The official Halloween candy power rankings
Halloween, like goodness, happiness and truth, is largely canceled this year, which I can only describe as a full-to-bursting septic tank that has been emptied in your living room, filled again with flesh-eating scorpions and then dumped into your mouth while you’re asleep.
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. And while the youngsters won’t be trick-or-treating nearly as much this year (except possibly in Florida), there’s no reason why you can’t have a depressing neighborhood-wide Zoom call where the kids show off their costumes and then parents all Venmo each other money to safely buy candy from Walgreens.
It’s in that spirit that I present to you the totally unassailable, airtight and indisputable L.A. Times Halloween Candy Power Rankings. I’ve ranked candy before and I’ll likely do it again, but for this particular piece I’m changing up the metrics a bit: First, 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? Second, I’m judging by Halloween Trade Value (HTV): Everyone knows that a big part of trick-or-treating is swapping candy with your friends and siblings when the evening is over. Certain pieces are worth more than others.
Happy Halloween, friends, and eat up: If you think 2021 is going to be any better, I have a bridge to sell you!
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. (Have you ever had artisanal peanut butter cups? They just don’t do the trick.)
Additionally, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have high trade value. A full-sized cup might yield you a Snickers and a Kit Kat, four Dum Dums or a handful of lesser candy.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 2
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.
I could make the obvious cat connotation with the name — cats are a particularly Halloween-esque animal — but that’s pushing things. Trade value on Kit Kats is decent, not exceptional.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 12
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. Your kids will thank you for buying these (after they burst into tears when you tell them they can’t go trick-or-treating). An unimpeachable choice, and very good trade value.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 5
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.
Is Twix an empirically better candy bar than, say, a Snickers? No, but I was always more excited to get a Twix in my bag at Halloween: They were slightly less common and the crunchy, crumbly texture mixed things up a bit.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 10
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.
For the record, the proper subranking of original Starburst candies, from best to worst, is: strawberry, cherry, lemon, orange.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 18
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. These packs have very good HTV.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 4
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. Delicious (in my opinion), but people usually fall pretty firmly on one side of the fence or the other with these.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 21
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. Snickers have wide appeal and therefore good trade value, and can be traded one-to-one for nearly any item you could desire.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 8
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 sometimes lacerates your tongue makes all the difference. These have good HTV.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 7
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!
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 11
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. Trade value of these isn’t the best, because they’re pretty common at Halloween.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 19
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 ’80s commercial that are easily found with a YouTube search. Crunch bars are perennial favorites but are in reality utterly average chocolate bars.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 16
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.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 24
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.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 17
15. Baby Ruth
A very good candy bar with decent HTV 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.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 13
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? — but they’re not particularly Halloween-y. Trade value with Raisinets suffers slightly because of an unfair perception of healthfulness.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 25
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. Trade-wise, even a handful of these won’t get you much. If this were Settlers of Catan, Tootsie Rolls would be sheep.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 29
18. Pop Rocks
We all need a little danger in our lives. 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 and have a very good trade value.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 6
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. That’s not a bad thing, but I rarely have a hankering for it.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 20
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. Useful if you don’t have all your teeth, but it’s not my favorite.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 14
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. They’re mouth-puckering and tacky, though, and have a very decent trade value with the other kids.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 9
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. They last for what seems like forever in your mouth, followed by an eternity stuck in your molars.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 28
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.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 31
24. Jolly Rancher, Now & Later and Dots
Not particularly exciting candies, these and Tootsie Rolls usually are what’s left at the bottom of the bag. In the candy scientific kingdom, these all belong in the subphylum “Things That Pull Out Your Fillings.”
Now & Laters are probably my favorite of this group. Resilient and fruity, the texture is what you might get if you left Starbursts under the couch for eight months or so. They are produced by the Ferrara Candy Co., makers of Lemonheads and Nerds.
The HTV on these isn’t fantastic — you’ll need quite a few to trade up to a Snickers or better.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 26
25. Candy jewelry and novelty lips
In a funny bit of irony, these are simultaneously the most valuable items you can get on Halloween but also the absolutely worst tasting.
Candy jewelry, necklaces and bracelets taste like sweetened blackboard erasers. Novelty lips — usually either wax lips or a pacifier-shaped lollipop with lips on the end — aren’t a whole lot better.
That doesn’t matter, of course, because they’re fun and hilarious as well as highly sought after rarities during trick-or-treating. That’s why these have, by a long shot, the highest trade value of the bunch. A single candy necklace can get you your pick of whatever’s in your friend’s candy bag.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 1
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 (My Instagram handle is even staletwizzlers!). 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?
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 23
27. 3 Musketeers
I just don’t like 3 Musketeers bars. They’re airy, whipped nonsense redeemed only slightly by a reference to French swashbuckling.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 15
28. Popcorn ball
These work well in theory but only if they’re homemade. And there’s just no way you’re going to be giving out homemade treats for Halloween, even if the dangers of candy tampering are largely apocryphal.
The store-bought popcorn ball I had was, how shall I put this, very bad. Rock solid and far too sweet. I defend them as an idea, though, and would have been excited to get one as a kid.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 22
When I think about packs of gum at Halloween, I think about the old Peanuts cartoons where Charlie Brown’s friends get all kinds of goodies but he always gets a rock. “I got a pack of gum!” exclaims one of the gang before poor Charlie Brown says, “I got a rock.”
Chances are you’re not actually getting an entire pack of Juicy Fruit or Doublemint at Halloween, which would be great. Instead, you’re getting Super Bubble or some other pink, powdery, baseball-card-tough gum that loses its flavor 1.2 seconds after hitting your tongue.
Gum is a useful stopgap, however, in that it forces you to take a break from your candy-devouring orgy — provided you don’t accidentally swallow it.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 27
You can’t eat money (usually), but we all knew that there were some neighbors who, in lieu of buying candy, got out the ol’ change jar and gave kids loose nickels and dimes, or maybe a quarter if you were lucky. It made your entire candy bag smell like metal, but if there was something you coveted that your friend had, it usually meant you could buy it off of them.
Then, of course, there were the kids whose parents wouldn’t let them trick-or-treat and had to collect money for UNICEF. A far nobler ambition than merely gorging yourself on corn syrup, certainly, but why put that burden on your children? We with the candy just ended up resenting those kids, because our parents inevitably felt bad and made us share our bounty with them.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 3
31. 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 pantry. 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. Otherwise, my friends and I and several rolls of toilet paper will be paying a visit to the trees in your front yard later tonight.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 30
Sign up for the Pacific Insider newsletter
PACIFIC magazine delivers the latest restaurant and bar openings, festivals and top concerts, every Tuesday.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Pacific San Diego.