15 Mouth-Puckering Sour Candies, Ranked

Our tongues are still recovering.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Striking the balance in a perfect piece of sour candy is no easy feat. At what point does a tart outer layer become oppressive and painful? How quickly should a sour candy transition to sweet—if at all? Is a bouncy texture that springs back against your molars more appealing than a soft gumdrop-like feel that offers no resistance?

These are the challenging questions that we, as professional food writers, must confront in this hard-hitting piece of journalism. Thankfully, we’re experts in this realm and have chewed, salivated uncontrollably, and even shed a couple tears through countless pieces of tart candy.

From the originals, to a string of Haribo favorites, to reinventions, here is a ranking of all of our favorite sour candies. (Let it be known that there are tons of sour candy variations out there, and if we were to rank them all, we’d have a lot of cavities and dead nerves in our taste buds—so this is just a selection of options we felt we had to include.)

Lemonheads | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Lemonheads are like the honorary degree recipients on this list. While they might not be the best, we have to give it up to the OG. These neon yellow balls are omnipresent and—since 1967—have made their way into our trick-or-treat buckets and birthday party goodie bags. You never seek to buy Lemonheads, they just appear in your life. The only sour thing about them is the puckering logo and the very thin outer shell. The rest is just a basic hard candy that has somehow persevered over the years, inspiring band names and one super creepy mascot.

Look, Albanese appears to have a lot going for it. The “gummi” bears themselves are super cute (almost Care Bear-like) and they have a ton of exciting flavors like pink grapefruit, mango, and green apple. Sadly, that’s where our love of these Midwestern-made bears ends. While some might appreciate the super soft texture, we need a little more give and chew in our gummies—it not only makes them a more satisfying snack but allows the sour flavor to last a lot longer.

This version of classic square candies is surprisingly and pleasantly tart. We love the experience of a sour candy with a texture this firm, since most of its counterparts are chewy, gummy, and soft. But, if you know anything about Now & Laters, you know that the plastic packaging is infuriating. To eat one candy, you must go through three different wrappers, almost making these sour delights not worth the effort.

We find Wally Warhead, the Warheads mascot, to be perfectly relatable when consuming this candy. Warheads do live up to the extreme marketing they put out in terms of level of tartness, especially the initial sensation when popped into your mouth. That being said, the sourness fades relatively quickly—dare we say faster than Sour Patch Kids?—which is kind of disappointing for a sour candy. You’re left with a fruity and hard confection, which is not necessarily what we go for when we want to leave our mouths feeling puckered.

These gummies are like the fruitier and bolder sister of Starbursts, except unlike the original version, every flavor is worth eating (looking at you, orange Starburst). Whether you’re looking for refreshing watermelon or cool blue raspberry, you’re going to want to eat each and every last sour sugar-covered piece. The reason we’ve ranked them lower is because they are more sweet than we’d like—but they’re still delicious.

Depending on your mood, Airheads Xtremes have you covered with three different varieties: belts that resemble rainbow suspenders, nuggets that are thicker and bite-sized, and Sourfuls that are filled with an extra punch of sour goodness. The standard Airheads Xtremes aren’t super sour, so if you want to take it to the next level, we suggest popping a few Sourfuls instead.

Sour Patch Kids
Sour Patch Kids | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

It’s hard to believe that a candy can have such complexity, but the sour-to-sweet transition really holds true with these classics. You’ve got the best of both worlds—a tart, shock to the system that gets resolved with the comforting flavor of your favorite, sweet gummy. The sugar coating is a welcome addition, but the texture is a bit softer than we’d like and maybe leans a little too sweet for our preferences. And it’s a shame the gummies never really resemble the cute—but also slightly disturbing—characters on the package.

I have a distinct memory of Sour Skittles debuting in 2001. I figured they’d be just like the other skittles—fruity, but maybe a little bit sour—and ate an entire packet in the span of 10 minutes. Reader, these pretty much bore a hole into my tongue. Are they enticing and fun to eat? Yes. Will the sour crystals that encoat these chewy fruit candies eventually hurt you? Also yes. We’d rank them higher if they weren’t so painful.

Sour Punch
Sour Punch | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Sour Punch comes in three shapes: straws, twists, and bites. That is also the order of best to worst in terms of texture. The straws are perfectly chewy and it was fun to use them as actual straws for soda or juice as a kid. The twists were always a little bit tough to chew, but acceptable because they came in huge Costco-sized packages. The bites, however, are a bit of a letdown. They’re not as sour as the aforementioned products—in fact, I’d venture to say most of them are on the sweeter side, including the tragically disappointing tropical blend—and the large holes paired with the shorter length make them less fun to snack on. Straws are superior, bites can be skipped.

We’ve only had these once because these were so sour that they burned the sides of our tongue and we felt the effects for days afterward. But did that prevent us from downing nearly a whole bag? No. Blame it on the classic smooth Sweet Tart texture that inspired nostalgia and kept us snacking through the pain.

Although there are a lot of Haribo sour candies available, each one provides a distinct experience. We’d venture to say that the sour gummy worms are a pretty spectacular option: There’s more surface area, so more tart dust to enjoy and the length makes them fun to pull and rip between your incisors. That being said, the Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers edge these out in terms of flavor and are the better worm-shaped candy.

Haribo Star Mix is the ultimate road trip snack, with a candy option for every taste: spicy cola bottles, sweet cherries, and classic gummy bears. But our favorite part of the bag is always the Twin Snakes, a perfect candy yin-yang that satisfies the sweet tooth and sour obsessed in us all. We love pulling them apart to really appreciate the flavors (everything from lemon to blackcurrant!) one at a time.

When it comes to candy, there’s usually a struggle over which flavor in a bag reigns supreme and which ones are kind of a flop. That’s not the case for Sour S’ghetti, which arrives in three flavors: blueberry, green apple, and strawberry. Each strand of s’ghetti can hold its own, which makes eating an entire bag a great experience. Also, the fact that they don’t have air holes like sour straws, makes for more gummies to be chewed.

Whether you call them sour belts, sour strips, or any other name, these are a top-tier sour candy. What makes them so remarkable is that every flavor—from blue raspberry to strawberry to rainbow—is delicious. They also do a fantastic job at inducing salivation, which is half of what sour candy should be doing anyway. If you get them coated in li hing or Tajín, they’re even better.

Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers
Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

When a candy essentially looks glow-in-the-dark, you know it’s gonna be good. The texture of Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers strikes the ideal balance between soft and chewy. The dual flavorings of each worm makes for fun taste combinations, too—cherry-lemon, strawberry-grape and orange-lime aren’t pairings you chew every day. The sugar coating on them isn’t coarse whatsoever, and instead imparts more of a smooth glaze. Most importantly, they aren’t the level of sour that induces tongue pain, but provide enough of a bite to keep you coming back for more and more day-glo worms.

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Writers: Kelsey Allen, Jess Mayhugh, Jessica Sulima, and Kat Thompson