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Learning to Love Salted Licorice

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There are those things we eat, make, read, and gush over that are just too good to keep to ourselves. Here, we resist the urge to use too many exclamation points and let you in on our latest crushes.

Today: There's something about salted licorice that makes it perfect for candy lovers and haters alike (and Sunday's National Licorice Day, so you have a few days get on board.)

The salt burns, the licorice numbs, but there's something about salted licorice that's addictive as all get out. It's so enchanting because it's not a simple sweet: There is fudgy licorice that sticks to your teeth; sour licorice that puts Warheads to shame; strangely malted licorice covered in a pucker-inducing salt; licorice so chewy you can have some after lunch and keep going until dinner; and hard licorice with surprise salt centers (a personal favorite). The world of salty licorice is filled with options—there isn't one eat-this-for-the-rest-of-your-life-and-never-look-back type of candy.

Salted licorice is a point of undeniable, charming pride in Sweden. Parties often have bowls of candy sitting out like we might have peanuts, and grocery stores are filled with aisles upon aisles of bulk bins. It’s a pretty dreamy sight. They even have a principle known as Lördagsgodis (literally Saturday Candy). It's a way for parents to keep their kids away from the plethora of Swedish sweets until the weekend—quite clever, if you ask me—but I like to partake in Saturday Candy as an excuse to keep my candy stash well stocked. Lördagsgodis has become an unwritten rule, a tradition of sorts, that many Swedes savor and that makes Saturdays extra special.

Whether you eat it on Saturday or any other day, there is a kind of salted licorice for everyone, from salt-soaked to sugar-coated, chewy to crunchy; there are even spicy varieties for full-throttle risk takers. Maybe after eating one, or ten, or the whole bag, you still feel confused about your opinion—that’s okay. It just proves that salted licorice is complicated in a way gummy bears or Kit Kats aren't. Like mushrooms or anchovies, for many, salted licorice takes growing into. (You could also ease in slowly and start with salted licorice ice cream. It helps with getting used to the acquired tasted.)

There is something to be said for opening up a bag and just seeing what happens. The first time I ate this candy, I was being recorded—some reactions, like my first taste of salted licorice, are worth reliving for laughs. My face puckered in anticipation of the stringent flavor I had been cautioned about, but once the candy was on my tongue, my face of fear changed to a blissful expression. While laughing, I said “Well, that wasn’t so bad!” Then I reached the salt-filled center—my eyes watered, my tongue burned, and I regretted ever putting the candy in my mouth. Yet ever since then I haven't been able to get enough of this heavily salted sweet—it's complex like that. It’s thrilling. 

Now I'm the person who lugged home an oversized bag full of salty licorice from Sweden so I could impose my love of salted licorice on the fine folks at Food52. There was some wincing at first, but all of these bags of candy you see here did get consumed. And there's no better evidence that these salty bites can be loved.

No matter where your quest for salty licorice takes you—whether it be all the way to Finland for some of the most potent varieties, to our Shop for licorice made from Pacific Ocean salt, or into your kitchen where you can add a little ammonium chloride or fleur de sel to your homemade candy—we are here to encourage (or enable) your budding (or well-established) love of salted licorice. And if you're looking for the real authentic stuff without taking a trip to Scandinavia (also recommended), you can now find it in Nordic candy shops popping up in metropolitan areas and on the ever-reliable internet.

Are you a diehard licorice fan? Freaked out by salted candy? Is salted licorice your spirit animal? Tell us in comments below!

Photos by Bobbi Lin

Tags: Dessert, Snack, Travel, We're Obsessed