Once the calendar turns over to October, the season of treats really begins. From Halloween candy and Pumpkin Spice Lattes to pies (and everything else) at Thanksgiving to the Christmas feast, the last quarter of the year prominently features eating delicious things. Much of those delicious things are sugary, which calls for increased amounts of coffee to keep us from crashing, as well as cementing the fate of our perennial New Year’s resolution to lose weight.
To that end, one of my absolute favorite parts of the window between Thanksgiving and the first of the year is the humble candy cane. I go for the classic peppermint, too. During that period of time, I eat one or two a day. My system works like this: I set my Christmas tree up as close to the day after Thanksgiving as possible, decorating it with my small collection of mostly wooden ornaments and two boxes of candy canes. The tree just isn’t complete without the classic red and white striped canes hanging on the boughs.
Like a lot of Christmas traditions, candy canes originated in Germany in the late 1600s. According to legend, they were created to keep kids quiet during church services on Christmas Eve, with the hook part allegedly meant to remind the children of the shepherds who visited Jesus. It wasn’t apparently until the late 1800s that the canes were hung on trees as in my preferred tradition.
While those peppermint candy canes are of course the all-time classics, there is a larger world of rarer flavors to try. They range from the peppermint-adjacent to the flat-out puzzling. For this list, we’re considering a wide spectrum and not all will be to everyone’s taste. Some might make intriguing picks for a Yankee swap if you won’t eat them.
To help you indulge your holiday sweet tooth, here are the top ten best candy canes for 2017.
1. Spangler Peppermint Candy Canes
Of course, we have to start with the classic. Whether you opt for these, the Brach’s, or the Bobs variants, a white and red candy cane harkens back to the roots and are a virtual necessity. They’re great with hot chocolate or just to pick you up in the middle of a winter workday. The other ubiquitous format are the mini canes, which I also love. Spangler also make a version with a green stripe, if you prefer.
Price: $13.99 for three boxes of 18 candy canes
2. Hershey’s Chocolate Mint Candy Canes
As I said, pairing peppermint canes with hot chocolate is delicious. But if you’re not into hot beverages, you can affect a similar flavor within the cane itself with these. A personal favorite of my mom’s, these will instantly satisfy your craving for chocolate and mint at the same time, which is about as Christmas-y as it gets.
Price: $4.99 for 12 candy canes
3. Brach’s Select Premium Indulgent Candy Cane Mix
Building on the Hershey’s option, Brach’s brought their candy expertise to bear on these rich creations. In this pack you get three flavors of candy canes: four caramel macchiato, four hot cocoa, and four sea sale chocolate caramel. Admittedly, these suffer two possible deal breakers in that they’re expensive and not done up in the appropriate colors. Still, the holidays are for treating yourself with things you might not have the rest of the year, so we think these are worth mentioning. The sea salted ones are especially worth trying. Tangentially related, Archie McPhee make coffee candy canes that could be worth trying, too.
4. Archie McPhee Bacon Candy Canes
Speaking of Archie McPhee, they offer an alternative take on candied bacon. For people who like to have their heads messed with, these are savory bacon-flavored candy canes that otherwise look an awful lot like peppermint ones. They technically miss the mark in terms of tasting like bacon; it’s pretty clear that a pork product and liquid smoke are involved, but the resemblance to bacon is pretty minimal. To be fair, not a whole lot that tries to be bacon could ever satisfy in the same way. Great for a gag gift or your friend who likes weird food for the sake of it. In that same vein, you might try the brand’s pickle, gravy, or wasabi candy canes. Or grab all four in this convenient gift pack.
Price: $7.48 for six candy canes
5. Life Savers Candy Canes
To my mind, Life Savers have a very particular flavor when compared to just about any other candy. Naturally the best of these is cherry, which is included here along side watermelon, orange, pineapple, and raspberry, just as you would find in a traditional Life Savers pack. In addition to these, you can also get Jolly Rancher, Jelly Belly, and Starburst candy canes.
Price: $6.00 for 12 candy canes
6. Wonka Sweetarts Christmas Candy Canes
Similar to the option above, you can harness the awesome flavor of Sweetarts in Christmas form. They even dressed the box up in wintery livery to suit the occasion. The super bright colors don’t especially scream Christmas, but they’ll make an interesting contrast on your tree nevertheless. Also from the Wonka stable, you could try Spree candy canes.
Price: $18.99 for 24 candy canes
7. Disney Mickey Mouse Holiday Magic Christmas Candy Canes
There are quite a lot of Christmas decorations featuring the classic Disney cast and if you find yourself among the faithful, these are the candy canes for you. In each box you get three cherry, three grape, three strawberry, and three orange canes. The individual wrapping features Disney characters in Christmas sweaters, making them perfectly festive for your tree.
Price: $14.88 for 24 candy canes
8. Brach’s Original Cherry Rainbow Candy Canes
Although I can’t recall the incident in particular in terms of where I was or the year, I distinctly remember the feeling I had the first time I tried one of these. For one thing, up to that point, I’d almost exclusively had mint-based candy canes, so it was something of a revelation that they were even allowed to make fruit flavored ones. As the items above demonstrate, clearly they can and they’re fantastic. According to your humble correspondent, both these and the raspberry flavored canes are far better than the ratings indicate, so give them a whirl. There’s a blueberry variant as well, but my money’s on the cherry.
Price: $9.99 for 12 candy canes
9. Brach’s Red Hots Cinnamon Flavored Candy Canes
If you knew me in real life, one thing you might conclude (as my wife has) is that I live to suffer. Never is this more apparent than in my love for straight whiskey and extremely hot foods. (While we’re on the subject, may I recommend Smoking’ Ed’s The Reaper? It is amazing.) Naturally, then, I would be drawn to the Red Hots version of the Christmas confection. They look the part and cinnamon is, after all, a prominent holiday flavor. Speaking of suffering, you might also consider the Warheads candy canes.
Price: $14.99 for 12 candy canes
10. Hammond’s Candies Handmade Apple Pie Candy Cane
While the smaller candy canes are the typical application, the slightly larger sugar feast of handmade candy canes from small candy shops are equally delicious. This one is apple pie flavored, giving you that spiced end-of-fall experience. Don’t worry, though, they also make standard peppermint candy canes, too.
Price: $4.50 for one two-ounce candy cane
Follow our Christmas category throughout the season for shopping guides from our whole team.