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Salt water taffy is a candy with a personality all its own. It reminds us of sunny days at the beach, walking in our flip flops up the boardwalk, looking at all the amazing things we can eat. It's one of those treats that we equate with summer and lazy days. Right up there with the smell of salty air and sunscreen, hot dogs, and french fries is the sticky smell of sugar being cooked to be made into fresh salt water taffy.
Taffy is one of the easiest candies to make—it used to be one of the first cooking lessons given to children—because of the simplicity of the recipe. Plus, there's the really fun part of “pulling” the taffy all on your own or with a friend to produce the final texture of the candy, which is somewhat soft with a melt-in-your-mouth sensation. Today, you can find traditional, baton-shaped salt water taffy that's made by pulling if you're after that nostalgic, authentic bite. However, some of the newer brands make their taffy by whipping the candy during the preparation process, which makes for a bit softer texture, and churn out more of a bonbon shape.
One of the greatest things about salt water taffy is that it holds any flavor the cook chooses. The flavors range from the very basic to indulgent, inspired concoctions in taste.
Here, we’ve found the best salt water taffy that can be ordered right to your home so you can enjoy the flavor of beach days and summer, wherever you are.
Best Overall: Shriver's Salt Water Taffy
Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy and Fudge opened in 1898 on the Ocean City Boardwalk and has been making salt water taffy there ever since. This 1-pound box has a neat old-fashioned look. It holds 40 to 42 individually wrapped stick-shaped pieces of taffy in an astonishing 17 different flavors, so there’s something for everyone.
Family operated for three generations, Shriver’s has the taste and texture of traditional hand-pulled taffy, reviving memories of days at the beach that ended with a box of salt water taffy to take home as a delightful souvenir.
Best Jumbo Assortment: Sweet's Salt Water Taffy, Assorted Flavors
Sweet's Salt Water Taffy is a West Coast candy company that first opened in 1892 in Portland, Oregon, and then moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. As a fifth-generation family business, the original excellent quality of the product remains consistent, but today they’ve developed more than 50 different flavors that are showcased in this 3-pound jumbo assortment bag. Sweet’s taffy is whipped rather than pulled during the candy-making process for a lighter texture. The package holds approximately 210 pieces.
Best for Kids: Taffy Shop Unicorn Poop Salt Water Taffy
Taffy Shop, located in Utah, specializes in making a salt water taffy that’s very light and super soft, using a special conditioning and whipping process. It’s also the home of a special salt water taffy well-loved by kids: Unicorn Poop Candy. It’s cake-batter flavored, individually wrapped, and packaged in a themed bag that holds approximately 25 pieces, weighing 7 ounces. It's great as a gift for anyone who loves unicorns, and is always appreciated as a birthday party favor.
Best Sugar/Gluten-Free: Zollipops Zaffi Taffy Clean Teeth Taffy
Zollipops, out of Wolverine Lake, Michigan, is an interesting candy company. The creator of this taffy and current CEO of Zollipops company is 16-year-old Alina Morse, who wanted to make a candy she could consume with her parents’ approval. It's sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and kosher. This 3-ounce package has about 15 pieces of assorted fruit flavors. It’s a great way to do a taste test to see if this is the taffy that can truly fulfill your cravings without making a big investment.
Best Sour Assortment: Taffy Town Sassy Taffy Sour Fruits
Taffy Town, a candy manufacturing company near Salt Lake City, Utah, was founded more than 100 years ago, and it originally made many kinds of candy. One day, the founder decided to focus only on creating “taffy excellence," and it’s been a great success. Creating new taffy flavors is something Taffy Town does exceptionally well: This collection of sour fruit flavors is both delicious and unusual—and for taffy lovers, pretty exciting. It comes packaged in a 30-ounce bag holding approximately 120 pieces of whipped taffy.
Best Spicy and Sweet: Taffy Town Chili Mango Saltwater Taffy
We’re obsessed with this chili-mango saltwater taffy that blends these two flavors that work so well together in a sweet, soft candy that’s irresistible for those who love sweetness and spice in the same bite. Taffy Town, a taffy-flavor innovator, makes this salt water taffy and packages it in a 2.5-pound bag, which holds approximately 150 bonbon-shaped individually wrapped pieces. Soft in texture, it has a nicely layered flavor profile in taste.
