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Jelly Bean Taste Test

March 27, 2014

Kendra Vizcaino-Lico

We’re spilling the beans on which brand of these iconic candies was our favorite 

Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart—the bright colors, chewy texture, and fruity flavors of jelly beans are sure to bring a smile to your face. They’re also the perfect Easter treat: If you have to fill plastic eggs, bulk up a basket, or set out a sweet snack, jelly beans perfectly fit the bill. But not all beans are created equal. A great jelly bean has a firm but yielding texture, a prominent but not overpowering sweetness, and a pronounced fruitiness. We tasted our way through 13 brands of jelly beans to find the very best for your Easter baskets.

Best Jelly Beans Overall: Jelly Belly ($2.79 for 3.5 ounces) 

Pros: A stunning variety of cheerful, vibrant colors is what caught the judges’ eyes, but the chewy texture and easily identifiable flavors sealed the deal. “Concentrated flavor hits first followed by a nice sweetness,” said one judge. “Firm, but chewable,” noted another.

Cons: The only criticism of these beans was that they’re a bit on the small side.

SEE MORE: 5 Easy Ways to Make Your Chocolate Chip Cookies Even Better

First Runner-Up: Trader Joe’s ($1.99 for 8 ounces) 

Pros: Tasters enjoyed the bold, unique flavors of this brand. “Juicy! And a great chew. They taste like what they’re supposed to, not too much like sugar,” noted one tester.

Cons: The darker colors of the beans were deemed more autumnal than Easter-appropriate.

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Second Runner-Up: Lifesavers ($2.99 for 9 ounces) 

Pros: The chewy, pliable texture won favor with the judges. One tester said, “I really like the softer texture of these jelly beans.” They also enjoyed the the tart, fruity flavor. “Nice balance of tart and sweet—lots of flavor!” noted one taster.

Cons: Tasters felt the jellies were a bit dull color-wise and had an artificial aftertaste.

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The other contenders: Starburst was praised for its sunny colors and appealing texture, while we liked both Brach’s and Mike & Ike for their sugar-forward taste. Judges preferred the large, satisfying size of Just Born beans and the slightly sour tang of Jolly Rancher jellies, but both lost points for being too dense. Gimbal’s had beautifully colored beans but was deemed too soft. Sweet Tarts was liked for its tart notes and Russel Stover for its big beans, but both lost points for an unappealing, mealy mouth-feel. Tasters felt Laffy Taffy had an strange powdery consistency, while Nerds-brand candies were way too crunchy.

Methodology: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of 13 brands of jelly beans. Results were ranked using the Epicurious four-fork rating system (four being best).

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