Halloween Treat Smackdown: Candy Apples Vs. Caramel Apples

candy - caramel apples

It’s Fall and that can only mean one thing: apples on a stick!  But how you like your apples probably depends a lot on where you’re from.  The debate of caramel vs. candy apples has raged on for decades.  Today, we settle it once and for all.  Which is the superior dipped apple?

History: Dipped apples are a serious subject.  We have got to put this stuff in perspective.  So let’s talk apple history.

Candy apples predate their gooeyer counterpart by about 50 years.  The original candy apple is said to have been invented by Newark, New Jersey candy-maker William W. Kolb.  According to candy lore, Kolb was experimenting with a display case for Christmas.  He dipped in apple in a red cinnamon candy mixture and put them in the shop window to attract customers.  Before long they were being sold up and down the Jersey shore.

The caramel apple has a less nostalgic backstory.  It was created by Kraft Foods employee, Dan Walker.  In the 50’s, Walker was experimenting with left-over Halloween caramels and came up with the idea of melting them down and dipping apples in them.

Definition: Before we get into the big debate, some clarification is required.  There are a lot of different kinds of dipped apples out there and depending on where you are from, you may use terms interchangeably.  For example, what Americans call a “candy apple” would be very similar to what the English call a “toffee apple”.  From my understanding, the primary difference would be that candy apples traditionally employ red food coloring, but toffee apples do not.

There are taffy apples and something called a jelly apple and countless other varieties.  You can have them covered in nuts, granulated sugar or drizzled in chocolate.  Apparently in the East Coast it is a thing to cover candy apples in coconut.  For the purposes of this discussion, we will limit ourselves to the traditional versions of the Fall treats.  Candy apples are dipped in a hard, red candy shell and caramel apples are wrapped in soft, buttery caramel.

Category 1: Ease of consumption

Neither apple is especially easy to eat especially considering that food on a stick is inherently portable.  With a candy apple, you have to break your way through that candy shell.  Tooth chippage is a very real danger.  However, once you have broken the seal, it’s pretty smooth sailing from there.  With a caramel apple, you have your work cut out for you.  If you make a wrong move, your face, hands and maybe even your clothes are in danger of getting really sticky.

Winner: Candy apple

SS Apples 4.17.15

Category 2: Visual appeal

This one is going to be pretty subjective.  A lot of folks, especially those who were raised on them, are going to favor the bright red candy apple.  But for me, apples are already supposed to be bright and red.  A proper caramel apple with a thick layer of golden topping is a thing of beauty.  I’m also going to give caramel apples a slight edge as I believe they hold up to more fanciful decorations.  I know we’re talking about the stripped down versions here, but when it comes to visual appeal, I have to give a slight nod to the apple that can get fancied up.

Winner: Caramel apple

Category 3: Texture

The apples themselves have the same texture.  You can dip whatever kind of apple you prefer in either topping.  So this comes down to the crisp crunch of a candy apple versus the soft goo of a caramel apple.  Purely on a textural level, I will take crunch over goo.

Winner: Candy apple

Category 4: Taste

This one is as subjective as visual appeal.  Once again, I think the East coasters are going to disagree with this Midwesterner, but I favor the combination of buttery caramel with tart apple over the cinnamony candy shell.  Both are good and sweet, but caramel apples have a richness I find lacking in their candy-coated counterparts

Winner: Caramel apple

Category 5: Healthiness

Obviously, neither of these sweet treats would be considered health food unless you are comparing them to a fried candy bar.  But since we’re starting with an apple here, many consider these snacks a healthier alternative to some of the other sugary treats of Fall.  Of the two, which is less likely to make you go up a belt size?  That would be the candy apple.  But ah-HAH!  This was a trick category!  What are you doing eating sweets if you are worried about calories?

Winner: Caramel apple

Okay, so maybe I cheated a little.  As I said out the outset your preference will likely depend on what you grew up on.  I grew up on caramel apples so that is where my loyalties lie.

WDW - Carmel Apple

Overall winner: Caramel apple – for me anyway.  Your mileage will vary.

Let’s hear from the readers.

