I was obsessed with finding Brach’s novelty Turkey Dinner Candy Corn after reporting on it in 2020. I continued searching Walgreens stores long after the holiday season ended. Yet never even met an employee who knew what I was looking for. So when the company announced a new version this year, I asked if they would kindly send me a bag to review. They did, but by the time I was ready to dig in others had beat me to the punch. To finish this quest, I knew I needed a different approach. I need you to know all this so you know how I reached this point. Because no rational person would do what I have done. Neither would most irrational people. I didn’t just eat this bizarre bag of confections. I turned it into a full Thanksgiving feast with mashed potatoes and gravy. A Thanksgiving Candy Corn feast.
But that’s not even the worst thing I did.
The 2021 bag of Turkey Dinner candy corn replaces Ginger Glazed Carrot and Sweet Potato Pie with Apple Pie and Coffee flavors. They join the original lineup’s Green Beans, Roasted Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, and Stuffing. Only one is legitimately good, the cranberry sauce. It’s like a candied cranberry chew and not like the jellied canned version. The sweetness is far more prominent than any bitterness, which makes it quite pleasant.
If you like strong dark coffee you might also like the coffee flavor. It’s not sweet, but it’s a pleasing type of bitterness coffee lovers enjoy. The same cannot be said for the green beans. I don’t care how much you like them on your Thanksgiving table, the candy corn version is unsettling. At first, you think they’ll be okay, as you mostly taste the sugar of the candy. But the backend hits you with a knockout punch of vegetable. A combination of flavors no one should endure. Surprisingly the Apple Pie isn’t that much better. It’s mostly just a one-note flavor and that one-note is “overripe apple.” None of the other elements of apple pie are here like cinnamon or nutmeg.
Well, as much as anything can be a missed opportunity in a food product designed not to be good. But we believe in the Thanksgiving Candy Corn… Sort of.
Things take a truly vile turn when you get to the main dishes. The roasted turkey tastes like someone poured a bowl of sugar on a turkey leg that had been left out on the counter for a week. I can’t really describe the backend notes because I couldn’t get it down. And that’s not even the worst piece of candy in the bag. That ignominious title belongs to the stuffing, one of the worst things I have ever had the misfortune of eating. I’ve never had poison, but I imagine it’s slightly better than this. If you don’t have a Walgreens near you and want to know how bad these taste… just imagine the most unpleasant thing you can think of and make it worse. You’ll get about 50% of the experience.
If you want to know what the rest of my meal was like though you’re probably willing to go to some pretty dark places.
Under no circumstances would I consider a Thanksgiving meal complete without mashed potatoes and gravy. I don’t know how to make candy corn though, so I had to add the real thing to my plate. Yes, I really poured gravy on turkey-flavored candy. I also put it on the stuffing, as I am wont to do on occasion. To my surprise the brown gravy made the turkey pieces slightly more edible. At least at first. It initially covered up some of the disquieting sweetness. But the latter half of my bite was gross in a whole new way.
The only combo that somewhat worked was mashed potatoes and brown gravy with the turkey candy corn. (I eat them together sometimes during a real Thanksgiving meal. You either do this too or think it’s bizarre. I’d say don’t judge me, but at this point how could you not?) The mashed potatoes and gravy combo was enough to tamp down the awful candy corn. They simply made it “normal weird.” I almost enjoyed it. Almost. I think at this point I was lying to myself to survive.
The gravy did nothing to improve the stuffing though. Nothing! An obvious fact I somehow was didn’t foresee. Before I tried that mixture I forced myself to finish an entire “plain” stuffing piece. Because—and I really said this out loud—“If I can’t finish this without the gravy, I’ll never finish it with gravy.” Dear readers, it didn’t matter. I could not swallow the stuffing candy corn with the gravy. It was unholy. But the kind of unholy where even Hell’s demons wanted nothing to do with this atrocity.
At this point I started to wonder why I was doing any of this? Was I really so emotionally invested in my quest to try this novelty food that I was willing to put myself through this obvious turkey travesty? And for what? To stand out in a sea of never-ending content? To maybe garner a few laughs for a story I foolishly had desired? A story no one would blame me for abandoning? But mostly, did I need to reconsider my life choices and what I want out of this single existence?
Instead of answering any of those questions though I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the apple pie pieces and washed it down with the candy corn coffee. The ice cream did not help with the disappointing apple pie. It actually made it worse. Because despite minimal time together the ice cream instantly chilled the candy corn, making it hard and brittle. It was like adding frozen apple-flavored clay to your sundae.
If I had ended this doomed-to-fail experiment right then no one would have thought less of me. (As though anyone’s opinion of me get any lower at this point.) Unfortunately for me and my intrepid brain, a true Thanksgiving feast does not end on Thanksgiving. Because the truly best part of that meal happens the next day. Yes, I really did what you fear I did. I used the “leftovers” to make a candy corn turkey and cranberry sauce salad sandwich. (Served on a paper plate like all proper Thanksgiving leftovers.) Adding mayo, salt, and pepper to this feast went about as you’d expect. But maybe not for the reasons you’d think.
It was gross but not nearly as bad as anything to do with the stuffing. The toasted bread helped hide the monstrous flavor combination. At least for a little bit. I wanted to swallow a whole piece. I wanted to end my “feast” on a “high note.” But I chewed. And I chewed. And I chewed some more. But rather than get smaller, it felt like the sandwich grew with each chomp. I couldn’t survive long enough to finish a bite. It was as though I was consuming a Hydra of candy corn and mayonnaise. I finally spit it out. I had been bested. By both the candy and my own hubris.
Nearly everything about this was so bad I’d rather talk politics with my family on Thanksgiving than do it again. But as I rinsed my mouth with whiskey, I realized the one saving grace of my Turkey Day candy corn meal: I won’t have to do either. We can talk about my long, weird journey to do this instead. And maybe also how to make sure I don’t do it again next year if Brach’s adds different flavors of Thanksgiving Candy Corn.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.