I have a sweet tooth, so I have tried my fair share of candy over the years. During my travels, it was another way to experience the local culture. In some cases, I have found a new obsession while other times it hasn’t been worth the calories.
Now that I have been living in the UK for 2.5 years (and counting), I have had time to taste plenty of British candies. There are many that are quite the treat. Let me tell you more about the best British sweets that are worth trying.
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American vs. British Sweets
Both the US and Britain have plenty of tasty sweets. Some can be found on both sides of the Atlantic. You have to be careful though because even though the name and packaging may look the same, the product is most likely different. The recipes are adjusted for each market.
When it comes to chocolate, I prefer those made in the UK (with a few exceptions). It is creamer and feels better in your mouth. British chocolate tends to have a higher fat and cocoa content, while American chocolate contains more sugar.
The 14 Best British Sweets You Must Try
I put together this list of the sweets from the UK based on my personal taste, so I admit it is a bit subjective. Cadbury does dominate the list because I do love chocolate. Also, I didn’t include any licorice because I don’t like it, but those that do might like to try Black Jacks and Bertie Bassets Licorice Allsorts.
If you are not able to make it to the UK to try these sweets, some are available for purchase (and worldwide delivery) on the British Corner Shop website. Those that want to make sure they can keep a stash of these British candies might enjoy Crate British. It’s a monthly subscription box that includes the best UK snacks.
#1 Cadbury’s Dairy Milk
Cadbury’s Dairy Milk is a creamy milk chocolate. The name may not sound exciting, but let me just say it is divine. It is velvety and the chocolate taste lingers on your tongue. For those that think a plain milk chocolate bar is too boring they also make bars that include caramel, raisins and almonds (called “Fruit & Nut”), and hazelnuts (called “Whole Nut”). Kids will enjoy dairy milk shaped as Freddo the Frog.
Yes, there is a version of Cadbury Dairy Milk sold in the US, produced by Hershey’s, but it isn’t the same thing at all. My British husband won’t touch it!
#2 Mars Bar
Mars Bars are similar to Milky Way candy bars in the US. It’s a candy bar made up of caramel and nougat coated with a layer of chocolate.
There was an American version of the Mars Bar but it was nougat and toasted almonds covered in milk chocolate. (Later, caramel was added). The American version was discontinued in 2002, and then revived the following year under the name “Snickers Almond”.
#3 Wine Gums
Wine gums are like gumdrops without any sugary coating. In spite of the name, they don’t have any alcohol. Traditionally, each piece has the name of an alcoholic drink printed on it, such as port, sherry, champagne, claret and gin. Wine gums are chewy and sweet. Each different color has a different fruit flavor.
#4 Rhubarb & Custard
Rhubarb & Custards are what is sometimes called in the UK a “suckie sweet” or what we would call in the US a hard candy. I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive about trying a candy called rhubarb and custard. It looked appealing enough and it is candy, so how bad could it be? It’s not one of those candies I get a craving for (it’s not chocolate), but I do enjoy them.
These traditional British sweets are half red (rhubarb) and half yellow (custard). The rhubarb part of the candy has a slightly sour taste, while the custard side is creamy and sweet, which is a nice combination.
These are not anything like the Smarties in the US. While the smarties in the US are a tart sugary candy that you hoped to avoid when trick-or-treating, the British version is similar to M&Ms. They come packaged in a hexagonal tube.
The candy shell of a Smartie is thinner and doesn’t give the same crunch as an M&M. All smarties are chocolate (no peanut or other M&M flavors) but the orange ones do have a bit of orange flavoring which pairs nicely with the chocolate.
#6 Curly Wurly
A Curly Wurly is golden thick caramel covered in Cadbury milk chocolate and formed into a unique shape. To me, it looks like either a flattened curl or a model of DNA, but I think it is actually supposed to be a ladder. It’s quite chewy so it takes a bit of effort to eat and may get stuck in your teeth, but it is worth it!
#7 Jelly Babies
Jelly babies are sort of like gummy bears but a bit denser and shaped like babies. It felt a bit odd biting the head off a baby, even if it was candy. They are sweet and are lightly dusted with a white starch coating.
The most popular manufacturer of Jelly Babies is Bassett’s but many companies now make them. If you buy a pack of Bassett’s Jelly Babies each color baby has a name and flavor:
- Brilliant is the red one which tastes like strawberry
- Bubbles is the yellow one which tastes like lemon
- Baby Bonny is the pink one which tastes like raspberry
- Boofuls is the green one which tastes like lime
- Big Heart is the purple one which tastes like blackcurrant
- Bumper is the orange one which tastes like (you guessed it) orange.