Best Unusual Flavor: Cactus Candy Company Prickly Pear Taffy
This specialty flavor of salt water taffy is made by the Cactus Candy Company in Phoenix, Arizona, whose mission is to bring the local flavor of the prickly pear (also called the cactus fruit) to the world. Prickly pears are native to the Americas, though they’re now grown in other parts of the world. Their flavor is fruity, sweet, and slightly earthy. Packaged in a 4-ounce bag that holds approximately 15 pieces, this is a fantastic way to experience a new flavor, and it’s also great for gifting.
Best Boxed: Fralinger's Original Salt Water Taffy
Fralinger’s is a classic old-fashioned salt water taffy shop that was opened on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1884 by Joseph Fralinger. He began offering molasses-flavored salt water taffy by 1885, followed soon by the invention of a total of 25 flavors, the largest selection available in Atlantic City at the time. An astute marketer, he was also the first to pack his salt water taffy in 1-pound oyster boxes with souvenir decals to take home after a day at the beach and boardwalk.
This is a replica of the original 1920s salt water taffy souvenir box filled with 1 pound of pulled individually wrapped stick-shaped pieces of salt water taffy. You can choose to fill the box with assorted flavors, choose your own variety, or pick a single flavor taffy from 13 different flavors.
If you’re looking for a true old-fashioned salt water taffy experience, Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy (view at Amazon) has the texture, look, and taste. Looking for a salt water taffy that's sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and kosher? Zollipops Zaffi Taffy Clean Teeth Taffy (view at Amazon) is definitely a great choice.
What to Look for in Salt Water Taffy
Though salt water taffy originated in the Eastern United States, it’s also made in other places. If the history of salt water taffy as a celebratory treat at boardwalks on the Atlantic Ocean matters to you, choose a taffy made by a company located in one of those areas. There are, additionally, a number of manufacturers in other parts of the U.S. that make excellent products, many of which have made a name for themselves without ever going near an ocean boardwalk. The more salt water taffy you eat, the more you’ll recognize the same names that stand for quality.
The original salt water taffy was made by pulling and stretching the candy during the preparation process for a final product that had a specific texture: soft, but slightly chewy. Many of the newer brands of salt water taffy are made by whipping the candy during the preparation process, which makes a softer texture that’s easier to bite.
It’s usual practice to wrap pieces of salt water taffy individually since they’re sticky and can become a big mess if each piece is not wrapped.
Discovering a favorite salt water taffy flavor is part of the charm of what this candy’s all about. There’s a wide range of flavors in most brands of salt water taffy so that after learning the basics, you can explore endlessly to find the special flavors you’ll love.
Though salt water taffy is a fairly simple recipe based on a blend of sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, glycerine, water, butter, salt, flavoring, and coloring, it may have other ingredients, depending on the manufacturer and the recipe. Always check for allergens if it matters to you, unless the product specifies that it’s allergen-free.
Generally, if you’re ordering salt water taffy from a vendor that has a good turnover, the candy will be fresh. You might want to double-check for freshness if you’re buying from a local store that doesn't have the same turnover.
What is salt water taffy?
Salt water taffy is an iconic American candy that became popular in the early 1900s when it was made and sold by a few vendors on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. One of the vendors came up with a marketing scheme to package the candy in an attractive souvenir take-home box, and over time salt water taffy became an important part of a trip to the beach. It’s a soft, easily eaten candy with seemingly endless possibilities in terms of how many flavors can be invented.
How is salt water taffy made?
The basic ingredients are brought to a boil, and then the taffy is either “pulled” (by hand or by machine) or whipped until it cools. The two methods produce different textures. It’s then cut into bite-size pieces and individually wrapped.
Does salt water taffy go bad?
The general answer to this question is: No, it can’t go bad. It can, however, melt if left at high temperatures, and if left for many months or years the flavors can become less intense and the texture of the candy can become harder. There are some salt water taffies being made that have ingredients that are not in the traditional recipes, such as egg whites or milk powder. These products have the potential to degrade more quickly than the traditional taffies.
Can you freeze salt water taffy?
Yes. You can freeze salt water taffy and defrost it when you’re ready to eat it.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Karen Resta is a writer specializing in food culture and history, cooking, pastries, and restaurants. She's also a former pastry chef and has traveled to Budapest, Kyiv, and Paris during their Fashion Weeks as a photographer and writer, always finding the best authentic pastries along the way. She now spends a lot of her free time baking at home and always recommends quality within your given budget. Native to New England, she prefers the traditional, baton-shaped, pulled salt water taffy over the whipped bonbons, but has been known to quickly eat many pieces of the bonbon type if nobody’s looking.