Okay, I realize that was a very dramatic title, but it’s my page and I can do what I want. The reason I say this is the best your brains can buy is because, if you’ve ever actually looked at the nutrition information on your favorite sweet stuff you were likely absolutely horrified, decided to never look at labels again, and continued to buy those tasty sugary treats again and again. I don’t really blame you, but you’re wrong.
It’s 2020 y’all, and this hellscape of a year is nearly over too. We all deserve better. We deserve higher quality chocolate, no cheap fillers, no weird ingredients that are banned in other countries, and no treats that actually taste like trash (sorry, your nostalgia is fooling you).
These days finding something great from skilled makers with small businesses that you actually feel good about supporting is impressively easy. It is really easy to find gluten-, soy-, and even dairy-free candy and chocolate that tastes really really good, and you can get most of it delivered right to your front door.
I’m in no way sharing these things with you because I think they’re “healthy” or “better for you”. Okay, well they probably are better for you just by being free of unnecessary junks, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. It’s still candy we’re talking about. I just want to tell you about some really really good chocolate and candy and caramel things that are wildly delicious and also happen to have the benefit of not making me sick.
Whether you choose to take advantage of impending Black Friday sales for your own personal benefit or to share with friends and family is entirely your call. I won’t judge.
The Candy Apothecary
The Candy Apothecary is a woman-owned chocolate-based candy shop based out of Portland, OR. All products are naturally gluten- and soy-free with several dairy-free options.
I first encountered The Candy Apothecary via booth at a Portland Night Market event a few years ago and can’t tell you how often I have thought about them since. When we still lived in Portland, I’d buy something every time I waltzed into Tender Loving Empire (let’s be real, I was going in specifically to get some of that Candy Rx).
Honestly I wish I had more photos to share with y’all, but uh, The Candy Apothecary’s dark sea salt caramels are genuinely one of my favorite things and while I managed not to demolish them in one sitting, I wouldn’t exactly say they lasted long either.
To be fair, the other goodies that were very kindly sent to me by owner Jenny did not last long either.
I’d had the pecan turtles once before (absolutely incredible) and inhaled that first. Nick went hard for the delightful dark chocolate honeycomb and we fought over the impressively addicting Oregon hazelnut brittle. I did not feel particularly inclined to share the absolutely incredible cara-mallow, but Nick confirmed its magnificence from the bite he stole. Finally I treated myself to the peppermint hot cocoa kit and wow, what a brilliant creation.
The dairy-free peppermint hot cocoa kit is truly a sight to behold, with peppermint oil-flavored chocolate and peppermint marshmallows. A wooden spoon is partially encased in the chocolate block so just heat your milk of choice and dunk it in (I used unsweetened macadamia nut milk and it was fantastic). Like most other bigger items in the shop, the cocoa kit can be purchased as a four-pack or as a single serving for all your gifting and/or hoarding needs. You do you boo. (There is also a non-peppermint cocoa kit option for you handful of weirdos who don’t like chocolate and mint together.)
Keep an eye on the Candy Apothecary website as the shop periodically runs charitable giving specials with proceeds being donated to various causes such as ALS research, art programs for local schools, and the Black Resilience Fund.
Candy People was originally founded in Sweden in the early ’80s, and is my personal powerhouse for all things sour. The U.S. arm of the Nordic confectionary is based out of Plano, TX. Candy People products are made without high-fructose corn syrup, with many vegan, gluten-free, and naturally flavored/colored options.
A few months ago, I was having a rough go of things (hi, pandemic, unemployed, family far away, you get it). So Nick ran out to Ikea without me to pick up our new Omar shelves (they’re fantastic, by the way) and surprised me with a bag of Sour Vikings from Candy People. I’d never seen or heard of Candy People or Sour Vikings before that moment. Reader, I cannot express to you how many bags of Sour Vikings have been demolished in this home since that fateful day.
They are the perfect slightly-harder gummy texture with flavors that actually taste like real things you can find on this planet. The Sour Skulls are also brilliant, a bit larger and flatter so a little less work to get through, but not any less delightful. Both items are naturally flavored/colored and gluten-free which is a great excuse for me to eat a whole bag in one sitting. If sour or gummy candy is your thing, this is where it’s at my egg-friends, and the Candy People website is currently running some wild specials including 51% off three-packs of my two favorites and free shipping over $45.00. Whether you’re stuffing stockings or have eight days of Hanukkah to get through, you can’t go wrong with something sour.
Srsly Chocolate is a small yet mighty chocolate company based out of Austin, TX. All of their products are soy-free and most are gluten- and dairy-free as well.
When Nick and I still lived in Oregon, he came home with a surprise chocolate bar for me (as he is wont to do on occasion) that had Reishi mushroom in it. It was the most bizarre sounding thing I could think of to put into a chocolate bar at the time, but turns out it is wildly delicious.
