The Best Snacks For The Holidays, Ranked

Happy holidays, everyone! We on this taste test team are up to our frostbitten ears in buying and wrapping presents, attending and hosting gatherings, and decorating everything. But we've been cooking and baking piles of sugar cookies, roasts, gratins, casseroles... it's enough to make even we, the food people, want to take a little break from cooking (and cleaning up after all the comfort foods that stick stubbornly to pots and pans). We suspect that you're in the same boat. So what do we all need? Snacks. We need snacks. Easy, convenient, tasty, snacks that still scream "merry and bright." Luckily, there are lots to choose from in a plethora of familiar and funky festive flavors.

Maybe you love the savory side of the holidays, the scent of aromatic herbs wafting through your home, and the salty chew of toasted nuts. Maybe you wait all year long for the sweeter side of things and feel no greater joy than that first bite of a gingerbread man or sip of peppermint mocha. Well, we decided to save you boring bites by testing and ranking the best holiday snacks on supermarket shelves.

14. Gingerbread Larabar

We were alerted to Larabars years ago before the market on concise-ingredient nutrition bars became flooded with an overwhelming number of options. The brand was always on top of fun flavors, completely nailing the secret solution for "fewest ingredients but most impact." Maybe you already have a favorite box to grab, but now's the time to go into full holiday mode. Larabar's most festive flavor, Gingerbread, is in time to bring some holiday flair to your nutritious snacking needs. You might not always want to have handful after handful of toffee, candy canes, or crinkle cookies for a snack, so we've got your back for a jolt of good health.

Ginger is a great purveyor of instant flavor. Some of the bar's eight ingredients have to be the foundation for a healthy, cohesive nugget. Those include dates, cashews, almonds, and raisins. Now think about it: Doesn't that already sound like the base of an old-fashioned fruitcake or something? Brilliant, now let's make it spicy and sweet with cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, and tons of zingy ginger. We could taste a warming combination of all our favorite holiday classics, wrapped up in a chewy, almost blondie-like bar that seemed too candy-like to be "good for you." It's the sweetest minimalistic approach to gingerbread that packs a punch of vegan, no-sugar-added, gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based power. Naturally, these nutritious snacks weren't as straight-up tasty as, say, a bowl full of ice cream, but now we're protein-primed and ready for all the treats.

13. Sugar Bowl Bakery Gingerbread Cake Bites

What do you do when you want cake, but you want a snack, but you want it to have holiday flavors, and you want it to be so convenient you don't even have to dirty a utensil? We feel you, which is why we tossed these Gingerbread Cake Bites from Sugar Bowl Bakery into our carts while shopping for holiday snacks to test out. Often, the cake gets lost amidst all the Christmas cookies. Even though there's nothing more indulgent than a towering cake decorated in fancy icing florets, it's a whole lot of work. Are you going to bake a three-layer gingerbread cake? Probably not. So, we decided to see how we'd feel about taking a shortcut with these cute mini cakes.

We felt pretty darn great, honestly. The bracing, robust flavor of molasses cuts through the sugary floof of cake while adding an extra boost of richness. It means that these cakes not only have deep flavor but also (forgive us) moist, sticky edges. Obviously, what makes for great gingerbread is going heavy on the spice blend and breathing in the warm aroma of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and company. That's where Sugar Bowl Bakery goes a little too light for our tastes. Our team acknowledges the fact that we're all in favor of vehemently spiced gingerbread, though, earning it a relatively lower ranking on this list. If you like milder spices, you'll love these more than we did.

12. Wegmans Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pretzel Pieces

Wegmans Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pretzel Pieces might become your sweet yet savory snack go-to this holiday season, especially if you're not always falling in love with the sugary extravaganza. Sometimes you need salt, you need a crunch, and you don't need to be punched in the face by The Gingerbread Man. Now don't fret, we're not calling you a Grinch, we're calling you balanced. We're also saying, however, that you don't have to completely give up festive flavors because you can't stand yet another piece of fudge. Pretzels are calling your name, and not just regular pretzels. These crusty bites, with a nuanced dusting of brown sugar and cinnamon but a tangy heartiness due to a sourdough base, provide you with some fun seasonal flavor and some palate-cleansing normalcy.

We found the scent mesmerizing as soon as we tore open this bag, and the taste meet our expectations. Sourdough was the right choice, Wegmans! If you think that more holiday foods should be less flamboyant (fruitcake-flavored Mountain Dew might be pushing it) and more traditionally comforting, try baking up some classic homemade cinnamon rolls that are better than any you've had before. Gooey brunch desserts aside, we seriously appreciated these crunchy bites of cinnamon-sugar goodness. Wegmans could easily have marketed these as Snickerdoodle-inspired. Grab a few bags, but we just couldn't rank these as high as other snacks that tasted more distinctly "holiday."

