The official candy bar power rankings
It’s June, which means that we have the longest day of the year to look forward to this month. And after that, it’s all downhill until we descend into complete darkness. You may occasionally wonder, what’s it all for? Is it possible to truly attain intimacy with another person given the loneliness of our individual bodies? Will we ever be able to stop looking at Instagram no matter how many Screen Time limits we put on our phones?
At times like this, all you can do is try your best, and eat a lot of candy. Fortunately, I’m here with the unassailable, infallibly factual and 100% correct L.A. Times Candy Bar Power Rankings. I have judged every candy bar in known existence (with the exception of ones I deemed unworthy or could not find at CVS, or both) and ranked them by the metrics of 1) taste and 2) attractiveness of the wrapper.
1) Take 5
Shut it down. We’ve got a winner. We already loved Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” the jazz piece in 5/4 time that is really, really hard to whistle. We’ve now got the unrelated Take 5 candy bar, which manages to crack the candy bar code with the addition of pretzel.
Pretzels! Of course! The simple, modest pretzel does so much by adding salt and texture, two essential components to a great candy bar. The rest of the bar combines seemingly every other good thing you find in other bars: chocolate, caramel, peanut butter and peanuts. It’s an unbeatable combination.
Wrapper ranking: 24
Remember the good old days when our favorite TV shows used to sell out? Not the sneaky sponsored content of today but, like, very obviously, shamelessly sell out? Bart Simpson shilling for Butterfinger created some pretty good commercials back in the ’80s and ’90s, such as when he illustrated for his friend Milhouse the four food groups: sandwich group, cow group (milk), jungle group (banana), and Butterfinger group.
Butterfinger remains one of the best candy bars out there: the thin, brittle candy layers taste strongly of peanut butter, and there’s a great saltiness to the bar. I used to nibble off the waxy chocolate outside as a kid and eat the candy core in one go.
Wrapper ranking: 16
This thing is salty. It’s really salty. It’s saltier than Twitter whenever Bret Stephens publishes a column. And for that reason, and nearly that reason alone, the Payday bar is extremely good. Why more companies haven’t keyed in to the magical Salt + Sweet = Good equation is confounding, but it makes it all the more satisfying when you find a bar as good as a Payday, a caramel core rolled in salted peanuts. The chewy center can get to be a little much, but it’s a small price to pay for this candy bar par excellence.
Wrapper ranking: 9
Snickers, introduced in 1930, has a done a great job with its marketing over the years, etching the slogan “Packed with peanuts, Snickers really satisfies” into my television-addled brain at a very young age. They successfully convinced a generation that candy is actually a good thing to eat when you’re hungry and that it may even fuel your Olympics and discus-throwing aspirations.
But peanuts, caramel and nougat are a combination that’s hard to argue with, and the classic brown-and-blue design remains attractive to the eye after all these decades.
Wrapper ranking: 7
Let’s give it up for the Toblerone bar: that thing we buy at the airport duty-free store when we have some euros left over from a trip, but not enough for it to be worth exchanging them back to dollars. Toblerone, while still made in Switzerland, is owned by the Illinois-based Mondelez International, formerly known as Kraft Foods. Fun fact: “Mondelez” is literally a nonsense word made up by employees and doesn’t refer to anything. That’s how badly they wanted to change the name.
The Toblerone has an amusing shape — three-dimensional triangles joined together — and the chocolate certainly tastes richer and milkier than your average U.S. bar. I like the sticky nougat chunks dotted throughout that invariably end up deep in your back molars.
Wrapper ranking: 11
The Twix candy bar owes an incalculable debt of gratitude to the Swiss one-hit wonders Yello (and I might be stretching the definition of “hit” in this case), who created the song “Oh Yeah,” featured in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as well as several late-’80s Twix commercials.
Twix isn’t salty enough but is still one of the better candy bars due to the crunch of its bottom cookie layer. Why more candy bars don’t add cookies is a mystery to me: a crisp, crumbly cookie is a perfect foil to sticky caramel.
