How Taffy Grapes Became A Chicago Favorite

There's a Chicago treat that might sound kind of strange, but stick with us here. They're called taffy grapes and everyone in the Windy City, from what we can gather, just loves them.

Whether they're made at home for events, like book clubs or baby showers, or purchased in cute little cups or ribbon-topped bags at local sweet shops, the formula is basically the same according to The Takeout: You start with cold (usually green) grapes and dip one end in melted almond bark, which is a type of candy made for melting that has nothing to do with almonds, as Baking Kneads explains. This dip is followed by another dip in finely chopped peanuts, and then the grapes are left to chill.

Sweet-salty-nutty always sounds delicious, right? But there's more to it than a classic flavor combination. It's said that the three-ingredient combination, for reasons we'll leave to the neuroscientists to determine, tastes exactly like a caramel apple.

The creator behind these bite-sized sweets isn't clear, but contrary to Food & Wine's assertion that they seem to have emerged around 2011 on the city's South Side, The Takeout's Marnie Shure says home cooks around the city and its suburbs have been making them for years. They weren't always referred to as taffy grapes, however, but bore vague names like "those thingies," (as in: "You're bringing those thingies to the barbecue, right?").

Banana pudding and red velvet grapes

Around 2017, taffy grapes began to really hit their stride, and caterers, event planners, bakers, and candy makers throughout the city shifted their businesses from fading trends like cupcakes to producing the tiny, time-consuming candied fruit en masse for vendors ranging from chicken joints to nightclubs across the city, according to The Chicago Tribune. Sellers said customers were buying up to five 30-piece containers at a time, making them difficult to keep in stock.

As taffy grape makers capitalized on the trend they gave additional fruits, such as strawberries, the "taffy apple" treatment. They also came up with new spins on the grapes, as well, adding coloring to the almond bark or substituting different chocolates for the original dip. They also added a variety of other chopped nuts, sparkly sprinkles for formal occasions, and holiday-themed decorations for occasions like the Fourth of July, according to Food & Wine. In the interest of capitalizing on the fad, grape makers even put aside the original caramel apple hook that made these grapes popular and branched out to offer red velvet, turtle, Key lime, banana pudding, and cookies-and-cream coated grapes (via The Chicago Tribune and Food & Wine).

If you don't live in Chicago (or even if you do) and you want to make taffy grapes yourself, The Takeout has all the instructions you need.