11. Carr Valley Cheese Cocoa Cardona Cheese

Carr Valley Cheese's Cocoa Cardona Cheese shouldn't work. We were prepared to laugh it off, but now we take it back. Consider the way chocolate and cheese mysteriously complement each other; even three-time Michelin-star chef Dominique Crenn has her own way of pairing the two. When you step back and entertain the possibility that these two beautiful foods mutually benefit each other, you're in the right headspace to try a piece of goat's milk cheese with a cocoa powder rind. As you can see in the picture, the cocoa doesn't stay only on the rind. The slightly bitter, slightly sweet flavor infused the whole cheese and creates some visually appealing swirls.

We enjoyed the soft but firm texture of this cheese. Slicing was texturally like slicing into a hunk of high-quality sharp cheddar. Though the cocoa made it slightly challenging to taste the base cheese in isolation, we detected a nuttiness and milky creaminess that worked beautifully with the cocoa. In bites with a lot of cocoa dusting, we got milk chocolate vibes, which is fun in cheese form! This is the perfect cheese to have on hand for guests, or for those charcuterie boards (we think it would really pop with raspberries and chocolate-coated almonds). Still, it's the sort of cheese you try once, enjoy, and move on. We probably wouldn't stock up on it, so we ranked another cheese higher since it was more of a dramatic revelation.

10. Trader Joe's Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Almonds

Trader Joe's Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Almonds are ingenious. Nuts are common around the holidays, but get a little boring and forgettable on the charcuterie board, nibbled when the fancy cheeses run out. Trader Joe's puts a peppermint twist on the chocolate-covered almonds that really elevates the nuts to the stars of the show. Roasting brings out their flavor and gives them a more-ish chewy texture. And there's a double layer of chocolate before the candy canes even came into play. Yes, these almonds are coated in dark chocolate, then in white chocolate, and only then get their dusting of peppermint bits. White chocolate tends to be overly sweet, so we were delighted to find that the almost bitter dark chocolate adequately balanced out the snack. The peppermint taste didn't overpower the three other flavors (almond, dark and white chocolate) but gently perfumed the box with freshness.

This snack pick is a fun way to get your peppermint candy cane holiday fix without eating only straight-up candy. A bowlful would be a lovely accompaniment to a cup of refreshing peppermint tea for a light snack between meals, or a little dessert. Besides, with the health benefits of almonds and the positive side effects of the tea, you'll get a great night's sleep before another day of Christmas shopping. Somehow, we found a better white chocolate peppermint snack to come, so we had to curb our enthusiasm towards these. Stay tuned!

9. Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie Squares

Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie Squares did one thing wrong. Read on for the reveal, but in the meantime, enjoy a few chocolates, because these are still nice. Let's get this straight, we love Ghirardelli. The chocolates are always delicious, whether a basic chocolate chip or a decadent-filled square. This one would have captured our attention based on the bag alone; decked in holly and ribbon and shiny stars, and in a gingerbread-colored amber hue, it's practically a holiday decoration all by itself. We were interested to see how much of the classic cookie flavor they could get into the square. 

As it turns out, they played it safe, so we were a little sorry. The flavor mostly comes through in the crunchy cookie bits, which we thought tasted slightly like Biscoff. The squares have a fun snap, and the chocolate becomes infused with the complexity of holiday spices, so all is well except that one thing: We think that a coating of dark chocolate would have been the better choice. Gingerbread, in all its spicy seasonal glory, would play off a sharper, more bitter flavor very well. Altogether, the resulting candy would likely taste more elegant than this milder treatment. Or, the gingerbread part (not the chocolate part) could use a dash of this secret ingredient that takes your gingerbread cookies to a whole new flavor dimension. With more zing and a higher cacao percentage, it might have slid into the top five. 

8. Alter Eco Organic Salted Burnt Caramel Chocolate

Alter Eco Organic Salted Burnt Caramel Chocolate brings us some less flamboyant holiday flavor than sugar cookies, peppermint, or gingerbread. Well, actually more flamboyant in a way... because the flavor comes from burnt caramel. Like a perfect salted caramel sauce, this burnt caramel chocolate bar plays with other techniques and food science to emphasize the uniqueness of caramel and de-emphasizing the potential for cloying, over-the-top sweetness. We were made wise to Alter Eco only recently, but are now quick to sample anything new it releases. The brand uses high-quality Ecuadorian chocolate, and boasts a finishing salt called "fleur de sel de Guérande." Even without the burnt caramel notes, this would still be an elevated and well-crafted bar of chocolate.

