Given that Christmas and Easter now have their own dedicated version of candy corn in addition to the Halloween original, it stands to reason that somebody would attempt a Thanksgiving-specific iteration in the name of consumer capitalism.
One of the many controversial opinions that I hold near and dear to my heart is the supremacy of candy corn as an autumnal treat. A handful of candy corn and a big glass of ice water is an ideal late October snack. Candy corn tastes like itself, and there’s really no other way to describe it—overly sweet, a little waxy, with a hint of umami at the end. Any iteration upon the original is bound to be inferior, a point that was proven to me after reading this thread on Twitter, in which a registered dietitian provided a brutal assessment of the ‘corn’s flavor profiles and general vibe. But I had to eat the candy corn myself.
Let’s be clear: candy corn has no business attempting to imitate dinner. But something so wrong is nevertheless deeply compelling. Ideally, this experience will be similar to Violet Beauregard’s TV-dinner bubble gum from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, without me turning into a blueberry and being rolled away by Oompa-Loompahs. Violet is delighted with the gum until her tumescence renders her incapable of speech. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me. The Brach’s Turkey Dinner + Apple Pie and Coffee Candy Corn was ultimately confusing and unworthy of elevation to an annual tradition.
According to the packaging, there are four different flavors inside the bag: green beans, roast turkey, cranberry sauce, and, distressingly, gravy. Thinking these designations would make it easy to discern what I was working with here, I tried my best to sort the flavors by color. Green beans and cranberry sauce were easy; the former is a sickening green that is mottled in spots, and the latter absolutely lurid in color. The others are varying shades of mottled brown, some darker than others, and I’m sorry, I absolutely cannot tell any of them apart.
In order to really savor the flavors of these abominations, it was necessary to taste them in two very specific circumstances: stone-cold sober, during the workday; and high as a kite, in the evening, when the candy monster that lives within is insatiable.
Daytime vibes: Something about the green bean flavor is confusing. It doesn’t exactly taste like green beans, but rather the suggestion of a vegetable, if said vegetable were raw and then candied in crushed-up candy corn. It’s not bad, per se, but at first bite, it’s not great either. There’s a lingering aftertaste here, and that is where the “bean” part comes into play—like canned green beans, or more specifically, the juice that they swim in. Notes of salad upon second tasting, followed briefly by a hint of apple—perhaps this is the sugar? Water did not remove the taste from my mouth, nor did a sip of tepid chai. Tastes a little bit “fresh,” but sort of like an apple, upon second nibble. Still not pleasurable, and would not recommend.
Nighttime vibes: I was dreading this one the most, and it is worse than I remember from four hours ago, when I last tasted this flavor, which I think should be called the devil’s lettuce because this is what I imagine a salad tastes like in Hell. All the flavors are intensified, which makes sense, but nothing about my evening vibes is making this experience more pleasant. Bitter. A chunk of the candy lodged itself in one of my molars and waiting for it to dissolve was annoying but not life-threatening. Still—no!
Daytime vibes: I had high hopes for the cranberry, as it is at least a candy-adjacent flavor, but unfortunately, this did not work out in my favor. Part of the appeal of candy corn in its natural state is its sweetness, but when paired with someone’s demonic idea of cranberry sauce, it is cloying and gross. Fresh cranberry sauce is tart and a little bit sweet, and the canned stuff, which plops out in a pleasing log and can be sliced for your pleasure, tastes tart, gelatinous, and a little bit sweet. There is no “tart” note to speak of here, just a flavor that is reminiscent of those big, waxy candy lips—vaguely fruity and all bad texture.
Nighttime vibes: In no world does this candy taste like a cranberry, or even a suggestion of a cranberry. Cherry fluoride paste, maybe. Something close to a fruit punch? Sweeter and chalky at the finish, reminiscent of a Necco wafer or a conversation heart, except that I enjoy those two dusty old people candies, and this, I do not.
Daytime vibes: Now we’re cooking with gas! Much to my surprise, the first of the savory offerings is a slow creep and grew on me with every subsequent bite. The natural umami present in the finish of a regular candy corn helps the gravy notes, which are not particularly nuanced but do make themselves known. It occurred to me after my third gravy kernel that I could possibly be mistaking the gravy for turkey, but, after reading the bag closely, through the haze of what I believed to be sugar poisoning, I think that the “gravy” is actually meant to be either stuffing or the turkey itself. A fourth candy corn down the gullet does not clarify matters, but my palate has decided that this is likely turkey—there’s a meatiness to this flavor that stuffing lacks, and anyway, if Brach’s is capable of recreating even the suggestion of stuffing in a candy corn, I will take back everything negative that I’ve said thus far.
Nighttime vibes: A huge twist: sprinkled throughout this nightmare bag are a few apple pie candy corn, which I mistook for the gravy ones. These candy corns look very much like the turkey/stuffing/gravy candy corns, and I believe this is what I ate. They are delicious, like someone made a confection out of the gloppy syrup in the bottom of a Starbucks Apple Spice Macchiato, and if I could reliably discern the rest of these from the savory offerings, I’d be a happy gal. I was unable to locate another savory option, and so to save my teeth and also, my constitution, I gave up.
Daytime vibes: If there was an entire bag of these at my disposal, I would consume them happily, without thinking. Candy corn’s natural umami pairs perfectly with coffee. This is a delectable little treat, and is almost worth the other various forms of torture I endured over the course of this experiment. These taste almost exactly like a coffee-flavored hard candy, and are quite good.
Nighttime vibes: Incredibly, the coffee-flavored candy corn is just as good as the mysterious apple pie gal, and thankfully, much more abundant. One of my god-tier beverages is a gas station cappuccino, vaguely tan and foamy, spit out from a machine and into a styrofoam cup. That is what this small brown triangle tastes like, and I couldn’t be happier.
At the end of this grand experiment, I feel nauseated but also jittery, as if I’ve chugged a gallon of cold-brew and then tried to do a HIIT workout on an empty stomach. This is not an experience I would wish on anyone I liked, but I’d certainly recommend it for second-tier enemies and most of my nemeses. But, crucially, my time spent with the bad candy corn did not move me in my ardor for the original. I will love the OG until my teeth rot from my head or until I perish from the sugars, but it will be worth the journey.