Questionable Candy Cane Flavors Nobody Asked For

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The candy cane is a minty, Christmastime confection synonymous with fresh breath, sticky fingers, and, of course, holiday cheer. Though its origins are a bit murky, History claims that in the 1670s in Germany, this OG candy was given to young choir kids during Christmas mass as a way to keep them from fidgeting. (Because everyone knows that sugar has a calming effect on children.) The candy canes were pure white and tasted like sugar. Because that's what it was. A cane-shaped stick of white sugar. It's also assumed that the red striping, which made its appearance in the early 1900s, was a marketing ploy. This is also when peppermint became the candy cane's signature flavor.

Fast-forward to the modern day, and the candy cane has definitely expanded its flavorful horizons. Some of them are relatively benign, like chocolate mint, Skittles, and Froot Loops. But then there's the hidden underbelly of the candy cane world that totes flavors that are more akin to Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. Except when you open the candy cane packaging, you know exactly what you're getting into. These questionable flavors range from savory to spicy; they taste cheesy or meaty. Luckily for you, there are 25 of them from which to choose. But this also begs the question: who's responsible for this flavor madness, and who on earth would want to eat a yuletide sugar stick that tastes like butter — or worse?

1. Coffee

This is most likely one candy cane flavor on this list that you should worry least about because coffee-flavored candy exists all over the place. Werther's, Coffee Rio, and Kopiko are all brands that produce coffee-flavored sugar bites because they know that it's a taste sensation you can't go wrong with. People know what coffee tastes like, so they'll either try it or they'll be part of the anti-coffee party and say, "Thanks, but no, thanks." There's even candy cane-flavored coffee. So why wouldn't it work?

These coffee candy canes, which are reminiscent of those cream-filled wafer cookies that look like straws, are made by a rather weird online company known as Archie McPhee and are presumably sweetened. As Totally the Bomb noted, the product claims to taste like a "freshly brewed cup of coffee." Unfortunately, if you're planning on giving these out as gifts, you're going to have to look hard. Because this flavor is so tame, it seems like they're no longer in production. Not enough shock value, huh?

2. Bah, Humbug

Ah, yes. This is the candy cane for people who absolutely despise the holidays and anything having to do with the festive winter season. This particular Christmastime treat ranks pretty high for having a tolerable flavor because, well, it doesn't taste like anything.

The Bah Humbug candy cane is rather reminiscent of a cane that a grumpy old miser would whack you with (for saying "happy holidays" or smiling in general). It's 10 inches of hard, flavorless, colorless, stripe-less candy that's screams, "I hate the holidays, so leave me alone!" The strangest thing about this oversized candy (can you even call it candy?) is that there's nothing going on with it, which makes you wonder if you're actually supposed to eat it or just look at it with a confused look plastered across your face. It's the perfect gift for the Scrooge in your circle. Just make sure they don't try to actually use it to knock the Christmas spirit out of anyone they get close to.

3. Krampus

When it comes to holiday archetypes, we all know about Santa Claus, aka Saint Nicholas. During Christmas, this stand-up guy rewards all the little children who have been good throughout the year. You know, kids that did their chores, didn't back-talk the parents, and ate their veggies. Those types of kids. On the other side of the holiday's spectrum is Nick's demonic half-goat, half-demon counterpart, who goes by the name of Krampus (not Krampus Claus), via All That's Interesting. Some say he and Saint Nick are legit bros, but who really knows? Krampus kind of acts like Santa's bodyguard when naughty children come at him demanding presents and pretending that they were the pinnacle of goodness all year long. Instead, these little fibbers get shoved in a backpack and taken down to hell, where they're promptly eaten by the K man himself.

That took a turn for the worst, didn't it? Well, it gets better (sort of) because there's a candy cane that's supposed to taste like this demonic dude. If you're wondering what on earth a half-goat, half-demon monster might taste like, well, it's obvious. Cinnamon (sans the brimstone).

4. Coal

Coal is what Santa is supposed to give you if you've been a bad kid. Though we personally think that getting coal from Mr. Claus is much better than opening the door on Christmas Eve and saying "hi" to Krampus, don't you agree?

Theoretically speaking, if you were to eat coal or coal ash, don't expect to feel too hot. Coal contains toxic elements like arsenic and mercury, per the EPA, so it's not meant to be eaten. Also, don't get coal, coal ash, or charcoal mixed up with activated charcoal, which is toted by Healthline as having some health benefits, like whitening your teeth or preventing gas. It can also be used in emergency poisoning situations.

