What are Traditional British Sweets?

5 minute read

British seaside

Britain is famous for many things, including Fish and Chips, the monarchy and a football team that always loses. But perhaps the most famous British creation is the selection of sweets.

People from other countries rave about English chocolate, and traditional boiled sweets are probably the primary candy they associate with the UK. 

So, in this post, we’ll reveal the top traditional sweets. 


Aniseed is one of those flavours that some people love, while others can’t stand it. If you haven’t tried it before, then the flavour is difficult to describe, but it’s similar to liquorice, with a slightly stronger taste. 

It was a favourite of traditional confectionery, and two main aniseed sweet types are still popular today. 

Aniseed Balls: Similar to gobstoppers, aniseed balls are hard sweets with a liquorice filling. They’re small in shape and not suitable for young children due to their hard texture. 

Aniseed Twists: Instead of being the chewy sweets you’d associate with the word twists, these aniseed-flavoured delights are hard-boiled sweets. 

Hard Boiled Sweets 

hard boiled sweets

Perhaps the most famous traditional sweets are hard-boiled varieties. They often feature a range of flavours, including fruit, herbs and liquorice. 

The production process involves heating sugar syrups which form a candy-like consistency. Once it hardens, the sweets get their distinct flavour and texture. 

Top Hard Boiled Sweets 

When you think of traditional British sweets, boiled versions usually come to mind. They’ve been around for longer than your Grandparents and are still incredibly popular today. 

While we’ve moved on from the times where people left their doors unlocked, and kids played on the street, traditional confectioners are still around because they’re always in demand. 

Here are some of the most popular boiled sweets.

Apple Drops: A favourite type of penny candy, apple drops have a fruity flavour that is soft rather than sour. 

Army & Navy Sweets: During the First World War, soldiers were given sweets to keep their spirits up, and one of the most popular was Army & Navy sweets. The mixture of liquorice and herbs isn’t for everyone, but those who enjoy complex flavours will love this unique boiled sweet. 

Barley Sugars: These sweets don’t need much explaining because they’re simply a mixture of barley and sugar. The barley gives the candy its unique flavour and colour. 

Novelty Sweets: We added this category because novelty sweets remind people of particular occasions. They’re traditional but have a nostalgic appeal. 

Toffee: Toffee is often associated with Halloween due to toffee apples, but people in the UK enjoy it all year round. Some varieties are hard, while others are soft and chewy. It’s also common to see mint and fruit flavours. 

Butterscotch: Is there anything better than butterscotch? Seriously. The mixture of butter and brown sugar is often paired with vanilla or other subtle flavours to give it a sweet and creamy taste. 

Fudge: Another fan favourite, fudge is similar to toffee, but it’s often a lot softer. You’ll notice many different fudge variations, including rum and raisin, vanilla, chocolate, and many more. 

Seaside Rock: A trip to the seaside isn’t the same without a stick of rock to take home with you. The hard sweet has a chewy centre, and it usually has a subtle mint flavour. 

Dolly Mixtures: There’s something about dolly mixtures that is impossible to describe. The small sweets come in either fondant or jelly form and were a favourite for little girls. 

Pink Shrimps: A regular feature in the Woolworths pick and mix stand (oh how we miss those days), pink shrimps are foam-based sweets with a subtle flavour. Often paired with their banana foam siblings, the sweets are still popular today. 

Milk Bottles: Who didn’t love milk bottles? Subtle in flavour, the chewy sweets are still a favourite for people of all ages. 

Flying Saucers: With their soft outer shell and sherbet centre, flying saucers have a smooth texture, with a sour inside that you’ll either love or hate. What makes them extra special is the way the saucer shell dissolves in your mouth. While the above sweets are classed as traditional sweets, we can’t ignore the brands that became a tradition due to their popularity. 

Fan Favourites 

jelly beans

Let’s take a look at the confectionery that stood the test of time and still reigns supreme today. 

Wine Gums: Let’s clear one thing up; wine gums aren’t made with wine. They’re fruit-based jelly sweets that are popular with people of all ages. 

Cadbury: Probably the most famous sweet brand in the UK, Cadbury has given us so many wonderful chocolates over the years. Two of the most popular include Dairy Milk and Flake bars. 

Fruit Pastilles: Another fruit-based jelly sweet, the pastilles are covered in sugar and have been around for a long time. 

Terry’s:Dawn French made Terry’s Chocolate Orange a national favourite, and it’s lasted a long time. The company also created a mint-based pyramid, but it failed to have the same impact as its orange-based chocolate. 

Black Jacks: We love liquorice in the UK, and Black Jacks are a chewy sweet with a strong black liquorice taste. 

Fruit Salad: You often see Black Jacks and Fruit Salads paired together, but they have completely different tastes. Fruit Salads are a much lighter chewy sweet, and ideal if you’re unsure whether your recipients like the stronger tasting Black Jacks. 

Jelly Babies:They don’t age, do they? No matter how old you are, you probably can’t say no to a Jelly Baby. They’re full of fruity flavours and ideal for young children. 

Starburst: If you were born before the late 90s, then you’ll remember Starburst as Opal Fruits. While we’ll never get the name change, we’re grateful that’s all that changed because the chewy sweets are still delicious. 

The Wrap Up

Traditional British sweets come in all shapes, sizes and flavours. While some have a hard outer shell, and others have a jelly-like consistency, one thing’s for sure; they’re fan favourites that have stood the test of time. 

Whatever sweets you choose from our list, you can be sure that anyone will enjoy the selection.


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