The Worst and Best Candies for Freeze-Drying
Freeze-dried candy is a life-altering invention, but what are the best candies for freeze-drying, and what are the worst?
Yes, you read correctly; some candies just don’t come out of a freeze-dryer with much improvement. And there are certain attributes that kind of determine whether a candy will do well or not. But for every rule, there is an exception – like the silent E that changes the sound of the previous vowel… unless it doesn’t. This is true with freeze-dried candy.
So what, generally speaking, makes a candy good or bad for freeze-drying? Keep reading, and we’ll discuss.
The Worst: Candies with Very Low Moisture Content
The process of freeze-drying works by removing up to 99% of moisture from food using a process called sublimation. So if something doesn’t have much moisture to begin with, it’s not going to do much good to freeze dry it.
Candies with low moisture that don’t seem to freeze-dry well include jelly beans, peppermint patties, and Oreos.
Interestingly, Oreos are well-known in some circles to be better when left out for about a week to stale. So one might think they’d do well in a freeze-dryer. But while most foods dry out when they go stale, foods that are drier than the surrounding air — like Oreos — will absorb atmospheric moisture, giving them a softer texture – and doing the opposite of a freeze-dryer.
The Best: Candy Corn
Yes, if you’re thinking about the moisture content of candy corn and juxtaposing that with the first “Worst” list, you’re correct; by all rights, candy corn should be on the worst list because there isn’t much water to remove, and so they don’t appear to change at all. This is one of those exceptions to the rule, but it is a wonderful exception.
When candy corn is freeze-dried, the flavor becomes a little more intense, and while it doesn’t expand, it does become significantly crunchier. The result is similar to a corn nut – we sometimes call it candy corn “nuts.”
The Worst: Candies with High Oil Content
Freeze-drying removes water from food, but not oil. This is because oil doesn’t gasify during sublimation the same way water does, so the result is that these candies don’t change that much.
The best examples of candy with high oil content are those containing peanut butter or lots of nuts.
The Best: Big Hunk Bar
Yes, another contradiction. Big Hunk bars do contain peanuts, which aren’t affected by freeze-drying. But the nougat surrounding those peanuts is very much affected by that process. So those peanuts, which had been a crunchy counter-texture to the soft nougat, are now relatively chewy; this means you still get an exciting contrast of textures.
The Worst: Chocolate
Don’t take this the wrong way; chocolate is great in any form. It just doesn’t change very much at all when freeze-dried. This is true because of the low moisture/high oil content rules. This may be why M&Ms have been so successful as astronaut foods – they’re already perfectly formed for the journey.
The Best: Milk Duds
You’re catching on. Yes, Milk Duds are covered in chocolate; no, it doesn’t change when freeze-dried. That’s kind of what makes it one of the best candies for freeze-drying. The caramel in the center expands to several times its usual volume, making it crunchy and delicious. This creates an exciting contrast to the soft-as-always chocolate on the outside.
The Worst: Ice Cream
This is a controversial one. Freeze-dried ice cream is an iconic space-age food, but the truth is, it just didn’t do well in part because the astronauts didn’t enjoy it. It was considered too crumbly for use in zero gravity. We have to wonder if it might have been different if it had been freeze-dried in smaller portions. Then you could easily pop it into your mouth without the need to break it.
The Best: Black licorice
In contrast, here’s one some people don’t like in its normal form, but it makes a beautiful treat when freeze-dried. Different brands of black licorice work, but it’s got to be softer with appropriate moisture content — Twizzler won’t work — like Panda All Natural Soft Licorice. Hard candy versions also do well in a freeze-drier.
The Worst: Stale Candy
So, you’ve got leftover candy from Halloween or Easter, hoping to make it edible again. The problem with this plan is that your candy is likely already dried out enough that it won’t have much more to change in a freeze-drier. You run into the same problem with candies that don’t have a lot of moisture to begin with. So sadly, you’ll have to find another use for your leftovers.
The Best: Air Head Bites
These come out with a light and fluffy texture, but the flavor intensifies. Freeze-drying works well with many types of taffy, including salt water taffy and Laffy Taffy.
The Worst: …
Ok, so there aren’t that many candies that don’t freeze-dry well. Most candies will be delightful as long as they have high enough moisture content, not too much oil, and are done in small pieces.
The Best: Skittles
Skittles are probably the most popular freeze-dried candy, and for a good reason. They have a great texture contrast, they’re the perfect, poppable size, and they have the same delicious flavor – just a little more concentrated. We’ve tried several varieties of Skittles: Original, Sour, Wildberry, and Tropical; the Wildberry, Tropical mash-up is great. Good luck not polishing off an entire bag of these in one sitting.
Candy Jan Has Done the Hard Work for You
We know everyone doesn’t have the time, equipment, or blood sugar stability to test every kind of candy in a freeze-drier. That’s why we’ve done it for you. We’ve tried hundreds of candies, and we’re still not done!