So what does the coal candy cane taste like? We can't speak from experience, but apparently it has a smoky cinnamon taste. Doesn't sound that bad actually, except we suspect that your mouth might turn black.

5. Shiitake mushrooms

Umami, the fifth "flavor" (it's not actually a flavor, by the way), is characterized as meaty and balanced, and it basically makes you drool because it's that darn tasty, per Ajinmoto. It's naturally occurring and can be found in foods like aged cheeses, soy, seaweed, and the beloved mushroom. Umami is also known to have a particular underlying funk, just like mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms are incredibly meaty, so they hold up well to grilling and broiling. They also work well when filled with cheese and breadcrumbs. Like most 'shrooms, they have a particular earthy flavor that can be an acquired taste for some. (In other words, they taste a bit like dirt.)

With a funky, meaty dirt taste, shiitake mushrooms were just screaming to be turned into a candy cane. The holiday candy gods delivered on that (or maybe it was Krampus) by bringing you the definitely gag-worthy shiitake candy cane. It tastes like an earthy mushroom, but with a rather disgusting sweetness mixed in. It's a literal gag gift.

6. Kale

There's so much stigma surrounding kale. Remember when kale was the new It food? Every food niche somehow had this bitter green stuff in it. Marketing gurus laid it on thick, from your typical kale salad to fried kale chips — even pesto and chimichurri. Kale spread across the marketing world like butter across melted bread. So does it really surprise you that it was made into a candy cane?

While this tough, leafy green certainly packs a punch in the nutritional department (Healthline says that a cup of raw kale has 206% of your daily recommended vitamin A, 684% of your vitamin K, and 134% of your vitamin C), that doesn't mean it should be transformed into a festive and sugary treat. Or does it? After all, these kale candy canes visually match the Christmas color scheme, don't they?

Remember, mama always said to eat your greens. Just remember that when it comes to kale candy canes versus real kale, you're going to be choosing tough and bitter and bitter, earthy, and yucky sweet. So it's just the lesser of two evils.

7. Caesar salad

According to Verywell Fit, you're supposed to get at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. One of the easiest ways to get your greens is to just eat a salad. Sure, a majority of Americanized salads can be summed up as "would you like some lettuce with your salad," as they often boast a lot of cheese, croutons, and other toppings, but not the classic Caesar. This salad is one of the most popular salads in the world, according to the food data blog Erudus.

In the United States, it's typical and almost expected to see some sort of Caesar salad offering on a restaurant menu, and candy canes are a popular Christmastime treat. Then creating a Caesar salad candy cane seems like it would be a match made in marketing heaven, right?

Yes and no. It's great as a gimmick, but not in a "wow, that is a tasty treat" sort of way. Candy canes are sweet and minty. Caesar salad is vegetal, creamy, salty, and sharp. It also has a tad bit of anchovies mixed in for a hit of umami flavor. All you need is a kale candy cane, and then you can make a kale Caesar salad.

8. Pickle

Pickle-flavored foods have been around for a while, so this seems a bit on the tame side compared to the other zany flavors we've seen thus far. Upon opening the package, be warned: your nose will be overloaded by dill. The pickle cane also has hints of vinegar, mustard seed, and fennel, with the flavor ultimately stacking up to something like a bread and butter pickle.

As mentioned, random foods with the eau de pickle have been around for quite some time, per Refinery29, so don't expect to be surprised by the pickle candy cane. In fact, some people actually enjoy these dill-tastic treats. That includes children, who apparently appreciate the slightly vinegary pickle undertones that are hiding beneath the sweetness of the cane. In all honesty, kids also like weird food, which the parenting site NewFolks chalks up to experimenting with different flavor profiles and textures. But still. A pickle in candy cane form? That's kind of a weird dill.

9. Pizza

It's hot, it's cheesy, and it can be personalized with toppings of your choice. In all honesty, we're surprised it hasn't yet been considered its own food group — it's pizza. One of the best things about pizza is that it's incredibly versatile. You can eat it hot or cold, crust first or topping by topping. It's also completely suitable to eat pizza for any meal of the day. Almost.

Sure, some candy companies serve up gummy sweets that look just like a mini pizza pepperoni and mushroom pizza (and they pull apart into individual slices, too). But do they actually taste like a legit pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, and black olive deep-dish pie? The answer is a hard no. Why? Because it would be a horrifyingly textural nightmare, and the thought of combining savory and gummy candy — cringe.

