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Ranking: The 49 Best Jelly Belly Flavors

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Ranking: The 49 Best Jelly Belly Flavors

JUDGMENT COMES TO CANDYTOWN

As many of you know, Paste is famed for its beer-tasting series. It seemed fitting and proper that we move onto the craft beer of candies, the jelly bean. Like beer, the jelly bean is also intoxicating, but in a more metaphoric sense. When you talk about gourmet jelly beans, you’re really only talking about one company: Jelly Belly. Jelly Belly has been part of our national life for decades.

Consumed by Presidents, astronauts, teens, retirees, by people of all shapes and sizes, it’s hard to think of a time when Jelly Belly wasn’t the go-to brand of wee, flavored confection for most human beings. The Jelly Belly Company (previously Goelitz Confectionery) has been around since 1898. Starting in the early sixties, the California candy magnates began popping out small globules of sugar that were abundant in flavor, and the rest was history. Sweet, sweet candy history.

Three Paste staffers stood around one afternoon and spent an hour eating candy. It was a tough day, but sometimes sacrifices must be made. E.C. Flamming, Josh Jackson, and Jason Rhode were the reviewers. There were numerous ties, making the ranking system a little bit difficult, but we feel we’ve built an order that will last the ages.

A Note on Bean Acquisition
We acquired these from a store. We don’t remember which one. A Kroger. The beans in this review came out of a 32-ounce 49-flavor pouch, red and white, with a Ziploc resealable top. Paste’s candy came from one of three places: Fairfield in California, or North Chicago in Illinois, or Thailand. It’s unlikely we got a packet from their overseas factory, but a magazine can dream.

A Note on Freshness
We know that many beaniacs will be peppering us with impertinent questions, like “How fresh were these beans? Did you get the full bouquet?” I assure you, the strictest protocols of tasting were obeyed. We took this job seriously.

Rules and Procedure
We poured these on a paper plate in the middle of Paste Headquarters and dug around inside the pile. We ate them one at a time. No mix, no match. The rich pageant of bean-flavor demands focus. Only the purest and most refined essence would do.

THE UNFORGIVEN

49. Buttered Popcorn
Score: 10
The absolute worst bean ever inflicted on mankind. “Dead and futile,” we wrote. Why? Why, why, why would you try to emulate popcorn using a candy matrix? Atlantis tried this, and look where it got them. “Candified popcorn is an abomination,” one of us wrote. Another described this as (direct quote) “DEVIL BEAN — gets WORSE” and that’s hard to argue with. Buttered Popcorn, you are the Scrappy Doo of beans. It is known.

48. Caramel Corn
Score: 12.3
Gross. Yuck. No. Whatever hopes this bean had were lost in translation. You added caramel to corn and got a trainwreck. Caramel Corn, you’re like a “Sexy Babadook” costume: you added two things together and ended up neither sexy nor scary. Wow, Jelly Belly. Bad look.

47. Chocolate Pudding
Score: 25
“Tasteless, weird, weak.” These are not transcriptions from family court but notes taken on Chocolate Pudding. Nasty was the consensus. Nasty beans, don’t mean a thing. Are we living through the era of climate change for this? Do. Better. Pudding.

46. Licorice
Score: 26.6
This is a bean faithful to its name. I mean, it’s licorice. It’s hard to screw up, and for some of us, hard to like. Look, we admit to prejudices and biases here at Paste. We like our sun shining, our zombies dignified, our skies free from bats, and our cars not on fire. And two of the testers (Josh and Jason) did not like licorice. We brought that to the table. E.C. digs the flavor. While the other two downgraded the final result, Flamming should have the final word: “Good, if you like licorice.”

THE HANGERS-ON: BEANS THAT ARE JUST GETTING BY

45. Coconut
Score: 52.6
Nice, sweet, very … okay. Considering coconut on its own shows its weakness. It’s a Ringo bean: it functions well as a great combo flavor with banana, daquiri, and the rest.

43. Mixed Berry Smoothie
Score: 53.3 (TIE)
Honestly, this is Margarita all over again. We found it to be a big disappointment; tastes like grass. There’s an in-your-face juiciness, but this seemed like JB trying to Poochify its kit. Instead, it got caught with a big industrial kitchen mess.

