11 Christmas Candy Cane Flavors Ranked

Long ago, a tired choirmaster in Germany hooked and handed out some stick candies to his choir's youngest singers in a desperate effort to stop them from disturbing the nativity ceremony. Now, centuries later, we're using this same sweet creation, known as the candy cane, to start a screaming match. Yes, in the years since its humble origins, candy canes have become a bonafide Christmas phenomenon. Each holiday season, almost two billion candy canes are rolled and hooked for the enjoyment of the merrymakers in the U.S., and peppermint, as we all know, isn't the only flavor they come in — or necessarily the best kind. 

Foodies, today, we don our Santa hats to start a fight about — we mean reveal once and for all, which is the best candy cane flavor on the holiday market. We bought and tried 11 candy cane flavors, and, after assessing them for overall taste and how closely their flavor resembles the treat they're imitating, have ranked these iconic striped Christmas candies from worst to first. From the original peppermint to a Pebbles cereal-flavored variety, here are the best and worst candy canes to hang on your Christmas tree this year.

11. Brach's Elf Candy Canes

We used to wonder why Buddy the Elf didn't stop to savor at least one delicious tree from the seven levels of the candy cane forest before braving the sea of swirly-twirly gumdrops and heading through the Lincoln Tunnel. But if the candy canes in that said forest taste anything like Brach's Elf Candy Canes, now we understand why Buddy passed them up. Unlike the movie these striped treats were based on, Brach's Elf Candy Canes are not, in fact, a hit.

These Elf-themed candy canes come in three different varieties: World's Best Cup of Peppermint Hot Cocoa, Cotton Candy Headed Ninny Muggins, and Buddy the Elf Maple Syrup. Starting off weak, cotton candy looks sweetly pink but is tragically bland tasting. It's only after you have committed to sucking on the flavor for a good minute you get any semblance of fairy-floss-esque taste. The same applies to the hot chocolate candy cane. But rounding out the trio is a festively decked-out dark horse. The maple syrup flavor is full of intense, magical maple syrup taste that Buddy the Elf would be proud of. However, because only one out of three of the candy canes offered is a Christmas-altering experience, the Elf candy canes are demoted to the title of most disappointing of the flavored candy cane clan.

10. Keurig Dr. Pepper Holiday Candy Canes

Have you ever just craved soda candy canes? Neither have we. But here we are ranking them. Keurig Dr. Pepper's Candy Canes reimagine (or at least tried to) three of the brand's most famous flavors into candy cane form. Each package comes with 7 UP, A&W Root Beer, and (of course) Dr. Pepper versions of the classic Christmas treat. And only two out of three of the flavors taste like the soda they were inspired by.

The A&W candy cane, while it doesn't have an intense root beer taste, at least semi-resembles the soda's dark, bubbly flavor. And 7 Up, in a similar vein to the Elf Candy canes' maple syrup flavor, was so intensely delicious it almost made the whole soda candy cane pack worth a buy. Seriously — the moment we put our mouths on this candy cane, we were greeted with the unmistakable lemon-lime soda flavor. But, oh that Dr. Pepper candy cane. It tastes like banana Laffy Taffy. How? Well, we don't know and we're honestly a little afraid to ask.

So, while more of Dr. Pepper's candy canes taste like the flavors they are supposed to represent than Buddy the Elf's, not only does one of their candy cane flavors not taste at all like the soda it was named for, but it also disturbingly tastes like a whole other kind of junk food favorite. And so, Keurig Dr. Pepper's Holiday Candy Canes are still on the naughty list.

9. Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles Cereal-Flavored Candy Canes

As a sweet cereal full of the children-hopped-up-on-sugar spirit of Christmas, Pebbles Fruity and Cocoa Cereal-Flavored Candy Canes could bring a nostalgic tear to our eyes. But, alas, it, Yababa-dabba-didn't. To be fair, these candy canes aren't horrible, they just could be doing more.

With Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles-flavored candy canes, these Christmas-y candies surprisingly live up to their "cereal-flavored" tagline. Both varieties actually, genuinely, have a cereal aftertaste. We aren't quite sure how exactly to describe it, but it's almost like the Pebbles brand added corn syrup flavor to these Christmas treats to give them that crisp, cereal-esque taste. But that's not these candy canes' only attribute. Aside from their genuine cereal flavor, this brand's Fruity Pebbles treats are also full of intense fruity goodness. Unfortunately, unlike the rest of the team, the Cocoa Pebbles flavored candy canes are not giving 100%.