Wrapper ranking: 18
7) Baby Ruth
It’s been posited that the Baby Ruth candy bar, introduced in 1921, was named after President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth, and not baseball legend Babe Ruth, who was in the prime of his career when the candy hit the market. This makes literally no sense, as Babe Ruth was hugely popular at the time, and Ruth Cleveland had been dead for 17 years when the bar came out. It would be like if I debuted a line of microwavable frozen curries in the Bay Area under the brand Stephen’s Curry, then claimed I’d never heard of the Golden State Warriors. But the courts bought it: Babe Ruth sued the candy maker and lost.
Fortunately, the quality of the candy bar is less debatable. It’s a good candy bar. Peanuts riddle the outside of the solid nougat core (although they’re unsalted), which provides for a crunchy, satisfying snacking experience.
Wrapper ranking: 17
As a bonus, the candy bar is pretty good too, the key being the inclusion of peanut butter-flavored crisped rice, which adds flavor and texture to the chocolate and caramel. But really, I’m all about the aesthetic, embodied in this great late ’80s commercial which easily could have been a Bananarama video.
Wrapper ranking: 1
9) (if eaten frozen. If not, -1,000) Charleston Chew
Fun fact: The Charleston Chew is not, in fact, named after a city in South Carolina but rather the Charleston dance, which was apparently a thing when this candy bar debuted in the 1920s. Why did we stop naming food after dance fads? (It’s important to note that the dance-to-candy-brand journey has worked the other way around, too. See: Laffy Taffy.) Why don’t we now have a candy bar called the Backpack Kid? Someone at Big Candy needs to get on this right away.
The Charleston Chew is mushy and sticky on its own, like a sad Tootsie Roll. It works exponentially better when frozen, however. A cold Charleston becomes light and crunchy, nearly meringue-like, and then yields to a pleasant chewiness.
Wrapper ranking: 5
10) Oh Henry!
Sue Ellen Mischke, the “braless wonder” from Seinfeld and heiress to the Oh Henry! candy bar fortune, may not have used her money on undergarments but certainly had ancestors with good taste in candy.
The Oh Henry! is a sleeper hit: The layers of caramel and nougat might lead you to think it’s going to be another soft, spineless Mars- or Milky Way-like experience, but there are actually peanuts embedded in the caramel, as with a Snickers. The Oh Henry! has a thicker caramel layer, whereas the Snickers has a thicker nougat layer. I slightly prefer the latter, but both are tasty. Would I sell my watch for this bar? Not likely, but I might sell my hair.
Wrapper ranking: 6
11) Cadbury Flake
It’s a little unfair to include a Cadbury Flake, I suppose, because the chocolate standards in the U.K. are so much higher than here in America. But it was important to include a nod to our English allies, especially seeing as they have far superior mass-produced chocolate than we do.
The Cadbury Flake tastes like actual chocolate. The flakiness is a little messy and annoying, and the chocolate a bit grainy, but there’s a milky, chocolatey creaminess present in a way it isn’t in nearly all the mass-market American products. And it’s very good with a soft-serve ice cream cone.
Wrapper ranking: 22
12) Kit Kat
I feel the same way about Kit Kat bars as I feel about the Who. I like, but I do not love. I respect the craft, but I rarely put it on in the car. I don’t seek out Kit Kats, but sometimes I’ll eat one if it’s there and think, “Yeah, that’s not so bad.”
The wafer matters. The layers give a good texture and crunch to the Kit Kat, and it’s nice that they’re very easy to share. It’s fun to try to eat off the individual layers one by one. This does not include the hundreds of different Kit Kat flavors available in Japan, some of which (canteloupe, sake) are really outstanding.
Wrapper ranking: 19
13) Skor and Heath
Hershey’s introduced the Skor bar back when it competed with the Heath bar. Now the company owns Heath and Skor but still puts out both for some reason. Both bars are thin slabs of toffee coated in chocolate. They are virtually identical, but Skor tastes slightly butterier and might be a tiny bit better. Heath, however, has the superior name. “Skor Bar Crunch” ice cream just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Wrapper ranking: 8
14) Almond Joy
Almond Joy and Mounds are similar — so much so that both products used to be advertised in the same commercials with the tagline, “Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t.”