Last week, we had an epic battle between two categories of baked goods; the ever-reliable cake and the homey goodness of pie.  The voting was close, but after much debate we finally had a winner.  In the battles of cakes vs. pies, readers picked…


Cake got 57% of the vote for a narrow victory over pies.  Congratulations, cake.  But I still prefer pie.  😉


Posted on October 14, 2015, in Halloween, smackdown and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I don’t think I’ve eaten either one of these for many years. The difficulty involved chased me off long ago. I do like chocolate dipped apple slices a lot, though.


    • I can’t remember my last candy apple. It’s been a long time since I have attacked a caramel apple myself. But the kids get them every year and eventually I will end up sampling one. The picture at the end of the article is of an apple Kara got during our 2014 Disney World trip and I must admit that as caramel apples go, it was fantastic. Best caramel apple I ever tasted. We had one at Universal this past summer and it did not live up to our memory of the one from Disney.

      I tried to find a way to work candy corn into this battle. It was originally going to be candy corn vs. caramel apples. But that battle seemed lopsided to me. Candy corn is iconic, but you almost eat it out of obligation more than anything else.


      • Maybe pit candy corn against Mary Janes? Both appear to be loved by many and hated by just as many.


        • I had no idea that either candy was loved by any much less many. Are you sure?


        • I love candy corn. Can’t stop eating it if it’s in the house. Mary Janes were always the thing I hated to see going into my candy bag. I figure somebody must love it, because they’re still making it.

          Although chocolate candy bars and Reese’s Cups are clearly tops, I require some variety in my Halloween candy bag. That includes candy corn, smarties, blow pops, and themed treats like gummy body parts.


        • You can keep all that stuff. I just want the good candy. If I had a bag full of Reese’s Cups, I’d be a happy guy. Or I would be if I was eating sugar. For now, I am eating low carb peanut butter cups which are tasty but not the same.

          Back in my trick-or-treating days, I didn’t mind the presence of a Mary Jane or two. I’d eat them. They were candy. But I don’t think they were anyone’s favorite outside of those who enjoyed them during the Great Depression maybe.

          I can walk past candy corn without blinking. Zero temptation.

          As a grown-up I take a lot of pride in always giving out the good candy. One day a year, Kroger has a Halloween sale and I stock up. I bought 10 bags of candy this year for $10 and it’s all the name-brand stuff. I threw in a few non-chocolate items for the weird kids who prefer Skittles or whatever. I always buy way too much so I just let the kids grab handfuls. My neighbors may hate me, but their kids don’t.


        • I will typically give three pieces of candy to each Trick or Treater, which will include one candy bar and two other random items. I guess I figure that if I want a bunch of Reese’s cups I can just go buy a bag of them. A true Halloween candy haul involves variety, even if that means a few items I don’t care much for. It’s just as much about the getting as the having.


        • When I was trick-or-treating, sure. Now I can and do just get a back of Reese’s cup (or the low carb equivalent).

          The Halloween candy bowl we offer trick-or-treaters is a glorious thing! There are all manner of goodies. The only thing missing is cheap crap. You’ll find no crap candy at my house. If you want a dum dum, you’ll have to go next door. I guarantee they will have them, but they will probably only give you one. I just tell kids to grab whatever they want. If they don’t take enough, I tell them to dive in and get more. If you want to mix it up, knock yourself out. Or if you want two handfuls of your favorite, hey man, it’s Halloween! Eat all the Kit Kats. I don’t care. I can’t eat them. Anything that doesn’t get eaten is just going in to work with me the next day.


        • You are a true Halloween humanitarian!! 🙂


        • It’s not philanthropy. It’s ego. I can be the neighbor with the poorly maintained lawn. But I can’t be the guy with bad candy bars.


  2. RB LOOOOVES anything caramel but RB’s dentist will want to hunt you down. I voted for Caramel apples out of Girl Scout nostalgia – have not had one in years – too many fillings and crowns now and I already enrich my dentist enough as it is.
    It wasn’t a choice, but I vastly prefer the apple naked, pure, in its unadulterated form, one of the best things about fall.


  3. I prefer caramel apples, as I like the general taste of caramel (like Rolo’s for example).


  4. Caramel. All the way. Candy apples are prettier and have a fun carnival appeal, but caramel simply tastes better. Candy apples are kind of the slutty sister of caramel apples.


  5. I like caramel apples better, but I think both are a welcome treat.


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