City guide
Sweet Things: 13 classic Hungarian candies
Photo : László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
Sweet Things: 13 classic Hungarian candies

Halloween isn’t really a widely observed holiday in Hungary, but sugary treats are just as popular here as everywhere else, so we happily celebrate this spooky occasion with an assortment of sweets coveted by Magyar kids for generations, and all available at ordinary shops across Budapest. We are grateful that a member of the Addams Family could stop by We Love Budapest headquarters to lend a hand!

Szőlőcukor Pasztilla Negro Tejkaramella Téli Fagyi Balaton Maci Vadász Krumplicukor Dunakavics and Francia drazsé Eredeti Szerencsi Sport Medve Cukor Kojak

Szőlőcukor Pasztilla

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
With its name meaning “grape-sugar pastilles” in Hungarian, this is one of the healthiest sweets that Thing has to offer – the package states that “regular consumption of grape sugar tablets is good for children, athletes and heart patients.” That’s all well and good, but do these slightly chalky pellets satisfy sweet teeth? The answer is yes, with the mint variety offering a quite refreshing taste after a meal, while fruit-flavored szőlőcukor options like lemon and strawberry provide a pleasant guilt-free treat.

Negro

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
Hungary is not a very politically correct country; were these soothing lozenges marketed in Great Britain or the USA, protests would surely follow at retail locations within a few days. However, this widely popular Magyar-made hard candy – infused with honey, mint, or fruit – is actually named after Italian confectioner Pietro Negro, who invented it in Hungary while living here during the 1920s; meanwhile, the suspiciously dark-tinted figure on every package is supposed to represent “the chimney sweep of the throat.”

Tejkaramella

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
“Milky caramel” is pretty much what it sounds like – a creamy type of fudge that tastes like soft toffee, which may be a little dry when first chewed, but soon the sugary goodness melts across the palate and smiles follow. While a few Hungarian confectioneries create cubes of this crowd-pleasing treat for mass consumption, the best tejkaramella is prepared at the homes of Magyar grandmas nationwide; considering that the recipe only calls for sugar, milk, and butter, it’s not a difficult do-it-yourself sweet.

Téli Fagyi

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
Magyars aged over five years old generally react with revulsion when offered this strange confection – with its name translating to “winter ice cream”, this unrefrigerated sugar bomb mainly consists of cocoa-flavored mousse topped with a thin layer of chocolate within a typically stale cone, creating a cloyingly unpalatable texture and taste that often inspires expectoration soon after the first bite. Nonetheless, this Hungarian-made specialty is still found by the checkout counter at many supermarkets here.

Balaton

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
The biggest lake in Hungary (and Central Europe) is honored with this namesake candy bar that is simple yet scrumptious, made of wafers pressed together with cocoa-cream layers and then coated in milk chocolate or dark chocolate. With its sunshiny wrapper imagery showing bright beams illuminating shimmering water, one bite of this omnipresent delight evokes memories for Magyars who grew up going to Lake Balaton every summer, buying one of these candy bars anytime they could cadge a few coins from their parents.

Maci

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
With its charmingly retro wrapper emblazoned with a drawing of a cute little bear (“maci” is Hungarian for “teddy bear”), along with Budapest’s name proudly added at the top, this peanut-infused milk-chocolate bar is not only a fairly tasty goody, but it also makes a great cheap gift for visitors to bring home to family and friends after a trip to Hungary’s capital. The chocolate itself is nothing special, but since each bar weighs in at a hefty 100 grams, a single Maci is perfect for splitting among friends.

Vadász

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
“If you want something really good!” says the label of every Vadász bar, and considering that every Vadász bar is made with a generous portion of alcohol, the manufacturers can’t be accused of false advertising. With its name meaning “hunter” in Hungarian, this tasty tidbit is available in either the “sweet and bitter” flavor with dark chocolate or the “black forest” variety with milk chocolate, and both options are filled with cherry cream and a noticeable splash of booze, making it an excellent wintertime treat.

Krumplicukor

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
Generally reviled as the country’s least-desirable candy, the name of krumplicukor is Hungarian for “potato sugar”, and things don’t get much better from there. Like szőlőcukor, krumplicukor is marketed as a relatively healthy indulgence, but most people that watch their weight would probably prefer to skip sweets altogether rather than bite into this odd-smelling concoction left over from communist times. If it’s really fresh, krumplicukor is in fact edible – but if it’s gone stale, it becomes a flat jawbreaker.

Dunakavics and Francia drazsé

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
As the Hungarian answer to M&M’s, this duo of palatable pellets encased in a candy shell remains beloved here ever since its creation in Budapest 50 years ago. However, these two types of candies appear and taste dramatically different; Francia drazse are simple spheres of chocolate, while Dunakavics are roasted peanuts with a lumpy sugar coating that, at a quick glance, can kinda resemble a hardened piece of already-chewed gum. Regardless, both of these multicolored confections are popular with very good reason.

Eredeti Szerencsi

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
Anyone allergic to nuts should steer clear of Eredeti Szerencsi candy bars – their primary ingredients include hazelnut cream, chopped almonds, honey-flavored cashews, and peanuts. However, folks who enjoy these hearty kernels will definitely savor this old-school delight that also contains a thin crispy wafer and is liberally covered in dark chocolate, and still wrapped in golden foil like some delicacy delivered from Willy Wonka’s factory. Thing especially appreciates its easy-to-hold contoured shape.

Sport

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
Although it’s not as strong as Vadász, this alcohol-flavored chocolate bar is a major presence in candy aisles at shops all across Hungary. A layer of dark chocolate envelops a light cocoa-fondant filling enhanced with the essence of rum, making it a pleasant pick-me-up… but contrary to its name, this doesn’t seem like the most beneficial snack that athletes could possibly nibble on. Nonetheless, the compact-yet-satisfying size of Sport bars can be perfect for assuaging a passing craving for something sweet.

Medve Cukor

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
People who really like licorice might just become fans of Medve Cukor – meaning “bear sugar” (don’t worry, no ursine beasts are involved in the creation of this candy) – but even people with a predilection for this root-based flavor will probably find the texture off-putting, to say the least. Sold in long semi-gelatinous strands, the first couple of bites are agreeably chewy, but soon it dissolves into slippery shreds of rubbery treacle, until the process of actually swallowing it presents a test of endurance.

Kojak

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
Named in honor of the iconic TV detective with an affinity for Tootsie Pops played by Telly Savalas in the 1970s, this cocoa-coated vanilla sucker has continually been a cherished sweet among Magyars for decades. The chocolate tastes somewhat artificial, and the dense vanilla center has a tendency to get stuck between teeth, but for those patient enough to let the entire glob literally melt in the mouth, Kojak pops present an easy way to sate a sweet tooth without purchasing an entire candy bar. We love ya, baby!