They’re traditional, utterly Finnish, and something that many people don’t even consider to be candy. We’re talking about salmiakki, of course.
Salmiakki, known in English as salty licorice, is a popular treat in Finland and other Nordic countries. It’s no secret that salmiakki is something of an acquired taste. Flavored with ammonium chloride, salmiakki has a strong, salty flavor — which Finns love. If you’re an adventurous non-Finnish candy lover who has never heard of salmiakki, don’t expect much. It’s probably better that way.
We’ve rounded up a list of the top 10 most brutal Finnish candies, so read on to find out whether your favorite made the list — although we think you can probably guess which one earned the #1 spot on our list!
10. Hopeatoffee (Silver toffee)
Let’s start mildly. This toffee salmiakki-flavored toffee is really sweet compared to other salmiakki products. This candy went off the market from 2009 to 2013, but was brought by the manufacturer due to massive angry feedback. Out of all the salmiakki stuff on this list, Hopeatoffee is probably the easiest to digest and is a great place to start for salmiakki novices.
9.Pohjanmaan pastillit (Ostrobothnia pastilles)
These minty pastilles much like breath mints are also known as ”uskovaisten pastilli”, ”religious people’s pastille”. With a floury texture, they dissolve easily in your mouth without much chewing and are therefore popular among the elderly. It has been said that the religious people candy name comes from the fact that many elderly people tend to have these on hand at religious events.
For many Finns, these candies are strongly associated with visiting grandparents, or ”mummola”, (literally ”grandmother’s [house]”), and that’s why they’ve made it to this list. My grandparents always had these, and sometimes I dared to ask for them in times of extreme candy hunger. These might be tasty for elders, but for a kid craving sugary sweets, they are a huge disappointment. But being a stupid and optimistic little kid, I always thought that maybe the taste will be better this time. I was wrong.
8. Tervaleijona (Tar lion)
These tiny sugar-covered pastilles are — you guessed it: Licorice candy with tar flavor. Tar flavor is fairly popular in Finland, and you can find everything from tar-flavored ice cream to tar-flavored candy. It adds a distinct smokiness to your snack.
7. Tervapirut (Tar devils)
These taste similar to Tervaleijona, only without the sugar. These are perfect for those who don’t like to spoil the delicate flavor of tar with anything sweet.
This is legit candy. It’s salmiakki powder with sugar, and that’s about it. You can dump the entire thing in your mouth at once, dip a finger in the powder and lick it — just don’t snort it. It’s not going to get you high and will most likely burn your nostrils.
This isn’t the only manufacturer of salmiakki powder, nor the only packaged kind you can find. You can find salmiakki powder in shorter and wider tubes, as well as in palm sized (usually black) flat cases that look like snuff cases.
5. Apteekin salmiakki (Pharmacy salmiakki)
This is similar to the old-timey salmiakki that was sold in pharmacies as a medicine for cough and digestion. You can still find it in Finnish pharmacies. They are very tiny, flat pieces of salmiakki that taste most like the original salmiakki.
4. Super Salmiakki
This salmiakki is strong, but unlike the previous very traditional salmiakki candies, it has a eucalyptus or menthol nuance in its flavor. It’s my personal favorite salmiakki.
First of all, don’t be fooled: it’s not Gifu. The letters are old letters that resemble G and F, but are actually capital S and lowercase s.
Sisu is part of Finnish mentality. Tricky to translate, but sisu is something that keeps you going no matter what. You will pull through the hard times even though everything and everyone in the world is against you. You try with sisu. And for a foreigner who tries these candies for the first time, it might determine whether they have any “sisu” in them.
If you don’t like the flavor of Sisu but you have sisu in you, you chew it, swallow it and eat it. No matter how bad it tastes. The red one is the ”original”, but there are plenty of other flavors such as Salmiakki (obviously), Raikas (Fresh), Kekäle (Firebrand), Kipinä (Spark), Horna (Abyss/Hell), Sysi (Charcoal) as well as Sisu chewing gum (with xylitol!). Even though they all taste different, they all have the same easily recognizable base taste. The taste of Sisu.
This is something you either lovee or hate. I don’t really fancy this myself but it still combines two of the most Finnish things ever: Fazer blue chocolate and salmiakki filling. The salmiakki is really strong and almost liquid.
1. Turkinpippurit / Tyrkisk Peber ( Turkish peppers)
When you first pop these hard candies into your mouth, you taste a sweet licorice flavor. It’s not bad. And then when you chew, you discover a new flavor. It’s filled with very strong salmiakki powder.
Turkinpippurit are pure brutality. If you eat them too much (especially if you like to suck on them rather than chew) they will cause the skin to peel off from your palate.
10 Finnish candies, 10 ways to get your salmiakki fix. Which of these is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
Karoliina Korhonen, the author of Finnish Nightmares, is enthusiastic about Finnish culture and cats. Not necessarily at the same time. She also loves to tell her own bedtime stories that evolve into novels and according to her you cannot be fully awake until you’ve had two cups of coffee: “One to get out of bed and the other to stay out.”