So why not opt for a hard sweet treat like the pizza candy cane. If you're not sure what terrifying taste awaits you once you peel back that plastic wrap, just know that it's been compared to a sugary dog treat with a subtle pepperoni essence.

10. Hot dog

Just like most people love pizza, almost everyone loves a good hot dog. They're a pretty nostalgic food, too. Think about all the times you've enjoyed a good frank. Maybe you had one at a baseball game with your dad and grandpa, or perhaps you've enjoyed a nice grilled brat during a Fourth of July barbecue. As a kid, you might've been served sliced wieners with macaroni and cheese. Oh, and, of course, there's the annual hot dog eating competition where we get to watch adults like Joey Chestnut hoover as many hot dogs as they can in 10 minutes, per Major League Eating.

While they taste absolutely fantastic, you also don't really want or need to know what exactly goes into making hot dogs. Some things better are left unknown. You know what else should be left alone? Turning a hot dog into a candy cane. Why? Because no one should have to try something that's described as both sweet and meaty. No. This is a holiday-themed hard handy stick that probably smells like old hot dog water. In fact, a hot dog candy cane is probably Krampus' snack of choice.

11. Sour cream and onion

If you're going to eat a hot dog, then you're going to need chips. (Truth.) Why not go one step further and elevate your hot dog by adding crumbled potato chips for a nice and flavorful crunch? While chips and dogs are always a winning combination, we think that turning one of the most aggressively potent potato chips known to man into a candy cane is pretty darn evil. Oh, the humanity. Sour cream and onion has a tangy, somewhat sweet, rather vinegary, abruptly onion-y, and overall creamy taste. Which is perfect for a candy cane ... said no one, ever (except the manufacturer).

But they do serve a rather diabolical purpose. You know how kids somehow discover where you've stashed the rest of the year's candy canes? (Hey, we're all about sharing, but candy canes come out once a year. You have to ration those babies.) Well, swap out your favorite canes with some sour cream and onion ones, as one customer did. There will be a newfound yet silent, mutual agreement between you and your mini-me confirming that stealing is indeed wrong, and that there will be repercussions.

12. Mac and cheese

That box of Kraft mac and cheese is synonymous with childhood comfort food, and for a good reason. Who doesn't like cheese? Who doesn't like noodles? It's a match made in heaven, just like peanut butter and jelly or spaghetti and meatballs. (Please never make those into candy cane flavors.) Kids are all about Christmas cookies, sweets, and treats, too. So why not turn to the dark side and bring forth a candy cane that tastes like the beloved cheesy meal in a box?

This particular candy cane actually smells just like the packet of neon orange powdered "cheese" (if you can call that cheese) that comes in the Kraft box, according to The Impulsive Buy. But that's where the similarities end, because it's then described as tasting like a normal candy cane that's been dunked in Cheetos powder.

A mac and cheese candy cane. That's pretty messed up. Why would you want to ruin someone's childhood like that? Is this Krampus' doing?

13. Pho

They went there – pho real. It does make some sort of sense, if you think about it in terms of a menu. If you already have a salad option, you need to have soup. While today's pho options can get pretty extravagant, via Vietnam Times, this classic comfort food originally consisted of three ingredients: bone broth, thinly sliced beef, and noodles. It's kind of like the Vietnamese equivalent to chicken noodle soup, which has yet to be turned into a candy cane (but is probably in the works for next year). The broth simmers with pungent herbs and spices, like ginger root, star anise, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, and clove. Cinnamon is basically the olfactory representation of the Christmas spirit, so maybe we're getting somewhere.

Logically speaking, if cinnamon equals Christmas and Christmas equals candy canes, then somehow turning pho, which uses cinnamon, into a candy cane works, right? Eh, sort of, kind of, not really. Pho candy canes aren't going to warm your belly like a comforting bowl of soup, but apparently they're not that bad, according to Today. The site's major flavor gripe is that it lacked in the ginger department.

14. Sriracha

Sriracha has just as big of a following as ketchup. This electric red sauce has a bright, tangy, salty, funky flavor with more than just a kick of heat. Sriracha, or "rooster sauce," gets its spice from red jalapeños, which are just the same as the green ones but more mature, per PepperScale. This pungently potent condiment also contains sugar, salt (and a lot of it), garlic powder, and distilled vinegar. Do you know what that spells? The perfect flavor for a candy cane — just kidding.