43. Juicy Pear
Score: 53.3 (TIE)
Juice Pear did its homework. We understand it’s trying to be a major player, and you gotta admire its hustle. But we found serious fault with a lot of the bean’s range. “Kill me softly,” wrote one reviewer. “Bonus points for life-like pear flavor,” said another.

HUSTLER BEANS: BEANS WITH BIG DREAMS

42. Island Punch
Score: 56.6
How about a nice Hawaiian Punch?!! Yes? Actually, no, we can’t give you one. Copyright, trademark, I’m sure one of those words applies. So enjoy this nice public-domain non-sue-able Island Punch instead. Island bean, you’re writing checks your flavorful butt can’t cash. Reviews of this flavor described it as a “Bad alcoholic drink.”

41. Mango
Score: 58.3
This isn’t really mango, but it’s tangy. “Spoiled” was a common description. They tried something, and it sort of worked. So … yeah?

40. Cinnamon
Score: 60
Big Red-flavored. That’s it. Look, what do you want from us? We’re here to pass judgment, not fix everything.

39. Tutti-Frutti
Score: 62.5
Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam NO. A regular bubblegum with some edge included in the package. Does what it does, not much else.

38. Bubble Gum
Score: 64
Good but disappointing. Exactly what it says on the tin. Processed. This bean called in, did its job, and left on time, checking its watch. “Makes me feel twelve, but that’s not a bad thing.”

37. Plum
Score: 65.6
Plum showed up to play. Plum has a lot of character. Plum has something to prove. Plum knows you’re judging it. It was very plum-like, in the plum fashion. Boring but regular. Like school or Tylenol. It does what it does and that’s okay. Don’t hate the flavor, hate the game.

36. A&W® Cream Soda
Score: 66
This tasty concoction has a dead-on flavor. Otherwise, it’s unmemorable and dutiful. For all we know, the bean is the underground punk band that gets by on years of reliability before cutting loose in the third or fourth album to become legendary. Cream Soda, we’ve got our eye on you.

35. Green Apple
Score: 66.6
Oh, Green Apple. May I call you Grapple? Crisp, but not much else. Grapple, if there was a movie about you, it would be Eternal Eh-shine of the Spotless Mind. You are both like, and unlike, actual green apples. Imagine a chill party where nobody has big fun, but it’s not unpleasant. Imagine a bath that is perfectly lukewarm. Imagine a shirt from Goodwill that has a perfect typeface but is just a little bit too large but you wear it anyway. That is Green Apple.

34. Peach
Score: 67.6
Peach is a light, well-rounded taste, full of evocative hints of zest. Like many Jelly Belly flavors, the attempt to recreate a flavor inside a small, hard candy package yields up surprising results: sometimes good, sometimes bad. Peach doesn’t taste exactly like peach, of course, but something that might be a cousin to peach in an alternate universe. Your opinion of the peach jelly bean will therefore depend on if you prefer this style of flavor or not. This was the big divide between the reviewers. Two of the reviewers were not impressed with peach, but the third one approved highly. It’s a real Civil War type situation, and from this house divided there is no hope of leveraging a negotiated peace. Here it sits, like the Maginot Line, in the middle of Bean Review Country.

BONO TIER — COOL BEANS, I GUESS?

30. Margarita
Score: 70 (TIE)
This is a bean which tells the world, “I like to have a wicked time, but I’m far too busy to drink a whole margarita. I’m going to simplify the process by eating a flavor bean.” This is the bean an alcohol efficiency expert might design, and it works. Seriously. This bean is a feat of engineering. We found this bean delightful. Throw in some tequila, and possibly a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita while you’re at it.

30. Kiwi
Score: 70 (TIE)
If kiwi was a reality television show, it would be a smash hit: this is the real, unfiltered deal. Which is a way of saying that kiwi tastes exactly like the candy it’s supposed to be. That’s not to say the party-time flavor of kiwi doesn’t also taste artificial in its own way, but it’s not enough to detract from the gusto aspect. It’s time to face facts and admit we are living deep in the Gilded Age of Kiwi Candy Flavor.

30. Red Apple
Score: 70 (TIE)
Although in some senses inferior to Green Apple, Red Apple was a fun and flirty visitor to the tasting contest. Tart, but with sufficient gusto. There’s no snarky deconstruction of bean flavor here, just down-home appreciation.

30. A&W® Root Beer
Score: 70 (TIE)
It’s good to go. Whoever had the shift on the ol’ root beer farm did the right job by this bean. Congratulations: yup, it’s root beer.