Turns out Reishi is actually kind of good for you too, so when we finally got to Austin, I was pretty bummed that I could no longer find that bar. Then Texas was like I GOT YOU, BOO and I bumped into the gorgeous Reishi Mushroom bar from Srsly. Our love affair has continued throughout the pandemic and across several other bars – particularly the Toasted Sourdough, Firecracker (currently unavailable), and unexpectedly, the Cranberry & Texas Pecan too. I wrote a brief love letter to Srsly in my Austin-local gift guide, and I profess my adoration again here.
If you’re shopping for yourself, there are no mistakes to be made in the Srsly shop, but if you need some direction in shopping for others: make sure you check out the 12-piece fall bonbon collection, the folded-paper-succulents chocolate advent calendar, or any one of the shop’s curated gift sets like the three-bar Texas Library and Holiday Library.
Raaka Chocolate is an unroasted-chocolate company based in Brooklyn, NY. All of their products are vegan, soy-free, and gluten-free.
I want to call Raaka the sleeper, even though some of their bars are readily available in my local grocery store, their generally simple and soothing packaging does a good job of keeping the magic inside hidden, but Raaka’s bars are not to be overlooked. I repeat: do not sleep on Raaka’s chocolate bars.
The brand very kindly sent three bars my way, which I photographed and then promptly inhaled. I then ordered ten more bars and while yes, some of those will be part of holiday gifts for my favorites, I’m planning to keep most of them.
The Waffle Cone bar has a literal full panel of gluten-free waffle cone smashed into the back of the bar and I ordered four more of them after Nick and I plowed through the first (don’t worry, I’m sharing… one). Whilst working at my desk, I accidentally ate the entirety of a Green Tea Crunch bar, with genmaicha tea steeped into the chocolate and crispy puffed quinoa. I ordered more of that one too.
When my giant order arrived (very fast shipping by the way), there was a little sprinkle of brown sugar in the packaging. That came from the exquisite Ginger Snap bar: “Ginger-steamed Tanzanian cacao mixed with winter spice-infused cocoa butter and decorated with sparkling brown sugar”. swoons dramatically
Whether for you or someone you really really like, Raaka is currently offering 20% off until December 1st and, in addition to single bars, has an excellent selection of bundles and gift sets.
Sweet Apricity is a woman-owned burst of sunshine (get it?) making marshmallows, caramels, and other AIP-safe confectionary out of Vancouver, WA. All products are “intentionally crafted for those following the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol), Paleo, Gluten-Free or Dairy-Free diets”.
Meaning: noun: Warmth of the sun; basking in the sun.
Etymology: From Latin apricari (to bask in the sun). Earliest documented use: 1623.
When I first came across Sweet Apricity, I really fell in love with the mission and approach to ingredients, but I had my concerns in whether these sugary creations could stand up to “the real thing” (ironically, the mass produced stuff is the least real option out there). I am pleased to report that my reservations were entirely unfounded.
Just about every single product I’ve tried has been fantastic, but as I’m sure you can guess it was the coconut-cream sea salted caramels that I couldn’t get enough of. (Yes, obviously they are all gone now.)
As much as I love caramel in all forms – the sea salted caramel sauce is not to be missed and the 20mg/piece CBD caramels are a delight – it was the marshmallows that impressed me most. I know I’ve spent all this time talking about chocolate and caramel and sour candy, but dear reader, you should also know that I absolutely love marshmallows.
Owner Tonya very kindly sent me a substantial selection of items to try and the vanilla marshmallows are a force to be reckoned with. They are sweet and powdery like any good marshmallow should be, with an excellent bite and without the unhinged sugar-high you may get from eating too many around a campfire. Who knew honey and grass-fed beef gelatin could make such a great dessert? Okay, probably a lot of people, but I am here for it.
I have not yet had the pleasure of shoveling the seasonal peppermint marshmallows into my gob, but the pumpkin spice release was fab so I can only imagine how good these are as a lover of all things peppermint.
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Coracao Confetions is a paleo & vegan chocolate-based confectionary based out of Oakland, CA. The brands offers bars, truffles, and drinking chocolate – all sweetened with coconut sugar.
Sometimes a targeted ad is more like a GPS tracking missile with precision sensors. Even though I missed out on the gigantic caramel-filled chocolate coffin this year, I couldn’t stop thinking about the creativity behind it and the excitement of finding one more team that believes in making good stuff.
The Coracao crew very kindly sent a few products my way and while I could have eaten the incredible salted caramel bars until they were pried from my hands like the One Ring, it was recording my best friend’s reaction to one of the Berkeley bars that took the cake.. er, the chocolate.
My mouth is watering
Where have these been all my life
Not overwhelmingly sweet
I like that I’m tasting the nuts and not just syrupy sugar
These generously-sized bars come in packs of two and while I believe the implication is to share, I leave that decision entirely to you. Coracao offer some fantastic volume discounts, custom boxes (think Godiva, but you don’t want to die after), and some stunning flavor options. The hazelnut cream bar? It’s basically just full of Nutella. Proceed with giddy caution.
Many of the products mentioned in this post were sent to me gratis. This post is not sponsored.