When we tasted that complex, heady, and calculated rendering of caramel, we were instantly hooked. It's the kind of intriguing and magnetic flavor that invites you to take another bite, and another, as you try to discern each tasting note and explore the way they mingle on the tongue. For a snack that takes you out of your stress muddle and into a sweet sensory experience, pick up this Burnt Caramel bar instead of basic caramel, and let yourself have a moment of presence playing "spot the difference" with your taste buds. It was the best seasonal chocolate bar we've tried in a long time, even more painstakingly crafted than Ghirardelli's.

7. Wegman's Mini Cranberry Orange Scones

More mini, more fun! Wegmans Mini Scones Orange Cranberry gives you a big festive flavor in small bites and the taste of freshly-baked seasonal baked goods without making a batch yourself. One of our taste testers had a golden childhood memory of Wegmans' fluffy, towering muffins every Sunday, and we've been continuously impressed by its baked goods. The perfect size for snacking, these Mini Scones probably wouldn't have fooled the late Queen Elizabeth (her "scones" are our "pancakes"), but for American-style versions, they are excellent. The texture is dense and cakey, not dry and crumbly at all, with a nice chew from the cranberries. The best part is the way the thin orangey glaze clings to the triangles, sealing the scone in extra moisture and a light extra sweetness.

Grab a Wegmans mini scone on your way out the door, and we can guarantee that lukewarm coffee is going to taste a whole lot better. Winter is the best time of year for the bright citrus fruits that give the scones their verve, so whip up recipes that involve citrus. Our palates could use a bite of that before another round of candy cane treats. These were the best snack-size store-bought baked goods we sampled and only lost out to more iconic items on the list that offered holiday cheer beyond just taste.

6. Snack Factory White Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Crisps

If you've never tried a Pretzel Crisp from Snack Factory before, you're in for a real treat. Those lacy slices of enthusiastically salted pretzels, so light that they have little pockets of air inside, are a real innovation in our minds. Though the typical lineup is filled with savory sensations like Garlic Parmesan, Honey Mustard, and Onion, the brand treats us to some sweeter options when the holidays roll around. Call us biased, but we knew we'd be into the Snack Factory White Chocolate & Peppermint Pretzel Crisps before even opening the bag. The only real question is whether or not you're a peppermint person. If you are, you're in, because these are doing everything a Plain Pretzel Crisp does, but coated in white chocolate and lots of candy cane bits. It's the same principle as Trader Joe's Candy Cane Coated Almonds, just without the dark chocolate. These don't need it; the creamy, super-sugary white chocolate gets much tamer when against a base as unflinching and bold as a pretzel.

These twists are just so pretty, you might be surprised by the edge of saltiness in them. We could easily just keep munching away, and sure did find ourselves snacking on them all day long, sneaking just one more in between tasting the other treats. These are absolute winners, and a great snack for when you can't pick between salty and sweet.

5. Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe Ice Cream

Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Ice Cream takes the beloved Peppermint Joe-Joe's and folds them into a pint of perfectly pink ice cream. In case you aren't a "Frequent Flyer" at Joe's place, he makes sandwich cookies that are great dupes for Oreos. Sometimes, like in the case of these holiday Joe-Joe's, it's an improvement upon the Nabisco norm. In this spin on cookies and cream, the base ice cream is not only TJ's tasty vanilla but also luscious peppermint (that tastes nothing like toothpaste) and the cookies are bursting with Santa Claus-approved spirit. Plus, there's a swirl of fudge!

Some of us wished there were more cookie chunks and a thicker fudge ripple, but others actually could have done with fewer add-ins to allow the minty ice cream to have its moment in the spotlight. Either way, the flavors work splendidly together, and we truly couldn't ask for a more delicious, fun, and cohesive pint of ice cream. We need that deep, dark, serious chocolate in there to even everything out, and we're very glad that Trader Joe's agreed.

4. Walker's Pure Butter Shortbread Cookies

Walker's Pure Butter Shortbread cookies are a no-brainer during the holiday season. Never think these cookies are boring, though: We consider shortbread cookies to be a strong conversation-starting snack because breaking out a tartan-plaid box connects all age groups over a love of classic, perfect foods that have survived and thrived through generations. We prefer this shape for dunking purposes, but they're all going to be made out of the same dough that's so much more than the sum of its ingredients. Ironically, as one taste tester said, it's exactly what you'd expect from the ingredients: Pure butter means pure joy, right? If you love crispy, flakey cookies that are basically sticks of butter held together in a shelf-stable package, these are them. No brand brings the butter better.