Almond Joy and Mounds are cult favorites — candy bars with small but rabid followings. You’re either a coconut person or you aren’t. And if you are, you really are. Almond Joy is clearly the superior item of the two, because who doesn’t like almonds? The moist coconut is a little cloying and this is a disappointing thing to get during Halloween trick-or-treating, but there are far worse candy bars.
Wrapper ranking: 21
15) Hershey’s Special Dark
While not nearly as good as a quality European dark chocolate, this does actually taste like chocolate, unlike most of Hershey’s products. With a higher cocoa percentage than its milk chocolate counterpart, this has a whisper of the deepness and complexity you’ll find in a good dark chocolate. But it still has that Hershey’s characteristic sourness. Probably better to treat yourself to some Valrhona or something, but the gas station doesn’t usually stock it.
Wrapper ranking: 14
The Chunky bar has always confused me, even as a child, but I respect it for doing its own thing. The Chunky bar is the kid in high school who was an A/V supergeek but so comfortable and guileless about it, it was cool. Why is this candy bar square? Who knows. Who puts raisins in a candy bar? Chunky does.
The peanut and raisin mixture gives it a trail mix feel, and the entire bar tastes vaguely rum raisin-like or like a freshly opened package of cigarettes. Chunky is an odd duck, but I’m glad it exists.
Wrapper ranking: 15
This is Almond Joy without the almonds and with dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. The coconut is fairly meaty in the Mounds bar, and while too sticky and sweet, it’s hard to fault the candy makers — the alternative would be to have drier, flakier coconut, which wouldn’t really work. The dark chocolate is a nice touch.
Wrapper ranking: 20
A Bounty bar is virtually identical to the above Mounds bar so, like Artie on “The Larry Sanders Show,” I’m torn. The Bounty is packed with coconut and covered in milk chocolate. While I like Bounty’s milk chocolate, I prefer the dark chocolate of the Mounds. Bounty’s coconut is a bit more finely minced; the meatier, thicker coconut flakes of the Mounds are better. The Bounty label, it’s worth noting, has a great design with palm trees and cerulean waters you can taste in every bite (not literally).
Wrapper ranking: 3
19) Nestle Crunch
I retroactively call B.S. on this aggressively cheery Nestle Crunch commercial from the 1980s, which features people biting into the candy bar and eliciting a sound-barrier-breaking crunch. It certainly didn’t do that when I bit into it.
This, along with candy bars like Krackel, are really only useful at Halloween, doled out in fun-size portions. While the crispy rice adds texture to the chocolate, the overall effect doesn’t exactly inspire. The best qualities of this bar are the various online memes inspired by the commercial. If you’re a Nestle Crunch fan, try tracking down a Crunky, a Japanese variation on this theme.
Wrapper ranking: 10
20) 100 Grand
I was looking forward to 100 Grand being a sleeper fave, but it came up short. It’s a pleasant-enough candy with a great look and name, but it’s just not that good. The crisped rice in the chocolate adds some welcome texture, but this bar is essentially a big, chewy lump of caramel that lacks proper saltiness. The attractive wrapper may draw you in and convince you otherwise though.
Wrapper ranking: 4
21) 5th Avenue
The 5th Avenue, with layered peanut butter-flavored candy brittle covered in chocolate, was created in response to the Butterfinger candy bar. It’s just not nearly as good. It’s too sugar-forward and lacks the saltiness and peanut butter punch of the Butterfinger. The logo on the wrapper is excellent.
Wrapper ranking: 2
A Mars bar, with chocolate nougat and caramel, is essentially the U.K. version of a Milky Way. There used to be a with-almonds version that was sadly discontinued, as the Mars suffers from the same issues that face the Milky Way and similar bars: too soft and a very uniform texture.
