Step it up and buy some Werther’s or York Peppermint Patties, at the very least.