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Photograph: Andy Parsons

The best Christmas candy in the USA

Stuff your stocking with our list of the best Christmas candy for an extra, extra sweet holiday

Written by
Emilee Lindner

Are the holidays about love, joy, and togetherness, or are they about indulging in nostalgic sweets, decadent chocolates, and the best Christmas candy the USA has to offer? Sorry, family, but chocolate reigns supreme.

Whether you’re a full-on Willy Wonka when it comes to sweets, or if you just want a festive sumthin’ sumthin’ as a stocking stuffer, there’s a blizzard of holiday-themed treats that sprinkle joy throughout our grocery aisles. From classic Christmas confections that only pop up once a year to holiday-inspired riffs on the most popular brands around, there’s no shortage of sugar-laden treats right now (as if your annual Christmas cookie exchange wasn't enough).

Take a journey with us as we cruise down candy cane lane and rank the best Christmas candy in the USA during the short and sweet holiday season.

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Best Christmas candy in the USA

Some things look better than they taste, and sometimes there's a reason: ribbon candy, a quintessential confection, was invented in the 1800s so shopkeepers had something to decorate their windows with every year. To this day, ribbon candy is used less for eating and more to gussy up a dessert table. And with their gorgeous red and green stripes (plus other colors, like the ones in the Harry & David box pictured above), not to mention that oh-so-glossy sheen, let’s just say that ribbon candy is always nice to have around. Sure, it's pure sugar — but it's also pure nostalgia.

Sure, gumdrops might not be as revered as seasonal favorites like chocolate and peppermint, but they certainly have their place in the Christmas canon. Think about it: Buddy the Elf had to cross the sea of swirly-twirly gumdrops before he arrived at the Lincoln Tunnel. Dots, America’s top gumdrop brand, combine cherry and lime gummies with vanilla to create snow-capped Christmas peak gummies. Do we enjoy them? Yes, because they’re candy. Are they on the top of our Christmas wish list? No, but they’re still adorable.


Do these Life Savers gummies look like tiny, flexible wreaths? Kinda. Are they red and green, the traditional colors of Christmas? Absolutely. These “wreaths” (lovely rings of corn syrup) are just the right amount of festive. They’ll give you a pop of Christmas cheer as you strengthen your jaw getting them down the gullet. When it comes to holiday candy, they do the trick in a pinch.

Ah, the great divider. You either hate them or you love them. But at this time of year, why be a hater? Indulge in these crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside pillowy puffs at the holiday party with a cup of hot chocolate. And if you really don’t like them, regift them to the next person (just like you did with Aunt Barb’s coaster set).


The duality of SweeTARTS really is a parallel for the season, isn’t it? They’re sugary sweet (like the feeling on Christmas morning) with a tart side (like the feeling when there are no more presents left to open). Shaped like snowmen, bells, and trees, the “Merry Mix” of these powdery confections get an A+ for seasonal creativity even if they don’t evoke the spicy goodness of a traditional holiday treat.

One great joy on Christmas morning? Digging for those individually wrapped pieces of candy out of your stocking. For some of us, Crunch Holiday Jingles are a mainstay each year — the small, bell-shaped chocolates with crisped rice find their way to the tip-toe of our Christmas stockings, which means they’re also the perfect size if you want to sneak a few before breakfast.


For stockings that need stuffing, Frosty Nerds will do the trick. Watermelon, wild cherry, and punch don’t exactly recall jolly Christmas memories, but in their own way, they offer a little super-sweet magic. Nerds are made by spinning tiny sugar crystals with more sugar, who doesn’t want sugar on sugar on sugar? Whether you’re the type of person that savors them one by one, or the type that shoves a whole handful in your mouth, we support both methods of consumption.

There aren’t many things in life that beat a perfectly balanced combo of sugar, food dye, and citric acid. Sour Patch Kids has been winning the “sour then sweet” sensation all over the world (in France they are named “Very Bad Kids,” which means they’re likely getting coal from ol’ Père Noël this holiday). During the holidays in the U.S., Sour Patch Kids Ornaments burst onto the scene to switch up the candy’s shape from human-like silhouettes to round orbs — it’s festive AF.


It’s hard to name a better combo than dark chocolate and peppermint this time of year — let alone any time of year — but the duo’s frosty bite seems just a bit more appropriate in the winter. Tingly peppermint hits like a chilly snowflake on the tongue, and dark chocolate provides a rich and cozy mouthfeel. Overall, snowflake-shaped York Peppermint Patties get two mittened thumbs up.

‘Tis the season for candy canes — especially when they arrive in the form of Hershey’s Kisses. The holiday-only version of the classic Kisses features a red-and-white striped mint creme mixed with crushed bits of peppermint. It’s not a candy cane, but it’s pretty damn close. Put out a dish of these candies at the office and flick the remaining foil balls at your coworkers when you’re done indulging.


For some reason — must be that smooth-as-hell texture, and super effective marketing — Dove chocolate has always been synonymous with luxury. Add some mint to those signature squares of sweetness and yo’ve got yourself some serious holiday splendor. The chunks of candy cane in these treats give it a nice crunch, and the messages inside the tinfoil wrapper always seem just a little bit wise.

Break me off a piece of that… gingerbread? The number of Kit Kat flavors has absolutely blown up in recent years (everything from Key Lime Pie to Fruity Cereal), so gingerbread isn’t exactly far-fetched. Gingerbread-flavored creme coats crisp wafers in these miniature delights. Quintessential holiday flavors are often left out of Christmas candy (as long as it’s red and green, who cares, right?), but this treat fills the void. Now you can get all that delicious gingerbread flavor without any of the baking — this Kit Kat sounds like a win-win, if you ask us.


Candy canes are an irrefutable holiday classic — they double as Christmas tree ornaments, after all. While standard-sized candy canes are essential sweets, the miniature ones are so much more practical to eat. These minis are the perfect size for a sweet, minty treat that’ll dissolve into your mug of hot cocoa. Also, they’re small enough that you can always sneak one more (or three or four) if you’re still craving that Christmassy peppermint.


Is there anything more addicting than peppermint bark? Whether you choose to make your own from your grandma’s recipe, or opt for the drugstore brand, peppermint bark is a hefty part of holiday snacking. C’mon, when both layers of milk chocolate and peppermint come together in one bite… it’s the (second) best flavor of the holidays. The Ghirardelli squares are everything, so stock up to get your after-Christmas fix, too.

What does your favorite candy say about you? Well, if your favorite candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter Trees, then it means you’re totally right. Sure, the only thing about this treat that says ho-ho-ho is the classic Christmas tree shape (it's also a fact that a similar pumpkin-shaped version is an iconic candy for a certain October holiday, too). But maybe that’s all we need to get into the Christmas spirit — that and a sprinkling of Reese's Pieces throughout the decadent peanut butter interior. 


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