Wrapper ranking: 25
23) Reese’s Fast Break
I was a little confused by the description for this bar, “milk chocolate, peanut butter and nougats,” as I always thought the plural of “nougat” was “nougat.” But I was willing to be wrong; maybe there were several nougats inside this Reese’s Fast Break.
Nope, it was one nougat. There’s also peanut butter, the good, grainy, salty kind that comes in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. But like your ex-boyfriend, it has no backbone and is far too soft. A mushy disappointment.
Wrapper ranking: 27
24) Milky Way
See Mars bar. There’s not nearly enough salt in this bar, and it’s too soft in the middle, like the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s” album. While I appreciate the old commercials that claimed eating a Milky Way was like drinking a quarter cup of milk (that’s supposed to be appetizing?) I see little reason to ever consume one.
Wrapper ranking: 23
25) Oreo Chocolate Candy Bar
This is a candy bar version of the Oreo: Chocolate outside with a white mystery cream center. Cookie bits dotted throughout the oily middle make it somewhat nice to munch on, but if you’re like me, you actually prefer the Oreo Thins precisely because there’s less of that gross, waxy center. To this I say, no, thank you.
Wrapper ranking: 30
What is this nonsense? This is a just a Hershey bar, only slightly less bad. What was released in the ’80s as a fancy-pants chocolate alternative targeted at people who go to the symphony, I suppose, it’s still the same, disappointing Hershey’s chocolate. It is marginally — and I mean by a hair’s breadth — more creamy, which I suppose makes it better.
Wrapper ranking: 28
27) Mr. Goodbar
Unlike the 1977 Diane Keaton film “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” this is a chocolate candy bar loaded with peanuts. Similar to the film, consuming it was a horrible, scarring experience that ended in tears.
The first three ingredients on the Mr. Goodbar are sugar, peanuts and vegetable oil. The fourth is chocolate. Unsurprisingly, this tastes absolutely nothing like chocolate. It resembles chocolate in the same way grape soda resembles an actual grape. The one saving grace is that it has a lot of peanuts — nearly enough to bring this back from the brink of inedibility, but not really.
Wrapper ranking: 12
28) Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme
Do you like eating candles? Then you’ll love the Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme bar, which has tiny cookie bits embedded into sallow, waxy white chocolate. One one hand, white chocolate is gross. On the other hand, it’s also terrible and fit for consumption by bugs, rodents, and select birds.
Wrapper ranking: 29
29) 3 Musketeers
Booooorinnnng. 3 Musketeers is boring. 3 Musketeers is the candy bar equivalent of TV’s “Modern Family” — very little substance, has been around for freaking ever, and makes you think, “Who likes this? Does anyone actually like this?”
The 3 Musketeers bar is filled with nougat and exclusively nougat. Nobody wants a candy bar that’s just nougat. Are we not in America? Are we not free to put whatever ridiculous things we want into a candy bar? Not even a semblance of flavor or textural variation? The only good thing I can think of is its name, which makes it the sole candy bar named for characters in a work of 19th century French literature. But that’s it!
Wrapper ranking: 26
30) Hershey’s Milk Chocolate
In the European Union, cocoa solids must comprise 30% of a chocolate bar for it to be considered chocolate. In the United States, that number is a staggeringly low 10%. That leaves a lot of room for miscellaneous solids and emulsifiers.
Hershey’s chocolate is bad. And, at least by some standards, it’s barely chocolate. I understand that Hershey’s makes a large number of the candy bars included on this list, and that each contains its chocolate. But in the context of, say, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, the quality of the chocolate isn’t really noticeable.
In an actual Hershey’s bar, however, all you get is the chocolate, and so the flavor really comes to the forefront: acrid, waxy, almost rancid-tasting. A biting sweetness is followed by a terrible, sour aftertaste that stays on the tongue. Use this to wax your surfboard, or maybe for s’mores, but I cannot recommend consuming it for any other reason.
Wrapper ranking: 13
Eat your way across L.A.
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