These classic sweets were invented by an Austrian immigrant over 150 years ago. Briefly after World War I, they were called Peace Babies to mark the end of the war. Some may have heard of jelly babies from the classic British show, Doctor Who, as it’s one of the Doctor’s favorite treats.
A Flake is a candy bar that is made up of thin layers of Cadbury milk chocolate. The texture is different than anything else I have ever tried. It is the undisputed crumbliest, flakiest candy bar on the market.
Cadbury used highly sensual advertising to promote the Flake. The ads almost always show women enjoying the candy bar. The Flake Girl became famous as a symbol of indulgence and secret pleasure. The jingle was “only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate, tastes like chocolate never tasted before.”
The British love to have one (or more) flakes to top off their soft-serve ice cream cone. They call it a 99, presumably because it originally cost 99 pence, but no one is entirely sure.
A Twirl is like a Flake but it is covered with a coating of Cadbury’s milk chocolate. Legend has it that the Twirl concept came from an over-spill flaw in the Flake manufacturing process. The outer coating keeps the candy bar from crumbling.
It is sold in packages of two bars that are similar in size to a Twix. The Twirl bar also has a snack-sized version called Twirl Bites sold in a bag containing several smaller Twirl like chocolates.
# 10 Maltesers
Maltesers are chocolate covered malt balls that have been marketed as the light way to eat chocolate. They are comparable to milk duds in the US, but I prefer Maltesers because the chocolate is better quality and the malt is not quite as dry.
In January 2017, Maltesers officially became available in the United States for the first time, but the recipe is a bit different. Next time, I am in the US, I will have to try the American version and report back.
Wispa is an aerated chocolate bar made by Cadbury. It has tiny bubbles within the chocolate that come from aerating the molten chocolate with gas while at a high pressure. They do not use air to make the bubbles as this would oxidize the chocolate.
I think the bubbles make the chocolate melt in your mouth faster. It also seems lighter. Wispa is similar to Aero (which is made by Rowntree which is owned by Nestle), but the chocolate seems creamier to me.
#12 Drumstick Squashies
When I think of a drumstick, I either think of poultry or those ice cream cones topped with chocolate and nuts, but these British candies are a cross between a marshmallow and a gummy bear. Drumstick squashies are creamy, soft, and fruity at the same time, but don’t stick to your teeth. They are available in several flavors like bubblegum, sour cherry and apple, and original which is raspberry and milk. You can also get a Drumstick in lollipop form.
# 13 Fruit Pastilles
Fruit Pastilles are like small round gumdrops coated with sugar. They come in five fruity flavors: lemon (yellow), lime (green), strawberry (red), blackcurrant (purple) and orange (orange). These candies are made with fruit juice and have no artificial colors or flavors.
There used to be an advertising campaign encouraging people to try to eat a fruit pastille without chewing, which kind of reminds me of the challenge to eat a tootsie pop just by licking it. I actually think this is the best way to eat a fruit pastille. Allow the sugar to dissolve before chewing the last bit.
#14 Cadbury’s Creme Egg
A Cadbury Creme Egg is an egg-shaped chocolate candy filled with fondant. When you bite into the egg, the creme inside is both white and yellow, similar to what the inside of a real egg would be. It can be messy to eat, so not the best choice when you are on the go.
Similar to Dairy Milk, the versions of Cadbury Creme Eggs in each country are different and more than just the colors on the wrapper. The American version is made by Hershey’s. It’s first listed ingredient is sugar while the British version lists its first ingredient as milk.
Note: Cadbury’s Creme Eggs are only available for a few months leading up to Easter.
This chocolate bar was launched in 1976. The Yorkie gets its name because it used to be made in the lovely city of York. Unlike the other chocolate bars on this list, it is not made by Cadbury. It was made by Rowntree, now Nestle. When you compare a Yorkie to the Cadbury alternative Dairy Milk, it is much thicker, but not quite as creamy.
It used to be marketed just for men, using slogans like:
- “It’s not for girls.”
- “Don’t feed the birds”
- “Not available in pink”
- “King size not queen size”
Now, they have reduced the size of the bars and stopped using those sexist slogans – thank goodness.
Is British Candy better than American Candy?
This is a hard question for me since I am pretty attached to American candy from my childhood. I do love my Kit Kats, Twixes, Reese’s, and Nestle crunches, but the chocolate in Britain is just better. I have become a Cadbury convert! While Cadbury might not be the best chocolate in the world, it’s hard to find a better tasting chocolate for the price.
So then what is my favorite British candy? It’s hard to beat a Cadbury Creme Egg! It is so sweet and chocolatey. Too bad they are only on sale during a limited part of the year. When I can’t get a Cadbury Creme Egg, Dairy Milk will suffice.
You might also enjoy reading about my favorite British foods.
Have you tried any of these British sweets?
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