This brand of chocolate candy cane is a disgrace to the chocolate candy cane kind and was the least chocolatey-tasting version of the classic treat we savored during our ranking process. And so, due to only vaguely tasting chocolate Cocoa Pebbles flavor (which still at least tries to taste like the treat it's imitating, hence why it beats out the soda candy canes that came before it), Pebbles' take on this classic Christmas treat is the third worst candy cane to buy for your kid's stocking.

8. Sour Punch Candy Canes

After trying a lot of sweet-flavored candy canes, we were excited and intrigued to take a crack at Sour Punch's version of the iconic Christmas dessert. Especially since it features three of Sour Punch's most iconic flavors: green apple, strawberry, and everyone's favorite fake fruit, blue raspberry. Each of these candy cane varieties does embody the flavor they were named after.

The strawberry was hands down the best strawberry-flavored candy cane we put our mouths' on, the blue raspberry was a little less intense but still passably enjoyable, and the green apple was full of juicy, beautiful, fake green apple flavor. But aside from not being the most intensely flavored 'canes on this list, these Christmas candies have a fatal flaw. Tell us, foodies, given their name and the picture of the funky lil' green dude making a puckered-up face on their packaging, what are Sour Punch candies supposed to taste like? Say it all together now — sour. And what are these candy canes not? That's right — sour.

Honestly, these candy canes might as well be packaged as run-of-the-mill flavored versions of the striped treat. No one would even realize they were made by Sour Punch if they were. They only outrank our aforementioned Holly Jolly losers because all of this candy cane's varieties at least taste like non-sour candy cane versions of the flavors they were named after.

7. Airheads Candy Canes

Next up on our candy cane hit list are the Airheads Holiday Candy Canes. These vibrant-colored candies come in three different flavors. Like the Sour Punch candy cane crew, the Airheads' Christmas treat entourage comes with cherry and blue raspberry candy canes. However, in a distinctively Airheads move, these 'canes also feature one of the brand's oh-so-coveted mystery flavors. And all of the flavors, both the mysterious and the known, are pretty good — by general flavored candy cane standards, anyway.

The cherry is the least intense-tasting cherry-flavored candy cane on this list but also has the most Airhead-like aftertaste. On the flip side, the blue raspberry was by far our pick for the best blue-raspberry-inspired candy cane we tried. However, rounding out the Airhead's Christmas crew is the disappointing and underwhelming, mystery flavor (which we think is cotton candy. "We think" meaning the candy cane's taste is far from distinctive or memorable).

But while all the flavors are there (even if some are more intense than others), did you notice we mentioned only one out of three of the candy canes taste like an Airhead? Yep, that's why Airheads' Christmas candy ranks just slightly above the Sour Punch version of the class Christmas treat, and way below the other candies on this list.

6. Lifesavers Holiday Candy Canes

Lifesavers are hard candy. Candy canes are hard candy. So, Lifesaver candy canes should be able to imitate the beloved treat's flavors to a T, right? Well, yes ... for the most part. Lifesavers Holiday Candy Canes come with watermelon, pineapple, and cherry-flavored treats. As usual, this set strangely has one standout flavor: the watermelon. This candy cane tasted like popping a genuine watermelon lifesaver into your mouth. The rest of the Lifesaver-flavored candy canes resembled the iconic treat, too — but only after you sucked on them for a while. Plus, the pineapple's flavor was sadly subtle, and, about halfway through tasting like a cherry lifesaver, the wild cherry flavor turned cough-drop-like. 

And so, yes, Lifesaver Holiday Candy Canes' outrank the Airheads' Christmas candy, but only because they all taste at least a little like a Lifesaver. However, their lack of flavor intensity, and the fact no one wants to suck on a cough-drop-like substance on Christmas Day, leaves them on the bottom half of the list.

5. Baby Bottle Pop Candy Canes

Kid Cuisines. Gushers. Bagel bites. 90's treats have the U.S. (and us) in a chokehold. So, we weren't shocked, but (like the rest of the U.S. population) were downright delighted to see the Baby Bottle Pop brand has its own candy canes. Offering raspberry and strawberry-flavored Christmas treats, aside from their nostalgia factor, these festive candies do have something unique going for them — each candy cane comes with its very own matching flavor of Baby Bottle Pop sugar powder. Now, while the powder in our bottles was near solid at first (we had to stab them with the bottom of our candy cane to loosen the sugar), once you powder them back up, this small addition to these candy canes does a lot for their flavor.