29. Cappuccino
Score: 70.5
You won’t believe it’s not cappuccino! Actually, you will, because you’re eating a bean, not drinking liquid from a cup. But it’s surprisingly tasty: woodsy and evocative notes of over-sugared coffee. A grown-up treat. A sterling reply to the difficult problem of pouring something quite good into a very small container.

28. Blueberry
Score: 71
Floral arrangement with additional bean taste. More intense, potent; but not blueberry. Malty comes to mind, for some reason. Mild start, strong finish. Undershadows all other berry beans.

25. Cotton Candy
Score: 71.6 (TIE)
Is this Highlights: The Magazine? Because I am dealing with colorful childhood issues here. We could eat this all day. Even at its best, Jelly Belly is an evocation, not a recreation of the flavors it names its beans after. But cotton candy is way, way better than actual cotton candy.

25. French Vanilla
Score: 71.6 (TIE)
Why do we never hear about the vanillas of other nations? Why just France? Are there no German vanillas? Anyway, this high finisher is a lush and luscious note sent from the back of a Parisian salon advising us to eat more, and we will. It was worth going to Europe for, and strong enough to recommend again.

25. Toasted Marshmallow
Score: 71.6 (TIE)
Some found it gross, but this full-bodied bean got our attention. It waltzed right into our favor with a sumptuous sally that screamed “You will receive the flavor you were promised.” Sure enough, this is what locally-harvested toasted marshmallows taste like in bean form.

23. Orange Sherbet
Score: 72.5 (TIE)
Hand-selected Creamsicles distributed out on a sunny day, but too sludgy on the final kick.

23. Strawberry Jam
Score: 72.5 (TIE)
This custard is still delicious, but it’s arguably the worst of the strawberries. Overly sweet, overly melodramatic. “I’m a jam,” what’s not to love? Well, for starters, the treacly tones which aren’t exactly strawberry, but come across as Chemical Input Vat Number 5. Like an eight-hour version of Voltron, you keep waiting for everything to come together, but the moment never arrives. Still, delicious enough to be ranked high.

22. Cantaloupe
Score: 73
Refreshing. Sweet. Part melon, part sugary treat. An aperitif, a mood bean—a strong evocation. Sec, dry.

THE GREAT 75 PILEUP—CONFUSION REIGNS
Six beans tied at 75 points. The remaining beans are in the top quadrant of flavor. We didn’t plan this, but we’ve come to accept it as one of the odd twists and turns in the bean-counting life. Like Aaron Burr, these beans are always waiting their turn. Since no flavor claims precedence here, we’ll list them in what we understand to be alphabetical order.

16. Berry Blue
Score: 75 (TIE)
Notorious B.I.G. When you think of him, what do you picture? Juicy. And that’s what we thought of this azure spectacle in kidney form. A balsamic boom of a bean, filled with light frolicking.

16. Dr. Pepper
Score: 75 (TIE)
Delicious and easy to mix up with chocolate, this heavy-hitting fan favorite is the Hamilton of beans: brand-recognized, feisty, always ready to take on all challengers. This summer, the doctor is definitely on call and will give you a prescription for beautiful bean mouthfeel.

16. Lemon Lime
Score: 75 (TIE)
Utility bean. A trouper. Astringent and willing to have a suitable time, the Lemon Lime is most definitely the “That Guy” of Jelly Belly beans. LL will never bring you perfect refreshment, but it’s good that it exists. One of the pillars of taste that holds up the Beaniverse.

16. Strawberry Cheesecake
Score: 75 (TIE)
Sweet, creamy, uncanny. Somebody made a vision board to bring this bean to market, and it worked.

16. Sour Cherry
Score: 75 (TIE)
To paraphrase Devendra Banhart, this feel is for sour-bean. The SC is a composition of palatable sourness and choice pickings from the cherry orchard.

16. Sunkist® Lemon
Score: 75 (TIE)
Yes. Just yes. A little more interesting than the other Sunkists, if not ready for varsity. A dulcet duo of sunlight and punches.

PUREST BEANIUS (Meaning Bean Genius)

15. Very Cherry
Score: 77.5
We feel odd giving a standard review of a long-term bean, but it’s better than sour cherry. The gustatory effects here are jazzed-up, but it’s the cherry you’ve known and loved all these years.