Sriracha will wake your mouth right up, but not in a good way. (Maybe that's why its emblem is a rooster.) According to Incredible Things, this sriracha candy cane is incredibly hot. What's even worse is that they look like normal candy canes, so it would be a dirty trick if you were to sneak a few in with a regular batch for a sweet and spicy surprise. There are some things that don't need to be transformed into candy canes — or anything else, really — and sriracha is one of those things.

15. Wasabi

This vivid green, spice-centric paste is normally served at your local Japanese restaurant or sushi joint, and typically arrives in a little dish that's conveniently separated from everything else on the plate. Why? Because everything it touches will burn. Kind of. This is wasabi. It's used in multiple applications, besides hanging out with sushi. Mix it with mayo and make a spicy aioli for fish tacos, or add it to mashed potatoes to make a unique twist on a holiday side dish. Wasabi's bright green color makes it look so inviting, vibrant, and festive. It's like a little bit of holiday cheer that's been carefully placed in front of you, right next to the small saucer of pickled ginger ribbons and raw fish.

But too much wasabi will give you the dreaded nose burn. It's a painful, searing sensation that causes your eyes to water, nose to run, and you to involuntarily smack both hands on your head in shock while you gasp for air. But hey, it also clears out your sinuses. With wasabi candy canes, you're not going to get any refreshing wintergreen or peppermint taste. Oh no. You'll just feel the burn.

16. Ketchup

There are people who like ketchup, and then there are people who really, really like ketchup. As in, it's a borderline condiment obsession, but one that evokes fond, childhood memories and a sense of comfort, as noted on Greatist. These particular individuals put the tangy, sweet stuff on pretty much everything: eggs, fried foods, meats, chips, veggies ... not ice cream, though. You have to stop somewhere. It's called setting boundaries. (You know who you are, and there is absolutely no shame.)

We're sure that these festive-colored ketchup candy canes taste absolutely fantastic (to ketchup aficionados maybe), but really? Remember those boundaries we were talking about? They have most definitely been crossed here. While there are much worse things that candy canes could taste like (because they're on this list), Archie McPhee's didn't need to produce ketchup candy canes. 

We're left with just one question: Where's the mustard?

17. Butter

Butter lovers rejoice! For those of you who feel like everything is better with this rich, spreadable condiment, your prayers have been answered. Now you can enjoy butter on your toast, butter on your baked potato, and butter in stick form ... but not like a rectangular stick. We're talking about butter-flavored candy canes.

Theoretically speaking, when it comes to flavor, a butter candy cane could possibly work. After all, there are companies like Life Savers and Werther's that sell buttered rum-flavored hard candies, and they're not a seasonal product, either. The main ingredients in hot buttered rum are butter, rum, and brown sugar. That doesn't sound too bad, does it? Unfortunately, this yellow and white striped butter-flavored cane is not buttered rum. Just imagine going to your local movie theater and helping yourself to a nice big, paper cup of room-temperature popcorn butter. You know, the stuff that comes out of the pump and coats your mouth with a waxy residue? No thanks. That SpongeBob SquarePants-meets-Popeye mascot isn't helping, either.

18. Gravy

Is there anyone in the world that loves gravy just on its own? Apparently the answer is yes, because this candy cane monstrosity was created. Right off the bat, the first thing that is so disturbingly wrong about the gravy candy cane is that it's a pourable condiment meant for dousing on proteins and potatoes. (Okay, and maybe noodles or rice.) It's not meant to be in a solid state.

Gravy is salty and savory. It's traditionally made with meat drippings that are heated and whisked together with butter or fat and flour, which thickens it to just the perfect viscosity. You ain't getting that with a candy cane, folks. While there might be some element of sweetness added to what is essentially a thickened broth mixture, one can only assume that sucking on a gravy candy cane tastes like someone added a pound of white sugar to the sauce as it was simmering on the stovetop. Maybe you should just stay away from this one for your taste buds' sake.

19. Rotisserie chicken

You know what goes great with gravy? Chicken. But not just any chicken. We're talking rotisserie chicken. This succulent, juicy bird can be found in most supermarket delis across the states. They're an economical and easy way to prepare a fast, flavorful dinner. (Plus, leftovers make a great soup.) Rotisserie chicken gets its flavor from being slow-roasted inside a giant convection oven, which cooks it evenly and gives it a nice, crispy skin. It's also a much healthier option when compared to its fried counterpart, via Healthline. (But both are equally nom.)

