I think it’s safe to say that everybody has a particular type of candy bar they gravitate toward come Halloween-time. My weakness is for Almond Joys, which, lucky for me, always seem to be among the least popular entries in the candy bar catalog. These days though, I can barely get through one piece of Halloween candy without triggering a toothache or instantaneous stomach pain. In an attempt to honor one of my favorite fall food traditions, I’ve begun to research natural, homemade candy options that still hit that nostalgic sweet spot without all the chemicals or high-fructose corn syrup. Check these great recipes and lots of tips for turning your home kitchen into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Snickers have always ranked in my mind as the “gold standard” of Halloween chocolate bars. Unfortunately though, given their core components — nougat, caramel, chocolate shell — they quickly veer into sugar bomb territory. Lucky for us, Jessica Stier of Desserts with Benefits developed a foolproof recipe that delivers all of the familiar flavors without the added health costs. The base of the bar is a peanut butter nougat that comes together with the addition of vanilla almond milk, stevia, and a bit of brown rice protein powder and oat flour to bind it all together. Next, she layers on a thin coating of date caramel, a smattering of roasted peanuts, and covers the whole thing with a homemade magic shell made simply from melted milk chocolate and coconut oil. A healthy candy bar with added protein? Sign me up! Get the recipe at Desserts with Benefits.
For all of my fellow Almond Joy lovers out there, this recipe from Pastry Affair has your name written all over it. Blogger Kristin Rosenau takes shredded coconut and mixes it with coconut oil, honey and vanilla to form the classic candy bar filling. After shaping the filling into logs, topping with a few whole almonds, and giving them a quick freeze, she covers the bars in melted semi-sweet chocolate before cooling completely. Not only is this recipe a spot-on hack, it also only utilizes ingredients you know and recognize. Get the recipe at Pastry Affair.
Butterfingers may seem like a tricky choice to replicate at home given their addictively crisp, shard-like texture, but you’d be shocked at how easy it really is. Megan Gilmore of Detoxinista developed a recipe that pulls from the traditional hard candy preparation by combining maple syrup or honey with a bit of cream of tartar. The mixture is heated to 300 degrees (which can be monitored on a candy thermometer) and then quickly whisked into a hefty amount of peanut butter. She then takes the mixture and spreads it on a parchment-lined baking sheet before cooling it completely in the freezer. The final bars are then cut and dipped in a thin layer of dark chocolate and chilled to firm up. Stier recommends eating the bars straight from the freezer, which is more than acceptable by me. Get the recipe at Detoxinista.
Crunch bars are definitely an underrated choice in the candy bar canon, but it’s pretty hard to beat that signature crunch. Sharon Rhodes of The Honour System puts her own spin on this Nestle favorite by combining puffed quinoa (for texture) with almond butter (for body), maple syrup (for sweetness), cocoa powder (for, duh, chocolate) and coconut oil (for binding). The whole mixture gets poured into a parchment-lined mold before going in the freezer. Once firm, the bars can be cut into any size you’d like. A 15-minute process that delivers all of the flavor and texture you remember from childhood. Get the recipe at The Honour System.
It’s hard to beat a traditional Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The good news is that they are cinch to make at home and require a mere four ingredients (all of which you probably already have in your pantry). Maryea Flaherty of Happy Healthy Mama makes the chocolate base by mixing equal parts unsweetened cocoa powder, coconut oil and maple syrup. She then portions out the mixture into muffin tins filled with paper liners to form the bottom layer of the candy, tops with a scoop of jarred peanut butter (crunchy or creamy), and then covers it with another layer of the chocolate mixture. The cups then get placed in the refrigerator or freezer to set. Some food for thought: You could make this recipe in less time than it would take to drive to the store and pick up a bag. Get the recipe on Happy Healthy Mama.
I bet you never thought a Twix bar could be gluten-free, paleo, vegan and only contain six ingredients, but you would be wrong. Case in point: the homemade Twix bar recipe from Rachel Connors of Bakerita. Let’s break this down layer by layer. The shortbread crust is a simple gluten-free cookie dough made from coconut flour, coconut oil and maple syrup baked until firm and golden brown. The caramel filling combines almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil and bit of vanilla, and doesn’t even need to be cooked (always a bonus). And for that signature chocolate glaze, Connors mixes cocoa powder with coconut oil and maple syrup for a natural spin on traditional ganache. She even amps up the grown-up factor of these Twix with a sprinkling of fleur-de-sel on top for that signature sweet/salty combo. Get the recipe at Bakerita.
Don’t feel like messing up your kitchen with one of these recipes? Chicago’s Windy City Sweets is a great local spot where you can satisfy your sweet tooth. With more than 1,200 treats, from fudge and truffles to gummy candy and chocolate-covered fruit, this shop was named the 2017 Best Candy Store by Chicago Magazine and one of the Cutest Ice Cream Shops in the USA by Cosmopolitan. Here, they share a tasty recipe just in time for Halloween.
Caramel Apple Suckers
- 4 large Granny Smith apples
- 16-20 apple sticks
- 2 pounds chocolate disks
- 1/2 pound caramels
- Sea salt
- Candy corn
- Reese’s Pieces Minis
- M&M’s Minis
- Chopped peanuts
1. Wash and dry apples.
2. Cut apples (top to bottom) into 1/2-3/4-inch slices.
3. Insert sticks into apples.
4. Dip apples into melted chocolate (completely cover apple).
5. Place dipped apples on wax paper.
6. Cover apples with favorite toppings while chocolate is soft.
7. Place pan in refrigerator to set.
8. Drizzle warm caramel over apples.
9. Sprinkle sea salt over caramel if desired.
10. Let set for a few minutes and enjoy!
More from Make It Better:
- 7 Apple Cider Cocktails That Scream Fall
- 10 Recipes Perfect for a Grown-Up Halloween Party
- 10 Steps to Spooktacular Pumpkin Fun This Halloween
Maddie LaKind is a Chicago-born personal chef, caterer and writer. Her love of gastronomy began with an introduction to the Food Network as a teenager and has since blossomed into a deep-rooted passion. She spent her early career in the food world working at the famed Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, before moving on to other notable spots including Detroit’s Sister Pie bakery, and Floriole Bakery, Read It and Eat bookstore and The Social Table in Chicago. In her spare time, she can be found practicing yoga, hosting dinner parties for friends and sifting through her ever-growing cookbook collection. Maddie is also a supporter of PAWS Chicago. Since adopting her two cats from the shelter, she has served as a volunteer and donated her cooking services as an auction item at fundraisers.