So, you’re craving jelly beans. We understand–good beans are irresistible. You’re looking for that initial crunch, followed by sweet, delectable gooeyness. You’re looking for your favorite flavors–the sunny intoxication of pina colada, maybe, or the sour fizz of lemon.
And are we the only ones that find jelly beans utterly adorable? (Pour a few in a Mason Jar, and you’ve got interior design, right there.) The ultimate pack of jelly beans, we think, has got it all: texture, taste, and appearance. But with all the different brands–no, it’s not just Jelly Belly–and variety out there, how can you be sure that you’re really chewing on the best? Let’s get in-depth about these gelatinous beans.
How to Choose Jelly Beans – Buying Guide
You probably snacked on these as a kid without a care in the world. But, the truth is, there’s a certain way to go about looking for jelly beans. So, this time around, we asked the Candy Critic for his take on what makes a good bean.
The Candy Critic
Originally hailing from Canada, the Candy Critic is a globe-trotter. He’s visited and lived in various countries, and has feasted on delicacies and candy from all corners of the world.
He runs and pens the Candy Critic blog. You can also follow his adventures and read his candy reviews on Twitter and Instagram.
・The Candy Critic site: http://www.candycritic.org/
How Are You Supposed to Enjoy a Bean If It Doesn’t Taste Good?
A jelly bean is a kind of snack. And snacks are a kind of food. And good food must taste good. So, first up on our quest to find the perfect jelly bean: flavor.
Picky Eaters, Go for Smaller Assortments: Traditional Flavors
If you love all the original 49 or 50 flavors of Jelly Bellies, great. Go ahead and snatch up that variety pack. But picky eaters typically turn their noses up at over half the flavors–like chocolate and cinnamon and licorice beans.
Well, now, that you can get small assortments of beans, limited to 6 or 8 popular flavors. That way, you don’t need to spend hours searching for your favorite fruit and beverage flavors–like cherry, watermelon, cola, pina colada, and blackberry.
The general rule of thumb is this: the stronger your likes and dislikes are, the less flavors should be in the pack. Or, actually, you could go for broke and get a bag with a single flavor. (So you never have to fight over the last Sunkist Tangerine ever again.)
But the thing I find with some of the more obscure flavors, like the cinnamon—Jelly Belly used to come out with a recipe book every year. And it would have combinations of Jelly Belly flavors that would make another flavor. So, if they didn’t have a cappuccino variety, they would say, take this creamy flavor and take this coffee one and put them in your mouth at the same time; you get a cappuccino. Take a cinnamon on top of that, and you get a cinnamon pour on top of your cappuccino. So there were certain flavors that were always good for a recipe, but not necessarily good just to eat.
Want to Eat Ice Cream in Jelly Bean Form? Look for any Special Themes
Jelly Belly gets around. At this point, they’ve gone through so many collaborations you can find almost any type of food in jelly bean form. You’ve got Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Cold Stone Ice Cream, Dr. Pepper, A&W Cream Soda, Snapple, Pancakes… We’re not saying they’re all equally delicious; we just want to let you know they’re out there.
Many brands have also introduced mixes that are pure fruit (like Jelly Belly’s Superfruit Mix, Brach’s Island Fruit, or Welch’s Assorted). If you’re feeling daring, you can always get bags that are all spicy or sour. (Warhead’s does have its own line of jelly beans–but, before you start rubbing your hands together and planning all sorts of mischief, know they’re not that sour.)
With fake creamy flavors, you don’t get that cold, fatty mouthfeel, and it just feels weird. I haven’t tried the Krispy Kreme jelly beans—though there's no reason why I wouldn't—but I imagine that that might be a little weird, texture-wise. When you get to the nuanced flavors, you’re always going to have a limited number of sales.
Are You Planning to Play Pranks? Last but Not Least, Disgusting Flavors
Of course, there’s always the mischievous people out there who collect odd flavors. If you want to play pranks, then by all means, get Bertie Bott’s classic vomit and grass flavors (your humble writer likes the latter, actually). Jelly Belly has also come out with new crowd pleasers, like spoiled milk and dead fish.
Get Beans That Have Crunch Without but Are Soft Within: Texture
Some beans are like little stones or old jerky (especially if they’ve been left sitting for a while). A good jellybean has got an exterior that’s crunchy and an interior that’s the perfect amount of chewiness–just enough to slowly give way as your teeth slide through, but not enough to get stuck in the little grooves of your teeth.
The best way to check for texture, of course, is by eating. And if you’re at a store that lets you taste test, be our guest. But if you’re a purist and must buy online, rest assured–if the bean hasn’t got that satisfying shell and soft jelly belly, people are going to complain. Check the reviews.
Jelly Belly tends to have more crunchy beans, since they’re smaller. Whereas your standard bulk jelly beans—since they’re a little bit bigger—tend to have more squishy stuff in the middle, and the texture of the outside tends to be less predominant.
