What is Saltwater Taffy?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Saltwater taffy does not, to the surprise of many, contain saltwater. Rather its name suggests its origins. Generally, most consider this sweet to have come by its name since the first varieties were made on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Saltwater taffy can come in vanilla, chocolate and root beer flavors.
Saltwater taffy can come in vanilla, chocolate and root beer flavors.

Some candy lore suggests that saltwater taffy was named so after a flood nearly decimated the shop of David Bradley. When he was cleaning up the next day, a young girl came in asking for taffy. Bradley offered the girl “saltwater taffy” and the name appears to have stuck, just as the candy sticks to the roof of one’s mouth.

Saltwater taffy can be found in little stores in most beach resorts.
Saltwater taffy can be found in little stores in most beach resorts.

Saltwater taffy is essentially taffy, and was being prepared and sold all over the United States in the 1880s. It became especially popular as two candy competitors in Atlantic City began to produce the candy in large quantities for vacationers at the beach.

The two initial companies, James Salt Water Taffy and Fralinger’s still make saltwater taffy, and recipes have only changed slightly since their inception. The most marked change is the variety of flavors now offered. A good vendor may offer as many as fifty different flavors to delight the palate.

Taffy is a very chewy candy, made from sugar and butter. The candy is then pulled to aerate and fluff it up. After extensive pulling and stretching, usually done by machine, the candy is packed in small wrapped rounds. Modern taffy recipes may use corn syrup or glycerin instead of the traditional sugar for a more sticky and stable candy.

Generally, saltwater taffy can be found in little stores in most beach resorts, or coastal haunts on both the East and West Coast of the United States. It can come in diverse flavors, and may be heavily colored with food coloring. Flavor variants include chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, banana, cherry, lemon, peppermint, root beer, and the list continues.

Some flavors are a bit more unusual. Berries and cream, eggnog, caramel cheesecake, or caramel apple are relatively new offerings. Some companies also produce sugar free or low salt varieties for customers with special dietary restrictions.

If you don’t happen to live near a coastal region, one can order saltwater taffy direct from many of the famous vendors, including Fralinger’s and James. Be aware, that Fralinger’s chooses to make their taffy in an oblong log shape, instead of in the traditional round shape.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@Mutsy - I think that the salt water taffy that you buy in bags of bulk candy tends to be harder than the original. There is a difference in the taste too. It is not as good as the taffy you find on the Jersey shore.


@Abracadabra- I didn’t even know that they had sugar free saltwater taffy. I have to say that the best salt water taffy that I have ever eaten had to be when I was a kid and bought some in Asbury Park. It was delicious. The only thing that I don’t like about saltwater taffy is that it sticks to your teeth. It can be very uncomfortable.

I hate that feeling of the taffy sticking to my teeth maybe that’s why kids enjoy saltwater taffy and adults usually don’t.


@angelbraids -- The sugar free versions do taste a little different compared to the regular, but they are still delicious. Just don't eat too many as you may get an upset stomach from the sugar substitute!


In my experience the best saltwater taffy flavor is the original. I have tried some of the variations and they are fine, but the regular version is what reminds me of childhood vacations.

I think it's great that you can buy low salt and sugar free saltwater taffy. I wonder if it will taste as good though. Has anyone eaten it and noticed any major difference?

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