Learning to Love Salted Licorice

April  8, 2015

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.)

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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

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Joe Morelli
    Joe Morelli
  • zagros.licorice
  • Agnes {Cashew Kitchen}
    Agnes {Cashew Kitchen}
  • Rebecca Genet
    Rebecca Genet
  • Lynda Kochevar
    Lynda Kochevar
Past Julia Child Fellow at Food52 || Believer in Brunch


Joe M. January 28, 2019
You mentioned the possibility of adding a bit of ammonium chloride to the recipe at home. Is there a good source for this ingredient? I searched online using the various names given to the substance (ammonium chloride, sal ammoniac, salmiak salt) with no success. Apparently it is used as a dietary supplement for certain ruminants but is not labeled for human consumption.
zagros.licorice August 23, 2015
At the first step we obtain the wild roots grown naturally, without any chemical elements and pesticides and stock it in our warehouse. After the roots are dried and the dust and extra elements are seprated, the roots are crushed by crusher, we deploy to the line of processing, producing Licorice Extract is done by natural gas. The roots are decocted, press out, filtered, concentrated and evaporated. our productions are produced on basis to updated, standard packing and offered to our consumers. The selective point of the process of producing Licorice extract by Zagros Company and packing are done completely by machine automatically without hand interference
The Licorice Extract which Zagros Company Producing is mostly exported such as:
1- China
2- Europe
3- Russia
4- Middle-East
5- South Africa
Agnes {. April 22, 2015
Next time you go to Stockholm you HAVE to visit this store:! it's a dream come true for liqourice lovers <3
Hannah P. April 22, 2015
Thanks for the tip!!
Rebecca G. April 10, 2015
Oh I love you for this article! The first time I tried one in Denmark I spit it up (I think it was a "Piratos", extra salty)... But somehow over the years and Scandinavia travels I eased into it and I love them so. They kind of taste like dust and ammonia I find, it tastes gross but delicious. It's a mystery! Living in Paris I love going to the Swedish candy shop on rue des Martyrs and filling a paper bag of them. Every single person I have taste one spits it out, so more for me... :)
Lynda K. April 10, 2015
The Minneapolis IKEA is selling Saturday candy, 64 varieties--a wall of bins! They told me that they are trying it out in 2 US stores and that since it was installed here in December, we have out sold every store that carries it.
Liisa A. April 10, 2015
All wrong, Finland is the mecca of licorice, only the Swedish companies are trying to steal the fame of these products. Get the real Finnish products online, no preservatives there!
Leaflover April 9, 2015
Great article! I thought I was alone in my adoration of this weird salty, soapy, slightly umami stuff. I have to steer clear of the Dutch aisle at our local market lest I buy too much and overindulge. I never knew about the the Swedish angle, and thought the Dutch had the market cornered on this. I really want to try he other Scandinavian varieties you mentioned now!
Deb April 9, 2015
although it tastes great BEWARE of hypertension. If you have high blood pressure or a tendency towards you want to avoid licorice
hardlikearmour April 9, 2015
I am also a huge licorice and salted licorice fan. I've been trying to replicate the Salted Licorice ice cream that is occasionally on the menu at Ruby Jewel in Portland, and was planning on taking another go at it. I also recently ordered some Marvis Licorice toothpaste to try :-)
CarlaCooks April 9, 2015
My husband first I troduced me to salty licorice when we first started dating. We lived in Santa Barbara, CA at the time, and would make regular trips to Solvang (a little Danish town right in the heart of the Santa Ynez wine country) to stock up on salty licorice. We then moved to Denmark, where we lived for 5 years, and we were in salty licorice heaven the whole time! My favorite is the Haribo Skipper's Mix bag, which has some awesome salted bears. One thing we learned from our Danish friends: salty licorice and red wine are a magical pairing. Give it a try!
Hannah P. April 9, 2015
That sounds amazing, I will be trying wine and salted licorice asap!
Fredrik M. April 9, 2015
You forgot to mention the Icelandic licorice! :-) As a swede and used to the swedish licorice am I dreaming about finish and as already mentioned, icelandic licorice. In my point of view is that superior the swedish version.
Hannah P. April 9, 2015
I also love Icelandic licorice. So good.
Nothing I. April 9, 2015
Love these photos.
Margaret April 8, 2015
My parents are German and I spent some time there, but I didn't know about Salzige Herringe until I ran across some quote by Heidi Klum about it. And then I read this article and remembered I brought some home with me from my trip to Germany in January. I love it! And I don't feel bad that I'm the only one in my family that loves it, more for me!
Karissa T. April 8, 2015
I am a California native, raised in western China (think Pakistan, culturally!) and Thailand, and was turned on to salty licorice as a kid by Swedish friends from the China days! There is one candy store that carries the double salted round hard-chewy kind near me, and my mother in law buys me salty licorice that has a minty shell from a roaming "Dutch truck". I've even tried my hand at salty licorice ice cream (inspired by Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco, though I've never tried it in person!), though it needs to be tweaked. I've never been to Sweden, or had most of those varieties you mentioned, but it sounds like an absolute dream... I was so excited to see this post, most people do not want to share my candy with me. :(