Want Jelly Beans That Are Color-Coordinated or Shine Bright like a Diamond? Appearance
Jelly beans can be beautiful things. Some are color-coordinated for Valentine’s Day; some are jeweled and look like little pearls. Interior decorators: you can pour a bunch of aquamarine, navy, and sky-blue ones into a jar, and recreate the sea. Moms and dads: if you’re looking to top cupcakes and give out party favors at your next princess party, consider some lustrous whites or pinks.
Are You Going to Be Displaying or Hiding Your Beans? Size and Packaging
Yes, packaging matters. It’s little things like this that will save you a lot of pain and heartache in the long run.
For those on the go: plastic bags, of course, are the most compact, and you can fold the top over as you work your way through the bag. Extra brownie points if it’s resealable–because nothing is worse than a stale jelly bean. If you’re buying a gift for a jelly bean-loving coworker, go for a box or jar. Jars also make lovely interior decoration.
Finally, if you are of the generous sort and share your beans, get a plastic tub. They stand on their own, and you can just stick a spoon in to give each kid (or student, if you’re a teacher) a helping. No more gingerly trying to shake the bag with just the right amount of strength to get just the right amount of jelly beans out. Plus, tubs are the easiest to close up again, so they’re the best at keeping your mountain of beans fresh.
But there’s also certain expectations, connected to how jelly beans are packaged. I remember a while back, Jelly Belly sent me this sample—it was like a bouquet. And they sent these floral-type fruity flavors, and that worked. If I had had a root beer one in there, it would’ve been weird. Presentation gives you an expectation of where you're going.
Top 10 Best Jelly Beans to Buy Online
Your appetite has to be piqued by now. We won’t keep you waiting any longer. Here’s our pick for the 10 best jelly beans you won’t be able to keep your sticky fingers away from.
10. Jelly Belly 4th Edition Beanboozled Jelly Beans Spinner Gift Box, 3.5 oz
10 Great and 10 Nasty Flavors: These Beans’ll Make You Laugh and Gag
So, Jelly Belly made sure to make these beans Kosher, vegetarian, and gluten-free–just so they appeal to everyone. But then they decided to undo all of their hard work by adding flavors like stinky socks, dead fish, and barf. These flavors are so bad, they can make you gag in an instant. Actually, stay away if you’ve got a sensitive palate, because you will throw up.
Well, this box is meant to be a game, not a treat. It’s got 10 nasty flavors and 10 delectable flavors–peach or strawberry–that look identical. You flick a spinner and eat whatever’s depicted while praying it’s not the bad stuff. (Unless you get the blue bean because, apparently, toothpaste tastes pretty good.) Don’t get this box if you snack alone–these jelly beans are only fun if you’ve got others to laugh at.
9. Jelly Belly Jewel Valentine Mix Jelly Beans, 2 lb
Three Delicious Flavors in Bedazzling Valentine’s Colors
We thought we’d open your eyes to the decorative possibilities of jelly beans. Wrap these in little gift bags, pour them into jars, slap on a ribbon, and give them out as party favors. And there’s only 3 flavors–cherry, cream soda, and bubble gum–all of which are heavenly for sweets lovers. (No fear of black licorice here!)
The beans, however, are originally packaged in this huge, clear plastic bag–so you can’t exactly hand them over as a present or display on your counter as is. By the way, if you don’t need an entire two pounds, there is a one pound bag available (but, even though it’s half the size, it’s not half the price).
8. Jelly Belly Sport Beans, Assorted Flavors 24 Pack, 1 oz
Gives You an Energy Boost and Tastes Pretty Much Like Good Old Jelly Bellies
We just wanted to let you know these existed. It’s like Gatorade, but in jelly bean form (what could be better?)–a pack of these will give you 25 g of carbs, electrolytes (80 mg of sodium, 40 mg of potassium), as well as your B and C vitamins. These nutrients help you produce energy and heal your screaming muscles. And the beans really work, by the way. Hikers, long-distance runners, and bikers have all used them, either for a quick boost or to calm down cramps. And there’s no caffeine.
So, what about taste? Well, most think they’re pretty good; they’re comparable to jelly beans, but chewier (you’ve actually got to chomp on these for a while) and thicker. You’ll also want and need to drink water after eating–they’re a bit rough on the stomach.
7. Starburst Original Jellybeans Candy, 14 oz
Tender, Juicy, and Tart: the Love Child of Jelly Beans and Starburst
We know–you’re the only one in your family that can’t stand jelly beans, and you’re sick and tired of being left out. Well, even bean haters have fallen in love with these. These are dream child of jelly beans and Starburst–they’ve the crunchy coating of the beans, but the tender, juicy heart of the burst. (They also don’t stick to your teeth.) They’ve got the sugariness of the jellies, but the tartness of the stars. They’re so good, all the reviews are comparing them to drugs.
There’s six flavors, all of them fruity and intense, with nothing weird that makes you want to throw out half the bag. They can also last forever (but most people eat up the bag in a week).