On their own, both the strawberry and raspberry candy canes taste just vaguely like the flavors they were named for. When combined with their flavored powders, these treats' Baby Bottle-Popness sings, and they gain a tart sweetness that will knock your holiday socks off. However, while the strawberry is a treat to eat from beginning to end, the raspberry flavor gets worse the more you dip and savor it. So, this terrible defect (and having to get an arm workout via mauling the sugar with your candy cane to will it from solid to powder), has forced us to put Baby Bottle Pop Candy Canes in respectable yet "eh-"able fifth place.

4. Hershey's Chocolate Mint Flavored Holiday Candy Canes

First debuting in 1998, Hershey's Chocolate Mint Flavored Holiday Candy Canes are a staple of the holiday season and are perhaps almost as iconic a Christmas treat as the original peppermint flavor. A title, we must say, Hershey's candy canes have earned.

On the first lick, Hershey's take on this Christmas treat hits you with a rush of undeniable chocolate-mint flavor. One that you can't help but thank Santa Claus for. However, we found that, while the chocolate flavor was there and the treat was the most intensely cocoa-tasting of the chocolate-flavored candy canes we tried, it was still overwhelmed by the candy's fresh mint taste. Yes, we know this is a mint chocolate treat, however, as a Hershey's chocolate candy cane, we wanted more of a deep, chocolate flavor. And so, in a chestnut-roasted nutshell, while these candy canes semi-deliver on their promised taste, their lack of chocolate has left us no choice but to name this classic treat as our pick for the fourth-best candy cane flavor of the holiday season.

3. Skittles Holiday Candy Canes

Five flavors. One candy cane. This is the Skittles Holiday Candy Canes' battle cry. But while combining Skittles' five iconic flavors, (strawberry, grape, lemon, and the ever-controversial green apple — #justiceforlime) into one treat may sound like a recipe for candy canes with a chemically and ultimately one noted taste, by St. Nicholas, folks, Skittles did it. These candy canes taste exactly like eating the rainbow.

From the first lick, you are hit with a delightfully fruity taste that is the equivalent of tossing a handful of Skittles in your mouth. The flavors of the rainbow meld together to create a multi-dimensional candy cane the likes of which we've never eaten before. And these candies also have that distinctive tangy skittle-shell taste. However, although their taste is powerful and very Skittles-like, you ultimately can't distinctively taste the five flavors that are supposed to be present in each candy cane. And so, while their flavor is powerful enough to get them the title of third-best candy cane of Christmas, Skittles Holiday Candy Canes simply couldn't compete with our top two competitors.

2. Peppermint Candy Canes

Here it is. The candy cane species' Adam. The original, the undeniable, peppermint candy cane. We will be the first to say that we underestimated this flavor. In fact, before we even started savoring our candy cane cornucopia, we, looking at the many candy cane flavors we'd selected, had already mentally decided the peppermint candy cane would be at the bottom of the ranking. After all, how could it compare to the inventive, fruity candy canes that came after it? But oh, compare it did.

Now, readers do note, we bought Target's Favorite Day brand of peppermint candy canes. So, different companies' take on the classic flavor may have a different taste. But these candy canes were beautifully, intensely minty without tasting like cold medicine. With a subtly sweet flavor that undercuts its mint, Target's peppermint candy canes, in simpler terms, embody the best taste attributes of those soft peppermints your great aunt is going to hand out to the kids on Christmas day.

However, while these treats are a quintessentially Christmas-flavored snack that made us remember to never lose our faith in Santa Claus, one flavored candy cane variety tasted so distinctively like the treat it was inspired by and has such an intense taste that even the OG candy cane crumbled in its tasty wake.

1. Starburst Holiday Candy Canes

In the merrymaking spirit of one Clark Griswold — can we get a drumroll, please? Our number one, most irresistible candy cane flavor is none other than one created by a chewy candy star. Ladies and gentlemen, our winner is: Starburst Holiday Candy Canes. These candy canes won our foodie hearts because they not only passed but excelled at every one of our great candy cane taste criteria.

Each pack of these Starburst Christmas candy canes offers three different Starburst-inspired flavors, (or colors, as they are more commonly known in the world of candy lovers) — strawberry (that's the pink one), lemon (the yellow one), and green apple (and yes, as you may have guessed, that's the green one), and every, single, one, of the brand's candy cane varieties don't just live up to but live in their Starburst flavor glory. In other words, the strawberry flavor was the best strawberry candy cane of the bunch, the lemon like a juicy and deliciously sweet lemonade, and the green apple like a candied version of the tart fruit. But above all else, these candies all offer that distinct tart-tang taste of chewing your way through an actual Starburst.

The best-flavored candy canes we tried while also tasting exactly like Starburst candy, Starburst Holiday Candy Canes are the first name on our nice list, the winner of all our reindeer games, and our pick for the best candy-flavored canes on the market.