14. Sunkist® Lime
Score: 78
The delectable is made detectable here in this honeyed bean. A flawless, sharp execution.

13. Watermelon
Score: 78.3
Yes! Real watermelon is a crapshoot. Sometimes it’s watery nothingness. But Jelly Belly’s watermelon is a rich, kick-the-door-open essence of watermelon. Toothsome. If you bring this bean to your biker rally, nobody will laugh at you.

12. Lemon Drop
Score: 79
We’ve all been there. Those moments when an ordinary bean won’t do and you need a mosh pit of fruit flavor to entertain you. Lemon Drop is the call you were afraid to make, and it comes through.

11. Sunkist® Orange
Score: 81
More sweet than citrus, while still romantically orange. Like Snickers or Classic Hasselhoff, it satisfies.

10. Pomegranate
Score: 82.5
Electric. That’s the one-word review we have for this multi-syllable taste. How many other fruits, by the way, did pomegranate stomp on to get a coveted place in the Masterpiece Theater that is the Jelly Belly line up? There’s no Shiner Bock or Guinness Beer-flavored bean in this bag, and I can only assume the Big Pom lobby has something to do with that. Well, covet on, my friends. This fine standard of beanmanship made the cut.

9. Crushed Pineapple
Score: 82.6
Throwing spears down from a storm cloud of power, here comes crushed pineapple, springing on our quotidian lives as a wolf does a fold, or the wave high-fiving a beach. “Yum Yum, Could Use Some Rum,” wrote one reviewer. “Writing home to say I love you,” scribbled another.

8. Raspberry
Score: 84
This dark, rich, solid entry into the Game of Beans has a lot to recommend it. Unlike real raspberries, which fade away with time, this impressive bean, in the right conditions, will outlive us all. It feels weird to eat immortal snacks, but it feels even stranger to give up the chance to do so.

7. Top Banana
Score: 85
“Delicious in very small doses,” was the consensus. You tried, and won a place of honor. Unfortunately, Top Banana, you are neither at the top of the list, nor a banana, which makes you a liar on both accounts. That’s okay, though; we forgive you due to your deliciousness.

6. Sunkist® Tangerine
Score: 86
Best of the citrus. This is the kind of bean that ought to have a press conference once a week about what it’s doing. This bean ought to have a Twitter with a million real followers. This bean should take its talents to South Beach and not worry about the rest of us.

5. Wild Blackberry
Score: 89
The taste warlord, Wild Blackberry. Worth the risk of accidentally eating a licorice. In case you thought falling to your knees in gratitude for living was passé, this big guy is here to remind you. Like Huck Finn, it’s a little bit country and a little bit crazy, but it all turns out all right in the end. Wild Blackberry has notes of honeysuckle, of flower, of barley. A temptation you’d be foolish to miss.

4. Sizzling Cinnamon
Score: 90
This peppery loop on the Jelly Bean rollercoaster was a pleasant experience for all comers. We identified with the familiar comforts of a much-loved spice, while rejoicing in the hands of a well-crafted taste sensation. Like going to rest in the chair of a dentist you trust: with Sizzling Cinnamon there will be pain, but only of the most trifling and necessary kind.

3. Strawberry Daiquiri
Score: 92
Coming off the stack of booze-turned-into-candy, the Strawberry Daquiri is another strong finisher in the Candy Olympics. Unlike the real Olympics, there are no European kickbacks or disreputable doping in mafia-owned athletic clubs, just Platonic punches of awesome mouthfeel. Complex and delicious was the final judgment of the group. Mouthwatering.

The final two beans were only rated by one person. This throws off the consensus numbers of the rest of the group. So it’s first and second place with an asterisk, just like Lance Armstrong.

2. Sunkist® Pink Grapefruit
Score: 94
SPG goes in your life full of hinted promises and delivers. Another Queen on the Candy Chessboard. Slay kween yass.

1. Piña Colada
Score: 96
Pina Colada brings everything to the table: piquant promises of sharp-edged fruit bites. Pina Colada exploded my heart open. Only a Pokeball opened by a vise could compare. I vastly prefer this to the actual Pina Colada, and unlike the alcoholic beverage, there is no threat of arrest. No end. No beginning. Just the eternal awesomeness of bean.

And that’s it! Watch this space: next week, when we’ll be reviewing* insulin pumps. Which are best for regulating your now dangerously-high blood sugar levels?

*Note: This will not happen

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