6. Jelly Belly Classic Glass Jar, 14.5 oz
The Best Gift for a Jelly Belly Fanatic
Whoever said Jelly Bellies can’t make a classy gift, or look great sitting on your coffee table or lined up on a shelf? The jar’s cute; it stands at a little under 6 inches, 3.75 inches across, which is small enough to sit on any desk without being too intrusive. The glass is thick, but treat it gently if you don’t want it to shatter.
And in this jar is the whole shebang–all 49 original Jelly Belly flavors. If you love them, great. If you were one of those people who threw black licorice under the front car seat, not so great.
5. Jelly Belly Harry Potter Bertie Bott’s, 1.2 oz
Half of the Box Is Delicious; the Other Half Is Used for Evil
Okay, we know you were waiting for these. We’re not even sure how much introducing these need–we’ll just say that the vomit will make you feel seasick, and the earthworm manages to be even worse. Pure wizardry. (Also, keep a glass of water nearby, because these have quite an aftertaste.)
Half the box, by the way, is delicious. Candyfloss, cherry, Tutti-Frutti, and watermelon are to die for. There’s also a key plastered across the back of the box, so you know who the bad eggs are. (Unlike Beanboozled, where no one knows.) We’ve had people use these to make Cards Against Humanity even more terrifying. (They’ve also been snuck into bowls of normal jelly beans left out in offices or dorms). Talk about an evil mastermind.
4. Jelly Belly Sunkist Tangerine Jelly Beans, 1 lb
Only the Tangiest, Citrusy, Not-Too-Sweet Queen of Jelly Bellies
We’ve all fought over our favorite Jelly Belly flavors before. Well, you can stop pinching your siblings, because Jelly Belly offers one pound, single-flavor bags on Amazon now. We love the Sunkist Tangerines because they’ve got enough of a fizzy, citrusy essence to them to offset the usual sugariness of jelly beans. They actually do taste a bit like fruit.
They come in a resealable package because you are not meant to eat these in one sitting (that didn’t stop some reviewers, though). Yes, this pack is a bit pricey–but if you were like us and couldn’t stand a third of the original 49 flavors, you might actually end up saving money! (You’ll definitely be saving jelly beans.)
3. Just Born Jelly Beans, 4.5 lb
These are softer and less intense than your typical Jelly Bellies–the shell’s just thick enough, and the inside is yielding, smooth, and juicy. They don’t gum up your throat with sugar, but are as fruity as a box of Mike and Ikes. (They’re from the same company, actually.)
Only thing: Just Borns are smaller than your typical Jelly Bellies, so just popping one in your mouth can feel lacking. If you live for that burst of flavor, you’re going to have to pick out 2 or 3 of the same flavor, which can get annoying. There are only 8 flavors–cherry, grape, lemon, lime, orange, pineapple, strawberry (all yum!)… and licorice. We know, licorice is bad. But this licorice is milder than that of other brands, so you may end up liking it. If not, at least there isn’t that much to throw out.
2. Signature Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, 4 lb
Tub Keeps Your Jelly Bellies Fresh and Chewy
You get four pounds of Jelly Bellies–what else can we say? We love how it comes in a plastic tub, so it a) keeps your jelly beans fresh and b) won’t tip over, so you won’t be skidding over all the jelly beans on your floor. If you’re a teacher, stick a scooper in and share them with all your kids.
Now, these aren’t the same as Bertie Bott’s or Beanboozled. But you must know how it feels to pop a red jelly bean in your mouth, thinking you’re getting the sweet, sweet goodness of cherry–and to be spitting it out a second later because it was cinnamon and it burned. (The old coffee and chocolate are in here too.) But, hey, if you love at least 40 of Jelly Bean’s official flavors, this tub will be well worth the price.
1. Nerds Covered Chewy & Bumpy Jelly Beans, 13 oz
The Perfect Balance between Sweet and Tangy, Crunchy and Chewy
Quick, think back to eating nerds in your third grade classroom–the poppy crunch between your teeth, the dissolving to a tangy powder. That is the shell of these jelly beans. The interior, of course, is your usual gooey, sweet (but not too sweet) jelly tummy. So you get your perfect fix of crunchy and soft, sugary and sour–10 out of 10 for texture and taste.
There’s only five very normal, very delicious flavors–lemon and lime, orange, cherry, and grape. We have only one caveat: these beans are Easter-themed (see the bunny ears on the little yellow Nerds man?), and out of season, they’re a) expensive and b) hard to find. So there’s no helping you once you get addicted.
You might be looking for delicious jelly beans that’ll transport you right back to 5th grade, recess on the jungle gym. Or you might be looking for nasty jelly beans that will wreck a bit of mayhem. Either way, we hope what we’ve got lined up here has managed to bring a smile to your face–whether it be wistful or mischievous. Happy snacking! (Or pranking!)
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