Then there's the rotisserie chicken candy cane, which has varied responses. It's toted as tasting just like a slow-roasted chicken, but with an element of sweetness, via PopSugar. (This already sounds questionable.) The taste lingers in your mouth and the smell stays on your hands, which seems to be something that all of these gnarly canes afflict on their victims. It's also been documented as producing a rather unappetizing adverse chain of events in some individuals. Unfortunately, you don't have your choice of white or dark meat when it comes to the rotisserie chicken candy cane.

20. Bacon

Everything's better with bacon. There's even candied bacon, so why wouldn't this work? Because it's a candy cane, that's why. It's just weird. Bacon is supposed to be one of those foods that just adds a little bit of salty, fatty goodness to whatever it touches. When it comes to candied bacon, you're adding sugar as a second ingredient, not the other way around. So having sweet, sugary candy that's flavored with smoky, salty, fatty pig flavor ... well, it doesn't sound great, though there are more unappetizing things to sample on (and you should know because you read about them already).

Bacon candy canes just sound like another gimmicky and horribly disgusting foodie creation, like the Caesar salad candy cane. But shockingly, the overall consensus seems to be that this porcine holiday treat leaves much to be desired. Even though it does contain artificial bacon flavor, it's described as mild. However, you will end up with breakfast-scented fingers should you accidentally get some of that sticky confection on your digits. 

21. Ham

Besides a nice turkey, nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a nice, juicy baked ham. Your typical holiday ham is generally massaged with an assortment of fragrant holiday spices, like ginger, clove, allspice, and sometimes orange juice or apricot preserves. (So fancy.) Then there's the brown sugar. It's a sweet and salty dish that you just don't want to stop eating. If you like ham, or piggy products any kind, then this Hamdy cane has been made especially for individuals like yourself.

Why? Because according to taste testers at Archie McPhee, this cane absolutely reeks of ham, and it's not a subtle smell, either. It lingers. The taste purportedly takes a second to hold your taste buds hostage, and that flavor does not go away. Get it on your fingers, and you can expect to have ham-scented digits for the rest of the day. It's all ham — every way, every day. Heed the warning on the box: It's in the shape of a creepy little ham hock mascot with an "I know something you don't know" look on its, uh, face?

22. Brisket

"Where's the beef?" We wish we could say that it's not here on this list, but unfortunately, it is. If you're not sure what brisket it, Angry BBQ states that it's a specific cut located on the front chest portion of a cow. However, to the taste testers at Archie McPhee's, brisket is actually a specific type of meat-flavored candy cane.

But does it really taste like brisket? Thankfully, we didn't have to try it out because the folks at Boing Boing did that job for us, and the verdict is that it really does taste like smoky brisket. (If you grimaced a little, that's completely okay.) Because nothing says "happy holidays" like a low and slow, meaty-flavored candy cane, maybe you should consider buying some brisket canes for the carnivore in your life? Or maybe the vegetarian? Because no animals were harmed during the making of these candy canes. (Allegedly.)

23. Clam

You know, we've covered pretty much every main protein out there (except tofu) that have been turned into candy canes. But why, oh why, did manufacturers go down the shellfish route? According to the Food Allergy Research and Education, roughly 2% of the population has a serious aversion to bivalves, sea bugs, and other mollusks. And we'd bet that approximately 100% of the United States population has an aversion to these Clamdy canes ... because it's just a horrible, horrible flavor concept. But that's the idea, right?

Clamdy canes are a novelty, and they actually smell like clam juice, according to the pour soul who tried this at Foodbeast. They're most definitely a gag gift. It would be especially mean were you to give one of these to someone who upset you, and it would be excruciatingly savage if you gave a Clamdy cane to a friend, so you could both get a good laugh. Because guess what? You would be the only one laughing.

24. Sardine

We know that you're incredibly curious about this, but be clear, Archie McPhee was going for the flavor of canned sardines, not fresh bait fish. If you're anything like the rest of the world, the sheer thought of a fish-flavored candy might make you wish you had a bucket, because it's just that stomach churning. It's a flavor combination of disastrously retch-worthy proportions. Apparently, these sardine candy canes don't taste like sardines. It sounds like they taste more on par with the vomit-flavored jelly bean from Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. According to one reviewer, it's something akin to overcooked meat with spoiled milk, a dash of vinegar, and some other insidious additive that you just can't put your finger on (which is probably a good thing).

Now that we've got that out of the way, it's important to mention that this holiday horror is the newest kid on the horrible flavors block. The sardine candy cane is not for the faint of heart, and while some might find it to be a great prank gift, we think it's also a great way to immediately be unfriended.