Dip and let the crumbly treat soak up the flavor of coffee, or, if you're being nice and traditionally Scottish about it, some strong tea. They are a marvelous palate cleanser on a cookie plate, the humble offering that will appeal even to the pickiest eaters. They're versatile, too, since that buttery crumb offsets other flavors and textures like caramel, chocolate, and fruits. All things considered, it's best to just keep a box on hand. A couple of Walkers Shortbreads plus your drink of choice make a snack that makes you feel like a queen. Only one sweet holiday sweet proved more iconic.

3. Firefly Farms Fig and Orange Goat Cheese

Firefly Farms Fig & Orange Goat Cheese captures some of the more upscale, elusive, and old-world holiday flavors. It calls to mind Charles Dickens and figgy puddings, but also chic French ladies eating charcuterie boards and speaking in musical tones. We believe figs are basically candy that grows on trees, straight-up sweetness straight off the branch. To many, though, they're weird and otherworldly, so gain confidence by trying some fig-flavored foods before biting boldly into a ripe fruit. You might think we're biased for putting two orange-centric products in the top three spots on the list, but the brands get everything right. Since this is a savory snack, not a sweet snack, we noted that this cheese hits three very important marks: It's got the subtle sweetness from figs, the bright acidity from orange (acid is crucial for a well-rounded bite), and the luscious fat (another of the four crucial elements) from the high-quality goat cheese.

A creamy, spreadable goat cheese is perfect for the holidays because it's cozy yet decadent, comfort food in a high-end package. A basic unflavored log is fine, but why not get into the spirit of the season by choosing a cheese that still does everything it's supposed to do but with holiday flavors? Your crackers will be so happy for such a gorgeous partner. We're stocking up on this cheese after work, so don't be offended if there's none left for you.

2. Popadelics Rad Rosemary and Sea Salt Mushroom Chips

Hey everybody, we must take a moment for this very important public service announcement: Popadelics Mushroom Chips aren't just one of the best holiday-flavored snacks, but also one of the best snacks we tried in 2022, and the best of the savory salty holiday snacks. Anything from Popadelics slaps, but this Rad Rosemary and Sea Salt flavor happen to hit all those savory festive notes. Besides, rosemary is an underrated flavor for seasonal joy. Its singular woodsy taste and aroma place you in a winter wonderland the same way sage instantly gets you in the Thanksgiving mindset. Especially on these "chips," think of rosemary as a nod to evergreen and fir trees à la Starbucks' bold Juniper Latte a while back. Popdelics gets that elusive outdoorsy sensation perfectly, so it was a nice unique way to bring the holiday vibes.

On to the main question: The flavor was great, but how was the mushroom of it all? Now, first and foremost, we admit that we had a few mushroom skeptics on our taste test team. The texture just tends to weird people out, and we get that. We picked up these snacks more as a curveball in our holiday snacks game. Well, mushrooms have never been better transformed. The sinewy texture is gone, replaced with a meaty yet crunchy bite with a three-dimensional shape that basic chips can't beat. We fell hard for these flavor-packed nuggets, and advise you to try them.

1. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Orange

We're finally announcing the No. 1 holiday snack, by none other than Trader Joe's! First, a note about how absolutely perfect a chocolate orange is for the holidays. With 20 break-a-part segments, you get the satisfaction of taking out a little holiday stress (or emphasizing your holiday cheer), by using a little gentle force to peel this orange. Then, share with up to 20 people! Or, have 20 snacks for the price of one. Or, slowly savor all 20 pieces in a row. It's totally up to you how you enjoy this pretty foil-wrapped, ornament-like gift of a snack. If you decide to share, the chocolate orange will connect your company as it breaks apart. What an ingenious invention!

As for the taste, chocolate and orange is a match made in heaven. It may even surpass the harmony of chocolate and peppermint at this time of year. Like we mentioned when tasting the Firefly Farms goat cheese, the acidic zest of orange works so well in compliance with another richer, more decadent flavor and texture, from creamy cheese to dark chocolate. Here's the hot take: It's better with dark chocolate. While the creaminess of goat cheese is cut by its savory funk, the creaminess of milk chocolate is too sweet, dwarfing the orange. So choose the more bitter, stoic dark chocolate and watch your back, because you won't want to share this orange with anyone. Best holiday snack ever.